Article: Cognitive abilities determine how you think and respond in turbulent times: Anustup Chattopadhyay, AON


Cognitive abilities determine how you think and respond in turbulent times: Anustup Chattopadhyay, AON

Anustup Chattopadhyay delves into the cognitive skills that are predictive of emerging leaders and how AON’s comprehensive assessment framework has been a step in the right direction for People Matters Are You In The List Awards.
Cognitive abilities determine how you think and respond in turbulent times: Anustup Chattopadhyay, AON

The VUCA world demands leaders to navigate complexity, ambiguity and constant change through skills such as digital literacy, systems thinking, self-awareness, lifelong learning, situational adaptation and creative problem-solving, among others. But how will these skills evolve with technological advancements? In an exclusive interview, Anustup Chattopadhyay, Director and Practice Leader at AON HR Learning Center highlights the innovations in India, industry shifts and transformations to engaging, data-driven experiences through AI, AR/VR, gamification, cloud computing, predictive analytics, new-age psychometrics and ML. 

As People Matters Are You In The List Awards opens registrations for the next emerging HR leaders, he explains the comprehensive assessment framework introduced by AON in the evaluation process that includes personality assessments, knowledge-based (MCQ) assessments, and case study analysis, and how it adds a high degree of reliability to recognise the best HR talent. 

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Excerpts from the interview:

In today’s business landscape, how crucial is the identification of cognitive skills in predicting the success of emerging leaders within an organisation?

In today's highly disruptive business environment, the identification of cognitive skills has become absolutely critical in predicting the success of emerging leaders within organisations. Traditionally, leadership potential was assessed based on competencies, qualifications and past performance alone. However, as VUCA becomes the new normal, organisations need leaders who can navigate complexity, ambiguity and constant change. This requires skills beyond the usual technical or domain expertise. 

Cognitive skills like self-awareness, lifelong learning attitude, situational adaptation, creative problem-solving, digital fluency and systems thinking have become ubiquitous for those steering organisations through digital disruptions, uncertain economic landscapes and remote working models. I have observed that while competencies provide a foundation, cognitive abilities drive how individuals actually think and respond in unfamiliar, turbulent scenarios. It is this agility of mind that determines if someone can forge new paths or get derailed by disruption.

While talent reviews of the past focused heavily on past results, the future demands we preview how potential leaders will likely think, respond and lead through uncertainty. Only cognitive assessments can scientifically provide these valuable insights to equip organisations with the mental flexibility required for sustained success in times to come.

Can you share insights into the cognitive skills assessment landscape and its evolution, particularly in the context of recent technological advancements?

The cognitive skills assessment space has seen tremendous evolution, particularly in the last five years due to rapid advancements in technology. Earlier, assessments relied heavily on static, paper-based tests with limited configurability. But today, digital solutions are completely transforming the landscape. Advancements in areas such as artificial intelligence, virtual/augmented reality, data analytics and cloud computing are being leveraged to develop highly engaging, next-gen assessment experiences. 

For instance, AI is enabling personalised and adaptive assessments customised to each individual's profile. Simulations developed using VR/AR are providing immersive scenarios to evaluate real-time decision-making under pressure. Gamification elements are making assessments more fun and less test-like. Cloud-based administration allows global roll-outs and simplified reporting. Organisations now have access to powerful dashboards and predictive analytics for each candidate rather than static reports. Continuous product upgrades are further elevating validity. Machine learning is helping map assessment data to real-world outcomes to continuously enhance predictive abilities. 

India is at the forefront of driving innovations in cognitive skills assessments. Both global companies and Indian startups are leveraging new-age psychometrics and virtual platforms to evaluate constructs like systems thinking, digital acumen, etc. This provides an objective, skills-based profile beyond achievements. Benchmarking also allows identifying strengths and areas of growth. While earlier assessments focused only on IQ, aptitude tests, 360-degree evaluations are now gaining popularity. Technologies like machine-learning and analytics are helping analyse large, diverse datasets and predict leadership success with higher accuracy. I've witnessed the industry shift its mindset from offline to online, static to dynamic and norm-referenced to criterion-referenced using cutting-edge psychological techniques. All in all, technology is transforming assessment from a hierarchical process to an engaging, data-driven experience.

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What specific challenges can cognitive skills assessment help address in the tech-driven business landscape?

There are a few major challenges that organisations face in today's technology-disrupted business environment which cognitive skills assessments can help effectively address:

  1. Building Future-Ready Leadership Pipelines: Leaders need skills like adaptability, collaboration and lifelong learning to steer businesses through constant disruption. Cognitive assessments pinpoint potentials with the right mindsets.
  2. Navigating Complexity and Ambiguity: As architectures flatten and environments evolve rapidly, leaders must make nuanced judgments under ambiguity. Cognitive tools gauge strengths for navigating uncertainty.
  3. Fostering Agile Culture of Innovation: Organisations require workforces empowered to think outside the box. Assessments evaluate open-mindedness, creativity to support innovation-driven cultures.
  4. Championing Digital Transformation: As digital permeates strategy, leadership must champion transformation. Assessments screen for technology acumen, change management abilities to lead the digital leap.
  5. Ensuring Diversity of Thought: Assessments evaluate different cognitive tendencies, mental models to increase diversity of perspectives for robust decision making.

By objectively evaluating these in-demand cognitive dimensions, assessments play a vital role in strengthening organisational capabilities to address the human challenges of an ambiguous, tech-infused business era. This ultimately impacts organisational success and sustainability in the long-run.

How has the comprehensive assessment framework, introduced by AON, bolstered the People Matters Are You In The List Awards, specifically in identifying future HR leaders?

The assessment framework has been carefully designed keeping in mind specific behavioural and technical competencies that are needed by HR leaders of the future. The battery of assessments include a variety of tools including personality assessments, knowledge based (MCQ) assessments, and case study analysis among others. 

These assessments together will ensure a high degree of reliability in the process so that only the best HR professionals in the country make it to the coveted ‘List’. There has been multiple winners in the past that have subsequently gone on to take leadership roles in large organisations, and we believe that with this improved framework in place, our commitment to recognising the best HR talent will take a step in the right direction. 

According to you, what are the top three skills that HR professionals who aim to be the thought leaders of tomorrow must work towards cultivating?

If I had to identify the top three skills Indian HR leaders need to cultivate to truly thrive in future, I would say strategic business mindset, digital fluency and ability to drive change. 

In the evolving Indian economic landscape, HR must transform from being just compliance-focused to playing the role of a true strategic partner. This means having the ability to view people practices through a business lens - understanding how talent impacts productivity, innovation, costs, etc. Only then can HR bring true value. 

Digital is also massively disrupting the way we work in India. So, having expertise in technologies like analytics, AI and being adept at conceptualising digital HR initiatives will be a huge asset. HR must lead technological evolutions, not just respond to them. With the tectonic workplace shifts occurring, the ability to envision, roll-out and sustain complex transformations is key. 

Successful HR leaders will empower organisational changes in culture, ways of working through strong change management capabilities. If Indian HR professionals nurture these three skills, they will be best equipped to steer organisations through future uncertainties and position themselves as respected thought-leaders versus mere administrators.

If you are eager to succeed as an HR leader, bringing about a transformation, People Matters Are You In The List powered by AON offers you a unique platform to hone your skills. Register now before the closing date on March 17

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Topics: Assessments, Leadership Development, HR Technology, Employment Landscape, Psychometric Tests, #AreyouintheList?

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