Cognitive ability is almost undervalued by businesses as an entire concept.
However, individually, there is often an emphasis on specific types of cognitive skills a business may identify as a requirement for talent acquisition or growth within a particular department.
These cognitive skills range from abstract reasoning and lateral thinking to critical thinking skills.
Conversely, adults do not typically focus on increasing their cognitive abilities. This is considered something young children do and something that adults have achieved or peaked at in reaching adulthood.
However, for businesses, there is continuing evidence that suggests cognitive skills can be trained and developed over time.
Specifically, the ability to develop cognitively is relevant to what is described as working memory and fluid intelligence.
Andrea Kuszewski, the American cognitive scientist found that through Multimodal Teaching (a method of teaching that uses as many inputs as possible) contributes to improving fluid intelligence.
While her studies focused on the cognitive development of individuals with autism a study released in 2008 found that using Multimodal training to develop working memory can increase fluid intelligence
Ultimately, what the study found was that through the use of visual and auditory training focusing on a specific task, not only could the individual be trained to improve their cognitive ability within the specific task trained, but they could also improve their ability in unrelated cognitive skills.
The resulting findings of the multimodal training research found four key findings:
This is important to businesses in both talent acquisition and talent development. The study and ability to improve both working memory and fluid intelligence in relation to cognitive ability is extremely encouraging.
Furthermore, the development of fluid training’s impact on cognitive ability can be further tested through abstract reasoning testing – tests in which use visual assessments and psychometric testing to understand an individual’s ability to think laterally and develop patterns in shape sequences.
The focus here is to develop the cognitive skill required and implement frequent cognitive assessments to measure your talents cognitive ability development over a sustained period of time.
An example of this would be the ability to observe, obtain and understand new concepts quickly. This specific unconscious skill is used across a broad range of industries. Specifically;
Having lateral thinking and abstract reasoning skills is extremely important to these industries due to the impact bad hiring decisions can have commercially. Interestingly, ‘bad hires’ can often occur, and data shows that 36% of all hires end within the first year of employment.
Additionally, business innovation has more of an emphasis on lateral thinking now more than ever. Lateral thinking has become akin to incredible problem-solving skills.
Problem-solving in the workplace is a key cognitive skill that can be trained and is measured through abstract reasoning tests. An example of this type of test being the RAVEN’S matrices test.
There are both the standard and advanced matrices tests which are used depending on the cognitive requirements of the business implementing the measurement.
We now know that businesses can improve their team’s cognitive abilities through fluid intelligence. But how can they do that beyond these standard principles and testing methods?
Cognitive ability, especially abstract reasoning requires a culturally diverse mindset. This means that an individual must train their cognitive skills through a range of varied cultural activities regularly.
Some of these will be relevant too, and can be upskilled within the workplace. Some will not. These that will be developed externally come in the form of creative, and artistic to logical problem-solving.
Interestingly, a form of ‘play’ is required to grow cognitive ability outside of the workplace.
These types of training includes:
Ultimately, for businesses, the emphasis should be on providing creative challenges for their talent in order to increase cognitive function.
In doing this, we are effectively training our brains to solve problems and develop new skills and ways of thinking which can be utilised in the workplace during working activity to solve business problems and deliver better outputs for our organisations.