Does success follow social skills or technical competence?

In another thread I raised this question, and I think it deserves its own Great Debate.

Does ‘success’ (wealth, family, whatever) tend to follow social skills or technical competence?

I’m more and more believing that material and personal success and happiness, especially success in the business world, follows superior social skills rather than superior technical competence (although having both is ideal, or course).

As an anecdotal example, I point to myself and one of my best friends. Though we graduated from school at roughly the same time, met each other doing the same job at the same company, and are both smart, geeky, and creative, even slightly eccentric, he has always had much greater social skills that I. I am convinced that this is a big part of the reason that he now makes more money than I and is married, while I make less money and am single.

There is the stereotype of the technically-brilliant loner, who can think his way through problems that would baffle most others, but does not know how to connect to other people, and is cheated or ignored.

There is the stereotype of the glib marketer, who is all social skills, and easily acquires wealth through sensing and satisfying others’ emotional needs.

Ideally, an organization would have people with both these qualities, and would know how to place them to use their strengths and support their weaknesses.

It seems that social skills are necessary for success because we are social creatures… Am I on to something here?

You need a balance. We all kknow geeks who are socially inept and get nowhere but we also know social people who are liked but who are a disaster at handling their affairs. Both are important but if I had to choose one over the other I’d say social skills are more important.

Watch “Survivor”. All answers lie therein.

I’m only half kidding.

Actually, you need both. But humans being very social and hierarchical, you can go a long way with more of the former than the latter. It’s hard to be fully successful (meaning having a good social life) w/o social skills. Does that sound tautological?

The people whom I know and who seem the most happy are the ones with good social skills. Makes sense to me from an evolutionary standpoint.

I’m probably jaded, but in my 25 year experience out in the business world, popularity gets you EVERYWHERE and brains get you NOWHERE.

Of course, it is a combination of the two extremes you have presented.

I happened to present today to an audience of IT Admins who have far more IT knowledge than I do, but were presented with a bunch of material that, while important, bored tham to tears.

I made a 15 minute presentation outlining hightlights of our software and got triple the response of any of the other presenters.

To answer the question, someone with social skills and technical knowledge will absolutely make far more money than a brilliant techie with few skills. IMHO, a non-techie with good social skills will make more and be more valuable to one who is bright technologically but can’t expess themselves in front of a group.

You happen to live in a subculture where popularity is also the primary technical skill. On the other hand, I live in a subculture where laboratory and analytic acumen are the primary technical skills, so important that they can override social ineptitude to some extent.

However, if you look for the scientists who are seriously on top of the heap, you’ll find people who combine the lab/analytic skills with a great deal of social ability–although that could be what we often consider to be “negative” social skills (manipulativeness, etc.)

I know a few professors who are good enough in the lab to make tenure but their social ineptitude will keep them from rising to the top of the heap. Fortunately, most of them don’t want to rise to the top of the heap.

The ones who can both walk the walk and talk a good game are much more likely to end up like Jim Watson.

A programmer who was may have been the best out of 30, certainly in the top 3 got laid off after working for years when people not nearly as good were kept. Someone told me the managers considered him arrogant.

Is putting up with managers that are obviously making stupid decisions a social skills. I heard from 3 seperate sources that the company made a decision that cost $3,000,000. When I heard what it was it seemed obviously stupid to me.

Shit is allowed to float to the top because the turds already up there like the smell.

Of course this means the system must crap out eventually.

Dal Timgar