Learning & Development, Technology

The Human Advantage: Why Soft Skills Are Crucial in the Age of AI

AI is here, and it will change work as we know it.

While some believe AI may replace large numbers of jobs, others argue it will not significantly change the demand for labor, just transform it, and potentially even improve the experience, and quality, of that work.

It is only reasonable for such uncertainty to make many uncomfortable. Will I be able to adapt? Will my job persist? Everyone in the workforce now must ask themselves: how do I maximize my potential with such an uncertain future?

There are things we know for sure: AI cannot truly replace human beings. According to Meta’s Chief AI Scientist and NYU Professor Yann LeCun, AI models now can absorb more written content than a single person can read in 20,000 years.

And yet, how is it that AI cannot drive a car with complete safety, something a 16-year-old American learns in only a few months?

AI is already a fantastic tool, and workers who want to be proactive and succeed in this shifting future, should not neglect the importance of their so-called soft skills, in particular:

  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Communication

These skills, as much as traditional expertise, may go a long way to help workers flourish with the coming innovations.

Critical Thinking Is Even More Important Now

Critical thinking is such a fundamental part of being human that we often take it for granted. There is tremendous value in our ability to understand and analyze ideas, parse the useful from what’s not, and make judgments about what’s right and wrong. It’s how we see the big picture and strategize, and all of these are things that AI does not do well.

Despite all its computational power, AI often works without the necessary context many of us learn even as small children. By now, we are all aware of genAI’s tendency to hallucinate or provide inaccurate answers, fabricated quotes, and even erroneous facts.

Less obvious but no less dangerous, is the inherent bias present in all AI models on the market.

As Professor Yann LeCun asserts on X, objectivity, and unbiased AIs, whether possible or not, may not even be desirable. Better, as ever, is to work from a diverse set of voices.

Our AI assistants “-must reflect the diversity of languages, culture, value systems, political opinions, and centers of interest across the world.”

And how do we evaluate, consult, weigh, and act from such suggestions?

Critical thinking. As considered in detail in the article Critical Thinking in the Age of AI by MIT Horizon, this often means how we handle new situations.

We can upskill our critical thinking with continued learning, of course, but also by applying skepticism in our AI use, and by always taking a moment after our interactions, to reflect on the experience.

We should ask ourselves: what has it done well, and where has it failed to meet our expectations?

Creativity Remains Human

Little is as human as the imagination.

While AI has shown a stunning ability to generate product at high speed (see this great piece by the Wharton School’s Ethan Mollick on how much AI built for him in just 59 seconds, for example), it cannot, and may never, surpass us in this arena.

What AI can, and will do, is democratize innovation. With a tool that translates your ideas to photographs, essays, even web pages and videos, it’s increasingly imperative that we nurture in ourselves the most essential part of this process: the very ideasthat drive it.

So how do we do that? By creativity I mean finding new ideas, challenging standing assumptions, or viewing things freshly, as from a new perspective.

We nurture this in ourselves by brainstorming, experimenting, and letting divergent voices be considered, even within our own thinking.

With AI, expertise will no longer be a block to seeing one’s ideas manifested.

Communication Holds Us Together

There is no doubt communication skills are essential: they aid us in building relationships with coworkers and clients, help us share our ideas, enable us to really hear others, and lead to the kind of collaboration that makes any organization great.

This is not to say that AI will not aid with communication—consider this NYU study which found that in the medical arena, patients could not tell AI answers from human-generated ones, or that call center operators spend as much as 17% of their time just summarizing what’s been discussed.

These tasks are ideal for AI to take on.

But communication becomes even more important in sharing ideas, collaborating, and translating complex ideas.

Emotional intelligence is essential in leadership and in all workforces, and an area where machines, without emotion, cannot compete.

The good news is that we can all learn to be even more emotionally intelligent: by paying attention to our feelings and others, practicing active listening, checking in with others, and considering areas where we have had communication difficulties in the past.

We drive the AI, not the other way around, and one of the foremost ways we do this, both alone and in teams, is through our communication skills.


AI is here, and it is a great leveler: often helping those with less expertise the most. It will fundamentally change how we work, creating new opportunities and elevating the importance of soft skills.

Soft skills like critical thinking, creativity, and communication will help leaders foster a culture of innovation and maintain ethical considerations.

They will help us not to lose sight of the human as AI integration accelerates. Workers should not aspire to merely survive AI, but instead to thrive with it, offloading tedious aspects of their work and allowing them to focus on tasks that use our distinctly human skills.

Integrated successfully, AI will enhance human work and capacity, rather than replace us, but as always, the future belongs to those who are proactive and prepare now.

Nick Shah is the Founder and President of Peterson Technology Partners (PTP), and the Chief Executive Officer. With his relationship-focused mentality and technical expertise, Nick has earned the trust of Fortune 100 companies across the U.S for their technical staffing needs. His entrepreneurial journey began in his teens in publishing with local newspapers. After successfully experimenting with various business ventures, Nick began Peterson Technology Partners in 1997, with the goal of connecting Chicago’s top IT talent with its top companies. Over the last 25 years, Nick has thrived through various ups and downs in the industry and earned the confidence of countless clients and consultants through his dedication to building relationships. Nick regularly brings together his expertise in staffing and his experience in leadership with his love for emerging technologies to contribute a weekly column in the company’s journal, the PTP Report. 

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