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How to build your critical thinking skills in 7 steps (with examples)

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Critical thinking is, well, critical. By building these skills, you improve your ability to analyze information and come to the best decision possible. In this article, we cover the basics of critical thinking, as well as the seven steps you can use to implement the full critical thinking process. 

Critical thinking comes from asking the right questions to come to the best conclusion possible. Strong critical thinkers analyze information from a variety of viewpoints in order to identify the best course of action.

Don’t worry if you don’t think you have strong critical thinking abilities. In this article, we’ll help you build a foundation for critical thinking so you can absorb, analyze, and make informed decisions. 

What is critical thinking? 

Critical thinking is the ability to collect and analyze information to come to a conclusion. Being able to think critically is important in virtually every industry and applicable across a wide range of positions. That’s because critical thinking isn’t subject-specific—rather, it’s your ability to parse through information, data, statistics, and other details in order to identify a satisfactory solution. 

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Top 8 critical thinking skills

Like most soft skills, critical thinking isn’t something you can take a class to learn. Rather, this skill consists of a variety of interpersonal and analytical skills. Developing critical thinking is more about learning to embrace open-mindedness and bringing analytical thinking to your problem framing process. 

In no particular order, the eight most important critical thinking skills are:

Analytical thinking: Part of critical thinking is evaluating data from multiple sources in order to come to the best conclusions. Analytical thinking allows people to reject bias and strive to gather and consume information to come to the best conclusion. 

Open-mindedness: This critical thinking skill helps you analyze and process information to come to an unbiased conclusion. Part of the critical thinking process is letting your personal biases go and coming to a conclusion based on all of the information. 

Problem solving : Because critical thinking emphasizes coming to the best conclusion based on all of the available information, it’s a key part of problem solving. When used correctly, critical thinking helps you solve any problem—from a workplace challenge to difficulties in everyday life. 

Self-regulation: Self-regulation refers to the ability to regulate your thoughts and set aside any personal biases to come to the best conclusion. In order to be an effective critical thinker, you need to question the information you have and the decisions you favor—only then can you come to the best conclusion. 

Observation: Observation skills help critical thinkers look for things beyond face value. To be a critical thinker you need to embrace multiple points of view, and you can use observation skills to identify potential problems.

Interpretation: Not all data is made equal—and critical thinkers know this. In addition to gathering information, it’s important to evaluate which information is important and relevant to your situation. That way, you can draw the best conclusions from the data you’ve collected. 

Evaluation: When you attempt to answer a hard question, there is rarely an obvious answer. Even though critical thinking emphasizes putting your biases aside, you need to be able to confidently make a decision based on the data you have available. 

Communication: Once a decision has been made, you also need to share this decision with other stakeholders. Effective workplace communication includes presenting evidence and supporting your conclusion—especially if there are a variety of different possible solutions. 

7 steps to critical thinking

Critical thinking is a skill that you can build by following these seven steps. The seven steps to critical thinking help you ensure you’re approaching a problem from the right angle, considering every alternative, and coming to an unbiased conclusion.

 First things first: When to use the 7 step critical thinking process

There’s a lot that goes into the full critical thinking process, and not every decision needs to be this thought out. Sometimes, it’s enough to put aside bias and approach a process logically. In other, more complex cases, the best way to identify the ideal outcome is to go through the entire critical thinking process. 

The seven-step critical thinking process is useful for complex decisions in areas you are less familiar with. Alternatively, the seven critical thinking steps can help you look at a problem you’re familiar with from a different angle, without any bias. 

If you need to make a less complex decision, consider another problem solving strategy instead. Decision matrices are a great way to identify the best option between different choices. Check out our article on 7 steps to creating a decision matrix .

1. Identify the problem

Before you put those critical thinking skills to work, you first need to identify the problem you’re solving. This step includes taking a look at the problem from a few different perspectives and asking questions like: 

What’s happening? 

Why is this happening? 

What assumptions am I making? 

At first glance, how do I think we can solve this problem? 

A big part of developing your critical thinking skills is learning how to come to unbiased conclusions. In order to do that, you first need to acknowledge the biases that you currently have. Does someone on your team think they know the answer? Are you making assumptions that aren’t necessarily true? Identifying these details helps you later on in the process. 

2. Research

At this point, you likely have a general idea of the problem—but in order to come up with the best solution, you need to dig deeper. 

During the research process, collect information relating to the problem, including data, statistics, historical project information, team input, and more. Make sure you gather information from a variety of sources, especially if those sources go against your personal ideas about what the problem is or how to solve it.

Gathering varied information is essential for your ability to apply the critical thinking process. If you don’t get enough information, your ability to make a final decision will be skewed. Remember that critical thinking is about helping you identify the objective best conclusion. You aren’t going with your gut—you’re doing research to find the best option

3. Determine data relevance

Just as it’s important to gather a variety of information, it is also important to determine how relevant the different information sources are. After all, just because there is data doesn’t mean it’s relevant. 

Once you’ve gathered all of the information, sift through the noise and identify what information is relevant and what information isn’t. Synthesizing all of this information and establishing significance helps you weigh different data sources and come to the best conclusion later on in the critical thinking process. 

To determine data relevance, ask yourself:

How reliable is this information? 

How significant is this information? 

Is this information outdated? Is it specialized in a specific field? 

4. Ask questions

One of the most useful parts of the critical thinking process is coming to a decision without bias. In order to do so, you need to take a step back from the process and challenge the assumptions you’re making. 

We all have bias—and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unconscious biases (also known as cognitive biases) often serve as mental shortcuts to simplify problem solving and aid decision making. But even when biases aren’t inherently bad, you must be aware of your biases in order to put them aside when necessary. 

Before coming to a solution, ask yourself:

Am I making any assumptions about this information? 

Are there additional variables I haven’t considered? 

Have I evaluated the information from every perspective? 

Are there any viewpoints I missed? 

5. Identify the best solution

Finally, you’re ready to come to a conclusion. To identify the best solution, draw connections between causes and effects. Use the facts you’ve gathered to evaluate the most objective conclusion. 

Keep in mind that there may be more than one solution. Often, the problems you’re facing are complex and intricate. The critical thinking process doesn’t necessarily lead to a cut-and-dry solution—instead, the process helps you understand the different variables at play so you can make an informed decision. 

6. Present your solution

Communication is a key skill for critical thinkers. It isn’t enough to think for yourself—you also need to share your conclusion with other project stakeholders. If there are multiple solutions, present them all. There may be a case where you implement one solution, then test to see if it works before implementing another solution. 

7. Analyze your decision

The seven-step critical thinking process yields a result—and you then need to put that solution into place. After you’ve implemented your decision, evaluate whether or not it was effective. Did it solve the initial problem? What lessons—whether positive or negative—can you learn from this experience to improve your critical thinking for next time? 

Depending on how your team shares information, consider documenting lessons learned in a central source of truth. That way, team members that are making similar or related decisions in the future can understand why you made the decision you made and what the outcome was. 

Example of critical thinking in the workplace

Imagine you work in user experience design (UX). Your team is focused on pricing and packaging and ensuring customers have a clear understanding of the different services your company offers. Here’s how to apply the critical thinking process in the workplace in seven steps: 

Start by identifying the problem

Your current pricing page isn’t performing as well as you want. You’ve heard from customers that your services aren’t clear, and that the page doesn’t answer the questions they have. This page is really important for your company, since it’s where your customers sign up for your service. You and your team have a few theories about why your current page isn’t performing well, but you decide to apply the critical thinking process to ensure you come to the best decision for the page. 

Gather information about how the problem started

Part of identifying the problem includes understanding how the problem started. The pricing and packaging page is important—so when your team initially designed the page, they certainly put a lot of thought into it. Before you begin researching how to improve the page, ask yourself: 

Why did you design the pricing page the way you did? 

Which stakeholders need to be involved in the decision making process? 

Where are users getting stuck on the page?

Are any features currently working?

Then, you research

In addition to understanding the history of the pricing and packaging page, it’s important to understand what works well. Part of this research means taking a look at what your competitor’s pricing pages look like. 

Ask yourself: 

How have our competitors set up their pricing pages?

Are there any pricing page best practices? 

How does color, positioning, and animation impact navigation? 

Are there any standard page layouts customers expect to see? 

Organize and analyze information

You’ve gathered all of the information you need—now you need to organize and analyze it. What trends, if any, are you noticing? Is there any particularly relevant or important information that you have to consider? 

Ask open-ended questions to reduce bias

In the case of critical thinking, it’s important to address and set bias aside as much as possible. Ask yourself: 

Is there anything I’m missing? 

Have I connected with the right stakeholders? 

Are there any other viewpoints I should consider? 

Determine the best solution for your team

You now have all of the information you need to design the best pricing page. Depending on the complexity of the design, you may want to design a few options to present to a small group of customers or A/B test on the live website.

Present your solution to stakeholders

Critical thinking can help you in every element of your life, but in the workplace, you must also involve key project stakeholders . Stakeholders help you determine next steps, like whether you’ll A/B test the page first. Depending on the complexity of the issue, consider hosting a meeting or sharing a status report to get everyone on the same page. 

Analyze the results

No process is complete without evaluating the results. Once the new page has been live for some time, evaluate whether it did better than the previous page. What worked? What didn’t? This also helps you make better critical decisions later on.

Critically successful 

Critical thinking takes time to build, but with effort and patience you can apply an unbiased, analytical mind to any situation. Critical thinking makes up one of many soft skills that makes you an effective team member, manager, and worker. If you’re looking to hone your skills further, read our article on the 25 project management skills you need to succeed . 

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What is critical thinking?

5 characteristics of critical thinking, what are critical thinking skills, and why are they important, 6 key critical thinking skills, critical thinking example in real-life, 13 ways to start thinking critically.

Whether you’re aiming to improve your performance at work or simply trying to live a more fulfilling life , you’ll need a variety of hard and soft skills to move the needle. Some skills come naturally to some people, while others need to develop them actively.

One of these skills is critical thinking. But critical thinking itself is made up of several types of skills that contribute to solving problems more effectively.

Let’s explore the different types of critical thinking skills and how you can start improving them to level up your career.

Critical thinking is the ability to analyze facts objectively and form a judgment. It is a form of emotional intelligence .

Someone with critical thinking skills can think clearly and rationally when the situation demands it. It allows them to perform problem-solving and decision-making more effectively. 

As a result, you can look further than what you see at face value. You’re able to analyze what you see from a situation and gain some insight that goes further than what’s obvious to anyone from the outside.

Critical thinking also requires being able to understand the logical connection between two or more ideas or concepts. For example, a team working on a company’s pricing strategy needs to think critically about several concepts. 

Both the marketing and sales teams must work together. They need to analyze how to maximize sales. But they need to do so while also meeting profit goals. It’s important to understand the logical connection between sales strategy and marketing logistics. It’s the only way to get a good outcome.

Critical thinking is different from creative thinking . Creative thinking is the ability to generate brand new, innovative ideas. On the other hand, critical thinking requires you to carefully and logically analyze what information is given to you. Both are important to maximize results in any given situation.

woman-sitting-and-thinking-critical-thinking-skills

What defines critical thinking? How does it affect the decision-making process? Here are five characteristics that make up the ability to think critically.

1. Dispositions

Critical thinkers have specific traits that allow them to think the way they do. Some people are predisposed to these traits, while others need to develop them actively.

Some of these dispositions include:

  • Open-mindedness
  • Respecting evidence and reasoning
  • Being able to consider different perspectives and points of view: in other words, having cognitive flexibility
  • Not being stuck in one position
  • Clarity and precision

2. Argument

Good critical thinkers need to make solid arguments. 

An argument is making a statement aided by supporting evidence. It’s important to use well thought-out arguments when you’re in a constructive conflict . When analyzing a situation critically, you’ll need to make several arguments in your own mind to come to a judgment. 

3. Reasoning

In addition to arguments, critical thinking also requires inferring conclusions. From the facts and arguments presented to you, you need to use reasoning skills to come to a logical conclusion. 

This conclusion will determine the best course of action to take.

woman-thinking-at-computer-critical-thinking-skills

4. Criteria

Critical thinking is sometimes a matter of discerning truth from fiction. Not all facts presented to you may have the same level of truth. Certain conditions need to be met for something to be considered believable, and a critical thinker needs to be able to understand that.

5. Metacognition

Metacognition is the ability to think about your own thinking. Critical thinkers should be able to analyze their thoughts so that they can judge whether or not they’ve thought everything through. This helps them come up with better hypotheses.

The critical thinking skills definition is: soft skills that help you in the critical thinking process. Developing these skills can improve your ability to think critically.

Critical thinking skills are considered one of many durable skills in the workplace . Many of these are soft skills that are also useful in other situations.

According to research by America Succeeds, critical thinking is in the top five most requested durable skills in job postings. Those top five durable skills get requested 2.6x more often than the top five hard skills. This goes to show that soft skills like critical thinking skills are in demand in the workplace.

Critical thinking skills are important for several reasons. These include helping you work independently and solve problems . Not all positions require ongoing critical thinking. But, those skills definitely matter to anyone who wants to uplevel their career. And even the most easygoing positions require at least some level of critical thinking skills.

For example, working as an accountant can be straightforward in most cases. But it may require critical thinking skills. For instance, what if certain expenses aren’t easily distributed in simple categories? Without critical thinking skills, an accountant will struggle to work independently and solve problems on their own.

Critical thinking abilities also matter in everyday life. Having a foundation for critical thinking can help you analyze several possible solutions for problems that pop up in the home. It can also help you:

  • Analyze different viewpoints
  • Come up with the best solution for complex problems
  • Become a better learner

The key critical thinking skills are identifying biases, inference, research, identification, curiosity, and judging relevance.

Let’s explore these six critical thinking skills you should learn and why they’re so important to the critical thinking process.

1. Identifying biases

This critical thinking skill is necessary for metacognition, which is the fifth characteristic of critical thinking. It involves knowing when others have a cognitive bias and when you have one yourself.

Biases can influence how someone understands the facts presented to them. But when you’re aware of those biases, you can question yourself on those biases and consider other points of view.

Identifying biases is especially important for people who make hiring decisions. That’s because biases against groups of minorities can lead to inequalities in the workplace when not identified. 

For example, imagine a hiring manager comparing two resumes. Their gut feeling could guide them to discount one of the resumes due to a bias against the opposite gender. But let’s say this hiring manager realizes they have this bias. They can then question themselves on whether or not this bias is influencing their judgment. 

2. Inference

Inference is the ability to draw conclusions based on the information you have. Without inference, it can be difficult to take action once you’ve analyzed the facts presented to you. Processing information is key to coming up with a reasoned judgment.

For example, let’s go back to the accountant struggling to assign the correct category to a business expense. They can analyze other similar situations and infer the most logical category based on that information.

3. Research

Before you analyze facts and infer a conclusion, you need to find out what those facts are. Researching skills allow you to discover facts and figures to make an argument.

Not all situations will have the required information available to you. Researching skills are necessary to dig into a situation and gather the information you need to think critically.

Some situations don’t require further research. For example, a first responder who arrives on the scene of an automobile accident won’t perform further research. They’ll have to analyze what they see in front of them and decide which injuries are the most urgent to care for. 

On the other hand, someone performing a market analysis will need to research competitors and gather information before coming up with an opinion. 

4. Identification

Identification is different from inference and research. It involves being able to identify a problem but also what’s influencing that problem.

In short, identification is necessary for someone to realize that they need to think critically about something. Without proper identification skills, it will be difficult for someone to know when it’s time to analyze a situation. 

For example, let’s say you’re entering numbers in a spreadsheet. The numbers aren’t coming out as they usually do. Without identification skills, you could easily keep going without realizing there’s an issue. But when you identify what’s going on, you can see that something is broken in the spreadsheet’s formula.

Only once you identify the fact that the formula is broken can you start analyzing what’s going on to solve the issue.

5. Curiosity

Don’t be afraid to question everything and explore what you’re curious about. That’s because intellectual curiosity is a valuable skill, especially when it comes to critical thinking.

One way to practice curiosity is to adopt a beginner’s mindset . When you come into every situation with the mindset of a beginner, you’re able to keep an open mind. You’ll be able to perceive things you may not have noticed when keeping your mind closed.

6. Judging relevance

Not all information is equally pertinent. In order to make a critical judgment, it’s important to be able to judge the relevance of the information you have.

Take, for instance, basic online researching skills. You have access to a plethora of information on virtually every topic imaginable. But performing online research requires you to constantly judge the relevance of what you see. 

Without judging relevance, you’d spend too much time on details that don’t matter as much for the final desired outcome. But when you’re able to discern what’s most pertinent, you can give that information more weight as you’re thinking critically.

middle-aged-woman-at-computer-critical-thinking-skills

So what would critical thinking skills look like in a real-life situation?

Let’s imagine you’re working in software quality assurance (QA) as a team lead. But every time your team needs to enter bug regression, everyone gets bottlenecked because you must manually populate the spreadsheet used for the regression. While you do this task, your team cannot be productive without you.

This process happens once a week and easily wastes half an hour for each team member.

First, you must identify what’s going on. The team gets bottlenecked because only you, as the team lead, can access the information required to fill in the regression spreadsheet.

Next, you can research information. You can inquire to higher-ups about the reason why only you have access to this information. You can also speak to other teams about what potential solutions they’ve come up with to solve this problem.

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to analyze the information and judge relevance. Some teams have solutions that don’t apply to you, so that information isn’t relevant anymore. 

Figure out if there are any personal biases before you analyze your information. 

For example, it’s possible that you don’t get along with one of the other team leads. As a result, you could discount the information they’ve given you. But by identifying this bias, you can look past your personal opinion of this person and see how valuable their solution is.

Based on what you’ve analyzed, it’s time to brainstorm and come up with a solution. You realize that creating a simple, automated script will save your team’s time. And it will do so without consuming too many resources from the engineering department.

Next, present your solution to your manager. Explain how you came to this conclusion. 

Now, let’s say your spreadsheet automation solution is approved. It’s important to go back and analyze what happens after implementing the solution. But only do this once the spreadsheet has been in place for long enough to gather plenty of information. 

Here’s an example. You could realize that the solution did solve the bottleneck. But, the script also slows down the spreadsheet and makes it difficult to work with. This would require you to go back to the drawing board and start the process all over again.

Want to start improving your own critical thinking skill sets? Here’s how you can improve critical thinking skills using 13 techniques:

  • Play games that require critical thinking skills
  • Ask more questions, even basic ones
  • Question your assumptions
  • Develop your technical skills so that you can identify problems more easily
  • Find ways to solve more problems (at work and at home)
  • Become aware of your mental processes, like the availability heuristic
  • Think for yourself: don’t adopt other people’s opinions without questioning them first
  • Seek out diversity of thought
  • Start developing foresight
  • Try active listening
  • Weigh the consequences of different actions before you act
  • Seek a mentor who can help you develop these skills
  • Get professional coaching

young-woman-using-phone-and-laptop-critical-thinking-skills

How to improve your critical thinking skills 

Critical thinking skills aren’t always easy to develop. But it’s much easier to start thinking critically when you have someone to work with. Try a custom BetterUp demo to see how a coach can help you develop your critical thinking skills today.

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Maggie Wooll

Thought Leader

How to develop critical thinking skills

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Home / Blog

How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills at Work

December 20, 2022 

6 ways to improve critical thinking at work

Businesses around the world rely on their teams to make calculated and effective decisions every day. From coordinating among employees to directing projects or solving challenges, critical thinking skills are essential to the success of organizations and their team members.

Critical thinking — the process of evaluating a situation, collecting information, and making an informed decision — is a valuable professional skill. On a day-to-day basis, learning how to improve critical thinking skills at work can be a key component to career advancement, allowing employees to take on more responsibility and show that they’re capable of working effectively, independently, or as leaders in their companies.

A person in an office concentrates on a monitor.

Building critical thinking skills takes time and dedicated practice. Pursuing higher education through an  online degree program  allows future professionals to gain valuable experience using critical thinking, challenging them to approach school projects with the same focus and consideration that they’ll need to succeed in the workplace.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Behind every decision are many contributing factors, possible outcomes, and available options to consider. Critical thinking is the process of weighing all the elements and aiming to make the best possible choice. In the workplace, critical thinking can play a critical role, influencing not only the direction of projects and the bottom line but also the daily atmosphere and workplace environment created by leaders.

A lifelong skill, the ability to think critically about a situation is valuable inside and outside the workplace. Throughout our lives, we make myriad decisions large and small that shape our future, habits, and lifestyles. Learning how to make those decisions effectively, however, can be challenging, requiring individuals to be self-reflective and ask themselves if they have any biases or assumptions clouding their judgment or influencing their direction.

With practice and a well-rounded education, learning how to improve critical thinking skills at work and in daily life can be incredibly fulfilling, allowing people to collaborate with others effectively and approach problem-solving with confidence.

What Are Critical Thinking Skills?

Critical thinking comprises an array of skills. Pursuing higher education can be a fantastic opportunity to cultivate these skills, and with  more students attending college , taking the time to build hard and  soft skills  through critical thinking can set them apart when they enter the workplace.

From the ability to make an informed decision to understanding the behaviors or contributing factors behind those decisions, critical thinking teaches graduates to view the world from multiple angles.

Observation and Analysis

Learning how to improve critical thinking skills at work begins with observation and analysis. Observing a situation involves noting details and recognizing all contributing elements. By slowing down to fully evaluate a situation, professionals can pinpoint issues and collect information. This process of analysis allows graduates to better understand where and why a problem is occurring and take stock of the available solutions.

This process of compiling information before making a decision is essential to careers including those in the medical field, such as  nursing . Making a proper diagnosis or providing care and counseling to patients requires a full understanding of symptoms and a patient’s history. Taking the time to analyze every available piece of the puzzle can allow medical professionals to provide comprehensive care, improving patient outcomes.

Metacognitive Skills

No two people have the exact same experiences or learn in exactly the same way. Metacognitive skills are self-reflective strategies that allow individuals to better understand how they learn or process and retain information. As a critical thinking skill set, metacognitive skills allow individuals to choose the methods and strategies that suit them the best, allowing them to set achievable goals and manage their time effectively.

In the workforce, using self-recognition and reflection to overcome learning barriers is a particularly useful area of knowledge for teachers and psychologists. Building off their own self-evaluations, teachers and  psychologists  are able to provide others with the tools they need to examine their personal strengths and weaknesses, allowing students and patients to capitalize on their strengths, build healthy habits, and find success.

Problem-Solving

In many situations, critical thinking and problem-solving go hand in hand. By learning to improve critical thinking skills at work, graduates are able to improve their problem-solving skills as well. Most problems have more than one solution. Using critical thinking, individuals are better able to examine and evaluate their options, allowing them to make the optimal choice.

This careful consideration is essential to problem-solving in senior-level roles in fields such as  higher education leadership  or  business administration . While a perfect solution may never exist, the expertise that graduates gain through critical thinking can allow them to work toward the best available outcome and steer the future of their organizations.

Reasoning and Decision-Making

By combining observations with past experiences, reasoning uses logic, identifying patterns, and considering viewpoints to make informed decisions. An essential component of leadership, the ability to make a calculated, knowledgeable decision is valuable for the business itself, and it also inspires confidence in team members and their supervisor’s ability to prepare them for the future.

Reasoning and decision-making are essential skills in disciplines such as  cybersecurity  and  software development . In technological fields, professionals may be required to make quick, calculated decisions to solve software issues or protect an organization’s data security. Using critical thinking, they can evaluate their options and employ reasoning to predict current and future issues or trends, allowing them to prepare effectively.

How to Improve Critical Thinking

Learning how to improve critical thinking skills at work and at home can be beneficial. When making life decisions, from choosing a career to changing companies, moving, buying a home or even choosing a life partner, learning how to think critically is simply the act of evaluating available options and selecting the most favorable one.

Working toward improving critical thinking skills can involve various methods, techniques, and strategies, including the following:

  • Self-awareness or reflection.  Critical thinking involves drawing from prior knowledge and experience to evaluate a situation. By recognizing that they may be approaching a problem with preconceived opinions or biases, professionals can work to remove themselves from the aspects that would otherwise preclude them from making an impartial decision.
  • Active listening.  Many issues requiring critical thinking may involve other parties in different capacities. Whether working to resolve a conflict between individuals or working in a career such as healthcare that involves providing solutions and strategies for others, active listening allows professionals to gain a clear picture of a situation and for people to feel heard.
  • Industry knowledge.  Depending on the industry, critical thinking may involve an in-depth knowledge of precedence or common successful strategies and techniques.
  • Learning how to improve critical thinking skills at work begins with acknowledging that there’s always something new to learn and that every individual has valuable knowledge to pass along. With humility, leaders can take advantage of their team members’ expertise, recognizing when to ask for help and using the knowledge they collect to build a solution.

In the workplace, critical thinking can not only allow graduates to become effective and independent leaders but also be an essential component in decision-making across industries. In industries ranging from business and finance to healthcare, technology, and education, critical thinking allows professionals to be levelheaded and trusted team members, able to reassure others that any decision they make has been considered and chosen to the best of their ability.

Prepare for the Challenges of the Future

Building a business, preparing for the future, and reaching personal and professional goals require hard work, dedication, and the ability to make informed decisions. Taking the time to learn how to improve critical thinking skills at work and in your personal life can be the key to removing some of the guesswork from big decisions and letting you move forward with confidence.

Across industries and professions, future leaders looking to gain a wealth of knowledge and develop key critical thinking skills should consider higher education to build a foundation. For those looking to take the next step in their careers, earning a degree or certification through the many  online programs offered by Maryville University  can be a great way to develop the critical thinking skills and practical experience they need to enter the workforce. Discover how you can start a new chapter and prepare yourself for success with a degree from Maryville University.

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How To Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills

Enhance your critical thinking for better decision-making in both personal and professional life. Read on to learn 6 top tips to improve your critical thinking skills.

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6 ways to improve critical thinking at work

We make decisions everyday that affect our lives.

Be it in a personal or a professional context, you can never deny the significance and the necessity of good decision making .

Critical thinking helps us to find any flaw, if it exists, in our decision making process and helps us to reach a better outcome by eliminating those flaws. In short, no matter what you are doing, you need to have that set of decision making skills; and for that, you need to be able to think critically and act quickly.

If you are still in doubt about your critical thinking ability or wondering what you should do in order to improve critical thinking, here is a list of steps that you should follow:

1. Know exactly what you want

Knowing exactly what you want is the first step of critical thinking.

We have to think critically to solve problems so that they meets their objectives. Every decision we make has an objective or purpose attached to it and identifying exactly what that is, what we actually want out of it, gives us a starting point to work with.

So ask yourself: What do I want? What do I expect to get out of this? Until you know the answer to these questions you're not going to know what the right decision is.

2. Deal with your biases

We often think from only our own perspective to deal with problems. However, it helps with critical thinking and decision making if you try thinking from someone else's point of view.

Furthermore, it gives you a clearer picture of the overall situation. Let's say you're looking to solve a problem at work. Think of how your best friend might approach it, or how your partner or a sibling might. Now think of how your boss might approach it.

By allowing yourself to consider different perspectives you might find yourself hitting upon solutions you hadn't previously considered. 

3. Consider the consequences of your options

Every option we choose has consequences for ourselves, or maybe others involved in the problem.

You need to weigh up the possible consequences which may arise from each of your options and go for the one that benefits you most whilst limiting the negative effects on others involved.

A good way to do this is by writing a list of pros and cons. By asking yourself to think of every possible positive outcome alongside every possible negative outcome, you can make a much more informed decison. 

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4. Do your research

I'm sure you've heard that knowledge is power. However, many of us tend to rely a lot on what we already know and are reluctant to let go of our own beliefs.

Critical thinking requires you to let go of your beliefs sometimes to solve problems. Reluctance to learn, research or acquire new beliefs will only hold you back and certainly won't help you with critical thinking.

By taking time to do your research and focus on learning you'll find that over time you will evolve and adapt to overcome new situations and improve your critical thinking.

5. Accept the fact that you’re not always right

This one can be harder than it sounds.

It's okay to make mistakes and no matter who we are, we all make them.

However, most of us don't accept this fact which holds us back from thinking critically. If you are doing something wrong and repeatedly keep doing it because you have already assumed that you can never go wrong, then this needs to change for your own good.

Always double check solutions to problems, consider new options and view your mistakes as an opportunity to learn.

5. Break it down

Being able to see the big picture is great but it's even better if you can break things down into smaller sections.

The reason being that smaller sections are easier to mentally digest and work with.

Working with numerous small things is an easier task than trying to solve the bigger picture which can become too much to handle.

So try and think about it in terms of steps: what is the  first thing I need to do? Make a list and try and put it in terms of priority, or chronology. By taking a big problem and breaking it into several pieces you allow yourself to start looking at the solutions, rather than spending half your time being overwhelmed by the problem. 

6. Don't overcomplicate things

Overcomplicating things is something a lot of us have in common. It's a necessity to think things through but it only makes things difficult if you begin overthinking. You have to discover the fine line between positive thinking and overthinking.

There are a number of occasions where simplicity gets the job done.

If you are still in doubt about your critical thinking ability, just know that you are not alone.

Critical thinking is not something that comes easy. It sometimes needs you to let go of what you believe and work with new ideas. It can be challenging at times but if you do it right, it will be all worth it!

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Building Critical Thinking Skills to Solve Problems at Work

Table of contents.

MIranda Fraraccio

Critical thinking is a vital soft skill that uses one’s experiences and analytical skills to deduce information and make educated decisions. It’s an essential skill to have in the workplace, as the ability to use information from a broader and more impartial perspective allows your employees to make more informed decisions and see a comprehensive view of any situation. 

The U.S. Department of Labor identified critical thinking as a key component for essential workplace skills, including problem-solving and decision-making. Here’s how to build – and implement – critical thinking skills in the workplace.

>> Learn more: 12 Business Skills You Need to Master

How to use critical thinking to problem-solve

Here is a six-step problem-solving process to try with your team to build and use this skill.

1. Name the situation.

When you name the situation, you present a single discussion point that everyone in the discussion can identify. This statement can be written on a whiteboard as a visual prompt so that the team can focus on the point and redirect the discussion when the topic shifts. Critical thinking involves keeping an open mind about situations. You help participants remember the goal of the group by naming the situation.

2. List all possible solutions.

Brainstorming takes place during this part of the process. There is nothing outside the realm of possibilities at this point in the discussion. When you open the conversation to unlimited options, you expand thinking beyond one person. The ability to expand your thinking offers the conversation many possible solutions that you may not have considered without the expression of thoughts and opinions. Make sure that all potential solutions discussed during this time stay on task for the situation that has been named in the first step. Critical thinking includes the ability to keep an open mind to other considerations and viewpoints without losing track of the end goal. You expand the discussion to see new options and stay on task by identifying multiple opportunities.

3. Narrow your solutions to three options.

Everyone on the team needs to agree with at least one of the three options. Individuals who can find a compromise and create solutions from many perspectives are better able to bring a team together. Write each solution at the top of a whiteboard and include below each one a list of its advantages and disadvantages. Critical-thinking skills offer the ability to look at situations rationally without judgments of good and bad or wrong and right. You can maintain a rational discussion when you bring consensus to a few intentionally chosen solutions.

Critical thinking helps individuals look at situations from multiple sides and imagine several ways to respond.

4. Choose one option from the three choices.

Make a final choice that offers the best chance of success based on rational discussion about the situation. Review this choice in relation to how well it solves the designated problem. Critical thinking skills help individuals use a more systematic way to come to conclusions. This reduces the chance of making decisions based on incorrect inferences arising from emotional conclusions.

5. Put a plan in place to implement the chosen solution.

Your chosen solution should have timelines and a list that identifies which participants are responsible for what parts of the final plan. Critical-thinking skills include the ability to commit to the chosen solution. You increase attention to detail and interest from the participants in implementing the solution when they are an integral part of the process.

6. Complete the plan.

Some employees find this part of the process the most difficult. Think of the number of times a great plan floundered because there was no follow-up. Make sure each person from the team has a part to play in the process that emphasizes their areas of expertise and interest. Complete regular reviews of people and timelines for project management. Critical thinking involves the ability to see the value of the overall plan. At this point in the process, individuals should be able to see the value of the solution and have buy-in since they were part of the process.

This problem-solving process creates an environment where critical thinking becomes a working part of finding a solution. For individuals who struggle with this method, you may want to consider some training in critical thinking. Overall, though, this process promotes critical thinking in your employees. You can also integrate this activity for making plans and creating a mission. The value added to your organization includes improved engagement , insight and productivity from your team.

According to research from America Succeeds , durable skills – such as critical thinking – accounted for 7 out of 10 requested skills in a study of 82 million job postings.

Why critical thinking is essential in the workplace

In recent decades, companies have recognized the need for integrating critical thinking into the workplace to help build the success of their organizations. Strong critical-thinking skills can greatly benefit everybody in the workplace. Not only does thinking more openly introduce ideas and solutions that widen the opportunities for success, but it also provides an increase in teamwork and productivity and a decrease in conflict . Here are some additional benefits of critical thinking in the workplace.

Required in certain professions

In many professions – particularly those based on research or that require deductive reasoning, such as finance, education, research and law – acquiring critical-thinking skills is necessary. With critical thinking, employees can solve problems objectively by considering varying perspectives and analyzing facts without bias, allowing for smart decision-making and problem-solving.

Improves decision-making

Those with critical-thinking skills mull over their decisions thoroughly by researching, looking at information objectively, asking questions, and weighing the pros and cons before acting. This skill can help businesses stay on track when making decisions by thoroughly reviewing the risk versus reward of each decision. 

Boosts happiness

Critical thinking can boost happiness , as it is empowering to have the skills to make your own, well-informed decisions. Those who possess this skill are more in tune with their goals, needs and personal ethics, and they have a better understanding of what in their situation needs to change to make themselves happy or grow. [Read related article: How Hiring a Chief Happiness Officer Can Save Your Business ]

One of the main reasons businesses don’t embrace critical thinking as an essential part of their organization is that they feel they are just too busy; however, the benefits of critical thinking are invaluable to a team.

How to build critical-thinking skills

Here are a few ways you can polish your critical-thinking skills.

Practice active listening.

Practice actively listening by keeping an open mind and being attentive to those around you, from associates to executives. Listen to what others are saying to gain an understanding of each person’s individual perspective, needs and expectations, and show them empathy. This level of understanding will allow you to work together more effectively and make decisions that everyone is satisfied with.

Ask critical questions.

Instead of taking information at face value, be curious and ask questions to ensure you have everything you need to make a well-informed decision. Using open-ended questions offers an opportunity for further exploration, as they dive deeper and provide insightful details that can be helpful when making decisions.

Vet new information.

Don’t assume all new information you hear is true; instead, take time to thoroughly vet it by ensuring it’s up to date and it comes from a trustworthy source. Look at the existing evidence and the new facts being presented, then question thought processes and consider whose voice is missing.

Consider more than one perspective.

While you may feel that you have the “right” perspective, consider all points of view to fully understand others and their reasoning. This will help you improve your working relationships, better understand where your peers are coming from and tailor your communication to meet their needs.

Question your own biases.

Regardless of whether or not you try to avoid it in your decision-making process, everybody has their own biases, which are the foundation of their thinking. By uncovering your own biases and being actively aware of them, you can grow as a critical thinker and work to keep them separate from your decision-making process. 

Conduct research.

If there are any unanswered questions or gaps in the information provided, conduct research to further your understanding and reach a decision. Consider a source’s intention when conducting research, avoiding any that are sales-based or contain ill will. Don’t use social media to obtain information; stick to reputable publications free of bias and cite their sources.

Form your own opinion.

Be an independent thinker and form your own opinions by considering the information presented to you, including facts and evidence. Listen to and consider the opinions of others, but use deductive reasoning to form your own opinion – and stay true to it.

Lynette Reed contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. 

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The One Habit That Will Improve Critical Thinking on Your Team

Like all habits, it can be changed with a little time and intention..

Posted January 18, 2023 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch

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Many managers these days tell me that they are responsible for increasingly high-maintenance direct reports. It isn’t that these employees aren’t qualified, intelligent, or otherwise capable; in fact, the most high-maintenance are also often some of the highest-performing. The most common recurring theme is this: People just don’t think on their feet the way they used to.

What I hear from leaders is they are inundated with requests for information or resources to complete new or unfamiliar tasks. If an employee is unsure about how to do something, they either turn to their device or a more experienced colleague for answers. Often, that colleague is the person’s manager.

When it comes to the learning habits of most of today’s workforce, most experts blame changes in the emphasis of the education system at all levels: Teaching to the test has been too common for too long. It is all too rare that schools teach students to assemble and evaluate evidence, construct multiple competing arguments, understand multiple sides in a debate, untangle seeming inconsistencies, and wrestle with complexity. In colleges and graduate schools, those learning technical skills are likely to continue on that “learning for the test” pedagogical trajectory. Those being schooled in the liberal arts often err all the way on the other end of the spectrum: Young liberal arts graduates may become so convinced that “all styles are equally valid" that they have difficulty vetting information for legitimacy, use-value, and broader implications in the real world.

On the one hand, if you are someone’s manager, it is your responsibility to provide that direct report with the information and resources they need to do their jobs. On the other hand, employees must be able to work some things out at their own level to actually get the work done. Problems arise when employees adopt the habit of asking for help as the first step in completing their own work. And this is a growing habit at all levels and among all ages, not just the youngest and least experienced members of the workforce.

Think of the last time you didn’t know the answer to a question. What did you do? If you’re like most of us, you probably took out your smartphone and searched. The habits of critical thinking—pausing before responding, considering potential outcomes, and weighing options—become obsolete when so many of the answers are immediately available in our pockets.

With computers and content providers doing so much of the thinking for them, people feel less need for digging deep, puzzling, and reflecting. All of us are internalizing the expectation that learning curves are instant. Technology allows us to think of learning in small increments, filling skill and knowledge gaps as we run across them. The long learning curve is becoming a rarity.

The good news is that the habits of critical thinking are just that: habits. And like all habits, they can be changed with a little time and intention. The next time you catch yourself turning to your phone for an answer, pause. Take a moment to consider whether you have any immediate plans or solutions which come to mind. You may be surprised at the good ideas that arise when you take the time to let them.

Then, take these habit changes to your team. And the next time someone pops into your office or inbox with a problem you think they can solve, first ask them to pause and bring some potential solutions to your meeting. Once your team gets into the habit of considering before asking, many of their questions will be solved before they need that second opinion.

Bruce Tulgan, JD

Bruce Tulgan, JD, is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking and the author of The Art of Being Indispensable at Work.

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What You Can Do To Improve Critical-Thinking Skills

Posted: October 21, 2023 | Last updated: October 21, 2023

In a technology-driven world where we are overwhelmed with information, people often make decisions without thinking things through – and then rue what they have done.

This is because decisions made without data, analysis and facts are decisions made in the dark.

People seem to have forgotten how to check credible sources, access and understand data and look at the facts.

One  study  of millennial and Gen Z workers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan found that people have so much on their minds, so many distractions overwhelming them, that they struggle to think deeply and reflectively.

But poorly thought-out plans and decisions aren’t good for business or for the career prospects of individuals.

Critical thinking is as important as ever – in business and in life – and here are a few things worth knowing about it:

  • It’s possible to train yourself to become a critical thinker, and there are steps you can take that will help. Start with challenging the norm, “We have always done it this way.” Ask these questions: “Why?” “What data supports a different way to look at a problem and come up with a solution?” “How much time have I actually set aside to think?” “How can I look for a solution with the data that I see?”
  • When you have mastered critical thinking, you can apply it to your current career, job and company — or to the next one. Critical thinking allows you to replicate success. Once I am working toward a new goal, I look back on the strategy that made me successful and replicate it.
  • Stepping back and looking at the big picture is an important part of critical thinking — but so is delving into the details and coming up with a plan, especially as it relates to work. Your plan should rely on four key components.  Data : What is it showing me, and where does the success exist?  Total addressable market : How much of the market can I capture?  Competition : Who are my top competitors, and how do I win against them? And finally,  identifying the breaks : Where am I winning and losing, and how can I get better?
  •  In a hectic world, it’s important to carve out time to think, so people should set aside an hour each day when they can be alone without distractions. Without time to think, you are on a hamster wheel, spinning and spinning but never getting ahead. This time to think should happen daily, shutting out all distractions so you can consider such things as: “What worked, what didn’t, and how do I improve?”

The bottom line is when you start to think in terms of data and solutions and strategies, you can start to see patterns and trends elsewhere in your life — and make changes to win at both your career and life.

Puja Bhola Rios  is the author of “ Get It Together: A Winning Formula for Success from the Boss You Need ” and the chief revenue officer for Frame.io, an Adobe company and the world’s premier video review and collaboration platform. Rios previously spent seven years working at Xerox and 13 years at CareerBuilder as senior vice president of Enterprise Sales and Customer Success. She also has been a chronic pain advocate and blogger, and is author of the Huffington Post feature blog, “ Me vs. Fibromyalgia .”

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7 Incredibly Useful Ways to Develop Critical Thinking Skills at Work

As a business owner, you have to think about many things to boost your business productivity. If your business is not driving the estimated productivity, it might be because of your team’s failure. Because employees don’t think critically to make educated decisions, businesses fail. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 70% of business owners end up by the 10th year. That’s why Critical thinking skills are very crucial for maximising your business performance. From your employees to managers and executives, everyone has to have critical thinking skills to solve business problems , and challenges, and improve business productivity and performance. Employees having critical thinking skills can make educated decisions and work independently. They can observe things deeply and analyse the root cause of failure. Companies strive to hire those employees who have critical thinking skills. If you and your team think rationally, they can minimise the chance of failure. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at critical thinking skills, what they are, and how they can be improved in the workplace. So, let’s get the ball rolling.

Top 5 critical thinking skills

The following are five typical and useful critical thinking abilities that you may want to emphasize in an interview or on your resume:

  • Observation

Critical thinking starts with observation. When you observe things keenly, you can find the key issue. Perceptive individuals are able to detect and recognize a new issue with ease. Those with good observation skills can also figure out why something can be problematic. They could even predict when a problem will occur based on their prior experiences.

Once an issue has been located, analytical abilities are crucial. To successfully analyze and assess a situation, one must be aware of the key facts, figures, or details related to the issue. This frequently entails conducting objective research, posing pertinent queries to verify the accuracy of the data, and objectively evaluating the results.

  • Decision-making

It is not easy for every employee or administrator to make informed decisions. It is a skill that can be developed by observing and analysing things in detail. You have to go deep and think rationally to decide the best for your company. However, there are some tools like Quantum Ai that help in making right decisions in trading as they provide complete analysis of the information. Of course, it takes time to improve decision-making abilities.  

  • Problem-Solving

Executing your solution is the last stage after you’ve recognized the issue, considered your options, and made a decision. Critical thinking is frequently needed while addressing problems in order to put the best option into practice and determine whether it is accomplishing the desired outcome.

  • Communication

Effective communication is essential when discussing problems and potential solutions with coworkers and stakeholders. If you or your employees can’t communicate with other clients effectively, you should forget about your company’s success. Many challenges are addressed through communication. When you discuss problems with your teammates, they brainstorm ideas and collaborate with each other to devise a solution. 

7 Ways to Develop Critical Thinking Skills

Let’s dive deep into how you can develop critical thinking skills.

  • Think About the Issue

In order to enhance your critical thinking abilities, make sure you examine the problem from every perspective before attempting to solve it. For instance, you may have to consider the conflicting viewpoints of your coworkers; thus, before you start figuring out the best course of action, compile and comprehend all of their arguments and relevant information.

Create a clear image of the subject, the scenario, and all pertinent points of view. Investigate unclear aspects further if necessary, for example, by gathering more information. Since you can’t always trust others to tell the truth, you should first verify information by going straight to the source of the data before evaluating and synthesizing it. 

  • Practice Active Listening

Maintain an open mind and pay attention to everyone around you, including executives and colleagues, to engage in active listening. Show people empathy by paying attention to what they have to say in order to comprehend their unique needs, expectations, and points of view. You will be able to collaborate more successfully and reach conclusions that satisfy everyone if you have this degree of understanding.

  • Ask Questions

Be inquisitive and ask questions to make sure you have all the facts you need to make an informed choice, as opposed to accepting information at face value. Since open-ended inquiries go deeper and reveal insightful insights that might be useful when making judgments, they provide a chance for additional study.

  • Think In A Variety of Perspectives

Even if you might think that your viewpoint is “right,” take the time to examine other people’s perspectives in order to completely comprehend their arguments. By doing this, you’ll be able to strengthen your professional bonds, gain a deeper understanding of your colleagues’ perspectives, and adapt your communication to suit their requirements.

  • Do Some Research

To improve your comprehension and make a choice, do more study if there are any unresolved issues or gaps in the available data. When conducting research, take into account the intentions of sources and steer clear of those that are biased or sales-oriented. Avoid using social media to find information; instead, rely on reliable, unbiased sources that have citations.

  • Be Open-Minded

When doing an analysis of information, stick to the facts. What does the data indicate? Remember that the secret to developing critical thinking skills is to evaluate the facts you are presented with logically. To do this, challenge your presumptions, keep your emotions at bay, and maintain objectivity. Being closed-minded will also prevent you from performing good analysis, so have an open mind while you go over all the facts and information you gathered.

  • Analyse the Information

The most skilled critical thinkers know how to use the results of their study to shape their opinions on subjects or issues they are facing. Your ability to solve problems is crucial to your capacity for inference and conclusion drawing. Narrow down your alternatives since your research can highlight several potential fixes or methods to make a problem better. 

Thinking through each possible solution in the context of your company’s schedule, objectives, and budget is the ideal method to solve problems, as we said in our post on how to enhance your problem-solving abilities. When making decisions, use critical thinking to weigh the likelihood of each possible result.

Why Critical Thinking Is Imperative In The Workplace?

In the workplace, critical thinking abilities are crucial for a number of reasons. Employers that value critical thinking above all else are able to address concerns before they become more serious. They can create effective strategic plans and operations, seize new possibilities, and perform well by applying critical thinking abilities. They logically examine all pertinent facts and information to identify the most effective fixes for the current issues.

Companies have realized in recent years that fostering a critical thinking environment at work is essential to advancing their businesses’ success. In the job, having strong critical thinking abilities may be highly beneficial to all parties. Thinking more freely not only introduces concepts and solutions that expand the window of opportunity for achievement but also boosts productivity and cooperation while reducing conflict. Let’s answer why critical thinking is crucial. 

  • Makes Decision-Making Easier

Critical thinkers carefully consider their options before acting; they do this by conducting research, evaluating the pros and drawbacks, asking questions, and seeing the material objectively. By carefully weighing the risks and rewards of each option, this ability may assist firms in staying on course while making decisions. 

  • Increases Satisfaction

Having the ability to make educated decisions on your own is powerful, which is why critical thinking may increase pleasure. People with this talent are more aware of their wants, desires, and morality. They also know what needs to change in their circumstances for them to be happy or to advance in their lives. 

Employees with critical thinking and problem-solving abilities are able to recognize and resolve complicated issues. Employees who possess these abilities are able to recognize patterns in complicated data, evaluate it, and come to wise judgments.

Employees with critical thinking and problem-solving abilities are able to think creatively and devise original solutions to issues. They may assist staff members in seeing possibilities and coming up with innovative ideas that will benefit their businesses.

  • Changing With The Times

Workers need to be able to swiftly adjust to new circumstances and problems in the ever-evolving world of today. Employees with critical thinking and problem-solving abilities can adjust to change and spot possibilities in novel circumstances.

Final Thoughts

Think for yourself and make your own decisions based on your own analysis of the facts and supporting data that have been provided. While you should listen to and take into account the ideas of others, you should also establish and stick to your own perspective using logical reasoning. It takes hard effort, devotion, and the capacity for thoughtful decision-making to establish a business, plan for the future, and accomplish personal and professional objectives. Making significant decisions with less guessing and enabling you to go on with confidence may be achieved by investing the time to learn how to develop critical thinking abilities at work and in your personal life.

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College Info Geek

7 Ways to Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills

6 ways to improve critical thinking at work

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6 ways to improve critical thinking at work

When I was in 7th grade, my U.S. history teacher gave my class the following advice:

Your teachers in high school won’t expect you to remember every little fact about U.S. history. They can fill in the details you’ve forgotten. What they will expect, though, is for you to be able to think ; to know how to make connections between ideas and evaluate information critically.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my teacher was giving a concise summary of critical thinking. My high school teachers gave similar speeches when describing what would be expected of us in college: it’s not about the facts you know, but rather about your ability to evaluate them.

And now that I’m in college, my professors often mention that the ability to think through and solve difficult problems matters more in the “real world” than specific content.

Despite hearing so much about critical thinking all these years, I realized that I still couldn’t give a concrete definition of it, and I certainly couldn’t explain how to do it. It seemed like something that my teachers just expected us to pick up in the course of our studies. While I venture that a lot of us did learn it, I prefer to approach learning deliberately, and so I decided to investigate critical thinking for myself.

What is it, how do we do it, why is it important, and how can we get better at it? This post is my attempt to answer those questions.

In addition to answering these questions, I’ll also offer seven ways that you can start thinking more critically today, both in and outside of class.

What Is Critical Thinking?

“Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.” – The Foundation for Critical Thinking

The above definition from the Foundation for Critical Thinking website  is pretty wordy, but critical thinking, in essence, is not that complex.

Critical thinking is just deliberately and systematically processing information so that you can make better decisions and generally understand things better. The above definition includes so many words because critical thinking requires you to apply diverse intellectual tools to diverse information.

Ways to critically think about information include:

  • Conceptualizing
  • Synthesizing

That information can come from sources such as:

  • Observation
  • Communication

And all this is meant to guide:

You can also define it this way:

Critical thinking is the opposite of regular, everyday thinking. 

Moment to moment, most thinking happens automatically. When you think critically, you  deliberately  employ any of the above intellectual tools to reach more accurate conclusions than your brain automatically would (more on this in a bit).

This is what critical thinking is. But so what?

Why Does Critical Thinking Matter?

Linda-Elder-Quote-for-CIG

Most of our everyday thinking is uncritical.

If you think about it, this makes sense. If we had to think deliberately about every single action (such as breathing, for instance), we wouldn’t have any cognitive energy left for the important stuff like D&D. It’s good that much of our thinking is automatic.

We can run into problems, though, when we let our automatic mental processes govern important decisions. Without critical thinking, it’s easy for people to manipulate us and for all sorts of catastrophes to result. Anywhere that some form of fundamentalism led to tragedy (the Holocaust is a textbook example), critical thinking was sorely lacking.

Even day to day, it’s easy to get caught in pointless arguments or say stupid things just because you failed to stop and think deliberately.

But you’re reading College Info Geek, so I’m sure you’re interested to know why critical thinking matters in college.

Here’s why:

According to Andrew Roberts, author of The Thinking Student’s Guide to College , c ritical thinking matters in college because students often adopt the wrong attitude to thinking about difficult questions. These attitudes include:

Ignorant Certainty

Ignorant certainty is the belief that there are definite, correct answers to all questions–all you have to do is find the right source (102). It’s understandable that a lot of students come into college thinking this way–it’s enough to get you through most of your high school coursework.

In college and in life, however, the answers to most meaningful questions are rarely straightforward. To get anywhere in college classes (especially upper-level ones), you have to think critically about the material.

Naive Relativism

Naive relativism is the belief that there is no truth and all arguments are equal (102-103). According to Roberts, this is often a view that students adopt once they learn the error of ignorant certainty.

While it’s certainly a more “critical” approach than ignorant certainty, naive relativism is still inadequate since it misses the whole point of critical thinking: arriving at a more complete, “less wrong” answer.

Part of thinking critically is evaluating the validity of arguments (yours and others’). Therefore, to think critically you must accept that some arguments are better (and that some are just plain awful).

Critical thinking also matters in college because:

  • It allows you to form your own opinions and engage with material beyond a superficial level. This is essential to crafting a great essay  and having an intelligent discussion with your professors or classmates. Regurgitating what the textbook says won’t get you far.
  • It allows you to craft worthy arguments and back them up. If you plan to go on to graduate school or pursue a PhD., original, critical thought is crucial
  • It helps you evaluate your own work. This leads to better grades (who doesn’t want those?) and better habits of mind.

Doing college level work without critical is a lot like walking blindfolded: you’ll get  somewhere , but it’s unlikely to be the place you desire.

Bertrand-Russell-Quote-for-CIG

The value of critical thinking doesn’t stop with college, however. Once you get out into the real world, critical thinking matters even more. This is because:

  • It allows you to continue to develop intellectually after you graduate. Progress shouldn’t stop after graduation –you should keep learning as much as you can. When you encounter new information, knowing how to think critically will help you evaluate and use it.
  • It helps you make hard decisions. I’ve written before about how defining your values  helps you make better decisions. Equally important in the decision-making process is the ability to think critically. Critical thinking allows you compare the pros and cons of your available options, showing that you have more options than you might imagine .
  • People can and will manipulate you . At least, they will if you take everything at face value and allow others to think for you. Just look at ads for the latest fad diet or “miracle” drug–these rely on ignorance and false hope to get people to buy something that is at best useless and at worst harmful. When you evaluate information critically (especially information meant to sell something), you can avoid falling prey to unethical companies and people.
  • It makes you more employable (and better paid). The best employees not only know how to solve existing problems–they also know how to come up with solutions to problems no one ever imagined. To get a great job after graduating , you need to be one of those employees, and critical thinking is the key ingredient to solving difficult, novel problems.

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7 Ways to Think More Critically

AE-Mander-Quote-for-CIG

Now we come to the part that I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for: how the heck do we get better at critical thinking?  Below, you’ll find seven ways to get started.

1. Ask Basic Questions

“The world is complicated. But does every problem require a complicated solution?” – Stephen J. Dubner

Sometimes an explanation becomes so complex that the original question get lost. To avoid this, continually go back to the basic questions you asked when you set out to solve the problem.

Here are a few key basic question you can ask when approaching any problem:

  • What do you already know?
  • How do you know that?
  • What are you trying to prove, disprove, demonstrated, critique, etc.?
  • What are you overlooking?

Some of the most breathtaking solutions to problems are astounding not because of their complexity, but because of their elegant simplicity.  Seek the simple solution  first.

2. Question Basic Assumptions

“When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.”

The above saying holds true when you’re thinking through a problem. it’s quite easy to make an ass of yourself simply by failing to question your basic assumptions.

Some of the greatest innovators in human history were those who simply looked up for a moment and wondered if one of everyone’s general assumptions was wrong. From Newton to Einstein to Yitang Zhang , questioning assumptions is where innovation happens.

You don’t even have to be an aspiring Einstein to benefit from questioning your assumptions. That trip you’ve wanted to take? That hobby you’ve wanted to try? That internship you’ve wanted to get? That attractive person in your World Civilizations class you’ve wanted to talk to?

All these things can be a reality if you just question your assumptions and critically evaluate your beliefs about what’s prudent, appropriate, or possible.

If you’re looking for some help with this process, then check out Oblique Strategies . It’s a tool that musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt created to aid creative problem solving . Some of the “cards” are specific to music, but most work for any time you’re stuck on a problem.

3. Be Aware of Your Mental Processes

Human thought is amazing, but the speed and automation with which it happens can be a disadvantage when we’re trying to think critically. Our brains naturally use heuristics (mental shortcuts) to explain what’s happening around us.

This was beneficial to humans when we were hunting large game and fighting off wild animals, but it can be disastrous when we’re trying to decide who to vote for.

A critical thinker is aware of their cognitive biases   and personal prejudices and how they influence seemingly “objective” decisions and solutions.

All of us have biases in our thinking. Becoming aware of them is what makes critical thinking possible.

4. Try Reversing Things

A great way to get “unstuck” on a hard problem is to try reversing things. It may seem obvious that X causes Y, but what if Y caused X?

The “chicken and egg problem” a classic example of this. At first, it seems obvious that the chicken had to come first. The chicken lays the egg, after all. But then you quickly realize that the chicken had to come from somewhere, and since chickens come from eggs, the egg must have come first.  Or did it?

Even if it turns out that the reverse  isn’t  true, considering it can set you on the path to finding a solution.

5. Evaluate the Existing Evidence

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton

When you’re trying to solve a problem, it’s always helpful to look at other work that has been done in the same area. There’s no reason to start solving a problem from scratch when someone has already laid the groundwork.

It’s important, however, to evaluate this information critically, or else you can easily reach the wrong conclusion. Ask the following questions of any evidence you encounter:

  • Who gathered this evidence?
  • How did they gather it?

Take, for example, a study showing the health benefits of a sugary cereal. On paper, the study sounds pretty convincing. That is, until you learn that a sugary cereal company funded it.

You can’t automatically assume that this invalidates the study’s results, but you should certainly question them when a conflict of interests is so apparent.

6. Remember to Think for Yourself

Don’t get so bogged down in research and reading that you forget to think for yourself –sometimes this can be your most powerful tool.

Writing about Einstein’s paper “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” (the paper that contained the famous equation  E=mc 2 ), C.P. Snow observed that “it was as if Einstein ‘had reached the conclusions by pure thought, unaided, without listening to the opinions of others. To a surprisingly large extent, that is precisely what he had done'”(121).

Don’t be overconfident, but recognize that thinking for yourself is essential to answering tough questions. I find this to be true when writing essays–it’s so easy to get lost in other people’s work that I forget to have my own thoughts. Don’t make this mistake.

For more on the importance of thinking for yourself, check out our article on mental laziness .

7. Understand That No One Thinks Critically 100% of the Time

“Critical thinking of any kind is never universal in any individual; everyone is subject to episodes of undisciplined or irrational thought.” – Michael Scriven and Richard Paul

You can’t think critically all the time, and that’s okay. Critical thinking is a tool that you should deploy when you need to make important decisions or solve difficult problems, but you don’t need to think critically about everything.

And even in important matters, you will experience lapses in your reasoning. What matters is that you recognize these lapses and try to avoid them in the future.

Even Isaac Newton, genius that he was, believed that alchemy was a legitimate pursuit .

Albert-Einstein-Quote-for-CIG

As I hope you now see, learning to think critically will benefit you both in the classroom and beyond. I hope this post has given you some ideas about how you can think more critically in your own life. Remember: learning to think critically is a lifelong journey, and there’s always more to learn.

For a look at critical thinking principles in action, check out our guide to strategic thinking .

  • http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766
  • http://calnewport.com/blog/2015/11/25/the-feynman-notebook-method/
  • The Thinking Student’s Guide to College by Andrew Roberts (the source of several of the seven ways to think more critically)
  • What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain (the source of several of the seven ways to think more critically)
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything   by Bill Bryson (the source for the C.P. Snow quote about Einstein and the information about Isaac Newton).

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Home » Blog » How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills At Work – The Ultimate Guide!

How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills at Work: The Ultimate Guide!

AUTHORED BY:

MEENAKSHI LOHANI | KNOLSKAPE EDITORAL TEAM

Worried about how to improve critical thinking skills at work? In the new-age workplace, a leader with critical thinking skills understands how their decisions can affect their peers and the organization as a whole. As organizations transition into data-driven decision-making, the ability to discern the complexity of data and weigh in on the benefits and drawbacks will play a significant role.

What made a leader stand out previously will perhaps not make them successful in the future. The workforce is undergoing an incredible transformation. To act as agents of change, leaders must embrace themselves with skills that help them tide over uncertainty and contribute towards a meaningful impact. And critical thinking is among those skills that leaders definitely need to move forward in a complex business ecosystem.

When it comes to crafting decisions or strategies or even dealing with basic problems, leaders are expected to think critically.

6 ways to improve critical thinking at work

Introduction

In today’s fast-paced and ever-evolving work environment, the ability to think critically is an indispensable skill that sets individuals apart and drives organizational success. Critical thinking, often defined as the capacity to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information to make well-informed decisions, is the linchpin of problem-solving, innovation, and effective decision-making. As businesses face increasingly complex challenges, honing critical thinking skills becomes not just an option but a necessity. In this exploration of how to improve critical thinking skills at work, we will delve into strategies and practical approaches that empower individuals and organizations to sharpen this essential competency. Whether you’re an employee seeking personal and professional growth or an organization striving to harness the full potential of your workforce, this guide offers insights and actionable steps to foster a culture of critical thinking and drive excellence in the workplace.  

What is Critical Thinking?

Regarded as an important soft skill, critical thinking helps individuals make rational decisions, analyze information closely, and derive conclusions based on their findings. In the age of information overload, it is critical to weigh in on information from different facets without being misled by prior assumptions or beliefs. The best critical thinkers are able to look beyond their personal opinions to manage ambiguous situations and give objective decisions. 

Research by the World Economic Forum states that critical thinking is expected to be the most in-demand skill by 2025, yet emerging leaders lack this trait.

Critical thinking in leadership roles is increasingly being taken into account in decision-making.

The decisions that leaders take have a direct impact on their team members and the organization, as a whole. Critical thinking skills help leaders understand the impact of their decisions and, hence, are aware of the next steps to take.

A leader with strong critical thinking in the workplace is quickly able to spot inconsistencies in reasoning and relies on evidence to reach a certain conclusion. 

Types of Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking is a blend of soft skills. There are a variety of skills that relate to critical thinking. Some of those are listed below:

| Creative Thinking

This type of skill allows the opportunity to develop new ideas and is mostly associated with music, art, painting, writing, and other non-creative fields like science and technology. 

| Analytical Thinking

This is the competence to analyze and dissect a problem into fragments and perform analysis into each fragment. Analytical thinking is mostly used in solving business issues where a step-by-step approach is required.

| Critical Thinking

Critical Reading is the ability to read text not only for information, but also to assess the text for purpose and meaning. Education in schools and colleges requires this type of skill.

| Evaluative Thinking

As the title suggests, this type of thinking provides the ability to evaluate something for its value.

| Problem Solving

The potential to solve problems and come to a closure based on facts, data, and information available.

Types-of-Critical-Thinking-KNOLSKAPE

Why is Critical Thinking Essential in the Workplace?

It’s quite unfortunate how often important decisions at work are taken without factoring in analysis, evaluation, explanation, and reflective reasoning. But, to make thorough and powerful decisions, leaders need to analyze information from varied resources.

Be it daily blockers at work or organizational crises, challenges at work are inevitable. Effective critical thinkers manage issues before they become worse. Critical thinking skills allow leaders to promote ‘big picture’ thinking. 

In the new-age workplace, a leader with critical thinking skills borrows diverse perspectives and promotes a culture of reasoning, thereby leading to improved organizational performance. 

Critical thinking skills help leaders understand how their decisions can affect their peers and the organization at large. Hence, they are very thoughtful and conscious of acting in the best interest of their team.  

Every organization relies on its leadership to make decisions that will give them competitive advantage. Critical thinking as a core leadership attribute helps leaders assess information quickly, identify opportunities, take action, and pivot whenever necessary. 

How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills at Work - 6 Best Ways!

| aim for clarity.

Seeking clarity is the first step towards improving critical thinking. Seeking clarity means asking questions or looking for information that seems to be overlooked or misinterpreted. A critical thinker is constantly willing to share their ideas and opinions with others. Instead of making unsupported assertions, leaders must encourage open communication for better clarity and accuracy.    

| Develop Self-Awareness at the Workplace

Self-awareness is all about having a clear understanding of one’s strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, emotions, thoughts, etc. When a leader is self-aware, they can assess their thoughts carefully and objectively. 

Being objective allows a critical thinker to look beyond the surroundings and truly focus on the information at hand to make a rational decision. Leaders with critical thinking skills are able to course correct in tough situations. Self-awareness allows leaders to adopt a flexible mindset so that their potential is not restricted.     

|   Be Open to Questioning the Norms

Just because a work approach or leadership style has delivered results for long doesn’t mean that it should be assumed as the only ideal way. Having the willingness to discover the uncharted can open up unimaginable avenues. Amongst the many leadership traits, asking thoughtful questions is a powerful way to unlock value. Not only does it promote exchange of ideas, but also fuels performance and builds rapport amongst team members. Additionally, it can also alleviate risk by uncovering unanticipated hazards. The right and relevant questions also open opportunities for growth and limitless learning.    

|  Practice Active Listening

Active listening is an important component of critical thinking. When conversing with peers, leaders must listen attentively, comprehend and empathize with their point of view. Listening carefully opens eyes to wider perspectives, opinions, and ideas, which can then be used to make sound decisions at work.     

|  Check Your Biases

Biases are the major reason why decision-making fails. Too often, leaders rely on their biases or preconceived notions to form a conclusion which is, by far, the most ineffective technique for decision making. Contrary to the approach that relies on beliefs, guts, or favoritism, leaders must lean on data and insights to objectively verify a situation.     

|   Be Open About Your Thinking Process

Being honest about how a leader thinks about something will help them recognize and address any flaws in their thought process thereby curating a valid argument. The more transparent the process, the more opportunities there are for new ideas to be retested and developed. Additionally, it also promotes a culture of teamwork, collaboration, and trust.

6-ways-to-Improve-Critical-Thinking-at-Work KNOLSKAPE

Critical Thinking Skills: The Imperative for Informed Decisions at Work

Organizations these days are looking to hire employees with strong critical thinking abilities. Regardless of the industry type, company size, or job role, having a critical thinking mindset has become more important than ever.  

Critical thinking skills are not just limited to leadership roles, but individual contributors too are required to make tough decisions in their day-to-day roles. As organizations transition into data-driven decision-making, the ability to discern the complexity of data and weigh in on the benefits and drawbacks will play a significant role. In addition, identifying problems early on will help in solving problems tactfully.  

KNOLSKAPE’s Critical Thinking for Better Decision-Making Course

The ‘ Critical Thinking for Better Decision Making’ (CTDM) course by KNOLSKAPE helps participants deconstruct, understand, and appreciate the various factors that are involved in taking important decisions at work. Through activities, discussions, frameworks and the simulation experience, the participants pick up the essentials that can help them employ their CTDM skills with enhanced precision and effectiveness.   

The simulation will help the learners:  

  • Uncover the challenges and significance of critical thinking at work.  
  • Understand the different elements of Critical Thinking in Decision Making that must be taken into account.  
  • Appreciate the various factors that consciously and/or unconsciously affect decisions.  

Available in ILT, VILT, and self-paced learning formats, this course covers three major key competencies, namely critical thinking, decision making, and risk appetite. Participants   face and work around a range of challenges using the data that is available to them. They also manage complex and, sometimes, conflicting priorities while trying to achieve the objectives given to them in the simulation.  

Way Forward

Enhancing critical thinking skills at the workplace is a dynamic journey that promises substantial benefits for both individuals and organizations. To forge a path forward, it is imperative for companies to foster a culture that encourages curiosity, open dialogue, and diverse perspectives. Implementing targeted training programs, providing access to resources, and offering opportunities for skill application are key strategies to empower employees. Additionally, leaders must lead by example, demonstrating the value of critical thinking in decision-making processes. As we move forward, the commitment to ongoing learning and adaptability will be instrumental in honing critical thinking skills, enabling employees to navigate complex challenges and contribute to the continued growth and success of their organizations.  

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3 Simple Habits to Improve Your Critical Thinking

  • Helen Lee Bouygues

6 ways to improve critical thinking at work

But simple doesn’t mean easy.

Too many business leaders are simply not reasoning through pressing issues, and it’s hurting their organizations.  The good news is that critical thinking is a learned behavior. There are three simple things you can do to train yourself to become a more effective critical thinker: question assumptions, reason through logic, and diversify your thought and perspectives. They may sound obvious, but deliberately cultivating these three key habits of mind go a long way in helping you become better at clear and robust reasoning.

A few years ago, a CEO assured me that his company was the market leader. “Clients will not leave for competitors,” he added. “It costs too much for them to switch.” Within weeks, the manufacturing giant Procter & Gamble elected not to renew its contract with the firm. The CEO was shocked — but he shouldn’t have been.

6 ways to improve critical thinking at work

  • HB Helen Lee Bouygues is the president of the Paris-based Reboot Foundation . A former partner at McKinsey & Company, she has served as interim CEO, CFO, or COO for more than one dozen companies.

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  2. How You Can Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills

    6 ways to improve critical thinking at work

  3. How to Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills

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  4. How to Improve Critical Thinking

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  1. BINARY THINKING

  2. Kemenkeu Learning Week: Making Critical Thinking Work For You In The Digital Age

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COMMENTS

  1. How To Improve Critical Thinking Skills at Work in 6 Steps

    Here are several ways to improve critical thinking skills in the workplace to become a stronger employee: 1. Become more self-aware Becoming more self-aware means considering your thought process, values, morals, ethics and other beliefs. What do you believe in? How do your thoughts reflect these values?

  2. How to Develop Critical Thinking Skills

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  22. How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills At Work

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