Entrepreneurs Require a Blend of Interdisciplinary Knowledge and Soft Skills

By Frank-Jürgen Richter

March 21, 2024

Running a business is a complex task. More so now, given the changing global macroeconomic, technical and security dynamics. Other than being innovative and good with financial management, a business owner cannot negate the need for interdisciplinary and soft skills. 

Interdisciplinary skills are abilities that allow individuals to apply knowledge and techniques from multiple disciplines to solve complex problems. These skills enable people to see the world from multiple perspectives and find creative solutions to problems. Soft skills, on the other hand, are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. They are often termed as transferable or interpersonal skills and are essential for professional success.

Amid the pandemic, we saw how businesses that were quick to pivot with the changes and thought out-of-box survived. Many car manufacturers in China, as well as other parts of the world, shifted their production to medical supplies during the pandemic. For instance, Fiat converted one of its car plants in China to start making about one million masks a month. Other major car firms also looked at ways they could shift manufacturing towards ventilators. Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk bought 1,255 ventilators from China and had them shipped to Los Angeles.

A 2023 PwC report on the hopes and fears of Asia-Pacific employees reveals that interdisciplinary and soft skills such as adaptability/flexibility, collaborative and critical thinking skills were regarded as more important than technical or core business skills by two-thirds of workers in the region. The report also goes on to recommend that employers invest in ensuring an inclusive and safe workplace that allows the enablement and growth of soft skills among employees.

Foster Inclusive Growth

Fostering inclusive growth that takes into account both people skills and technical skills development among employees requires a multi-faceted approach. China has been investing and pushing for an early start in terms of technical development among its citizens. 

Chinese universities have already surpassed US institutions in the production of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) graduates. Moreover, based on current enrollment patterns, it is projected that by 2025, Chinese universities will produce more than 77,000 STEM graduates annually, compared to approximately 40,000 in the United States.

STEM fields are often associated with innovation and economic growth. With more STEM graduates, a country can potentially see an increase in technological advancements and economic development.

The importance of nurturing soft skills within the broader population cannot be overlooked. In 2016, the Vietnam National Qualifications Framework was established, mandating a certain level of foreign language proficiency for university admission. The minimum requirement is a proficiency level of 3 on a scale of 6, comparable to the B1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Furthermore, the government launched the National Foreign Languages 2020 Project, aiming to boost English language instruction at all educational levels.

Moving Forward

There is still room for growth in terms of China’s interdisciplinary and soft skills front. Chinese companies can foster interdisciplinary knowledge and soft skills development in several ways. Companies can encourage a culture of continuous learning and development. This can be done through regular training programs, workshops, and seminars that focus on developing both technical and soft skills.

Companies can assign projects that require knowledge from different fields. This encourages employees to learn from each other and understand different perspectives. Experienced employees can mentor newer ones, helping them to develop a wide range of skills. This not only helps in knowledge transfer but also in building strong interpersonal relationships.

Companies can foster a collaborative environment where employees from different departments work together on projects. This can help in developing communication and teamwork skills. Recognizing and rewarding creative ideas and innovative solutions can encourage employees to think out of the box and develop problem-solving skills.

Businesses should also develop feedback mechanisms that is regular and transparent. Constructive feedback can be a powerful tool for personal development. Company managers play a crucial role as they need to ensure that employees feel valued and are encouraged to develop and use their skills to their full potential. This not only benefits the individual employee but also contributes to the overall success of the company. 

The upcoming Horasis China Meeting, scheduled for 14th to 15th April 2024 in Binh Duong, Vietnam, will feature a dialogue session on this topic. The meeting will bring together 300 of the most senior members of the Horasis Visions Community, including business leaders from China and Vietnam. The key agenda of the meeting is to present a systemic view of factors influencing China’s economic prosperity and ways in which Chinese businesses can establish global interactions with enterprises from other countries.

Photo Caption: There is still room for growth in terms of China’s interdisciplinary and soft skills front.