Hackernoon logoWhy invest in developing critical thinking skills? by@peternavarro

Why invest in developing critical thinking skills?

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@peternavarroPeter Navarro

Peter Navarro is responsible for employer branding at Sixt SE.

Identified as one of the most demanded soft skills today in leadership-focused jobs, critical thinking is key to making better decisions. If the COVID-19 pandemic this year demonstrated anything, it is that threats come at any time and in any form. And there is no strategic planning that can be anticipated.

In the management world, it has been called a VUCA environment - for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous - in which companies have to face fickle expectations and fierce competition.

It is logical that such an environment places higher cognitive demands on leaders. โ€œThey are expected to make accurate decisions and judgments on a broader range of issues, more quickly and more frequently. And the consequences of error manifest themselves more quickly and often at significantly higher cost to individuals and the organization,โ€ explains Michael R. Rip, Director and Founder of the Broad College of Health Care Management Program. Business, dependent on Michigan State University (MSU).

Leaders have more responsibilities, more conflicting demands, more interruptions, more distractions, and are expected to drive more change throughout the organization.

This translates into less time for analysis, imperfect or insufficient data, and higher levels of stress. All of these factors combine to "push"
leaders to trust error-prone intuition and make decisions based on
misinformation.

โ€œInformation comes everywhere and we are receiving a lot of information every day from the media. So, we have to start developing critical thinking no longer to memorize instructions, but so that we can look at all the sources of information that exist and be able to reach our own conclusion. A clear example of this is the so-called fake news: we can see or receive various reports on social networks, but it is necessary for the person to have critical thinking and to reflect on whether it is a reliable source or not,โ€ says Michelle Cascardo , IT regional manager at DNA Human Capital.

Leaders must make wise decisions every day, especially about problem solving. The use of critical thinking reduces thinking errors (for example, due to uncontrolled assumptions, cognitive biases, illusions, emotional reasoning) and provides strategies to separate facts from opinions, rumors and statements.

Furthermore, critical thinking is critical to learning agility as a large body of research shows that leadership development is most successful when leaders are proactive and competent in learning from real-world experiences. "This 'learning agility' involves deliberate experimentation and requires two fundamental skills, reflective thinking and reality testing, both of which are central components of critical thinking.

The third reason is that the modern approach to strategic management reflects a critical thinking approach. Gone are the days when the "right" business strategy was delegated to others to take the right action. Today, every strategy is essentially a hypothesis that needs to be tested through
implementation to determine its validity and the inevitable changes required. Critical thinking provides the cognitive approach and the tools to make this happen effectively.

Soft skills and employability

Critical thinking is now frequently identified as one of the most essential skills, if not the most essential, to be successful as a leader in the 21st century. For example, the World Economic Forum (WEF) identified critical thinking as a key skill both now and especially in the future in its 2018 โ€œThe Future of Jobsโ€ report.

In January last year, WEF highlighted that roles that require more human-centered skills are equally important to technical skills, and that the demand for soft skills is likely to continue to increase as automation becomes more widespread.

In the most recent Global Talent Trends Report, it is shown that critical thinking professionals are identifying the demand for soft skills as the most important trend worldwide.

Skills such as creativity, persuasion and collaboration top the list of the most demanded soft skills or soft skills, since they are practically impossible to automate human skills, which means that if a professional has these skills, it will be even more valuable for the organizations in the future.

Learning about critical thinking

In formal education it is possible to learn a series of technical knowledge, or hard skills, but is it possible to learn to develop soft skills?

For Michelle Cascardo, yes.

Soft skills can be learned, and usually some develop over the years of experience. That is why we try to get people to change positions as well, to work and develop other skills.

According to the WEF, to be successful in the future of work, the current generation will need strong soft skills such as communication, critical thinking and resilience, and they will need to continue to learn throughout life.

They will also be able to assess how critical thinking relates to root cause analysis and effective problem solving, identifying the importance of being a skeptical and independent thinker. One of the key elements is that it will analyze how to identify and assess the so-called cognitive errors in thinking.

In the same way, people can learn to avoid the illusion of "causality", which
generates erroneous perceptions and misidentified cause and effect, and they will be able to compare the difference between the so-called "instinctive thinking" and "ingenious thinking", applying strategies to
overcome the instinctive thinking and tapping into reasoning skills.

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