SBM Articles


The Decline of Our Most Valuable Skills

by Judy Ryan

Before the introduction of AI, my work has been in developing leadership in all, as well as emotional and social intelligence, critical thinking, personal responsibility, problem-solving, social interest, internal motivation, trust, and empathy. With the arrival of AI, it is likely people will lose more of these and other vital skills needed to meet the challenges of today and the future. More than ever, people need to have confidence and competence in exercising their thinking for creativity, collaboration, and communicating ideas effectively to meet the complexity, rapid change, and technology needs for agile, innovative, and strategic thinking and behaving. Data shows that:

- Critical thinking skills have been declining, with many people struggling to think deeply and reflectively (Source: Psychology Today).

- Cognitive decline is accelerating, with mentally stimulating activities decreasing (Source: Harvard Health).

- Empathy levels have been declining over the past 30 years, especially among younger generations, with a 40% drop in empathy among college students compared to their counterparts 20 or 30 years ago (Source: Scientific American, University of Michigan study).

- An Average American spends 5 hours and 24 minutes on their phone every day (Source: What’s the Big Data?).

- Burnout exhausts, paralyzes, and reduces productivity. Mentally, it’s as if the brain hits a wall and struggles to concentrate, experiences memory slips, irritability, and anxiety. (Source: The World Health Organization).

- Over 75% of American workers say they’ve experienced burnout in their workplace at some point, impairing their cognitive functioning, with roughly one in four feeling it “very often” or “always,” (Source: Gallup).

- 23% workers suffer from work-related stress, with a loss of focus and effectiveness, (Source: Kind Mind).

Deer in the Headlights
In our client sites, we see firsthand the fear and discomfort people exhibit when asked to draw upon their often rusty, neglected, and under-utilized critical thinking skills. We incorporate a Socratic method in all of our services. We use thought-provoking questions in our individual online training programs, workbooks, surveys, staff-led small group review sessions, and peer and reverse mentoring. Our methods stimulate heuristic thinking on things never before considered or needed. This elicits accountability for engagement and support for people, projects and organizations. When we train them to say less and ask more (SLAM) to engage critical thinking in each other, this is new and often awkward during initial conversations. For those asked what and how questions for heightened awareness and to manage behavior, many freeze, fight or flee emotionally and even physically.

Root Causes of This Alarming Decline in Skills
The decline in critical thinking, cognition, empathy and social interest (recognizing consequences we cause others) are side-effects of the conditioning with control methods used on people from infancy to adulthood, often scaring them about their power and perspectives. In an effort to develop children into good citizens there is often use of scolding, punishing and shaming (autocratic control), bribing (rewards as control), grading, praising or criticism (judging as control), and enabling by giving answers instead of helping others find them (pampering and spoiling). Beyond control, often outdated formulaic beliefs and solutions are foisted upon people with an expectation that they blindly comply.

Further, add the extensive use of electronic devices that shut down creative thinking and problem-solving needed for innovation. Instilling systems that strengthen intelligence, initiative and competence are vital for happiness, psychological safety, fulfillment and the evolvement of people and organizations.
If you recognize the need to develop these declining skills among your staff so they grow in empathy, responsibility, internal motivation, and learn to trust and share their invaluable wisdom needed for the best possible future, call us. Are you ready? We’re here to help!

Judy Ryan (, human systems specialist, is owner of LifeWork Systems. Join her in her mission to create a world in which all people love their lives. She can also be reached at 314-239-4727.
People hire LifeWork Systems because we help businesses become agile and manage their priority system: their human system. I hope this article helps you make sense of what’s most crucial to your evolving organization!

Submitted 28 days ago
Categories: categoryThe Extraordinary Workplace
Views: 129