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The role of cognitive effectives in selecting talent for 2020

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The article is brought to you by Marketing Institute of Singapore.

We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them - then, what's the best way to find the right talent?

Today, proficiency in critical thinking, complex problem solving, innovation, collaborating and effective communication is becoming an entry-level threshold. This is reinforced in The Future of Jobs, a report presented at the World Economic Forum in 2016 that looked at employment, skills and workforce strategy for the future.

In the survey, chief human resources and strategy officers from leading global employers were asked what the current shifts meant, specifically for employment, skills and recruitment across industries and geographies. They responded by identifying 10 skills that they would consider changing the most in 2020. Five of them are associated to elevated cognitive effectiveness skills. This reminded us of Albert Einstein’s quote - “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”.

Human resources professionals are tasked to find the right talent with the capacity and competencies in cognitive effectiveness. This can sometimes be an uphill task.

Meet Bryan - a talent management executive at a Singaporean small to medium enterprise (SME). His stakeholder, a functional department head, had been demanding him to find employees who are cognitively superior to those he hired in the past. The last individual he hired was only capable to execute tasks based on the instructions of the department head.

Bryan discovered that if he wanted to hire talent with high levels of cognitive effectiveness, he would have to find someone who was not merely able to answer questions but rather effectively question answers. As his company evolved, the department head felt that it took constant probing and questioning and the use of critical thinking standards by the team to arrest the common errors of reasoning.

Bryan realised that from an Asian perspective, it is considered rude to question, let alone disagree with authority and hierarchy. The social norm is to seek consensus and harmony with those around us and to avoid disagreement. One limitation is that this norm becomes a habit of thinking for people. Subconsciously, it becomes assumed that authoritative sources cannot be questioned, past practices are safe and better than untried ones, and the majority view is the right one. When these assumptions become embedded in the way we think, we may adopt the wrong perspective in certain situations, causing us to draw conclusions that are inaccurate or illogical.

Brian was introduced to the Watson-GlaserTM Critical Thinking Appraisal system. He used the Interview report to provide a quantifiable baseline for the new hires. He also made a pitch to his management to consider the Profile and the Developmental reports. The Profile report enabled him to create a local norm for his organisation. It gave him a comparative norm to other employees within the organisation. He also had the option to compare against the Singapore norms.

The Developmental reports were used for the high potentials (HIPO) within the organisation where this elite group of individuals was coached to be more effective in their cognitive skills. The report was also used as part of the succession plans for these individuals.

Brian’s role in the organisation become more effective with the introduction of a system that helped him assess, groom and coach employees to the next level of cognitive excellence.

Brian’s key learning points:

  • Cognitive effectiveness is about questioning answers (rather than answering questions).
  • Common errors of reasoning can be arrested through probing and questioning using cognitive standards.
  • Norms can become a habit for thinking – they can blur our perspective and cause us to draw inaccurate and baseless conclusions.
  • Use assessment tools to acquire quantifiable and comparative baselines. Once such tool for cognitive effectiveness is Watson-GlaserTM Critical Thinking Appraisal.

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