2018 Boot Camp: Putting a Hard Edge on Soft Skills

Los Angeles – On November 8, 2018 The USC Annenberg Center for Third Space Thinking hosted a rigorous one-day boot camp for business executives to master the critical soft skills needed in the workplace.

We’re excited to share with you a few highlights from our Third Space Boot Camp! Participants came from a variety of organizations including Viacom, Herbalife Nutrition, Los Angeles Tourism Board, Alibaba Pictures, Anthem Blue Cross, LA County Office of Education, USC Athletics and more!

Over the past five years, we have developed a communications-based methodology to put a hard edge on soft skills. We are working to define, measure and teach these interactive skills to students, high potential professionals and executives.

“The higher you go up in an organization, the more valuable these critical soft skills become,” said Dr. Ernest Wilson.  “Even more valuable is how a professional can learn to integrate, balance and sequence these attributes.”

To kick off the day, boot camp participants were led through dynamic exercises to practice skills of empathy and adaptability with USC lecturer, Chris Swain.

This was followed by a Q & A session with Bill Simon, the Global Sector Leader of Media & Entertainment from Korn Ferry International, a global executive search firm. Mr. Simon provided participants with insights on the skills it takes to be a great executive. Simon emphasized that “for successful senior level executives, adaptability is the most important and most valuable”. He stressed the importance of business professionals taking control of their own careers. “The key is being self-aware and knowing what you can do well. Be an active participant in your community. It’s about establishing, building and expanding your personal brand. And it is YOUR responsibility to do so.”


Coach Caryl Gilbert-SmithCoach Caryl Smith Gilbert shared her experiences with adaptability when she led the USC women’s team to victory in the 2018  NCAA Track & Field Championship. She highlighted the urgency of being an adaptable leader and practicing resourcefulness, accountability and curiosity. Smith Gilbert further encouraged our participants to be willing to change with the environment, and that “the people who can adapt…are the ones who are more successful than those that don’t.”



A session on Intellectual Curiosity, led by Alison Horstmeyer, emphasized the value of harnessing a curious mindset, which can lead to “more open communication, better team dynamics, reduced conflict and reduced levels of defensiveness” in the workplace.

The boot camp culminated with an interactive exercise on the field to creatively illustrate 360 degree problem-solving with the world-famous USC Trojan Marching Band and the band director, Dr. Arthur Bartner.



Following the boot camp, participants gained access to two certified executive coaches, and were enrolled in a five-week sequence of intrapersonal skill-building exercises online. These coaching sessions and online exercises compliment and build upon what they learned in the classroom at USC.

To learn more about our leadership development boot camps and other offerings, please visit the Third Space Thinking website. www.uscthirdspace.com.