Complex, Critical, Creative

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Complex Critical Creative

Complex, Critical, Creative.

This is the start of the list of skills that the World Economic Forum believes that workers will need to be successful in the market place of 2020, or, as some label the state, the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

As we move more towards an environment where software and machines can do ever more of the work that humans have done before, human skills need to develop in order to do work that machines cannot do.

Let’s look at the full list of 10.

1. Complex Problem Solving
2. Critical Thinking
3. Creativity
4. People Management
5. Coordinating with others
6. Emotional Intelligence
7. Judgment and Decision Making
8. Service Orientation
9. Negotiation
10. Cognitive Flexibility

Complex Problem Solving

What about Complex Problem Solving? Simple problem solving would be, well, simple. If it is a recurring situation requiring a resolution, essentially an algorithm, then we can apply a number of models to achieving the best resolution and allow other people or technologies to apply the model. But a situation becomes complex when there are additional features that cannot be fed into a model.

A complex situation requires a creative mind, with access to various resources and inputs, and the ability to imagine outcomes and scenarios and compare them with other outcomes in similar situations and then decide on a course of action. No doubt software could assist this process, but complex problem solving skills are certainly the types of skills we should be developing in ourselves and in our work force.

Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking ties in closely with complex problem solving. Both require us to apply our minds to new ways of thinking and not to rely on old models. Thinking that doesn’t require too much effort is hardly ‘critical’. This type of thinking requires us to be humble, honest and to have the ability to put the effort into uncovering the real issues and determining realistic and valuable resolutions.

The skills we need for the future world of work are higher order thinking and effort. Without them, then we will be challenged individually as technology makes our efforts redundant.


Creativity is a skill that software cannot replicate. Of course we can program a computer with a dozen different painting and design techniques and come up with some interesting examples of art. Art is supposed to be provocative and challenge and make us uncomfortable from time to time. And while I may well like to have a few examples of AI (artificial intelligence) generated art in my home, it is not necessarily the essence of creativity.

A creative human can take a principle from one industry and apply it to a problem in a completely unrelated field. A creative human can find ways to capitalize on the work that is being automated by technology, in order to resolve issues that technology cannot automatically address. That is the creativity we are looking for.
As you look at your business or career, consider how to tap into and develop the skills that elevate yourself above the current abilities of automation and artificial intelligence. Its the only way to future proof yourself.

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