problem-solving

There are many qualities essential to becoming a good leader. While those qualities come together to define the ideal leader, one trait stands out above the rest. Without the ability to solve problems efficiently and quickly, those other qualities may not be enough to help you excel.

Education and Technology are Not Building Problem Solving Skills

The issue of a lack of problem-solving skills is something that needs to be addressed even before potential leaders hit the workforce. Bloomberg Businessweek conducted a survey that found that a lack of creative problem-solving skills was the second largest concern for recruiters seeking recent MBA graduates. A similar study found that college graduates in general lacked critical thinking skills, as well as problem solving skills.

While the indication is that schools are failing to provide the training that instills good problem-solving skills, some presume technology can make up for that educational gap. Unfortunately, even the most advanced tools can’t take the place of human ingenuity. In fact, analysts suspect the evolution of artificial intelligence and new technologies will only underscore the high value of human problem-solving skills.

Recently, the World Economic Forum released findings of its own for which the organization attempted to forecast the future of employment. Among their findings, they determined that the ability to solve complex problems would be a major requirement for 36% of all jobs by the year 2020. They also shared that the ability to solve problems would be the single most important skill in jobs across all industries.

How Businesses are Addressing the Problem

Businesses across every sector are beginning to look to their own outside contractors for inspiration. Management consulting firms strive to hire individuals who excel in problem solving, so many businesses are looking to them to learn how to identify the trait in job applicants.

One consulting firm, McKinsey, brings in around 3,000 new hires each year to supplement its staff of over 10,000 consultants. Throughout their hiring process, McKinsey seeks out those candidates with the strongest analytical skills and identifies those with a strong ability to creatively solve problems. Even after the best candidates are hired, they go through a training process that emphasizes the development of problem-solving skills.

Some business schools are also addressing this concern, compelling them to add problem solving and communication courses to their curriculums. While formal education and on the job training can help develop strong problem-solving skills, they must be continually utilized in order to improve. Over time, leaders can begin to develop the ability to solve problems naturally. As more colleges and universities instill the basics of these skills and employers encourage the use of analytical skills, these traits will become much more common among leaders in every industry.