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The demand for future skills is changing. The World Economic Forums recent report on the 2022 Skills Outlook highlights this rather well. Cerebral skills are on the up…

In our ever-changing business landscape, how ready are your skills for the demands of the future?

The skills that will be required and in high demand in the future are changing (arguably, they have been needed and desired for some considerable time). There are unlikely to be any major surprises here, as desirable skill sets are forever jostling for position, depending what is, or is forecast to be, desirable to employers.

In light of this, the World Economic Forum’s recent Future of Jobs Report on the 2022 Skills Outlook, makes essential reading. Of the 10 skills that are predicted to be in growing demand, it is interesting to note that with the exception of two (even this is debatable), they are all principally cerebral and involve the development of ‘thinking’ skills.

From the report, the skills that are growing in demand are:

  1. Analytical thinking and innovation
  2. Active listening and learning strategies
  3. Creativity, originality and initiative
  4. Technology design and programming
  5. Critical thinking and analysis
  6. Complex problem solving
  7. Leadership and social influence
  8. Emotional intelligence
  9. Reasoning, problem solving and ideation
  10. Systems analysis and evaluation

This begs a number of obvious questions, including:

  • “How ready are we for this increased demand of these new skills?”
  • “How much emphasis do we place on the development of thinking efficiency and productivity?”
  • “Are these types of skills inherent or trainable?”
  • “How do you make training of this type (creativity, for example), effective and lasting?”
  • “How do you measure the success of training initiatives that involve the output of ideas or solutions as the result (who’s to say that these would not have been delivered anyway)?”

These are significant questions and for many of us, will require considerable contemplation, for this is a highly complex subject. The factors that impact upon our ability to be innovative, creative or rapid and effective problem solvers are numerous and varied in nature.

What we do know is that it is not one thing alone that will achieve success in developing the skills, confidence and motivation in these critical areas.

Over the years we have realise that there are three key areas that need developing and it is where these overlap that they combine to make a significant and lasting difference to thinking efficiency and productivity. This in turn dramatically improves creativity, innovation and rapid and effective problem solving.

Common suppressants

Before we take a look at the three areas, it is worthwhile understanding what some of the more common suppressants are that inhibit and restrict effective and productive thinking.

These are numerous and include:

  • Argument (B, M)
  • Lack of tools (TP)
  • Debate (B, M)
  • Lack of motivation (M)
  • Low contribution (B, TP, M)
  • Interruptions (B)
  • Lack of focus (TP, M)
  • No time to think (B, M)
  • Criticism (B, M)
  • Domination (B, M)
  • ‘Tried it before’ (B)
  • Lack of consensus (TP)
  • Poor or lack of solutions (TP)
  • Ridicule (B)
  • ‘Can’t be done’ (B)
  • Lack of know how (M)

When we take a look at these examples, it is possible to cluster them into three key areas, ‘B’ for behaviour, ‘TP’ for tools and processes and ‘M’ for management.

Behaviours (B): these include the behaviours that go on in our own minds and the behaviours that we exhibit to one another.

Tools and processes (TP): are the defined approaches that we apply to generate, improve and prioritise ideas, concepts and solutions etc.

Management (M): is all inclusive and includes the management of thinking (facilitation) and the people management and leadership aspects.

To be serious about developing the crucial skills that are now being recognised as being the key for the future success of employees will require a focus on each of these areas. If any remain undeveloped, optimised success will be undermined. It should be clear that making improvements to any one of these three elements will make a difference of sorts, although the difference is likely to be incremental, rather than dramatic.

To help understand this, the following table illustrates the ‘likely’ results of making improvement in each area and combinations thereof:



Coming soon!

Improving Element

Behaviours (B)

Likely Effect

Group thinking may have a better ‘feel’ but with a lack of efficient tools and processes and good management any improvement is likely to be incremental.

Tools and Processes (TP)

Introducing efficient tools and processes is a step in the right direction. However, poor behaviours and a lack of management of the tools is likely to dampen any meaningful improvement.

Management (M)

Good management is essential but with weak tools and processes and adverse behaviours, improving the management aspect is likely to have little effect on thinking efficiency and productivity.

Behaviours (B) and Tools and Processes (TP)

Addressing the behaviours and introducing efficient tools and processes will equip the group with a solid foundation but without the necessary direction and management of the thinking, results will not be of their full potential.

Behaviours (B) and Management (M)

Good management and the right behaviours will again set things up nicely but without efficient tools and processes, results are likely to be limited.

Tools and Processes (TP) and Management (M)

This often is the default focus for improvement (the behavioural aspect is often neglected for a variety of reasons). There may be improvement, but poor behaviours will hamper any significant change.

The conclusion is, therefore, that to have the best possible chance of developing the skills that are undoubtedly going to be in great demand and valued by employers, we need to ensure that there is an appropriate focus on behaviours, tools and processes and management.

We often speak of developing ‘the sweet spot’. For us, this is where these three essential areas overlap and, in our experience, unleash the immense value that creativity, innovation and problem solving have to offer. By doing so, we witness remarkable achievements.

About the author:

Tim Rusling has more than twenty five years experience as a management consultant with a passionate focus on developing and growing others, enabling them to fulfil their full potential.

Idea generation, problem solving, innovation and more broadly, thinking efficiency and productivity, has been at the heart of this.

He works with a diverse range of clients around the globe, striving to develop robust and practical approaches that enable others to achieve extraordinary results.

He supports his clients in all aspects of thinking efficiency and productivity and its management. This work includes:

  • Facilitating business specific related workshops
  • Developing and delivering a wide range of subject specific training programmes
  • Consulting in the area of thinking efficiency and productivity (typically, culture and management)

Tim can be contacted through the website.

Contact Tim