Originally published by thegrid.pk
The fourth industrial revolution is no longer as bound to geopolitical circumstance in the way that previous revolutions have been. In the 21st century, the information economy can inform the decisions that a multinational corporation or national government make, potentially and rapidly changing the lives of thousands, if not millions of people. In this new world, the most important skill for any worker – white collar and blue – is the ability to think critically, in order to adapt to a world in acceleration.
According to the Oxford English dictionary, critical thinking is “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement”. Critical thinking includes the ability to argue one’s approach effectively. In order for one’s argument to be accepted, especially in a professional work environment, it must be effective and valid. Arguments are an essential component of teamwork and people who can argue well, without restoring to fights, create very productive teams. If a potentially award-winning solution cannot be reasoned and articulated effectively, it serves no one.
Effective critical thinking training also leads to an awareness of the cognitive biases that all of us can fall prey to.This can include confirmation bias, or the”tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories” (OED). By becoming cognisant of one’s own confirmation bias, one can manage it and work in a clearer, more objective frame of mine. According to Forbes magazine, “confirmation bias is one of the most common cognitive biases for entrepreneurs, especially ones who are passionate about their business.” Indulging confirmation bias can lead to a financial loss and can be fatal for businesses – keeping it in check and thus avoiding potential dangers, however, can lead to better research and decisions with beneficial outcomes.
Studies continue to show that people with effective critical thinking skills are happier, more productive and more efficient at any task they carry out – a state of mind that also spills over into their personal lives. Critical thinkers are shown to enjoy more stable marriages and work-life balance because critical thinking enhances emotional intelligence. Because they have better developed planning skills and foresight, critical thinkers are able to navigate life challenges more easily thanks to the ability to make sound decisions.
Automation and the Internet of Things are vital cogs in this fourth industrial revolution. In the age of the information economy, humans have no option but to reevaluate and revisit what constitutes “work.” Most jobs will be automated, with workers being made redundant. Many low-skilled occupations that do not require much conscious thought can be made further simplified or easily automated. Work, as we know it, will necessarily change, whether we want it to or not. As the professional services firm PwC writes in their March 2017 UK Economic Outlook:
“…Over the past few years, fears of technology-driven job losses have re-emerged with advances in ‘smart automation’ – the combination of AI, robotics and other digital technologies that is already producing innovations like driverless cars and trucks, intelligent virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa and Cortana, and Japanese healthcare robots.”
As an example, the figure below highlights the million of jobs that are at risk of becoming redundant in the future in the United Kingdom alone. These include occupations in the manufacturing and wholesale and retail sectors, as well as in the professional, scientific and technical sectors as well.
Critical thinkers, through their ability to adapt more fluidly and be on top of rapidly shifting trends, will emerge as winners in this accelerated global economy. According to Jon Andrews, the head of technology and investments at PwC, “in the future, knowledge will be a commodity so we need to shift our thinking on how we skill and upskill future generations. Creative and critical thinking will be highly valued, as will emotional intelligence.”
Enhancing critical thinking skills makes employees more desirable to leading companies looking to hire people that can help them navigate the information age. A critical thinker is more likely to get the same job as an equally qualified worker, but with one key difference: a critical thinker is more adaptable and willing to expand their skill set, to increase their value to their employer and to the marketplace. Skills that are in demand by potential employers, such as financial quantification, conducting of market research or economic modelling are also enhanced by the development of critical thinking.
In order to tap into the ability to acquire, utilise and develop critical thinking skills, the first step is to implement and invest in critical critical thinking classes and programmes. It is a company’s best interest to invest in critical thinking as a necessary introductory component for any job training process.
Nabiha Meher Shaikh is a graduate of the United World College of the Atlantic. She has a BA in Women’s Studies from York University and an MA in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Sussex. Nabiha has been teaching critical thinking for over a decade to school and university students. She conducts critical thinking training sessions with teachers ((Simorgh Ilm Ideas) and has conducted workshops with NGOs as well. She has taught at Aitchison College, NCA, LUMS and is currently teaching at Lahore Grammar School, 55 Main.
Adnan Ahmad Chaudhri is an editor, privacy advocate and archaeologist with an interdisciplinary background that is reflected by a diverse range of work. He has worked with the development sector for over a decade.