Monday, February 25, 2013

Cost Structure & Revenue Streams

Costs  Revenues and Benefits 
(What you give) (What you get)
Hard costsNormal benefits
     Money      Money
     Time      Insurance
     Energy "Soft" benefits
"Soft" Costs      Increased satisfaction
     Sanity...      Social contribution...

This is the final entry for Business Model You! Interestingly, the book has the least amount of content around these parts of the canvas. 

The "Soft" parts of the above definition led me down a ridiculously long rabbit hole of research into soft-skills.

As part of a side project I'm working on involving "green staffing", soft-skills have come up over and over. As the research around this topic is pretty elaborate, I'm going to make this a two-part post. This week, I'm going to define soft-skills, and next week, I'll present my thoughts on why they are particularly important, and how to bring them to the table in business.

What are Soft Skills? <- Awesome link to the most comprehensive aggregation of information I've ever seen. and Wikipedia seem to agree, soft-skills are traits and interpersonal skills that characterize an individual's relationship with other people. Sociologists use the term EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) in parallel with soft-skills. 

The challenge with this definition is that "traits" and "interpersonal" skills feel ambiguous to many people; most people "get it" - they're just not sure what they're getting.

On the other hand, Hard Skills are easy to define. Here's Investopedia's definition.
 Specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured. By contrast, soft skills are less tangible and harder to quantify... In business, hard skills most often refer to accounting and financial modeling.
How amusing is it that the 2nd sentence in their definition names the challenge of soft-skills?

In the blogosphere, Forbes, Fastco,, etc. there's a lot of disagreement on what the critical soft skills in business are. Here's my bulleted takeaway:

  •  Problem-Solving & Critical Thinking
    • Adaptability 
    • Organizational Learning
    • Creativity
  • Communication
    • Listening
    • Presenting
    • Story-telling
  • People Management
    • Conflict Management
    • Leadership 
    • Teamwork 
  • Self-Management
    • Emotional Awareness & Control
    • Resilience
    • Confidence
    • Professionalism

I would argue that BGI empowers students by developing soft skills(as well as understanding the languages of the hard skills), and students need help presenting those soft skills as a "tangible" asset. The hard data and research is out there, I'll link to it next week as I dig through it - just as there is a "business case for sustainability", there's also a "business case for soft-skills". 

I'd love some input for my content next week around soft-skills, please post your thoughts/questions! Thanks!


  1. I believe that the significance of soft skills is absolutely underrated. Now mind you, this is coming from a social worker--- but I do believe in the value of soft skills in terms of enhancing our ability to work effectively with others and perhaps even improving our ability to make a profit, to strike a deal, and so forth. In fact, I believe that the term "soft skills" does not truly represent the importance of our ability to interact with others on this level and the implications. So often, we place our focus on success with "hard skills" such as math, science, academia. And we forget how important it is for us to have the ability to speak respectfully to one another, to actively listen, etc. Who is to say that one if=s more important than the other?

  2. Thanks again for your comments! They are definitely two sides of the same coin. People just forget to look at the other side!

  3. You pose a good question here Aric. Probably if I thought about it I could come up with several additional skills or competencies. here are a few:
    Under communication I would add the ability to give and receive effective feedback.
    under critical thinking I would add systems thinking
    Under people management I would add transition management (helping people manage transitions - since we are always under siege of change)

    Just my 2 cents.

    Oh and I hope to see more posts in Q3!!

  4. I agree that soft skills are of great importance, but I'm not sure they're under-rated. I think that many or most really high-performing people seem to acknowledge their importance.

    We had an observation in fire that it was mostly about people skills and communication and logistics... when it comes to fighting a fire, it's not rocket science. Separate the orange stuff from the green stuff. Don't breath the gray stuff. Put the brown stuff on the orange stuff.

    I find I've been interested lately in the "edgy" parts of the soft skills. When do you want to be abrasive? How do you mix the soft touch with the sandpaper touch? It's easier to be one or another, but there's a lot of nuance in mixing approaches ... just like there's a lot of power in charging ahead, when things get bogged down in committee.

  5. Thanks Aric! This is a great exploration into the necessity and definition of soft skills.
    I would add empathy (haha! I wrote this before I listened to the embedded video), compassion, the ability to establish healthy boundaries, the ability to inspire and engage others.
    This is one of the biggest challenges we run into in working with businesses on sustainability. It's easy to grasp the idea of creating a baseline and tracking metric for energy use. It's harder to truly understand the connection between people relationships and success in sustainability initiatives. I look forward to your next post on the business case for soft skills!
    Also, I'm super interested in the Business Model You process. Are you going to the workshop later this month? I would love to talk with you about your experience with this. I just learned about it and am hoping it's offered again around an intensive.


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