The Red Herring of Soft Skills vs Hard Skills

Red Herring – something, especially a clue, that is or is intended to be misleading or distracting.

I am not aware of any consistently used definitions for Soft Skills or Hard Skills, although I’ve heard the phrases used in ISD for 40+ years. Not that they are intentionally misleading or distractions. But they are misleading and distracting none-the-less. IMO.

And while I’m sure that you/I/we could search and find definitions – my point is that they are not universally accepted and used consistently. And I don’t think that it matters anyway.

It doesn’t really matter IMO when your focus is on Terminal Performance, Worthy Outputs, Accomplishments, Performance Competence, Performance Capabilities….

Did you see what I did there?

In any event, so-called Soft Skills are simply another set of enabling Knowledge & Skills that are the “Means” to some specific Performance Competence/Capability “Ends.”

Back in 1979 when I entered the “field/lake” I took the warnings of the late Thomas F. Gilbert to heart – to avoid “The Cult of Behaviors” where behaviors are treated as some Ends unto themselves, without a link to some specific “Worthy Outputs” or “Accomplishments” as he also called them.

I’ve never gotten “hung-up/hooked” on any distinctions between Soft vs Hard Skills.

You could also distinguish them by whether they start with vowels or consonants. But why bother? To what ends?

What Purpose does it serve when you’re trying to impact Performance Back-on-the-Job? None that I could ever see of having Value. Another Distinction without Merit IMO.

I mean, if the Barriers to Performance back-on-the-job, in the Process/WorkFlow and ThoughtFlow, don’t care really care whether they’re being battled by Hard or Soft Skills of the learners/Performers, why should we care?

Viva la Performance-Based Instructional Systems Design!


a.k.a.: pb-LXD “if” the experience mirrors the authentic experiences of the learners as performers back-on-the-job.

Focus on the Performance Requirements – and Enable Them.


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