I don't disagree with the value of learning to remember names, but what I've found from my personal attempts to do so is that I can remember names, but really learning someone's name takes place at the expense of my learning who the person IS.
Personally, I found it much better for my budding relationship with someone to be able to say "I remember that you do/like/are X,Y,Z, but I have to admit that I've forgotten your name." And go on to have a conversation based on my previous introduction or conversation with that person than to say "Hi, Jim (or whatever), how are you?" and have no memory of who they are, what they do, etc.
I'd love to be able to do both...
I think that it's true that people skills are more important that knowledge - you can always find someone who can do what you need if you have the people skills. Sadly, I'm better at the doing part than people skills myself... But I try.