Critical thinking as central to the future world of work

A recent publication by McKinsey (‘Defining the skills citizens will need in the future world of work’) has highlighted the importance of critical thinking as part of the set of skills people will need to ‘future-proof’ their ability to work. It breaks down these skills into what it terms ‘DELTAs’ (‘distinct elements of talent’) such that critical thinking is divided into four such DELTAs.

These are:

  • structured problem-solving;
  • logical reasoning;
  • understanding biases;
  • seeking relevant information.

The desired levels of proficiency are detailed.

  • When faced with complex problems, individuals are able to break them down into parts, identify root causes of each part, and find solutions.
  • Individuals are able to draw sound conclusions from facts and assess the strength of others’ arguments.
  • Individuals are aware of biases in their thinking and can usually ensure these do not impair their thought processes and decisions.
  • Individuals can assess whether known facts and information are sufficient to draw a conclusion and can identify missing information.

Since the possession of DELTAs is correlated with being employed, higher incomes, and higher job satisfaction, it is not surprising that the McKinsey report strongly recommends that governments use education to ensure that citizens have them. This recommendation fits very well with the well-established evidence that having critical thinking as a central aspect of the curriculum (at all levels) makes a significant positive difference to cognitive development and functioning. Beyond primary and secondary education, the report also stresses the value of continuing skill-development in adult-training systems and in lifelong learning.

It is therefore to be hoped that the profile of critical thinking can be raised significantly as part of the way in which people are prepared for work.

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