Bimbo Banter

The Soft Edge of a Hard Skill

  • Wildcard
  • May 12, 2015
  • by Merrie Spaeth

05 12 15 soft edge

BOOK REVIEW: “The Soft Edge:  Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success” by Rich Karlgaard

Author Rich Karlgaard is also the publisher of Forbes Magazine and writes the Innovation Rules column, which gives him a somewhat unfair advantage in the book business. “The Soft Edge” argues that we are moving from a knowledge economy to a conversation economy. Now, more important than just knowing a lot about your key audience, it’s critical to engage them in an ongoing conversation. Those of us who are grappling with the transition from magazines and newspapers to Twitter and other social media platforms can attest to the difficulty of trying to accomplish this.

Karlgaard describes five “traits” or aspirational goals common to the case studies he recounts:  trust, smarts, teamwork, taste and story. These observations and the company examples, drawn from his column, don’t really break any new ground, but the book is a highly-readable, mercifully compact reinforcement of what common sense should tell us but frequently doesn’t.

Given our own focus on storytelling as a sales tool, a strategy to build corporate culture and to stimulate employee engagement, I naturally liked the “story” part best. Karlgaard emphatically states that storytelling is the key leadership tool in the 21st century, and stories are essential to influencing what people remember. This section could have more practical advice on how to collect, organize and tell stories in a business setting, but “The Soft Edge” is a great gift for your C-suite occupants still attached to dense PowerPoint slides.

We do hope that people don’t see the title and think that communication is a so-called “soft” skill. The case studies in this book are clear:  communication is frequently the key to success.

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