Two attributes that cultivate good management

The DEMAND for critical thinking has risen by 158%, and the need for problem-solving has risen by more than 200% in the past 3 years.

These facts were compiled from more than 6,000 companies and over 4.2 million advertised jobs analyzed by the Foundation for Young Australians.

The World Economic Forum figures indicate that critical thinking is the second most in-demand skill after problem-solving.  

Let’s think about these two important attributes for a moment.

Critical thinking is an enterprise skill. That means it is portable for any job, in any profession, in any part of the world!

Other enterprise skills include problem-solving, creativity, communication, presentation skills, digital literacy, financial literacy, and teamwork.

Research[1] indicates that critical thinking IS in decline. Yet critical thinking is essential for creative problem-solving.  If we are to solve a vast number of problems, we must focus on developing critical thinking skills.

Einstein famously remarked,

“If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

This quote points to what I believe is central to the quandary we face with both critical thinking and creative problem-solving.

WE DO NOT GIVE OURSELVES ENOUGH TIME TO THINK.

The late 1980s gave us an era of efficiency and expediency and generally made everything run and happen faster.  Activities such as stock trading, deciding, cooking, driving, fitness, healing, manufacturing, building, talking, computers, and more.  In all these activities, speed became the new grail.

It was like living life in the fast lane. 

That was when I discovered the value of using new approaches to solve old problems.  I’ve been solving problems since; but never the same one twice!

Here we are, 35 years later, we are seeing far too many managers and executives failing at critical thinking.

The lack of time for thinking is not the only enemy.  The second factor is a series of biases.

Biases prevent critical thinking and problem-solving because they inhibit the thinker from seeking clarity, significance, relevance, accuracy and connected logic.

The NeuroLeadership Institute provides us with the top 5 biases in business today:

Similarity Bias — We prefer what is like us over what is different
Expedience Bias — We prefer to act quickly rather than take time
Experience Bias — We take our perception to be the objective truth
Distance Bias — We prefer what’s closer over what’s farther away
Safety Bias — We protect against loss more than we seek out gain

This ‘incomplete’ process of gathering information acts to reinforce biases and hinders a person from using their experience, reasoning, common sense, and an open mind for both problem-solving and decision-making.


As an instructor in executive programs at the university level, it is hard to miss the fact that the ability to think critically and to creatively solve problems is on the decline.

This same phenomenon is happening inside companies, even though employers have a vested interest in fostering creativity for purposes far beyond innovation.

Creative problem-solving skills are key across contexts, from mathematics to employment scenarios across multiple sectors, to projects in the humanities.

While creativity generally declines as individuals rise throughout their careers, other skills associated with critical thinking and problem-solving should increase.

Evidence shows the heavy price paid in business because of the decline in critical thinking and problem-solving. It includes:

      • Inaction when action is needed
      • Dangerous and costly errors & assumptions
      • Repeated mistakes
      • Poor decisions and/or advice
      • Failed systems & business models
      • Poor design of training programs
      • Poor evaluations of risks and their impact

The younger and older millennial generations are products of a modern education system that does not provide enough opportunity to develop the critical thinking skills they need to be successful in the workforce.

The onus is now on employers to take up the baton if they are to thrive in the new realities that continue to unfold.


What’s the solution?

It’s not simply a matter of  . . .  hurry up and think faster.

The objective is to be more effective in each of the 4 phases of critical thinking that supports creative problem-solving and decision-making.

Assess
Solve
Decide
Action – Plan

‘What’

  • Gather data & information
  • Identify the issue at hand
  • Clarify the issue
  • Generate ideas (Why)
  • Set Priorities
 

 

 

‘Why’

  • Describe the problem based on data and info
  • What are the causes?
  • Evaluate the causes
  • Explore options (Which)
  • Gain support

’Which’

  • Align to objectives and outcomes
  • Generate and consider alternatives
  • Evaluate alternatives and options
  • Gain agreement  (Who)

‘How’

  • Create initial plan
  • Anticipate gaps and changes
  • Make revisions
  • Align to capabilities
  • Gain resources
  • Gain agreement

To develop sharp critical thinking skills, creative problem solving and making good decisions, adults must not only ‘learn’ the critical thinking process, they need follow-on support and coaching to implement the new learning in the live work environment.

“Training” for effective critical thinking is not going to change anything.

It takes behaviour and mindset shifts – and like biases, these cannot be overcome by oneself. 

The Uvidi Academy will launch the next program in Critical Thinking and Creative Problem-Solving in January 2023. 

To obtain program details, schedules, fees, and delivery options for Corporate Groups. 

Take the next step and contact   Dragica@uvidi.ca or: +1.416.449.7475 to register your team to be the next cohort that will change the way they think and solve problems.


[1] Research by Eleanor Konik at Notre Dame University.

 

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