BlueDragon Tip of the Week: Strengthen Your Critical Thinking Skills to Improve Your Worth

3 min read

In 2016, global leaders from the World Economic Forum (WEF) came up with a list of the top 10 human skills that cannot be replaced by Artificial Intelligence (at least in our lifetime). Notably, critical thinking and complex problem solving topped the list.

These skills are essential, not only for their irreplaceable value but also for their foundational role in methodologies like root cause analysis training. This training emphasizes identifying the underlying causes of problems rather than just addressing symptoms, thereby fostering a deeper level of critical thinking.

Here are the WEF’s “Top 10 Human Skills That Will Help Us Thrive in the Age of AI”:

10. Cognitive Flexibility

9. Negotiation

8. Service Orientation

7. Judgement & Decision-Making

6. Emotional Intelligence

5. Coordinating With Others

4. People Management

3. Creativity

2. Critical Thinking

1. Complex Problem Solving

Were you as surprised by this list as I was when I first saw it 4 years ago? I was especially surprised by the top two skills; “Critical Thinking” and “Complex Problem Solving,” because that is what I’ve been teaching for some years now. The basis for my complex problem solving methodology is critical thinking, and not some piece of software or application that pretends to do the hard work of critically evaluating the problem for us.

In this week’s BlueDragon Critical Thinking and Complex Problem Solving Workshop for Practitioners, we had a lively discussion about this very topic. There is a general line of thinking that Artificial Intelligence, virtual reality and machine learning will end up taking over the world and replacing most of our jobs in the not too distant future.

If you agree with me that this will not happen in our lifetime, we should then be seeking ways to strengthen our knowledge and application of the skills on that list. I underscore “application” because it is not enough to learn the theory…we have to get out of theoretical plane and practice these skills. In a paper I published in July of this year, I noted that, even with increased demands for critical thinking skills in the workforce, studies show that our education system has not met the challenge of graduating students with higher-order thinking skills. I also noted that the skills to solve the universe of complex, human-centric problems that cannot be solved by math and science alone are lacking in many organizations. Two recent studies found that about half of millennials get an “F” in critical thinking (Williams, 2020: “Study: Nearly Half of Millennials Get an ‘F’ In Critical Thinking.”) (MindEdge, 2020: “Dig Deeper: Critical Thinking in the Digital Age,” an Online Survey of Critical Thinking Skills.)

The impact of this lack of critical thinking and complex problem solving is apparent in the industries I have worked in. Repetitive human errors and organizational and programmatic weaknesses have caused events that you may readily recognize: Chernobyl, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters.

To strengthen our critical thinking skills, then, must not be as easy as it sounds. To start, let’s put a working definition on the table that will help us grasp what it is to think critically. This is the definition I developed from a group of classic (and wordy) definitions, so we can actually teach the subject and practice the skills.

Critical Thinking is:

The intellectually disciplined process of:

Gathering, Organizing & Analyzing Information,

so we can make the best decisions or take the best course of action.

Critical Thinking is NOT:

• Criticizing

• Intuition & gut feel

• Brainstorming “good ideas”

There are many courses on problem solving, but I would encourage you to gravitate towards those that address human-centric events (i.e. problems caused by human behavior, the human interface with equipment/materials/tools, and the human involvement in organizations, programs, processes and procedures). These are not the kind of problems that we would ask engineers and scientists to solve. They require specialized root cause analysis skills.

Corporations are desperately seeking professionals that can think critically and solve complex problems, among them, global leaders from the World Economic Forum. So with that as a backdrop, here is our tip of the week.

Tip of the Week: to make yourself a highly valuable part of any organization and never be replaced by Artificial Intelligence, gravitate towards the jobs that require the WEF’s top 10 human skills, with particular emphasis on the practical application of critical thinking and complex problem solving skills.

If you would like additional information on dramatically improving the effectiveness of your root cause analysis, visit us at:

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