Importance of Cognitive Readiness as a Leadership Competency
“In the challenging situation of a VUCA world leaders need to develop and sharpen their Cognitive Readiness, the mind-set and skill set needed to thrive in a complex and unpredictable environment. Cognitive Readiness enables leaders to recognise patterns in chaotic situations, adapt or change problem solutions based on the patterns identified, and then effectively take action to implement the new solutions.
Traditional critical thinking skills are still required, of course, but as one element of a more comprehensive skill set that goes beyond purely rational, logical approaches to one that is about recognising assumptions, evaluating arguments, and drawing conclusions based on an objective appraisal of available evidence.”
– Prof Sattar Bawany et al. (2016)
Co-Author, ‘ 2016 Research on Trends in Executive Development: A Benchmark Report ’
Cognitive Readiness complements Critical Thinking by emphasizing non-rational, non-logical skills such as situational awareness, attentional control, “connecting the dots” (sense making), intuition, learning agility (a combination of flexibility, speed, stability, and the ability to learn from experience) and adaptability, dealing with ambiguity, and managing the stress of a VUCA environment.
Strong situational awareness, attentional control, and sense making enable leaders to see the world more completely, enhancing their ability to create a vision that is based on a more robust, comprehensive view of the important factors that impact an organisation’s future direction. High tolerance for ambiguity enables leaders to maintain focus on their objectives and not become distracted by the “fog of war”. The critical challenge for leaders would be on how to leap across this “fog”.
At CEE we have developed the “L.E.A.P.” framework of critical skills and competencies for leaders to develop their Cognitive Readiness so as to enable them to navigate successfully and maintain a better sense of self-control of their emotions in the stressful and this highly disruptive, VUCA centric business environment.
CEE in partnership with Executive Development Associates Inc. (EDA) and Action Management Associates, Inc. (AMAI) is pleased to present a suite of services that build the critical thinking competency. Starting with the top of the house and cascading down throughout the organisation, you will find a comprehensive solution to fit your needs.
The challenges that organisations face today are enormous: increasing global competition, emerging markets, technology, and the political and economic landscape. Leaders at all levels need to be able to think fast and act smart – often in VUCA situations that are volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, where no effective policy or procedure. That makes critical thinking a real necessity.
In a VUCA world what is needed is Cognitive Readiness: the preparedness and agility to handle the situation at hand and still prevail. Chief among the new VUCA-related competencies that leaders need to develop is a high level of Cognitive Readiness, which is the mental, emotional, and interpersonal preparedness for uncertainty and risk (Hagemann & Bawany, 2016).
Critical Thinking, the more common and tactical of the thinking skills, involves strategic thinking, creative thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making. It has been a hot topic for the past six years in the EDA Research on Trends for Executive Development. In the latest 2016 Survey, respondents also identified the importance of developing Cognitive Readiness in order to be able to effectively think critically.
Organisations are prioritizing the development of Cognitive Readiness as the one of priority for leading in a VUCA business environment. This may reflect recognition of its importance for current and emerging leaders and a serious commitment to developing these mental capabilities, or it may simply reflect curiosity about the latest leadership development topic and a desire to avoid being left behind. Either way, two issues are present. First, organisations will need to think creatively about the processes they employ to accelerate the development of Cognitive Readiness in High Potential Leaders. Second, organisations may want to explain why, in practice, Cognitive Readiness is important to their success and then define in much greater depth their expectations of perspective.