Definition: proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor David Author has tracked the polarization of jobs in the United States over the last three decades. He finds that job opportunities are declining in middle-skill white-collar and blue-collar jobs, largely due to a combination of the automation of routine work, and global offshoring. Conversely, job opportunities are increasingly concentrated in both high-skill, high-wage professional, technical and management occupations and in low-skill, low-wage occupations such as
food service and personal care. Jobs at the high-skill end involve abstract tasks, and at the low-skill end, manual tasks.

What both of these categories of tasks have in common is that they require what Author terms “situational adaptability”— the ability to respond to unique unexpected circumstances of the moment. Tasks as different as writing a convincing legal argument, or creating a new dish out of set ingredients both require novel thinking and adaptability. These skills will be at a premium in the next decade, particularly as automation and offshoring continue.