Even at Google collaborative skills matter more than technical ones:
In 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the companyâ€™s incorporation in 1998. Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Googleâ€™s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of oneâ€™s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.
Project Aristotle shows that the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety. No bullying. To succeed, each and every team member must feel confident speaking up and making mistakes. They must know they are being heard.
I suppose that’s unsurprising in a sprawling corporation like Google. When you’re working to advance mass interests within a bureaucracy, human interaction can often be the most important factor. Working alone on your own project technical competence and motivation may matter most, but in a web of people the way you affect the others will often be paramount.