#147: AI versus Soft Skills in the Era of Digitalization

#147: Importance of Soft Skills in the Era of Digitalization Featured Image

Nada Sanders is a distinguished Professor of Supply Chain Management D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University. She also served as a visiting professor at MIT and Harvard Business School. She teaches and has educated lots of people across many years in the field of supply chain management, with a particular focus on strategic supply chain design, demand management, and technology adoption. She has also written several books and writing the second edition of the Humachine book.

Listen to the full discussion here:

  • Stream by clicking here.
  • Download as an MP3 here.



Connect with the Guest:

Nada Sanders: LinkedIn

Some of the highlights from the podcast:

  • Nada Sanders’ career journey- from mechanical engineering and business school to supply chain
  • Diving into forecasting and the advantage of having a technical background
  • The second edition of the book- Humachine, and working with AI
  • Reskilling and learning based on the new reality
  • How important soft skills are to survive the new age
  • Introduction to the 4i Model

Show notes:

  • [00:51] How did you end up teaching and educating in supply chain in the first place?
  • [04:53] “I began this sort of direction into forecasting married with operations and supply chains. And I was very lucky that an organization like CSCMP, where I ended up getting the doctoral research award, I was able to have access to warehouses and companies that gave me data.”
  • [07:15] “Because when you’re an expert witness, you have access and you can actually see what a software algorithm actually looks like and how are decisions actually made. And that taught me a lot.” 
  • [08:54] “You make the forecasts and you have different performance metrics and different stat metrics. And that’s where it stops. Given my background, I’m able to translate that into operational issues, cost, and how to set it up.”
  • [10:57] In this process of you interviewing CEOs on the impact of AI and what they think, for your new book, Humachine as well. Tell us a little bit about what are you finding. What are you hearing from them? What should we expect?
  • [12:54] “The toilet paper story as comical and tragic as it is, at the same time, it really revealed all the frailties. So now we were asked to redo the book and update it in sort of the post-COVID era and what it is going to look like.”
  • [13:48] “What we’ve been able to see so far is a very common theme from all the companies, all the executives is that it is really important to understand that what worked the last 30 years, isn’t going to get you through the next three.”
  • [16:47] Let’s go on to the talent side and on the more detail skills that you see and maybe we link it with the broad level and supply chain. What do you see? How do we keep ourselves updated with this daily bombardment?
  • [19:55] “One of the things that have been repeated by everybody that I’ve talked to is the importance of critical thinking, negotiation, communication, and the ability to work across cultures, domains, and disciplines. We can no longer stay in our respective areas. We have to be able to be inquisitive and curious and understand how to work in teams.” 
  • [22:18] “In order to survive- this is true of companies, of leaders, and all the way down to my students, you have to learn new skills all the time. And right now is the time for soft skills, this is something that cannot be taken away and cannot be replicated.” 
  • [24:41] “Today you’re not hiring people for what they know. Today, you are hiring people for their ability and willingness to recreate themselves to reskill and continually grow.”
  • [28:07] What are some of the principles by which some of the larger companies can do well in this reinvention, in this digitalization of the horsecar?
  • [31:26] “I think putting things in place for our business for today but also rapidly evolving and understanding that we also want to stay in business and not be short-sighted is absolutely important.” 
  • [32:08] What would be one or two pieces of advice that you would give executives?
  • [34:08] “We have to look at scenario planning and develop a very agile system in order to adapt in this very dynamic way. And it’s going to require creating a team of people that are very different and have them work together and have everybody have humility and respect for the other groups.” 

Quotes from the Episode:

About the Host:

The host, Radu Palamariu is the co-author of “From Source to Sold – Stories of Leadership in Supply Chain”. He has been named one of the top 3 Global Supply Chain Influencers on LinkedIn and was featured in ForbesBloombergWEFBangkok Post, and MIT Supply Chain Talent magazine. Radu invites executives to share stories and perspectives around technology, logistics, e-commerce, supply chain, and manufacturing, and their views on how the future will look.

Alcott Global connects and upgrades the supply chain ecosystem by finding the right talent through executive search, developing talent through learning solutions, and meeting supply chain technology needs through a comprehensive crunch base marketplace.

The supply chain executive search has been our focus since the very beginning, offering recruitment services for top-tier supply chain roles at every level of the end-to-end supply chain: plan, source / procure, make, and deliver. Our consultants have years of experience in placing top talent, in North America, LATAM, Europe, the Middle East & Africa, and APAC, and besides speed, one of our biggest strengths is our network within the supply chain industry, and we capitalize on it to find the best solutions.

Through the years, we have grown as an organization and our offerings with it. One of our initiatives, the learning solutions- training and supply chain academy, is focused on transforming leadership- self-leadership, executive presence, influence capital, and business acumen. Through Supplify, we aim to match corporations with the top technology companies to solve their supply chain and logistics challenges with a focus on innovation and digital transformation.

We are in constant touch with the leaders in supply chain, inviting them to inspire the supply chain professionals in thought-provoking podcast episodes and events, and showcasing what is possible at the yearly Leaders in Supply Chain Awards.

Related Episodes:

#144: Building a Culture of Coaching and Driving Growth

#145: Schneider Electric and STRIVE for SCM Excellence

#146: Reinventing Supply Chain Through Data and Automation




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