Stanford cashes in on getting touchy feely

The Shaker
Fri 17 May

Employers look for two kinds of skills: soft skills and hard skills.

Hard skills are teachable and measurable abilities, such as writing, reading, math or ability to use computer programs. By contrast, soft skills are the traits that make you a good employee and leader, such as etiquette, charisma, communication and active listening.  

Employers look for a combination of adequate hard and soft skills and though a degree might qualify you with the hard skills required for a job, soft skills often need to be proved - until now.


Stanford gets touchy feely

It may surprise you but one of the most popular electives taken by Stanford MBA students is all about soft skills. Geared toward executives and managers, it'll cost you at least $5,500 and is offered only in-person. 

The official course title is "Organizational Behavior 374: Interpersonal Dynamics." Stanford students and faculty call it by a different name: Touchy Feely. Stanford has been offering the course for over 50 years to MBA students. It's an elective, but 95 percent of students take it.

It's essentially a course on emotional intelligence. Themes covered include open communication, relationship building, and self-awareness. How students give feedback and take emotional risks all go into calculating their grades.

The university has started offering a condensed workshop-style version to people outside the program. Over a weekend in March, 24 executives took the course at $5,500 a pop. Stanford is developing a week-long version that would be held on-site at its campus for $16,000.

Tapping into the growing demand for soft skills. It's a smart move for Stanford to monetise it. Being a genius web developer is great. But one who can articulately communicate his or her ideas and excel at emotional intelligence? You're considered a unicorn! 

More companies are seeking candidates and managers who have a combination of soft and hard skills, utilising both left brain (logic, analytic reasoning) and right brain (intuition, creativity) function.