Importance of Cognitive Readiness Competencies
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 are that of a high level of Cognitive Readiness, which is defined as 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 prioritising 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.
Cognitive Readiness – Beyond Critical Thinking
Traditional Critical Thinking is the ability to recognise assumptions, evaluate arguments and draw conclusions. The traditional Critical Thinking competencies typically include strategic thinking, creative thinking, problem-solving and decision-making.
In the 2016 “Trends in Executive Development – A Benchmark Report” by Executive Development Associates (EDA) has defined Cognitive Readiness, on the other hand, as the mental, emotional, and interpersonal preparedness for uncertainty and risk. It complements Critical Thinking by emphasising non-rational, non-logical skills (Hagemann, Bawany et al. 2016)
EDA has defined the following set of Cognitive Readiness competencies (See Figure 2):
- Mental Cognition: Recognise and regulate your thoughts and emotions
- Attentional Control: Manage and focus your attention
- Sensemaking:Connect the dots and see the bigger picture
- Intuition: Check your gut, but don’t let it rule your mind
- Problem Solving: Use analytical and creative methods to resolve a challenge
- Adaptability:Be willing and able to change, with shifting conditions
- Communication:Inspire others to action; Create fluid communication pathways
Overall, heightened Cognitive Readiness allows leaders to maintain a better sense of self-control in stressful situations.
Figure 2 – The Elements of Cognitive Readiness Competencies