MIT J-WEL Releases New Framework for Understanding Uniquely Human Skills Under an Open License | MIT J-WEL

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MIT J-WEL Releases New Framework for Understanding Uniquely Human Skills Under an Open License

Researchers interviewed experts and compared 41 frameworks to develop a new model of Human Skills

As AI, automation, and other emerging technologies increasingly transform industries, workers are scrambling to understand the uniquely human value they can bring to the workplace—value that will keep them in demand throughout their careers. Today, researchers at the MIT Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (MIT J-WEL) released a new tool to help workers, and those who teach and employ them, to better understand and develop these “human skills.” Called the Human Skills Matrix, this framework provides a synthesis of the best thinking in the field.

“There is so much variation in what people call these skills: social skills, soft skills, power skills, transverse skills, etc.  And there’s even more variation in the skills that these frameworks highlight,” remarked J-WEL Principal Research Scientist George Westerman “That’s why we undertook this effort—to identify and structure a set of human skills that we can believe in, and that others might find useful.”

The Human Skills Matrix (HSX) is being released under an open license that allows educators, non-profits, and companies to build on the framework. The HSX is available on the J-WEL website at The site also contains a teaching guide for an exemplar workshop developed by the MIT team that helps learners to understand and develop a subset of the human skills.

"Human Skills don’t replace critical STEM skills. They make them better.  Yet they are often omitted from STEM training for children or technical training for adults." According to Westerman, “To thrive in today’s organizations, technical training is not enough; you need strong human skills too.  We need to put the H in STEM.”

The HSX resulted from more than a year of research. The MIT team surveyed literature to identify work already conducted in the domain and then interviewed faculty, employers, and other thought leaders about the non-technical skills needed to thrive in organizations and adapt to future jobs. The team identified 41 frameworks published by multiple entities—HR firms, corporations, educational organizations and institutions, research partnerships between educational institutions and corporations, labor organizations, social media surveys, and government organizations. The analysis of the literature, interviews, and other frameworks produced a list of 44 items across four categories of skills. To refine and validate this list, the researchers invited thirty individuals— experts from human resources, post-secondary education, workforce, public policy, and research—to rank and select the most important skills. Taken together, the findings led to the development of the 2 x 2 Human Skills Matrix containing 24 skills, within a meta-level 2x2 framework of four key areas 1) thinking, 2) interacting, 3) managing ourselves, and 4) leading.

On March 4, J-WEL will offer a workshop, “Human Skills: From Conversations to Convergence,” to be held on the MIT campus. It is open for registration at During the event, experts such as Jean Hammond (LearnLaunch), Charlie Bodwell (International Labour Organization), and Namrata Kala (MIT) will provide perspective for useful conversations about these skills: what they are, how to teach them, and how to measure them.  We encourage all professionals who care about workforce learning and human skills—from corporations, schools and universities, non-profit organizations or EdTechs—to join us in this event.