VUCA World Part 3: Hiring Critical Thinkers

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In last week’s article, VUCA World Part 2: Adapt & Survive in Talent Management, we continued the discussion of how organizations need to alter their thinking in order to succeed in the VUCA world (VUCA standing for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity). The reality is that not only how we hire our talent needs to change but who we are looking at to fill key positions. Organizations need to focus on individuals that can adapt, who can succeed in the unknown and think around problems. As People Matters phrases it, it’s imperative to cultivate critical thinkers in order to have employees who focus on “how to think instead of what [to think].”

Critical Thinkers will Prevail in a VUCA World

Is it really possible to prepare for a VUCA world? Well, it certainly is. Applying critical thinking in order to better tackle apparently challenging situations and make well-thought-through decisions in a VUCA world is the answer you’re looking for.

Critical thinking can be very simply defined as ‘how to think’ instead of ‘what to think’. Here are a few critical thinking pointers that you could use to tackle the sheer dynamism of a VUCA world:

For volatile situations: Separating facts from opinions is the key. So is formulating thoughts objectively and precisely as well as ensuring clarity in communication.

For uncertain situations: Listening and comprehension is vital. Being open-minded about alternative points of view and dealing with contradiction are also necessary in such situations.

For complex situations: One needs to gather facts from various sources, do logical enquiry and reasoning and also weigh the alternatives. Weighing alternatives, making decisions under pressure and testing the solutions against relevant criteria are also vital.

For ambiguous situations: Curiosity; eliciting and evaluating arguments; asking the right questions; adaptability and agility in thinking as well as seeing the consequences and likely implications are essential in such circumstances.

Quite simply, critical thinking is excellence in thought processes which precedes excellence in our actions.

Countering VUCA with VUCA Prime

We are transcending from a world of problems, which requires speed, comprehension and analysis to a world of dilemmas, which demands patience, common sense and a tryst with uncertainty. Hence, countering VUCA requires:

Vision: An intent that seeks to create a desirable and promising future.

Understanding: The ability to stop, look and listen.

Clarity: The ability to help make sense of chaos.

Agility: Organizations where ‘wirearchy’ (the organizing principle of interconnected knowledge, trust, and credibility, that is, the understanding that everything and everyone is connected for forwarding organizational objectives) is rewarded over hierarchy have this attribute.

We are in an era of rapid change and dynamic human development. A failure to meet the challenges will leave many companies behind and the human capital potential of their employees unfulfilled. Leaders of today must become more comfortable and agile with ambiguous and seemingly contradictory demands by focusing on managing paradoxes. They need to make fast decisions through influencing and networking by collaborating across silos, organizations and even industries. This mandates self-awareness, reflection and the need to quickly bounce back from failure. Above all, leaders must become resilient critical thinkers who embrace a mindset of change that is non-negotiable while successfully navigating the turbulence of a vehement VUCA world.

Change, adapt, survive. The rules of nature continue to be the rules governing the business world. The processes by which we run our organizations must align with the VUCA environment. See how strong companies embrace and evolve in VUCA World Part 4: The Lightfoot Approach.

Traci Kingery, PHR is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in immigration and talent management. When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.

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