Critical thinking is one of the most integral soft skills to have in the workplace. Not only does it allow you to logically make sense of the information available to you, but it also helps you solve problems both big and small and become better at your job in the process.
Because of this, employers are constantly looking to hire talent with strong critical thinking skills and also improve the critical thinking of their existing team members. Today, we’ll discuss in further detail the importance of strong critical thinking skills and how they can take your workplace to the next level.
What Is Critical Thinking?
Simply put, critical thinking is determining how to react, think or behave in a specific situation in a way that’s both rational and sensible. In the workplace, employees who have the ability to think critically tend to be more independent, self-aware and reliable.
If you’re able to think critically, you’re able to reflect, accurately assess the work of others and yourself, analyse arguments and alternative points of view, connect different perspectives and ideas and come up with solutions to hard-hitting problems.
Critical thinking doesn’t only involve processing and interpreting information well, but also the ability to use the information at hand to make informed conclusions and come up with appropriate outcomes. This is what separates strong critical thinkers from people who are simply able to memorise important information, as they’re also able to use this information to brainstorm effective solutions.
It’s because of this that critical thinking is so highly valued in the workplace, especially in positions where brainstorming and planning strategies are a part of the role. While critical thinking is considered a soft skill, which means it’s a part of someone’s personality or character, it can also be taught and developed.
Critical Thinking and the Workplace
Critical thinking skills are of high value to all professionals, not just those in management positions. Here are just some of the ways that critical thinking plays a role in the workplace.
An integral part of critical thinking is being able to understand different perspectives. Someone who is a critical thinker will be able to look past their own beliefs or opinions and take the time to understand and consider new information and opposing viewpoints, allowing them to reflect on their own thought processes and perspectives.
As we mentioned above, all professionals can benefit from developing their critical thinking abilities. However, there are certain fields that demand strong critical thinking skills from the onset, such as finance, healthcare, law, education and much more. Any role where one has to analyse information without any bias and come up with the best solution possible needs to be filled by someone who is a confident critical thinker.
Critical thinking enables you to prioritise logic and objectivity rather than emotional responses, allowing for impressive decision-making abilities even in the face of stress or high-pressure situations.
Generally speaking, critical thinkers work hard to research relevant topics and information and remain well-informed. This allows them to help drive workplace discussions forward and prove themselves as a leader amongst their colleagues.
Failing to properly utilise critical thinking in the workplace can cause a number of issues in businesses both big and small. These can include:
- Unhappy staff
- Loss of profits
- Wasted time, effort and money
- Repeated mistakes
- Ineffective systems
Unfortunately, businesses that don’t invest in their employees’ critical thinking skills ultimately end up paying the price. Whether it’s the company’s reputation, poor staff retention or financial strain, a workplace culture that doesn’t value critical thinking will quickly see the consequences.
What are the steps involved?
Luckily, critical thinking is a skill that can be coached, acquired and practised. However, teaching your team members how to think critically doesn’t happen overnight, as there are many different skills that need to be developed. Here are the main steps involved in successful critical thinking:
1. Asking questions
When presented with information, get in the habit of asking high-value questions that will help you accurately assess what’s been given to you and what move to make next. Some strong questions to start off with include:
- Is there any research available on this issue?
- What alternative perspectives are there on this issue?
- How can this problem be solved?
Once a good critical thinker sees or hears new information, their immediate instinct is to discover the objective truth on the matter so that they can accept or reject it. When doing this, you’re both considering potential challenges and resolutions without any bias or preconceived notions.
3. Consider your source
Another factor to consider is where this information is coming from. Every piece of information that you receive was relayed to you by someone who has their own personal motivations to share this knowledge with you. A strong critical thinker assesses the source of information they receive and consider the motivation behind sharing it with you.
To make your own opinion using your critical thinking skills, you must first do your own research on the matter. Come up with a list of questions you need to ask and use reliable sources on the internet (such as education institutions or syndicated new sites) or within your workplace to find your answers.
How to coach employees
Courses run by professional training companies can help employees and managers alike develop and enhance their critical thinking skills and apply them to the workplace. However, the work doesn’t end there. Once your employees have completed their critical thinking workshop, it’s up to you to hold them accountable and help them get the most out of their coaching experience. You can do this by:
- Going through their everyday tasks with them and discussing which of these will require critical thinking
- Ask them to apply the four-step approach to high-priority tasks
- Encourage them to acknowledge and overcome their cognitive biases
- Promote problem-solving and reinforce their efforts
- Give constant feedback and make sure they continue to share their findings with you
The workplace is constantly changing and evolving, and for a company to thrive all of its employees should be confident and tenacious critical thinkers. Giving your employees the tools to improve their critical thinking skills can help improve staff retention and take your workforce to the next level.
Professional critical thinking training for employees allows employees and managers alike to work with critical thinking experts who are willing and able to share their knowledge, helping to teach valuable skills that can benefit in and out of the workplace.