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Complex problem solving skills more important than ever!

4th Industrial revolution

Industry 4.0, that is what the Germans call the 4th industrial revolution. The essence of the 4th industrial revolution is about connecting the physical world to the Internet.

From a machine in a factory to a toothbrush at home, everything will be equipped with sensors and share date via internet connections. The term “Internet of Things” is used a lot in this context. This development can bring a lot of new features, added value and efficiency improvements, but on the other hand, the complexity will grow accordingly. That means that solving problems will become increasingly difficult in the next years

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The 4th Industrial Revolutions (by Christoph Roser at

In the publication “The future of jobs” the World Economic Forum (WEF) uses an even broader definition of the 4th industrial revolution. It includes developments in the areas of robotics, 3D printing, nanotechnology, genetics and biotechnology.

WEF predicts significant changes in business models and the relevant workforce within the next 5 years. Additionally, they predict a very big change in the skills and knowledge required from employees in order to (remain) successful.

These developments are continuously accelerating which means that the skill & knowledge requirements keep changing, but also that they are not very durable. During the third industrial revolution It took a few decades for the workforce and educational systems to catch up with the new requirements. But nowadays there simply isn’t the time for that. To illustrate: a popular prognosis is that 50% of the knowledge that students acquire in the first year of a technical study is already obsolete by the time they graduate.

Required skills

The WEF held a survey (“Future of jobs survey”) investigating which skills and knowledge (summarized as “skills families”) are considered to be the most important at this moment and in 5 years’ time. Despite differences across different industries, the “complex problem solving” skills family is considered to be the most important (see the table below).

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Table: Most important skills (Source: World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs Survey)

In the report, “Complex problem solving”, is being defined as the capacity needed to solve new, poorly defined problems in complex situations. “Process skills”, which includes skills like critical thinking is listed at number 3 in the survey.

WEF also looked into the availability of those critical skills at this moment. Based on investigation among current members of LinkedIn (over 400 Million people) it appears that on average at most 6% of people have the “complex problem solving” skills. In other words, there is already a significant gap between what the market needs and what is available when it comes to skills and knowledge.

Training iPSDM & iRCA

CoThink specializes in preventing and solving problems. One important aspect of that is providing skill development in methodical analysis and solving problems. This starts with guest lectures at universities, because CoThink recognizes that our current HBO/WO education hardly pays attention to these crucial skills.

CoThink’s trainings Innovative Problem Solving & Decision Making (iPSDM) and Innovative Root Cause Analysis (iRCA) are specifically developed to train people in complex problem solving. These trainings teach participants how to use rational and creative methods to dissect problems and complex issues into the sub-problems and to prioritize next steps. Participants learn to prevent “jumping to conclusions” and “jumping to solutions”. Instead, they learn how to effectively choose alternatives to ensure solutions are implemented with maximum effect and buy-in from stakeholders. Also, they learn how to effectively visualize the analysis in order to help the process as well as to support communication about the process and results in a way that is easy to comprehend.

Trainings in CoThink’s RATIO methods effectively support the strategy that 65% of the companies involved in the WEF’s survey defined to cope with the new skill requirements: investing in training of their current workforce. The iPSDM and iRCA trainings are offered as public training sessions as well as (customized) in-house trainings. For more information, please follow these links: iPSDM or iRCA.

By Ron Vonk


Sogeti VINT. De vierde Industriële Revolutie.  
World Economic Forum. The future of jobs.

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