Employers ask wacky interview questions. That’s according to a recent investigation of thousands of UK job candidates by Glassdoor. A software engineer is asked to guess how he would fit an elephant in a fridge. A telecoms manager is asked how many people born in 2013 are named Gary. Fair or unfair, employers want to find effective critical thinkers for their business. These questions put them on the spot to see how they problem-solve in the moment. What is critical thinking and why does it matter?

Cognitive readiness

Cognitive abilities fill the top 10 skills employers will need by 2020. We are now living in a VUCA environment – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. It’s a challenge for us all to make sense of what is happening and might happen in our job, career, and business. Fortune-telling is a diminishing career path. Navigating is a growth area.

All jobs need critical thinking to make decisions. Here are some examples: where and how to spend resources in health care (think of Greater Manchester region this week); nurses involvement in the design of healthcare interventions; the impact of regulation and pension planning in financial services; the impact of robotics in technology; workforce planning arising from huge demographic shifts; teachers planning learning for more diverse school populations; the impact on your business and job of staying or leaving the EU.

Dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity is as much a mindset issue as a skill-set one. The jargon is cognitive readiness – the mental and emotional preparedness for uncertainty. Pearson has identified the factors underpinning cognitive readiness including:

Critical thinking

Cognitive readiness is the foundation for critical thinking. Pearson defines critical thinking as:

Thinking logically with clarity and precision so you can Recognise assumptions, using an approach that is objective and accurate to Evaluate arguments, focusing on information that is relevant to Draw conclusions.

Their RED model provides a framework to think about your thinking. Critical thinking is the raw material for:

  • Strategic thinking – what direction do we go in and how do we get there?
  • Creativity – how can we capitalise on changes in technology?
  • Problem-solving – what has got us here won’t get us there, so now what?
  • Organisation/planning – how do we develop informed plans?
  • Openness – who do we involve to tap into their thinking?
  • Decision-making – what are our options and on what basis do we decide?

Developing critical thinking

Below is a cool infographic for educators via mentoringminds.com.

critical thinking