Future-ready Personal development

Podcast: Critical thinking: A key skill of the future

A number of studies, white papers, and reports recently have tried to nail down the skills that accounting and finance pros will need going forward– and you might be asking, “Why? Are those skills different than the skills that have gotten us to where we are today?”

The answer is an emphatic, “Yes.”

New technologies like A.I. are increasingly able to do the stuff that we’ve spent a lifetime learning how to do. How do we stay relevant in a world like this?

The answer is simple (although not necessarily easy): By learning to do the things machines can't do. That means learning new skills.

So what skills are we talking about?

Report after report point to the same skillsets: communication, collaboration, and more and more frequently, things like critical thinking, strategic thinking, and learning how to think differently.

That’s where this week's guest comes in.

Toby Groves is a social cognitive scientist who researches new approaches to help experts achieve higher-order critical thinking. He is passionate about helping individuals and teams discover new perspectives and understand radically different approaches that allow them to solve complex problems.

In other words, he helps professionals figure out how to remain relevant in a world that’s doing its level best to make accounting and finance pros irrelevant.

In this conversation, we cover:

  • What, exactly, is critical thinking?
  • What does science tell us about the importance of critical thinking skills?
  • How can we improve our critical thinking skills?
  • How does a fixed mindset differ from a growth mindset?
  • How do value-based assumptions lead to our biggest errors in judgment?
  • What new "cognitive technologies" will help us become better critical thinkers?
  • What can we do now to make ourselves more persuasive, better communicators, and better storytellers?

Listen to the show here:



Future-ready skillsets I mentioned the World Economic Forum's latest "Future of Jobs" report last week, and I want to return to it now because there are a couple of findings that bear repeating.

First, the report goes beyond the whole “robots are going steal my job” fear-mongering and points out something that not a lot of folks are talking about: New technologies are going to create more jobs than they destroy – a lot more jobs, in fact. The report estimates that by 2022 – which is less than four years away, friends – emerging new jobs will outnumber displaced old jobs by almost 2 to 1.

The other reason this report is important is that it reaffirms what we’ve been telling people for a while now: that we’re all going to have to learn some brand new skills in order to grow and thrive in the future. According to the World Economic Forum, these are the skills we’ll need to remain relevant going forward:

  • Analytical thinking and innovation
  • Active learning and learning strategies
  • Creativity, originality, and initiative
  • Technology design and programming
  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Complex problem-solving
  • Leadership and social influence
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Reasoning, problem-solving and ideation
  • Systems analysis and evaluation

In other words, the stuff machines can’t do.

Now, let’s compare that with research done by Tom Hood. As executive director of the Maryland Association of CPAs and its learning and innovation affiliate, the Business Learning Institute, Tom has spent the past few years analyzing the research, studies, and thought leadership surrounding the future of the profession. After cross-referencing all of the available expertise, Hood has determined that future-ready accounting and finance professionals must be proficient in the following eight skills:

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Anticipating and serving evolving needs
  • Synthesizing intelligence to insight
  • Integration and collaboration
  • Technology acumen and data analytics
  • Functional and domain expertise

There's a lot of crossover on these lists, isn’t there?

And sitting right in the middle of both lists is critical and strategic thinking, a skill that will likely impact how proficient we become at most of the other future-ready skills – and the stuff that our guest Toby Groves has spent his career researching. We have to get better at knowing ourselves and those we work with, and Toby has some great advice for how we can do that in this episode.

Come hear Toby live! You can hear Toby live and in person at the MACPA’s 33rd annual Personal Financial Planning Conference, scheduled for Oct. 23 at the Sheraton Baltimore North in Towson, Md. He'll offer an opening keynote on "Interacting with Cognitive Technologies, Advanced Critical Thinking, and Communication for CPAs."

You can get complete details and register at MACPA.org/PFP.



William D. Sheridan