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A Short Guide to Building Your Team’s Critical Thinking Skills

  • Matt Plummer

how to use critical thinking skills at work

Critical thinking isn’t an innate skill. It can be learned.

Most employers lack an effective way to objectively assess critical thinking skills and most managers don’t know how to provide specific instruction to team members in need of becoming better thinkers. Instead, most managers employ a sink-or-swim approach, ultimately creating work-arounds to keep those who can’t figure out how to “swim” from making important decisions. But it doesn’t have to be this way. To demystify what critical thinking is and how it is developed, the author’s team turned to three research-backed models: The Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment, Pearson’s RED Critical Thinking Model, and Bloom’s Taxonomy. Using these models, they developed the Critical Thinking Roadmap, a framework that breaks critical thinking down into four measurable phases: the ability to execute, synthesize, recommend, and generate.

With critical thinking ranking among the most in-demand skills for job candidates , you would think that educational institutions would prepare candidates well to be exceptional thinkers, and employers would be adept at developing such skills in existing employees. Unfortunately, both are largely untrue.

how to use critical thinking skills at work

  • Matt Plummer (@mtplummer) is the founder of Zarvana, which offers online programs and coaching services to help working professionals become more productive by developing time-saving habits. Before starting Zarvana, Matt spent six years at Bain & Company spin-out, The Bridgespan Group, a strategy and management consulting firm for nonprofits, foundations, and philanthropists.  

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how to use critical thinking skills at work

Work Life is Atlassian’s flagship publication dedicated to unleashing the potential of every team through real-life advice, inspiring stories, and thoughtful perspectives from leaders around the world.

Kelli María Korducki

Contributing Writer

Dominic Price

Work Futurist

Dr. Mahreen Khan

Senior Quantitative Researcher, People Insights

Kat Boogaard

Principal Writer

how to use critical thinking skills at work

How to build critical thinking skills for better decision-making

It’s simple in theory, but tougher in practice – here are five tips to get you started.

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Have you heard the riddle about two coins that equal thirty cents, but one of them is not a nickel? What about the one where a surgeon says they can’t operate on their own son?

Those brain teasers tap into your critical thinking skills. But your ability to think critically isn’t just helpful for solving those random puzzles – it plays a big role in your career. 

An impressive 81% of employers say critical thinking carries a lot of weight when they’re evaluating job candidates. It ranks as the top competency companies consider when hiring recent graduates (even ahead of communication ). Plus, once you’re hired, several studies show that critical thinking skills are highly correlated with better job performance.

So what exactly are critical thinking skills? And even more importantly, how do you build and improve them? 

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to evaluate facts and information, remain objective, and make a sound decision about how to move forward.

Does that sound like how you approach every decision or problem? Not so fast. Critical thinking seems simple in theory but is much tougher in practice, which helps explain why 65% of employers say their organization has a need for more critical thinking. 

In reality, critical thinking doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us. In order to do it well, you need to:

  • Remain open-minded and inquisitive, rather than relying on assumptions or jumping to conclusions
  • Ask questions and dig deep, rather than accepting information at face value
  • Keep your own biases and perceptions in check to stay as objective as possible
  • Rely on your emotional intelligence to fill in the blanks and gain a more well-rounded understanding of a situation

So, critical thinking isn’t just being intelligent or analytical. In many ways, it requires you to step outside of yourself, let go of your own preconceived notions, and approach a problem or situation with curiosity and fairness.

It’s a challenge, but it’s well worth it. Critical thinking skills will help you connect ideas, make reasonable decisions, and solve complex problems.

7 critical thinking skills to help you dig deeper

Critical thinking is often labeled as a skill itself (you’ll see it bulleted as a desired trait in a variety of job descriptions). But it’s better to think of critical thinking less as a distinct skill and more as a collection or category of skills. 

To think critically, you’ll need to tap into a bunch of your other soft skills. Here are seven of the most important. 

Open-mindedness

It’s important to kick off the critical thinking process with the idea that anything is possible. The more you’re able to set aside your own suspicions, beliefs, and agenda, the better prepared you are to approach the situation with the level of inquisitiveness you need. 

That means not closing yourself off to any possibilities and allowing yourself the space to pull on every thread – yes, even the ones that seem totally implausible.

As Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D. writes in a piece for Psychology Today , “Even if an idea appears foolish, sometimes its consideration can lead to an intelligent, critically considered conclusion.” He goes on to compare the critical thinking process to brainstorming . Sometimes the “bad” ideas are what lay the foundation for the good ones. 

Open-mindedness is challenging because it requires more effort and mental bandwidth than sticking with your own perceptions. Approaching problems or situations with true impartiality often means:

  • Practicing self-regulation : Giving yourself a pause between when you feel something and when you actually react or take action.
  • Challenging your own biases: Acknowledging your biases and seeking feedback are two powerful ways to get a broader understanding. 

Critical thinking example

In a team meeting, your boss mentioned that your company newsletter signups have been decreasing and she wants to figure out why.

At first, you feel offended and defensive – it feels like she’s blaming you for the dip in subscribers. You recognize and rationalize that emotion before thinking about potential causes. You have a hunch about what’s happening, but you will explore all possibilities and contributions from your team members.

Observation

Observation is, of course, your ability to notice and process the details all around you (even the subtle or seemingly inconsequential ones). Critical thinking demands that you’re flexible and willing to go beyond surface-level information, and solid observation skills help you do that.

Your observations help you pick up on clues from a variety of sources and experiences, all of which help you draw a final conclusion. After all, sometimes it’s the most minuscule realization that leads you to the strongest conclusion.

Over the next week or so, you keep a close eye on your company’s website and newsletter analytics to see if numbers are in fact declining or if your boss’s concerns were just a fluke. 

Critical thinking hinges on objectivity. And, to be objective, you need to base your judgments on the facts – which you collect through research. You’ll lean on your research skills to gather as much information as possible that’s relevant to your problem or situation. 

Keep in mind that this isn’t just about the quantity of information – quality matters too. You want to find data and details from a variety of trusted sources to drill past the surface and build a deeper understanding of what’s happening. 

You dig into your email and website analytics to identify trends in bounce rates, time on page, conversions, and more. You also review recent newsletters and email promotions to understand what customers have received, look through current customer feedback, and connect with your customer support team to learn what they’re hearing in their conversations with customers.

The critical thinking process is sort of like a treasure hunt – you’ll find some nuggets that are fundamental for your final conclusion and some that might be interesting but aren’t pertinent to the problem at hand.

That’s why you need analytical skills. They’re what help you separate the wheat from the chaff, prioritize information, identify trends or themes, and draw conclusions based on the most relevant and influential facts. 

It’s easy to confuse analytical thinking with critical thinking itself, and it’s true there is a lot of overlap between the two. But analytical thinking is just a piece of critical thinking. It focuses strictly on the facts and data, while critical thinking incorporates other factors like emotions, opinions, and experiences. 

As you analyze your research, you notice that one specific webpage has contributed to a significant decline in newsletter signups. While all of the other sources have stayed fairly steady with regard to conversions, that one has sharply decreased.

You decide to move on from your other hypotheses about newsletter quality and dig deeper into the analytics. 

One of the traps of critical thinking is that it’s easy to feel like you’re never done. There’s always more information you could collect and more rabbit holes you could fall down.

But at some point, you need to accept that you’ve done your due diligence and make a decision about how to move forward. That’s where inference comes in. It’s your ability to look at the evidence and facts available to you and draw an informed conclusion based on those. 

When you’re so focused on staying objective and pursuing all possibilities, inference can feel like the antithesis of critical thinking. But ultimately, it’s your inference skills that allow you to move out of the thinking process and onto the action steps. 

You dig deeper into the analytics for the page that hasn’t been converting and notice that the sharp drop-off happened around the same time you switched email providers.

After looking more into the backend, you realize that the signup form on that page isn’t correctly connected to your newsletter platform. It seems like anybody who has signed up on that page hasn’t been fed to your email list. 

Communication

3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

If and when you identify a solution or answer, you can’t keep it close to the vest. You’ll need to use your communication skills to share your findings with the relevant stakeholders – like your boss, team members, or anybody who needs to be involved in the next steps.

Your analysis skills will come in handy here too, as they’ll help you determine what information other people need to know so you can avoid bogging them down with unnecessary details. 

In your next team meeting, you pull up the analytics and show your team the sharp drop-off as well as the missing connection between that page and your email platform. You ask the web team to reinstall and double-check that connection and you also ask a member of the marketing team to draft an apology email to the subscribers who were missed. 

Problem-solving

Critical thinking and problem-solving are two more terms that are frequently confused. After all, when you think critically, you’re often doing so with the objective of solving a problem.

The best way to understand how problem-solving and critical thinking differ is to think of problem-solving as much more narrow. You’re focused on finding a solution.

In contrast, you can use critical thinking for a variety of use cases beyond solving a problem – like answering questions or identifying opportunities for improvement. Even so, within the critical thinking process, you’ll flex your problem-solving skills when it comes time to take action. 

Once the fix is implemented, you monitor the analytics to see if subscribers continue to increase. If not (or if they increase at a slower rate than you anticipated), you’ll roll out some other tests like changing the CTA language or the placement of the subscribe form on the page.

5 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Think critically about critical thinking and you’ll quickly realize that it’s not as instinctive as you’d like it to be. Fortunately, your critical thinking skills are learned competencies and not inherent gifts – and that means you can improve them. Here’s how:

  • Practice active listening: Active listening helps you process and understand what other people share. That’s crucial as you aim to be open-minded and inquisitive.
  • Ask open-ended questions: If your critical thinking process involves collecting feedback and opinions from others, ask open-ended questions (meaning, questions that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”). Doing so will give you more valuable information and also prevent your own biases from influencing people’s input.
  • Scrutinize your sources: Figuring out what to trust and prioritize is crucial for critical thinking. Boosting your media literacy and asking more questions will help you be more discerning about what to factor in. It’s hard to strike a balance between skepticism and open-mindedness, but approaching information with questions (rather than unquestioning trust) will help you draw better conclusions. 
  • Play a game: Remember those riddles we mentioned at the beginning? As trivial as they might seem, games and exercises like those can help you boost your critical thinking skills. There are plenty of critical thinking exercises you can do individually or as a team . 
  • Give yourself time: Research shows that rushed decisions are often regrettable ones. That’s likely because critical thinking takes time – you can’t do it under the wire. So, for big decisions or hairy problems, give yourself enough time and breathing room to work through the process. It’s hard enough to think critically without a countdown ticking in your brain. 

Critical thinking really is critical

The ability to think critically is important, but it doesn’t come naturally to most of us. It’s just easier to stick with biases, assumptions, and surface-level information. 

But that route often leads you to rash judgments, shaky conclusions, and disappointing decisions. So here’s a conclusion we can draw without any more noodling: Even if it is more demanding on your mental resources, critical thinking is well worth the effort.

Advice, stories, and expertise about work life today.

how to use critical thinking skills at work

Catch These Benefits! 13 Examples of Critical Thinking in the Workplace

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Catch These Benefits! 13 Examples of Critical Thinking in the Workplace

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Your team is dealing with a sudden decrease in sales, and you’re not sure why.

When this happens, do you quickly make random changes and hope they work? Or do you pause, bring your team together , and analyze the problem using critical thinking?

In the pages ahead, we’ll share examples of critical thinking in the workplace to show how critical thinking can help you build a successful team and business.

Ready to make critical thinking a part of your office culture?

Let’s dive in!

What Is Critical Thinking? A Quick Definition

Critical thinking is the systematic approach of being a sharp-minded analyst. It involves asking questions, verifying facts, and using your intellect to make decisions and solve problems.

The process of thinking critically is built upon a foundation of six major steps:

6 Steps of Critical Thinking

  • Comprehension
  • Application
  • Creation/Action

First, you gather “knowledge” by learning about something and understanding it. After that, you put what you’ve learned into action, known as “application.” When you start looking closely at the details, you do the “analysis.”

After analyzing, you put all those details together to create something new, which we call “synthesis.” Finally, you take action based on all your thinking, and that’s the “creation” or “action” step.

Examples of Critical Thinking in the Workplace

Even if the tasks are repetitive, or even if employees are required to follow strict rules, critical thinking is still important. It helps to deal with unexpected challenges and improve processes.

Let’s delve into 13 real examples to see how critical thinking works in practice.

1. Evaluating the pros and cons of each option

Are you unsure which choice is the best? Critical thinking helps you look at the good and bad sides of each option. This ensures that you make decisions based on facts and not just guesses.

Product development : For example, a product development team is deciding whether to launch a new product . They must evaluate the pros and cons of various features, production methods, and marketing strategies to make an informed decision. Obviously, the more complete their evaluation is, the better decisions they can make.

2. Breaking down complex problems into smaller, manageable parts

In the face of complex problems, critical thinkers are able to make the problem easier to solve. How? They create a step-by-step process to address each component separately.

Product deliveries and customer support . Imagine you work in a customer service department, and there has been a sudden increase in customer complaints about delayed deliveries. You need to figure out the root causes and come up with a solution.

So, you break down the problem into pieces – the shipping process, warehouse operations, delivery routes, customer communication, and product availability. This helps you find out the major causes, which are:

  • insufficient staff in the packaging department, and
  • high volume of orders during specific weeks in a year.

So, when you focus on smaller parts, you can understand and address each aspect better. As a result, you can find practical solutions to the larger issue of delayed deliveries.

3. Finding, evaluating and using information effectively

In today’s world, information is power. Using it wisely can help you and your team succeed. And critical thinkers know where to find the right information and how to check if it’s reliable.

Market research : Let’s say a marketing team is conducting market research to launch a new product. They must find, assess, and use market data to understand customer needs, competitor tactics, and market trends. Only with this information at hand can they create an effective marketing plan.

4. Paying attention to details while also seeing the bigger picture

Are you great at noticing small things? But can you also see how they fit into the larger picture? Critical thinking helps you do both. It’s like zooming in and out with a camera. Why is it essential? It helps you see the full story and avoid tunnel vision.

Strategic planning . For instance, during strategic planning, executives must pay attention to the details of the company’s financial data, market changes, and internal potential. At the same time, they must consider the bigger picture of long-term goals and growth strategies.

5. Making informed decisions by considering all available information

Ever made a choice without thinking it through? Critical thinkers gather all the facts before they decide. It ensures your decisions are smart and well-informed.

Data analysis . For example, data analysts have to examine large datasets to discover trends and patterns. They use critical thinking to understand the significance of these findings, get useful insights, and provide recommendations for improvement.

6. Recognizing biases and assumptions

Too many workplaces suffer from unfair and biased decisions. Make sure yours isn’t on this list. Critical thinkers are self-aware and can spot their own biases. Obviously, this allows them to make more objective decisions.

Conflict resolution . Suppose a manager needs to mediate a conflict between two team members. Critical thinking is essential to understand the underlying causes, evaluate the validity of each person’s opinion, and find a fair solution.

Hiring decisions . Here’s another example. When hiring new employees, HR professionals need to critically assess candidates’ qualifications, experience, and cultural fit. At the same time, they have to “silence” their own assumptions to make unbiased hiring decisions.

7. Optimizing processes for efficiency

Critical thinking examples in the workplace clearly show how teams can improve their processes.

Customer service . Imagine a company that sells gadgets. When customers have problems, the customer service team reads their feedback. For example, if many people struggle to use a gadget, they think about why that’s happening. Maybe the instructions aren’t clear, or the gadget is too tricky to set up.

So, they work together to make things better. They make a new, easier guide and improve the gadget’s instructions. As a result, fewer customers complain, and everyone is happier with the products and service.

8. Analyzing gaps and filling them in

Discovering problems in your company isn’t always obvious. Sometimes, you need to find what’s not working well to help your team do better. That’s where critical thinking comes in.

Training and development . HR professionals, for instance, critically analyze skill gaps within the organization to design training programs. Without deep analysis, they can’t address specific needs and upskill their employees .

9. Contributing effectively to team discussions

In a workplace, everyone needs to join meetings by saying what they think and listening to everyone else. Effective participation, in fact, depends on critical thinking because it’s the best shortcut to reach collective decisions.

Team meetings . In a brainstorming session, you and your colleagues are like puzzle pieces, each with a unique idea. To succeed, you listen to each other’s thoughts, mix and match those ideas, and together, you create the perfect picture – the best plan for your project.

10. Contributing effectively to problem-solving

Effective problem-solving typically involves critical thinking, with team members offering valuable insights and solutions based on their analysis of the situation.

Innovative SaaS product development . Let’s say a cross-functional team faces a challenging innovation problem. So, they use critical thinking to brainstorm creative solutions and evaluate the feasibility of each idea. Afterwards, they select the most promising one for further development.

11. Making accurate forecasts

Understanding critical thinking examples is essential in another aspect, too. In fact, critical thinking allows companies to prepare for what’s coming, reducing unexpected problems.

Financial forecasting . For example, finance professionals critically assess financial data, economic indicators, and market trends to make accurate forecasts. This data helps to make financial decisions, such as budget planning or investment strategies.

12. Assessing potential risks and recommending adjustments

Without effective risk management , you’ll constantly face issues when it’s too late to tackle them. But when your team has smart thinkers who can spot problems and figure out how they might affect you, you’ll have no need to worry.

Compliance review . Compliance officers review company policies and practices to ensure they align with relevant laws and regulations. They want to make sure everything we do follows the law. If they find anything that could get us into trouble, they’ll suggest changes to keep us on the right side of the law.

13. Managing the crisis

Who else wants to minimize damage and protect their business? During a crisis, leaders need to think critically to assess the situation, make rapid decisions, and allocate resources effectively.

Security breach in a big IT company . Suppose you’ve just discovered a major security breach. This is a crisis because sensitive customer data might be at risk, and it could damage your company’s reputation.

To manage this crisis, you need to think critically. First, you must assess the situation. You investigate how the breach happened, what data might be compromised, and how it could affect your customers and your business. Next, you have to make decisions. You might decide to shut down the affected systems to prevent further damage. By taking quick, well-planned actions, you can minimize the damage and protect your business.

Critical Thinking in Your Team

Encouraging Critical Thinking in Your Team: A Brief Manager’s Guide

According to Payscale’s survey, 60% of managers believe that critical thinking is the top soft skill that new graduates lack. Why should you care? Well, among these graduates, there’s a good chance that one could eventually become a part of your team down the road.

So, how do you create a workplace where critical thinking is encouraged and cultivated? Let’s find out.

Step 1: Make Your Expectations Clear

First things first, make sure your employees know why critical thinking is important. If they don’t know how critical it is, it’s time to tell them. Explain why it’s essential for their growth and the company’s success.

Step 2: Encourage Curiosity

Do your employees ask questions freely? Encourage them to! A workplace where questions are welcomed is a breeding ground for critical thinking. And remember, don’t shut down questions with a “That’s not important.” Every question counts.

Step 3: Keep Learning Alive

Encourage your team to keep growing. Learning new stuff helps them become better thinkers. So, don’t let them settle for “I already know enough.” Provide your team with inspiring examples of critical thinking in the workplace. Let them get inspired and reach new heights.

Step 4: Challenge, Don’t Spoon-Feed

Rethink your management methods, if you hand your employees everything on a silver platter. Instead, challenge them with tasks that make them think. It might be tough, but don’t worry. A little struggle can be a good thing.

Step 5: Embrace Different Ideas

Do you only like ideas that match your own? Well, that’s a no-no. Encourage different ideas, even if they sound strange. Sometimes, the craziest ideas lead to the best solutions.

Step 6: Learn from Mistakes

Mistakes happen. So, instead of pointing fingers, ask your employees what they learned from the mistake. Don’t let them just say, “It’s not my fault.”

Step 7: Lead the Way

Are you a critical thinker yourself? Show your employees how it’s done. Lead by example. Don’t just say, “Do as I say!”

Wrapping It Up!

As we’ve seen, examples of critical thinking in the workplace are numerous. Critical thinking shows itself in various scenarios, from evaluating pros and cons to breaking down complex problems and recognizing biases.

The good news is that critical thinking isn’t something you’re born with but a skill you can nurture and strengthen. It’s a journey of growth, and managers are key players in this adventure. They can create a space where critical thinking thrives by encouraging continuous learning.

Remember, teams that cultivate critical thinking will be pioneers of adaptation and innovation. They’ll be well-prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow’s workplace with confidence and competence.

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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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How to develop critical thinking skills

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What are critical thinking skills?

How to develop critical thinking skills: 12 tips, how to practice critical thinking skills at work, become your own best critic.

A client requests a tight deadline on an intense project. Your childcare provider calls in sick on a day full of meetings. Payment from a contract gig is a month behind. 

Your day-to-day will always have challenges, big and small. And no matter the size and urgency, they all ask you to use critical thinking to analyze the situation and arrive at the right solution. 

Critical thinking includes a wide set of soft skills that encourage continuous learning, resilience , and self-reflection. The more you add to your professional toolbelt, the more equipped you’ll be to tackle whatever challenge presents itself. Here’s how to develop critical thinking, with examples explaining how to use it.

Critical thinking skills are the skills you use to analyze information, imagine scenarios holistically, and create rational solutions. It’s a type of emotional intelligence that stimulates effective problem-solving and decision-making . 

When you fine-tune your critical thinking skills, you seek beyond face-value observations and knee-jerk reactions. Instead, you harvest deeper insights and string together ideas and concepts in logical, sometimes out-of-the-box , ways. 

Imagine a team working on a marketing strategy for a new set of services. That team might use critical thinking to balance goals and key performance indicators , like new customer acquisition costs, average monthly sales, and net profit margins. They understand the connections between overlapping factors to build a strategy that stays within budget and attracts new sales. 

Looking for ways to improve critical thinking skills? Start by brushing up on the following soft skills that fall under this umbrella: 

  • Analytical thinking: Approaching problems with an analytical eye includes breaking down complex issues into small chunks and examining their significance. An example could be organizing customer feedback to identify trends and improve your product offerings. 
  • Open-mindedness: Push past cognitive biases and be receptive to different points of view and constructive feedback . Managers and team members who keep an open mind position themselves to hear new ideas that foster innovation . 
  • Creative thinking: With creative thinking , you can develop several ideas to address a single problem, like brainstorming more efficient workflow best practices to boost productivity and employee morale . 
  • Self-reflection: Self-reflection lets you examine your thinking and assumptions to stimulate healthier collaboration and thought processes. Maybe a bad first impression created a negative anchoring bias with a new coworker. Reflecting on your own behavior stirs up empathy and improves the relationship. 
  • Evaluation: With evaluation skills, you tackle the pros and cons of a situation based on logic rather than emotion. When prioritizing tasks , you might be tempted to do the fun or easy ones first, but evaluating their urgency and importance can help you make better decisions. 

There’s no magic method to change your thinking processes. Improvement happens with small, intentional changes to your everyday habits until a more critical approach to thinking is automatic. 

Here are 12 tips for building stronger self-awareness and learning how to improve critical thinking: 

1. Be cautious

There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of skepticism. One of the core principles of critical thinking is asking questions and dissecting the available information. You might surprise yourself at what you find when you stop to think before taking action. 

Before making a decision, use evidence, logic, and deductive reasoning to support your own opinions or challenge ideas. It helps you and your team avoid falling prey to bad information or resistance to change .

2. Ask open-ended questions

“Yes” or “no” questions invite agreement rather than reflection. Instead, ask open-ended questions that force you to engage in analysis and rumination. Digging deeper can help you identify potential biases, uncover assumptions, and arrive at new hypotheses and possible solutions. 

3. Do your research

No matter your proficiency, you can always learn more. Turning to different points of view and information is a great way to develop a comprehensive understanding of a topic and make informed decisions. You’ll prioritize reliable information rather than fall into emotional or automatic decision-making. 

close-up-of-mans-hands-opening-a-dictionary-with-notebook-on-the-side-how-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills

4. Consider several opinions

You might spend so much time on your work that it’s easy to get stuck in your own perspective, especially if you work independently on a remote team . Make an effort to reach out to colleagues to hear different ideas and thought patterns. Their input might surprise you.

If or when you disagree, remember that you and your team share a common goal. Divergent opinions are constructive, so shift the focus to finding solutions rather than defending disagreements. 

5. Learn to be quiet

Active listening is the intentional practice of concentrating on a conversation partner instead of your own thoughts. It’s about paying attention to detail and letting people know you value their opinions, which can open your mind to new perspectives and thought processes.

If you’re brainstorming with your team or having a 1:1 with a coworker , listen, ask clarifying questions, and work to understand other peoples’ viewpoints. Listening to your team will help you find fallacies in arguments to improve possible solutions.

6. Schedule reflection

Whether waking up at 5 am or using a procrastination hack, scheduling time to think puts you in a growth mindset . Your mind has natural cognitive biases to help you simplify decision-making, but squashing them is key to thinking critically and finding new solutions besides the ones you might gravitate toward. Creating time and calm space in your day gives you the chance to step back and visualize the biases that impact your decision-making. 

7. Cultivate curiosity

With so many demands and job responsibilities, it’s easy to seek solace in routine. But getting out of your comfort zone helps spark critical thinking and find more solutions than you usually might.

If curiosity doesn’t come naturally to you, cultivate a thirst for knowledge by reskilling and upskilling . Not only will you add a new skill to your resume , but expanding the limits of your professional knowledge might motivate you to ask more questions. 

You don’t have to develop critical thinking skills exclusively in the office. Whether on your break or finding a hobby to do after work, playing strategic games or filling out crosswords can prime your brain for problem-solving. 

woman-solving-puzzle-at-home-how-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills

9. Write it down

Recording your thoughts with pen and paper can lead to stronger brain activity than typing them out on a keyboard. If you’re stuck and want to think more critically about a problem, writing your ideas can help you process information more deeply.

The act of recording ideas on paper can also improve your memory . Ideas are more likely to linger in the background of your mind, leading to deeper thinking that informs your decision-making process. 

10. Speak up

Take opportunities to share your opinion, even if it intimidates you. Whether at a networking event with new people or a meeting with close colleagues, try to engage with people who challenge or help you develop your ideas. Having conversations that force you to support your position encourages you to refine your argument and think critically. 

11. Stay humble

Ideas and concepts aren’t the same as real-life actions. There may be such a thing as negative outcomes, but there’s no such thing as a bad idea. At the brainstorming stage , don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Sometimes the best solutions come from off-the-wall, unorthodox decisions. Sit in your creativity , let ideas flow, and don’t be afraid to share them with your colleagues. Putting yourself in a creative mindset helps you see situations from new perspectives and arrive at innovative conclusions. 

12. Embrace discomfort

Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable . It isn’t easy when others challenge your ideas, but sometimes, it’s the only way to see new perspectives and think critically.

By willingly stepping into unfamiliar territory, you foster the resilience and flexibility you need to become a better thinker. You’ll learn how to pick yourself up from failure and approach problems from fresh angles. 

man-looking-down-to-something-while-thinking-how-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills

Thinking critically is easier said than done. To help you understand its impact (and how to use it), here are two scenarios that require critical thinking skills and provide teachable moments. 

Scenario #1: Unexpected delays and budget

Imagine your team is working on producing an event. Unexpectedly, a vendor explains they’ll be a week behind on delivering materials. Then another vendor sends a quote that’s more than you can afford. Unless you develop a creative solution, the team will have to push back deadlines and go over budget, potentially costing the client’s trust. 

Here’s how you could approach the situation with creative thinking:

  • Analyze the situation holistically: Determine how the delayed materials and over-budget quote will impact the rest of your timeline and financial resources . That way, you can identify whether you need to build an entirely new plan with new vendors, or if it’s worth it to readjust time and resources. 
  • Identify your alternative options: With careful assessment, your team decides that another vendor can’t provide the same materials in a quicker time frame. You’ll need to rearrange assignment schedules to complete everything on time. 
  • Collaborate and adapt: Your team has an emergency meeting to rearrange your project schedule. You write down each deliverable and determine which ones you can and can’t complete by the deadline. To compensate for lost time, you rearrange your task schedule to complete everything that doesn’t need the delayed materials first, then advance as far as you can on the tasks that do. 
  • Check different resources: In the meantime, you scour through your contact sheet to find alternative vendors that fit your budget. Accounting helps by providing old invoices to determine which vendors have quoted less for previous jobs. After pulling all your sources, you find a vendor that fits your budget. 
  • Maintain open communication: You create a special Slack channel to keep everyone up to date on changes, challenges, and additional delays. Keeping an open line encourages transparency on the team’s progress and boosts everyone’s confidence. 

coworkers-at-meeting-looking-together-the-screen-how-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills

Scenario #2: Differing opinions 

A conflict arises between two team members on the best approach for a new strategy for a gaming app. One believes that small tweaks to the current content are necessary to maintain user engagement and stay within budget. The other believes a bold revamp is needed to encourage new followers and stronger sales revenue. 

Here’s how critical thinking could help this conflict:

  • Listen actively: Give both team members the opportunity to present their ideas free of interruption. Encourage the entire team to ask open-ended questions to more fully understand and develop each argument. 
  • Flex your analytical skills: After learning more about both ideas, everyone should objectively assess the benefits and drawbacks of each approach. Analyze each idea's risk, merits, and feasibility based on available data and the app’s goals and objectives. 
  • Identify common ground: The team discusses similarities between each approach and brainstorms ways to integrate both idea s, like making small but eye-catching modifications to existing content or using the same visual design in new media formats. 
  • Test new strategy: To test out the potential of a bolder strategy, the team decides to A/B test both approaches. You create a set of criteria to evenly distribute users by different demographics to analyze engagement, revenue, and customer turnover. 
  • Monitor and adapt: After implementing the A/B test, the team closely monitors the results of each strategy. You regroup and optimize the changes that provide stronger results after the testing. That way, all team members understand why you’re making the changes you decide to make.

You can’t think your problems away. But you can equip yourself with skills that help you move through your biggest challenges and find innovative solutions. Learning how to develop critical thinking is the start of honing an adaptable growth mindset. 

Now that you have resources to increase critical thinking skills in your professional development, you can identify whether you embrace change or routine, are open or resistant to feedback, or turn to research or emotion will build self-awareness. From there, tweak and incorporate techniques to be a critical thinker when life presents you with a problem.

Cultivate your creativity

Foster creativity and continuous learning with guidance from our certified Coaches.

Elizabeth Perry, ACC

Elizabeth Perry is a Coach Community Manager at BetterUp. She uses strategic engagement strategies to cultivate a learning community across a global network of Coaches through in-person and virtual experiences, technology-enabled platforms, and strategic coaching industry partnerships. With over 3 years of coaching experience and a certification in transformative leadership and life coaching from Sofia University, Elizabeth leverages transpersonal psychology expertise to help coaches and clients gain awareness of their behavioral and thought patterns, discover their purpose and passions, and elevate their potential. She is a lifelong student of psychology, personal growth, and human potential as well as an ICF-certified ACC transpersonal life and leadership Coach.

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Article • 8 min read

Critical Thinking

Developing the right mindset and skills.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

We make hundreds of decisions every day and, whether we realize it or not, we're all critical thinkers.

We use critical thinking each time we weigh up our options, prioritize our responsibilities, or think about the likely effects of our actions. It's a crucial skill that helps us to cut out misinformation and make wise decisions. The trouble is, we're not always very good at it!

In this article, we'll explore the key skills that you need to develop your critical thinking skills, and how to adopt a critical thinking mindset, so that you can make well-informed decisions.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the discipline of rigorously and skillfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions, and beliefs. You'll need to actively question every step of your thinking process to do it well.

Collecting, analyzing and evaluating information is an important skill in life, and a highly valued asset in the workplace. People who score highly in critical thinking assessments are also rated by their managers as having good problem-solving skills, creativity, strong decision-making skills, and good overall performance. [1]

Key Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinkers possess a set of key characteristics which help them to question information and their own thinking. Focus on the following areas to develop your critical thinking skills:

Being willing and able to explore alternative approaches and experimental ideas is crucial. Can you think through "what if" scenarios, create plausible options, and test out your theories? If not, you'll tend to write off ideas and options too soon, so you may miss the best answer to your situation.

To nurture your curiosity, stay up to date with facts and trends. You'll overlook important information if you allow yourself to become "blinkered," so always be open to new information.

But don't stop there! Look for opposing views or evidence to challenge your information, and seek clarification when things are unclear. This will help you to reassess your beliefs and make a well-informed decision later. Read our article, Opening Closed Minds , for more ways to stay receptive.

Logical Thinking

You must be skilled at reasoning and extending logic to come up with plausible options or outcomes.

It's also important to emphasize logic over emotion. Emotion can be motivating but it can also lead you to take hasty and unwise action, so control your emotions and be cautious in your judgments. Know when a conclusion is "fact" and when it is not. "Could-be-true" conclusions are based on assumptions and must be tested further. Read our article, Logical Fallacies , for help with this.

Use creative problem solving to balance cold logic. By thinking outside of the box you can identify new possible outcomes by using pieces of information that you already have.

Self-Awareness

Many of the decisions we make in life are subtly informed by our values and beliefs. These influences are called cognitive biases and it can be difficult to identify them in ourselves because they're often subconscious.

Practicing self-awareness will allow you to reflect on the beliefs you have and the choices you make. You'll then be better equipped to challenge your own thinking and make improved, unbiased decisions.

One particularly useful tool for critical thinking is the Ladder of Inference . It allows you to test and validate your thinking process, rather than jumping to poorly supported conclusions.

Developing a Critical Thinking Mindset

Combine the above skills with the right mindset so that you can make better decisions and adopt more effective courses of action. You can develop your critical thinking mindset by following this process:

Gather Information

First, collect data, opinions and facts on the issue that you need to solve. Draw on what you already know, and turn to new sources of information to help inform your understanding. Consider what gaps there are in your knowledge and seek to fill them. And look for information that challenges your assumptions and beliefs.

Be sure to verify the authority and authenticity of your sources. Not everything you read is true! Use this checklist to ensure that your information is valid:

  • Are your information sources trustworthy ? (For example, well-respected authors, trusted colleagues or peers, recognized industry publications, websites, blogs, etc.)
  • Is the information you have gathered up to date ?
  • Has the information received any direct criticism ?
  • Does the information have any errors or inaccuracies ?
  • Is there any evidence to support or corroborate the information you have gathered?
  • Is the information you have gathered subjective or biased in any way? (For example, is it based on opinion, rather than fact? Is any of the information you have gathered designed to promote a particular service or organization?)

If any information appears to be irrelevant or invalid, don't include it in your decision making. But don't omit information just because you disagree with it, or your final decision will be flawed and bias.

Now observe the information you have gathered, and interpret it. What are the key findings and main takeaways? What does the evidence point to? Start to build one or two possible arguments based on what you have found.

You'll need to look for the details within the mass of information, so use your powers of observation to identify any patterns or similarities. You can then analyze and extend these trends to make sensible predictions about the future.

To help you to sift through the multiple ideas and theories, it can be useful to group and order items according to their characteristics. From here, you can compare and contrast the different items. And once you've determined how similar or different things are from one another, Paired Comparison Analysis can help you to analyze them.

The final step involves challenging the information and rationalizing its arguments.

Apply the laws of reason (induction, deduction, analogy) to judge an argument and determine its merits. To do this, it's essential that you can determine the significance and validity of an argument to put it in the correct perspective. Take a look at our article, Rational Thinking , for more information about how to do this.

Once you have considered all of the arguments and options rationally, you can finally make an informed decision.

Afterward, take time to reflect on what you have learned and what you found challenging. Step back from the detail of your decision or problem, and look at the bigger picture. Record what you've learned from your observations and experience.

Critical thinking involves rigorously and skilfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions and beliefs. It's a useful skill in the workplace and in life.

You'll need to be curious and creative to explore alternative possibilities, but rational to apply logic, and self-aware to identify when your beliefs could affect your decisions or actions.

You can demonstrate a high level of critical thinking by validating your information, analyzing its meaning, and finally evaluating the argument.

Critical Thinking Infographic

See Critical Thinking represented in our infographic: An Elementary Guide to Critical Thinking .

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Building Your Team’s Critical Thinking Skills for Success

  • August 15, 2023
  • Teamwork & Collaboration

how to use critical thinking skills at work

In today’s complex and rapidly changing world, the ability to think critically is crucial for individuals and teams seeking success. Like a sturdy foundation, critical thinking skills provide the necessary support and structure for problem-solving, decision-making, and innovation. However, the cultivation of these skills often falls short in educational and professional settings. This article explores the importance of building critical thinking skills and offers methods for their development, along with the benefits that can be reaped. By empowering teams with critical thinking, they can navigate challenges with agility and achieve desired outcomes.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Critical thinking skills are highly valued in job candidates and are essential for problem-solving and innovation.
  • Educational institutions and employers often do not adequately develop critical thinking skills.
  • Lack of critical thinking skills can lead to poor decision-making and decreased productivity and efficiency.
  • To develop critical thinking skills in your team, provide specific instruction and guidance, offer training programs and resources, encourage open-mindedness, and foster a culture that values and rewards critical thinking.

The Importance of Critical Thinking Skills for Success

The importance of critical thinking skills for success is evident in the improved decision-making abilities, enhanced creativity and innovation, increased efficiency and productivity, better communication and collaboration within teams, and adaptability and resilience in the face of challenges that it brings. Critical thinking plays a crucial role in problem-solving and decision-making processes, as it enables individuals to analyze situations, evaluate options, and make informed choices. It helps in identifying biases, assumptions, and fallacies that may hinder effective problem-solving. To foster critical thinking in the workplace, organizations can implement strategies such as providing specific instruction and guidance, offering training programs, encouraging open-mindedness, fostering a culture that values and rewards critical thinking, and providing opportunities for practice and application of critical thinking skills. By developing these skills, individuals can enhance their problem-solving abilities and contribute to the overall success of the organization.

Understanding the Definition and Components of Critical Thinking

Execution, one of the measurable phases of critical thinking, involves the effective execution of tasks. Understanding critical thinking assessment is crucial in evaluating an individual’s ability to execute tasks and perform well in critical thinking. Bloom’s Taxonomy plays a significant role in critical thinking by providing a framework for understanding the different levels of thinking and the cognitive processes involved. It helps in assessing and developing critical thinking skills by categorizing thinking into six levels, ranging from basic knowledge to higher-order thinking skills such as analysis, evaluation, and creation. By using Bloom’s Taxonomy, educators and evaluators can assess the depth and complexity of critical thinking skills and identify areas for improvement. Incorporating Bloom’s Taxonomy into critical thinking assessment can guide the development of effective instructional strategies and promote higher-level cognitive thinking.

The Role of Execution in Developing Critical Thinking Skills

One of the measurable phases of critical thinking, execution, plays a crucial role in the development and enhancement of critical thinking skills. Execution refers to the ability to carry out tasks effectively. In the context of critical thinking, execution involves the application of problem-solving strategies and the implementation of plans or actions to solve a given problem or achieve a specific goal. Effective execution requires individuals to apply their analytical thinking, evaluate potential solutions, and make informed decisions. The impact of critical thinking on problem-solving is significant, as it enables individuals to approach problems systematically, consider multiple perspectives, and generate innovative solutions. By honing their execution skills, individuals can improve their problem-solving abilities and enhance their overall critical thinking prowess.

The Power of Synthesis in Critical Thinking

Synthesis, a fundamental component of critical thinking, involves the integration and combination of information to generate new perspectives and ideas. In problem-solving, synthesis plays a crucial role in developing critical thinking in the workplace.

Integration of Information: Synthesis requires the ability to gather and analyze information from various sources, such as research studies, reports, and expert opinions. By integrating this information, individuals can gain a comprehensive understanding of the problem at hand.

Generation of New Perspectives: Through synthesis, individuals can go beyond the surface-level understanding of a problem and generate new perspectives and ideas. This creative process allows for innovative solutions and approaches to problem-solving.

Problem-Solving Efficiency: Synthesis improves problem-solving efficiency by enabling individuals to identify patterns, connections, and relationships between different pieces of information. This holistic view helps in identifying the most appropriate course of action and avoiding potential pitfalls or biases.

Methods for Providing Instruction and Guidance in Critical Thinking

To effectively provide instruction and guidance in critical thinking, it is important to implement specific training programs and resources focused on the development of this skill. Methods for critical thinking instruction include providing specific instruction and guidance to team members, offering training programs and resources, encouraging open-mindedness and exploration of different perspectives, fostering a culture that values and rewards critical thinking, and providing opportunities for practice and application of critical thinking skills. These methods have numerous benefits for individuals and organizations. Developing critical thinking skills leads to improved decision-making and problem-solving abilities, enhanced creativity and innovation, increased efficiency and productivity, better communication and collaboration within teams, and adaptability and resilience in the face of challenges. Therefore, organizations should prioritize the implementation of these methods to cultivate critical thinking skills and reap the benefits of their development.

Training Programs and Resources for Developing Critical Thinking

Training programs and resources are essential for the development of critical thinking skills in individuals and organizations. These programs provide structured and systematic approaches to enhance critical thinking abilities. To measure the effectiveness of training programs in developing critical thinking skills, the following methods can be employed:

Pre- and post-training assessments: Before and after the training, individuals can be evaluated using standardized tests or assessments specifically designed to measure critical thinking skills. This allows for a quantitative comparison of skill improvement.

Performance evaluations: Observing participants’ performance in real-world scenarios can provide insights into their critical thinking abilities. Evaluating decision-making processes, problem-solving strategies, and the application of logical reasoning can help determine the effectiveness of the training.

Feedback and self-reflection: Gathering feedback from participants regarding their perception of their own critical thinking skills can provide qualitative data on the impact of the training. Self-reflection exercises can also help individuals identify areas for improvement and gauge their progress over time.

Encouraging Open-Mindedness and Exploring Different Perspectives

Encouraging open-mindedness and exploring different perspectives is a valuable approach in fostering critical thinking abilities. By exposing individuals to diverse viewpoints, they are prompted to challenge their own assumptions and beliefs, leading to a deeper understanding of complex issues. This process allows for the exploration of various angles and considerations, ultimately enhancing critical thinking skills. Creating a fostering critical thinking environment necessitates creating opportunities for individuals to engage in dialogue and debate, where they can listen to and learn from differing opinions. Additionally, it involves promoting a culture of respect and tolerance for diverse perspectives, encouraging individuals to actively seek out alternative viewpoints. By incorporating these practices, organizations and educational institutions can cultivate a critical thinking environment that nurtures the development of well-rounded individuals capable of thoughtful analysis and decision-making.

Creating a Culture That Values and Rewards Critical Thinking

Creating a culture that values and rewards critical thinking involves establishing systems and structures within an organization or educational institution that recognize and acknowledge individuals who demonstrate strong analytical and problem-solving capabilities. To promote critical thinking, organizations can implement the following strategies:

Implementing critical thinking in performance evaluations: Incorporating criteria that assess an individual’s ability to think critically and make sound judgments can incentivize employees to develop and display these skills. This can be done by including specific performance indicators related to critical thinking in the evaluation process.

Promoting critical thinking in team meetings: Encouraging open discussions and debates during team meetings can foster an environment where critical thinking is valued. By posing thought-provoking questions, encouraging different perspectives, and challenging assumptions, teams can collectively engage in critical thinking and generate innovative solutions.

Offering training and development opportunities: Providing training programs and resources focused on critical thinking can equip individuals with the necessary knowledge and skills to think critically. This can include workshops, seminars, or online courses that teach techniques and strategies for effective critical thinking.

Opportunities for Practice and Application of Critical Thinking Skills

One effective method to enhance critical thinking abilities involves providing individuals with practical scenarios and real-life situations that require the application of analytical and problem-solving skills. By offering practice opportunities that simulate real-world application, individuals can develop and refine their critical thinking skills. The utilization of practical scenarios allows individuals to engage in active learning, where they can apply their knowledge and skills to solve complex problems and make informed decisions. Through these practice opportunities, individuals are exposed to a range of challenges and are encouraged to think critically, analyze information, evaluate options, and generate innovative solutions. This hands-on approach to developing critical thinking skills not only enhances individuals’ ability to solve problems effectively, but also prepares them for real-world situations where critical thinking is essential. Ultimately, the integration of practical scenarios provides individuals with valuable experiences that strengthen their critical thinking abilities.

The Benefits of Improved Decision-Making and Problem-Solving

The previous subtopic discussed the opportunities for practice and application of critical thinking skills. Now, let’s delve into the benefits of improved decision-making and problem-solving that result from developing these skills.

Enhanced problem-solving techniques: Critical thinking enables individuals to analyze complex problems, identify underlying issues, and determine the most effective solutions. By developing critical thinking skills, teams can approach problems with a systematic and logical mindset, leading to more efficient and effective problem-solving processes.

Improved decision-making: Critical thinking plays a crucial role in decision-making by enabling individuals to evaluate information objectively, consider various perspectives, and weigh the pros and cons of different options. This helps teams make well-informed decisions that are based on evidence and reasoning rather than biases or gut feelings.

Increased effectiveness in complex situations: Critical thinking empowers individuals to navigate complex and ambiguous situations by providing them with the ability to analyze information, assess potential risks, and make sound judgments. This enhances their ability to adapt and respond effectively in dynamic environments.

Overall, the impact of critical thinking on decision-making and problem-solving is significant. By improving these skills, teams can make better decisions, solve problems more effectively, and ultimately achieve higher levels of success.

Enhancing Creativity and Innovation Through Critical Thinking

Enhancing creativity and innovation can be achieved by developing critical thinking abilities through the application of analytical and problem-solving techniques. Critical thinking in the workplace is crucial for fostering a culture of innovation. By honing critical thinking skills, individuals are able to approach challenges and problems with a more analytical mindset, allowing for the generation of new and creative ideas. This ability to think critically enables individuals to analyze situations from multiple perspectives, identify potential opportunities, and develop innovative solutions. Moreover, critical thinking encourages individuals to question assumptions, challenge existing norms, and explore alternative possibilities. By fostering a culture that values and rewards critical thinking, organizations can create an environment that encourages the generation of new ideas and supports innovation. Ultimately, enhancing critical thinking in the workplace is essential for promoting creativity and driving innovation forward.

Increasing Efficiency and Productivity With Critical Thinking

In order to increase efficiency and productivity in team settings, it is crucial to develop critical thinking skills in team meetings and integrate critical thinking into project management. This can be achieved through various strategies:

Encouraging active participation: Team members should be encouraged to actively engage in discussions and contribute their thoughts and ideas. This promotes critical thinking by fostering the exploration of different perspectives and the evaluation of various options.

Facilitating problem-solving exercises: Incorporating problem-solving exercises into team meetings allows members to practice critical thinking skills in a supportive environment. These exercises can involve analyzing complex scenarios, identifying potential solutions, and evaluating the pros and cons of each option.

Providing tools and frameworks: Equipping team members with tools and frameworks for critical thinking, such as decision-making models and problem-solving methodologies, can enhance their ability to think critically and make informed decisions. These resources can serve as a guide for approaching complex tasks and projects in a systematic and analytical manner.

Better Communication and Collaboration Through Critical Thinking

Better communication and collaboration within teams can be achieved by fostering an environment that promotes critical thinking and the exploration of diverse perspectives. When team members are encouraged to think critically, they are more likely to engage in open and meaningful discussions. Critical thinking allows individuals to analyze information, evaluate different viewpoints, and communicate their ideas effectively. By fostering effective collaboration, teams can benefit from the collective intelligence and diverse perspectives of its members. Team members who engage in critical thinking are more likely to actively listen to others, consider alternative solutions, and engage in constructive debates. This can lead to improved teamwork, as individuals are able to work together towards common goals and make informed decisions. In conclusion, improving teamwork through critical thinking and fostering effective collaboration can greatly enhance the overall performance and success of a team.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common barriers to developing critical thinking skills.

Common barriers to developing critical thinking skills include lack of effective instruction and guidance, absence of training programs and resources, closed-mindedness, and a culture that does not value or reward critical thinking. Strategies for improvement include providing specific instruction, offering training programs, encouraging open-mindedness, fostering a culture of critical thinking, and providing opportunities for practice and application.

How Can Critical Thinking Skills Be Applied in Real-Life Situations Outside of the Workplace?

Applying critical thinking skills in everyday life enhances problem-solving abilities in personal situations. It allows individuals to analyze and evaluate information, consider different perspectives, and make informed decisions, leading to more effective problem-solving and decision-making in various contexts.

Are There Any Potential Drawbacks or Limitations to Relying Heavily on Critical Thinking in Decision-Making?

Potential drawbacks and limitations of relying heavily on critical thinking in decision-making include the possibility of overanalyzing, which can lead to decision paralysis. Additionally, critical thinking may not always account for emotional or intuitive factors that could influence outcomes.

Can Critical Thinking Skills Be Developed and Improved Over Time, or Are They Fixed?

The question of whether critical thinking skills can be developed and improved over time, or if they are fixed, is an important area of inquiry. This topic warrants further investigation to provide a comprehensive understanding of the nature of critical thinking skills.

Are There Any Specific Industries or Job Roles That Prioritize Critical Thinking Skills More Than Others?

Certain industries and job roles prioritize critical thinking skills more than others. For example, professions such as law, medicine, engineering, and finance require individuals to analyze complex information, make informed decisions, and solve problems effectively.

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The power of critical thinking at work

Oct 07, 2020

The power of critical thinking at work

Psychologue du travail, coach et consultante RH

Should critical thinking come into play at work? While we may agree on the value of using our finely tuned critical sense in private life, does it have a place in the world of work? Given the divide between employers and their staff, is it really wise to expect to be able to debate ideas in the workplace? And, by the way, what exactly is critical thinking? Let’s break it down.

Understanding critical thinking

While the word “critical” often has negative connotations—your mind goes directly to all those derogatory remarks that people make about each other—it actually comes from the Greek kritikē (κριτική), which mostly means the art of discernment . Your brain produces thoughts every day without you having to order them to come up with them. They are a rich synthesis of your knowledge , experience and beliefs. Now is the time to use your faculty for critical thinking by taking a step back from these thoughts. Critical thinking, which is part of a complex cognitive process, is a voluntary, conscious, and focused approach that you can use to get out of your subjectivity and lean more towards objectivity. This demanding approach can also extend to the thoughts and ideas that surround you in broader ways.

Everyone has a natural tendency to be a critical thinker. However, to be truly effective, critical thinking needs to be based on facts and evidence. It’s about seeking out the different aspects of an issue and scrutinizing them through the filter of reason, far removed from feeling and emotion .

Why it’s important to be a critical thinker

We are not sheep.

Critical thinking can benefit everyone. We can avoid errors in reasoning and can become aware of the influence of people and emotions on ways of thinking, without getting fooled. A bit of critical thinking helps in particular with:

  • Fighting unfounded rumors, fake news and mistaken beliefs. It allows us to check the accuracy of the information shared on social networks , but also from our relatives, and friends, for example.
  • Forming an opinion and fighting against conformism, manipulation, and indoctrination. You can take the time to form your own opinion on different subjects, and then take part in the debate.
  • Not falling into the trap of subjectivity. Critical thinking lets you take a step back from the preconceived ideas and reactions dictated by your senses and emotions, which sometimes can make us irrational.
  • Coming up with ideas, being creative, and making changes . Critical thinking allows us to question certain preconceived notions and ways of thinking that could be changed or improved.

Critical thinking within organizations

As you may have gathered, critical thinking also has its place within companies: to make progress, organizations need objectivity and rationality. Critical thinking is at the heart of development, innovation, and transformation. It’s not always easy, however, to express an opinion or to even question what exists within a company. Hierarchy can inhibit staff members from using critical thinking while discussing their managers’ or employers’ ideas and decisions. However, critical thinking remains essential to guide decisions at all levels.

This is particularly valued in positions that involve strategy, leadership and management : knowing how to question yourself, to get some perspective, but also to think critically, is essential whenever there are major decisions to be made. Being able to take a step back from your own ideas or those of your team, or to change your point of view, is especially important when you reach a level in the business where no one dares to challenge you anymore. Good critical thinking also seems to be applicable in positions that include problem-solving and continuous improvement issues, in other words, in a lot of jobs and sectors.

Developing your critical thinking

A mind that is made up—or one that is open.

Far from being inherent, critical thinking is developed in childhood and continues through the formative years. This is quite paradoxical. On the one hand, the education you get in your youth aims to provide content, through learning and knowledge. On the other hand, a true education must allow you to build this thinking machine on your own so as not to reduce education to mere formatting.

Knowledge and methods

On one hand, there is knowledge; on the other hand, there are tools that allow us to think. So, if critical thinking requires a real method to function, it must be based on solid theoretical skills and knowledge in the practiced field. (If you haven’t mastered a science, it’s difficult to give an opinion on research work in that field).

At the heart of the method, there is doubt which acts as a safeguard against any rushed thoughts and beliefs. Allowing yourself to doubt is a self-corrective practice that keeps you from falling into any traps. In his remarks on happiness , French philosopher Émile-Auguste Chartier, who wrote under the pseudonym of Alain, reminds us that doubt is essential to reasoning in an impartial manner. “The principle of true courage is doubt. The idea of shaking up a thought that we trusted is a brave idea. Every inventor has questioned what no one else doubted. That was the true blasphemy.”

To use critical thinking in your individual or collective decision-making, here a few useful steps:

  • Formalise the problem and state it verbally or in writing. For example, let’s say your team is dissatisfied with the software they’re using. Is everyone complaining just for the sake of it, or does the tool really not meet the specifications? What are your requirements for this tool? What is its purpose? What service does it have to provide? Why does the existing software no longer seem to satisfy its users?
  • Gather information to examine the different aspects of the issue. In this example, what other existing software would provide a similar service? What are the advantages and disadvantages of these? But also, what would another one cost, in terms of the time and energy needed to invest in making a change, and its impact on the team and clients?
  • Verify the accuracy of the sources of information . Think about the possible reasons and fears the teams may have around changing tools that could affect the decision. Marketing spiel from the sales representatives could also distract you from noticing defects in the tools and lead you to make the wrong choice. At this stage, you have to try to distinguish objective facts from subjective interpretations.
  • Compare viewpoints by interacting with other involved parties . For example, why not talk to other users of the proposed new software, or hold a team meeting about the issue to gather everyone’s opinions?
  • Analyse the arguments for each of the options and the consequences they might have on the decisions to be made. Finally, you could make a spreadsheet listing the options and then count the “pros” and “cons”. This way you can prioritize the solutions before making a decision.

The more you practice critical thinking, the more it will become ingrained. It is important to pay attention to any potential pitfalls in your thinking. Your brain sometimes leads you to take shortcuts; this is called “cognitive bias”. These biases act as optical illusions on your thinking, causing you to make errors in reasoning. Knowing them is one way to give yourself the chance to avoid them. You probably already know about some of them, such as confirmation bias, anchoring bias, the Dunning-Kruger effect , and many other biases that you can learn to recognize.

Enhance your critical thinking skills for job interviews

You tell yourself that a job interview is when you most want to fit into the mold of the employer’s expectations. You may think it is not the time to give off negative vibes by exercising critical thinking. Wrong. On the contrary, this is a rather sought-after quality, and you would be well advised to embrace it.

Demonstrate perspective on your experience Showing that you can put your experience into perspective is a good way to prove your critical thinking skills to a recruiter. Describing the facts as objectively as possible , based on the different factors and their consequences, without getting emotional or critical is a good way to show that you are able to see what was good and what was not so good, without resorting to either blaming your former employer or to self-flagellation. This will show that you will take future experiences calmly.

Give your vision of the job Sharing your vision of the job, the sector, or the industry during the interview can be just as interesting as showing your critical thinking skills. This is another way to reassure your interviewer by showing them that you are not short-sighted . When a business sets out to recruit someone new, sometimes they are looking for a breath of fresh air, a new element to revitalize the team. You don’t recruit someone if it’s just to keep doing what you’ve been doing. So all your ideas are welcome.

Vary the points of view When you bring up a subject, show that you’re able to put yourself in other people’s shoes. For example, let them know that you understand the point of view of a client, a service provider, or a superior in the management of a project. It’s a way to prove that you can take a step back and take the opinions of others into account so that decisions are then collective, benefitting as many people as possible.

Dare to doubt Finally, another way to show your critical mind is to just admit doubt and lack of knowledge . If you are asked a tricky question, don’t hesitate to say that you don’t know. To show doubt is to acknowledge that you don’t have the right information to answer it, or that your thinking about the subject is not fully formed. An attitude of intellectual honesty will work in your favor.

Ultimately, isn’t it your duty, rather than simply your right, to use your capacity for critical thinking? When faced with the pitfalls of thinking, boldly stating that the proposed solution is not necessarily the only good option is a demanding but constructive approach. By thinking critically, you discipline and improve your thinking little by little, making this soft skill your best ally for all strategic decisions in both your personal and professional life.

Translated by Kalin Linsberg

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What is Critical Thinking and Why is it Valuable in the Workplace?

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  • > Personal Effectiveness and Preparing for Change
  • > What is Critical Thinking and Why is it Valuable in the Workplace?

There are times at work when you simply have to “do.” A tight deadline, a demanding project outline, or a highly particular superior might mean that it makes sense to complete a task without too much mental tinkering. But work like this can be unsustainable and worse — it won’t leverage your ability to think critically.

There is value in thinking critically in every aspect of your life. From making decisions in your personal life, to interrogating the media you consume, to assessing your work with a critical eye, applying critical thinking is an essential skill everyone should be trying to hone.

At your workplace, critical thinking can distinguish you as a leader, and a valuable mind to bounce ideas off. It can help improve the quality of your work, and the perception those higher up the chain have of you.

Here’s what you need to know about critical thinking in the workplace:

What Exactly is “Critical Thinking”?

  In a nutshell, critical thinking is the ability to think reasonably, detaching yourself from personal bias, emotional responses, and subjective opinions. It involves using the data at hand to make a reasoned choice without falling prey to the temptations of doing things simply because they’ve always been done a certain way.

Critical thinking takes time. It might be quicker simply to take instruction at face value, or rely on the traditions of your team. But without analyzing the reasons behind decisions and tasks, it becomes extremely easy to adopt bad habits. This might be time-wasting meetings, inefficient uses of effort, or poor interactions with team members. Taking the time to ask “why” you’re doing something is the first step to thinking critically.

Sometimes, data is available which allows you to make reasoned decisions based on absolute facts. If you can show that a new best practice can objectively improve current processes with hard data, you’ve used the very basics of critical thinking. That said, actual numbers aren’t always available when making a decision. Real critical thinking involves taking a careful look at situations and making a decision based on what is known, not what is felt.

Why Is Critical Thinking Important in the Workplace?

The short answer to the above question is this: critical thinkers make the best decisions, most often. And in the workplace, where choices about how to complete tasks, communicate information, relate with coworkers, and develop strategy are so common, critical thinkers are extremely valuable.

A savvy hiring manager will make this part of the recruitment process. It’s pretty easy to gauge how someone is inclined to solve a problem — ask them how they would deal with a specific situation, and give them the opportunity to use their critical thinking skills, versus deferring to an emotional, or prescribed reaction. Employing people who can think and act reasonably will pay enormous dividends down the road.

Using your critical thinking skills in the workplace will define you as a problem solver. This is not only useful career-wise (although having upper-level people at your company think highly of you is undoubtedly a benefit) it also establishes you as a leader among your fellow team members. Demonstrating your ability to solve problems and accomplish goals effectively will help instill confidence in you with all your coworkers.

How to Use Critical Thinking in the Workplace

The first step to actually using critical thinking is approaching every situation with an open mind. You need to be receptive to all information available, not just the kind that satisfies your preconceived notions or personal biases. This can be easier said than done, of course — lessons learned and beliefs held are often done so with a reason. But when it comes to critical thinking, it’s important to analyze each situation independently.

Once you’ve analyzed a situation with an open mind, you need to consider how to communicate it properly. It’s all very well and good to approach situations with objective logic, but it doesn’t do you any favours to sound like  Mr. Spock  when you’re conveying your conclusions. Be tactful, patient and humble when you are explaining how and why you’ve come to decisions. Use data if available to support your findings, but understand that not everyone is able to remove emotion from situations.

how to use critical thinking skills at work

The final, and perhaps least obvious, application with critical thinking is creativity. Often, getting creative means pushing boundaries and reshaping convention. This means taking a risk — one that can often be worth the reward. Using a critical thinking approach when getting creative can help you mitigate the risk, and better determine what value your creativity can bring. It will help you and your team try new things and reinvent current processes while hopefully not rocking the boat too much.

Learn More About Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a valuable skill for all aspects of your life. It benefits problem solving, creativity, and teamwork. And it translates particularly well to the workplace, where it can distinguish you as a valuable employee and leader.

Taking the extra time to examine things objectively, make decisions based on logic, and communicate it tactfully will help you, those you work with, and your work goals prosper. To learn more about how to do that, have a look at our  Critical Thinking and Problem Solving for Effective Decision-Making   workshop and register today!

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Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

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Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings.

Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful details to solve problems or make decisions. Employers prioritize the ability to think critically—find out why, plus see how you can demonstrate that you have this ability throughout the job application process. 

Why Do Employers Value Critical Thinking Skills?

Employers want job candidates who can evaluate a situation using logical thought and offer the best solution.

 Someone with critical thinking skills can be trusted to make decisions independently, and will not need constant handholding.

Hiring a critical thinker means that micromanaging won't be required. Critical thinking abilities are among the most sought-after skills in almost every industry and workplace. You can demonstrate critical thinking by using related keywords in your resume and cover letter, and during your interview.

Examples of Critical Thinking

The circumstances that demand critical thinking vary from industry to industry. Some examples include:

  • A triage nurse analyzes the cases at hand and decides the order by which the patients should be treated.
  • A plumber evaluates the materials that would best suit a particular job.
  • An attorney reviews evidence and devises a strategy to win a case or to decide whether to settle out of court.
  • A manager analyzes customer feedback forms and uses this information to develop a customer service training session for employees.

Promote Your Skills in Your Job Search

If critical thinking is a key phrase in the job listings you are applying for, be sure to emphasize your critical thinking skills throughout your job search.

Add Keywords to Your Resume

You can use critical thinking keywords (analytical, problem solving, creativity, etc.) in your resume. When describing your  work history , include top critical thinking skills that accurately describe you. You can also include them in your  resume summary , if you have one.

For example, your summary might read, “Marketing Associate with five years of experience in project management. Skilled in conducting thorough market research and competitor analysis to assess market trends and client needs, and to develop appropriate acquisition tactics.”

Mention Skills in Your Cover Letter

Include these critical thinking skills in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, mention one or two of these skills, and give specific examples of times when you have demonstrated them at work. Think about times when you had to analyze or evaluate materials to solve a problem.

Show the Interviewer Your Skills

You can use these skill words in an interview. Discuss a time when you were faced with a particular problem or challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking to solve it.

Some interviewers will give you a hypothetical scenario or problem, and ask you to use critical thinking skills to solve it. In this case, explain your thought process thoroughly to the interviewer. He or she is typically more focused on how you arrive at your solution rather than the solution itself. The interviewer wants to see you analyze and evaluate (key parts of critical thinking) the given scenario or problem.

Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully and focus on the skills listed by the employer.

Top Critical Thinking Skills

Keep these in-demand critical thinking skills in mind as you update your resume and write your cover letter. As you've seen, you can also emphasize them at other points throughout the application process, such as your interview. 

Part of critical thinking is the ability to carefully examine something, whether it is a problem, a set of data, or a text. People with  analytical skills  can examine information, understand what it means, and properly explain to others the implications of that information.

  • Asking Thoughtful Questions
  • Data Analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Questioning Evidence
  • Recognizing Patterns

Communication

Often, you will need to share your conclusions with your employers or with a group of colleagues. You need to be able to  communicate with others  to share your ideas effectively. You might also need to engage in critical thinking in a group. In this case, you will need to work with others and communicate effectively to figure out solutions to complex problems.

  • Active Listening
  • Collaboration
  • Explanation
  • Interpersonal
  • Presentation
  • Verbal Communication
  • Written Communication

Critical thinking often involves creativity and innovation. You might need to spot patterns in the information you are looking at or come up with a solution that no one else has thought of before. All of this involves a creative eye that can take a different approach from all other approaches.

  • Flexibility
  • Conceptualization
  • Imagination
  • Drawing Connections
  • Synthesizing

Open-Mindedness

To think critically, you need to be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments and merely analyze the information you receive. You need to be objective, evaluating ideas without bias.

  • Objectivity
  • Observation

Problem Solving

Problem-solving is another critical thinking skill that involves analyzing a problem, generating and implementing a solution, and assessing the success of the plan. Employers don’t simply want employees who can think about information critically. They also need to be able to come up with practical solutions.

  • Attention to Detail
  • Clarification
  • Decision Making
  • Groundedness
  • Identifying Patterns

More Critical Thinking Skills

  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Noticing Outliers
  • Adaptability
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Brainstorming
  • Optimization
  • Restructuring
  • Integration
  • Strategic Planning
  • Project Management
  • Ongoing Improvement
  • Causal Relationships
  • Case Analysis
  • Diagnostics
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Business Intelligence
  • Quantitative Data Management
  • Qualitative Data Management
  • Risk Management
  • Scientific Method
  • Consumer Behavior

Key Takeaways

  • Demonstrate that you have critical thinking skills by adding relevant keywords to your resume.
  • Mention pertinent critical thinking skills in your cover letter, too, and include an example of a time when you demonstrated them at work.
  • Finally, highlight critical thinking skills during your interview. For instance, you might discuss a time when you were faced with a challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking skills to solve it.

University of Louisville. " What is Critical Thinking ."

American Management Association. " AMA Critical Skills Survey: Workers Need Higher Level Skills to Succeed in the 21st Century ."

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Building Critical Thinking Skills to Solve Problems at Work

MIranda Fraraccio

Table of Contents

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.

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.

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 ]

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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What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally, understanding the logical connection between ideas.  Critical thinking has been the subject of much debate and thought since the time of early Greek philosophers such as Plato and Socrates and has continued to be a subject of discussion into the modern age, for example the ability to recognise fake news .

Critical thinking might be described as the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking.

In essence, critical thinking requires you to use your ability to reason. It is about being an active learner rather than a passive recipient of information.

Critical thinkers rigorously question ideas and assumptions rather than accepting them at face value. They will always seek to determine whether the ideas, arguments and findings represent the entire picture and are open to finding that they do not.

Critical thinkers will identify, analyse and solve problems systematically rather than by intuition or instinct.

Someone with critical thinking skills can:

Understand the links between ideas.

Determine the importance and relevance of arguments and ideas.

Recognise, build and appraise arguments.

Identify inconsistencies and errors in reasoning.

Approach problems in a consistent and systematic way.

Reflect on the justification of their own assumptions, beliefs and values.

Critical thinking is thinking about things in certain ways so as to arrive at the best possible solution in the circumstances that the thinker is aware of. In more everyday language, it is a way of thinking about whatever is presently occupying your mind so that you come to the best possible conclusion.

Critical Thinking is:

A way of thinking about particular things at a particular time; it is not the accumulation of facts and knowledge or something that you can learn once and then use in that form forever, such as the nine times table you learn and use in school.

The Skills We Need for Critical Thinking

The skills that we need in order to be able to think critically are varied and include observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem solving, and decision making.

Specifically we need to be able to:

Think about a topic or issue in an objective and critical way.

Identify the different arguments there are in relation to a particular issue.

Evaluate a point of view to determine how strong or valid it is.

Recognise any weaknesses or negative points that there are in the evidence or argument.

Notice what implications there might be behind a statement or argument.

Provide structured reasoning and support for an argument that we wish to make.

The Critical Thinking Process

You should be aware that none of us think critically all the time.

Sometimes we think in almost any way but critically, for example when our self-control is affected by anger, grief or joy or when we are feeling just plain ‘bloody minded’.

On the other hand, the good news is that, since our critical thinking ability varies according to our current mindset, most of the time we can learn to improve our critical thinking ability by developing certain routine activities and applying them to all problems that present themselves.

Once you understand the theory of critical thinking, improving your critical thinking skills takes persistence and practice.

Try this simple exercise to help you to start thinking critically.

Think of something that someone has recently told you. Then ask yourself the following questions:

Who said it?

Someone you know? Someone in a position of authority or power? Does it matter who told you this?

What did they say?

Did they give facts or opinions? Did they provide all the facts? Did they leave anything out?

Where did they say it?

Was it in public or in private? Did other people have a chance to respond an provide an alternative account?

When did they say it?

Was it before, during or after an important event? Is timing important?

Why did they say it?

Did they explain the reasoning behind their opinion? Were they trying to make someone look good or bad?

How did they say it?

Were they happy or sad, angry or indifferent? Did they write it or say it? Could you understand what was said?

What are you Aiming to Achieve?

One of the most important aspects of critical thinking is to decide what you are aiming to achieve and then make a decision based on a range of possibilities.

Once you have clarified that aim for yourself you should use it as the starting point in all future situations requiring thought and, possibly, further decision making. Where needed, make your workmates, family or those around you aware of your intention to pursue this goal. You must then discipline yourself to keep on track until changing circumstances mean you have to revisit the start of the decision making process.

However, there are things that get in the way of simple decision making. We all carry with us a range of likes and dislikes, learnt behaviours and personal preferences developed throughout our lives; they are the hallmarks of being human. A major contribution to ensuring we think critically is to be aware of these personal characteristics, preferences and biases and make allowance for them when considering possible next steps, whether they are at the pre-action consideration stage or as part of a rethink caused by unexpected or unforeseen impediments to continued progress.

The more clearly we are aware of ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, the more likely our critical thinking will be productive.

The Benefit of Foresight

Perhaps the most important element of thinking critically is foresight.

Almost all decisions we make and implement don’t prove disastrous if we find reasons to abandon them. However, our decision making will be infinitely better and more likely to lead to success if, when we reach a tentative conclusion, we pause and consider the impact on the people and activities around us.

The elements needing consideration are generally numerous and varied. In many cases, consideration of one element from a different perspective will reveal potential dangers in pursuing our decision.

For instance, moving a business activity to a new location may improve potential output considerably but it may also lead to the loss of skilled workers if the distance moved is too great. Which of these is the more important consideration? Is there some way of lessening the conflict?

These are the sort of problems that may arise from incomplete critical thinking, a demonstration perhaps of the critical importance of good critical thinking.

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In Summary:

Critical thinking is aimed at achieving the best possible outcomes in any situation. In order to achieve this it must involve gathering and evaluating information from as many different sources possible.

Critical thinking requires a clear, often uncomfortable, assessment of your personal strengths, weaknesses and preferences and their possible impact on decisions you may make.

Critical thinking requires the development and use of foresight as far as this is possible. As Doris Day sang, “the future’s not ours to see”.

Implementing the decisions made arising from critical thinking must take into account an assessment of possible outcomes and ways of avoiding potentially negative outcomes, or at least lessening their impact.

  • Critical thinking involves reviewing the results of the application of decisions made and implementing change where possible.

It might be thought that we are overextending our demands on critical thinking in expecting that it can help to construct focused meaning rather than examining the information given and the knowledge we have acquired to see if we can, if necessary, construct a meaning that will be acceptable and useful.

After all, almost no information we have available to us, either externally or internally, carries any guarantee of its life or appropriateness.  Neat step-by-step instructions may provide some sort of trellis on which our basic understanding of critical thinking can blossom but it doesn’t and cannot provide any assurance of certainty, utility or longevity.

Continue to: Critical Thinking and Fake News Critical Reading

See also: Analytical Skills Understanding and Addressing Conspiracy Theories Introduction to Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

19 Creative Thinking Skills (and How to Use Them!)

how to use critical thinking skills at work

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In a fast-moving world, being able to find new perspectives and create innovation is an increasingly valuable skill . Creative thinkers are often at the forefront of driving change, solving problems, and developing new ideas. Not only that, but those who bring creative thinking to how they work are often happier, more productive, and resilient too!

So you might be asking yourself, how can I develop my creative thinking skills and think more creatively at work?  Whether you want to supercharge your interpersonal skills, advance your career or be happier and more satisfied in the work you do, it pays to learn to think more creatively.

For many people, creative thinking is the key that unlocks solutions, promotes diverse thinking, and leads to better relationships and job satisfaction. So how can you get started with creative thinking?  As passionate believers in the value of creative thinking, we’re here to help and truly think unleashing your creativity can be key to your personal development!

In this post we’ll define what creative thinking is, highlight the benefits, explore 19 key creative thinking skills and give you some examples of how to apply them in the workplace . Let’s dig in!

What is creative thinking?

Why is creative thinking important, what are the benefits of creative thinking.

  • What are creative thinking skills?  
  • Examples of creative thinking skills (and how to use them)
  • How to use creative thinking skills at work?

How to improve your creative thinking skills? 

Creative thinking is the ability to approach a problem or challenge from a new perspective, alternative angle, or with an atypical mindset. This might mean thinking outside of the box, taking techniques from one discipline and applying them to another, or simply creating space for new ideas and alternative solutions to present themselves through dialogue, experimentation, or reflection.

Bear in mind that the number of different creative approaches is as vast as the number of creative thinkers – if an approach helps you see things differently and approaching a challenge creatively, follow that impulse.

While there are some proven methods and guidelines that can help you be a better creative thinker, remember that everyone can be creative and finding what works for you is what is important, not the terminology or specific framework.

One misapprehension about creative thinking is that you have to be skilled at more traditional creative skills like drawing or writing. This isn’t true. What’s important is that you are open to exploring alternative solutions while employing fresh techniques and creative approaches to what you’re working on. 

You don’t need to be a great artist or even work in a traditionally creative field – we believe everyone is capable of creative thinking and that it enriches your personal and professional lives when you learn to be more creative.

Another misconception about creative thinking is that it applies only to the ideation or technically creative parts of the process. All aspects of our lives and interactions with people and challenges can benefit from creative thinking – from the ability to see things differently.

At work, thinking creatively might mean finding better ways to communicate, improve your working practices, or developing and implementing fresh solutions too.

Creative thinking is important because it drives new ideas, encourages learning, and creates a safe space for experimentation and risk-taking.

As organizations and people grow, they often develop tried and tested ways of operating. While it’s important to have solid working practices and processes, unswerving dedication to the norm can lead to stagnation and a lack of innovation and growth. 

Creative thinking is important because it drives new ideas, encourages learning and creates a safe space for experimentation and risk-taking. Simply put, creativity and creative thinking are part of what helps businesses and individuals succeed and grow .

Whether your team or business thinks of itself as a creative one, you can’t afford to miss out on the benefits of creative thinking if you want to grow , deliver change, and help your team bring their best selves to work. 

Using creative thinking skills at work creates b enefits not only in the ways we solve problems but also in how we approach everything from communication to self-fulfillment, task management, and growth . Bringing a culture of creative thinking into a workshop or group is often the job of a talented facilitator but whatever your role, there are benefits to thinking more creatively. Let’s explore some of the benefits of thinking creatively at work and in your everyday life!

Build empathy

  • Bust assumptions  
  • Become a better problem solver  

Find ways to move quickly and effectively

  • Increase happiness

Discover new talents and promote learning

  • Boost resilience and deal with adversity

Boost your CV and employability 

Empathy and creative thinking go hand-in-hand. By practicing creative thinking skills and regularly looking for new ideas and points of view, you can actively become better at understanding your colleagues, customers, and even your family and friends. One of the major barriers to having productive and meaningful relationships is an unwillingness to see things from a perspective other than your own or failing to understand how another person is feeling. 

By developing this skill, you can engage more meaningfully and honestly with people, ideas, and perspectives in all aspects of life. What’s more, because of the benefits that creative thinking can bring, you’ll actively want to see things from new perspectives and be more empathic : something that’s fundamental to creating real change.

Bust assumptions 

Assumptions can be harmful in both our personal and professional lives. Whether it’s making assumptions about why someone is behaving the way they are in a workshop or what features will make your customers happiest, holding onto incorrect or inadequately formed assumptions can be problematic . It can create difficulty and tension in relationships and what’s more, it can lead to the development or introduction of solutions that are simply unfit for purpose.

Using creative thinking skills to challenge assumptions, build clarity, and see things from new perspectives can be transformative. If an assumption someone else makes feels incorrect, think about why and try to find out more. If someone challenges an assumption you hold, be open and listen.

Become a better problem solver

An example of not being a creative thinker is sticking to a tried and tested approach and sticking to the norm in every situation without considering whether trying something new might not lead to better results.

When looking to solve a problem or create innovative solutions, going outside of what you know and being open to new ideas is not only exciting, but it can create more impactful solutions too. You might even try using problem-solving techniques alongside some of the creative thinking skills below to find the absolute best solutions!

Some processes and working practices can be slow, especially in large organizations with many moving parts – but do they all have to be? Thinking creatively can help you find lean, actionable solutions that you can put into practice quickly and test ahead of bigger changes .

Experimentation and a willingness to take risks are vital to growth and change, and creative thinking helps create a climate conducive to finding and trying quick, effective solutions. 

Increase happiness and satisfaction

Finding fresh, appropriate solutions to problems can be incredibly satisfying and is a fast-track to finding happiness both in and out of work. Bringing your whole self to a situation and being enabled to think outside of the box is a great way to feel valued and engaged with what you are doing.

Feeling frustrated with how a situation or process at work is going? Try developing and employing your creative thinking skills alongside your colleagues to find a better, happier way to collaborate! Feel unfulfilled or that not all of your skills and interests are being utilized? Consider how you might creatively deploy the skills or talents that make you happy and scratch that itch.

As children, we are encouraged to see things differently and try new things as part of our learning and growing process. There’s no reason we shouldn’t do this as adults too! Trying new things and learning to think creatively can help you find new skills, talents, and things you didn’t even know you were good at.

Staying curious and following what interests you with an open mind is a prime example of what a small change in thinking can achieve. Remember that creative thinking is a gateway to learning and by actively developing your creative toolset, you can grow and discover more in all walks of life – a surefire path to personal development.

Get better at dealing with adversity

It’s easy to get frustrated when problems seem to come thick and fast and existing solutions or methods don’t work. Adversity is something all of us will face at some point in our personal and professional lives but there are ways you can become more able to handle problems when they arise .

A strong suite of creative thinking skills is an important aspect of how we can build resilience and be more flexible when adapting or creating change. By exploring alternative ways of thinking, you’ll be better prepared to face adversity more openly and find alternative ways to resolve challenges in whatever context they emerge.

Creative thinkers are valuable employees at organizations of any size. Whether it’s championing innovation, creating change in policy, or finding better ways to collaborate, people who can effectively solve problems and leverage their creative thinking skills are better positioned for success at work.

Consider how you might plug your skills gap and boost your CV by developing your creative skillset and you won’t just be more successful – you’ll be happier and more engaged at work too! 

Whatever your background or role, you are capable of thinking creatively and bringing creativity into your life.

What are creative thinking skills? 

Creative thinking skills are the methods or approaches you might use when trying to solve a problem differently and explore a fresh perspective. While some of these skills might come naturally to you, others might need a more considered, purposeful approach.

For example, you might be a natural visual thinker who is great at presenting and interpreting visual information but you might not be so good at freely experimenting or creating space for reflection. In this case, you might try some brainstorming exercises to loosen up your experimentation muscles or create scheduled time for reflection in your working routine.

While creative professions like artists, writers, or designers may see more obvious uses for creative thinking skills, all professions can benefit from developing and deploying creative thinking . If you find yourself having difficulty at work or in need of inspiration or motivation, finding space to build on your creative skillset is a way to not only move forward but have fun while doing so.

If you think you’re not creative or have no creative thinking skills, we’re here to tell you that whatever your background or role, you are capable of thinking creatively and bringing creativity into your life : you might just need a little push or to reframe how you think about creativity!

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Examples of creative thinking skills (and how to use them) 

Creative thinking skills come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from things like abstract thinking and storytelling to finding ways to radically plan projects or recognize organizational patterns .

In this section, we’ll explore each of the example creative skills below and talk about how you might use them in your personal and professional practice. We’ll also point out some things to watch out for where appropriate so you can make the most out of your new creative skills and avoid potential setbacks.

We’ll also include a method from the SessionLab library that will help you practice and explore each skill, whether alone or with others .

Feel free to read and explore the creative thinking skill which feels most interesting or applicable to you and come back and experiment with others in the future!  

Some example creative thinking skills include:

Experimentation

Open-mindedness, lateral thinking.

  • Pattern recognition   

Deep and active listening

Challenging norms, lean organization, simplification, radical planning.

  • Collaborative thinking

Data collection

  • Interpretation and analysis

Interdisciplinary thinking

Frameworks and rulesets, micro and macro thinking, visual thinking, abstract thinking, storytelling.

Note that this list is not exhaustive, and there are many more ways of thinking creatively – try to see these creative skills as a jumping-off point for seeing things differently and exploring creative thinking at work . 

Let’s get started!

A core creative skill is the ability to experiment and try new things, whether that’s in your personal practice, in a closed environment, or even in the field. It can be easy to fall short of implementing new ideas or following through with creative projects because critical judgment or overthinking gets in the way . A good experimenter is a self-starter who makes informed decisions to kickstart projects and test hypotheses. 

Think of a painter who throws paint at a canvas and introduces new materials without overthinking or being self-critical. While not everything they try will be perfect, that’s the point – not every experiment needs to be successful in order to teach you something useful. By experimenting, you can try things that might prove useful or will lead you towards new solutions and better ideas. Remember that the act of experimentation is generative and often fun so be sure to give it a try!

One thing to watch out for is being sure to effectively capture the results of your experiments and to continue developing and iterating on the results. Experimentation is a great place to start, but remember that it is part of a larger process. Without effective documentation, you might not trace what delivered the best results and be unable to reproduce the outcomes. Experimentation is a great example of why creative freedom should be paired with a strong process in order to be at its best. 

Four-Step Sketch   #design sprint   #innovation   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   The four-step sketch is an exercise that helps people to create well-formed concepts through a structured process that includes: Review key information Start design work on paper,  Consider multiple variations , Create a detailed solution . This exercise is preceded by a set of other activities allowing the group to clarify the challenge they want to solve. See how the Four Step Sketch exercise fits into a Design Sprint

Four-Step Sketch is a great method for promoting experimentation. By following a process that enables quick brainstorming before development, you can help build an experimental mindset that also generates results.

Open-mindedness is a critical element of creativity and one of the best creative thinking skills you can try to build if you’re new to the practice. Being open-minded means being receptive to new ideas, different ways of thinking, and perspectives which are not your own. It means not closing down conversations or ideas prematurely and trying to actively explore what is presented to you.

Imagine that a colleague comes up with an idea that is so far out of the status quo it seems off-the-wall and bizarre. Being open-minded means actively engaging with what is presented and to refrain from forming judgments before first understanding where your colleague is coming from .

Your colleagues’ initial idea might not be perfect, but being open-minded and truly attempting to understand their perspective means you can create dialogue, foster creativity, and move forward as a team. 

Being open-minded doesn’t mean accepting every new idea and agreeing wholesale with every different opinion. While you should always try to be open and receptive to new ideas and other perspectives, you should also critically appraise and engage with them as part of a larger creative process. Don’t be so open-minded you have no strong opinions of your own!

Heard, Seen, Respected (HSR)   #issue analysis   #empathy   #communication   #liberating structures   #remote-friendly   You can foster the empathetic capacity of participants to “walk in the shoes” of others. Many situations do not have immediate answers or clear resolutions. Recognizing these situations and responding with empathy can improve the “cultural climate” and build trust among group members. HSR helps individuals learn to respond in ways that do not overpromise or overcontrol. It helps members of a group notice unwanted patterns and work together on shifting to more productive interactions. Participants experience the practice of more compassion and the benefits it engenders.

Open-mindedness is particularly useful when it comes to meaningfully communicating with others. Whether its developing the ability to walk in the shoes of someone else or building empathy and listening skills, Heard, Seen, Respected is a great method to try when learning to be more open-minded.

Lateral thinking is a prime example of how we can creatively solve real-world problems in a measurable and easy-to-understand manner. Deploying lateral thinking means using reasoning or non-traditional logic to find an indirect or out-of-the-box approach to solving a problem. 

A simple example might be a challenge like: we need to increase revenue. Traditional thinking might mean considering hiring new salespeople to try and get more direct sales. A lateral approach might mean engaging more with current customers to reduce churn, working with external partners to get new leads, working to get sponsorship, piloting an affiliate scheme or any number of new ways to solve the existing problem.

Broadly speaking, lateral thinking often means stepping back and considering solutions or approaches outside of the immediately obvious.

One potential danger with lateral thinking is spending time to create new solutions to problems that don’t need them. Not every problem needs to be solved laterally and the best solution might actually be the most straightforward. Be sure to tap into existing knowledge and appraise a problem before trying something radical to avoid wasted time or frustration!  

The Creativity Dice   #creativity   #problem solving   #thiagi   #issue analysis   Too much linear thinking is hazardous to creative problem solving. To be creative, you should approach the problem (or the opportunity) from different points of view. You should leave a thought hanging in mid-air and move to another. This skipping around prevents premature closure and lets your brain incubate one line of thought while you consciously pursue another.

Developing your lateral thinking skills comes more naturally to some than others. The Creativity Dice is a great method for getting out of linear thinking habits and moving into different ways of thinking.

Pattern recognition 

Pattern recognition is the ability to recognise existing or emerging patterns and make connections based on the patterns you have discerned . While pattern recognition goes back to our prehistoric roots, being able to spot patterns outside of the ordinary and consider what may not be immediately obvious is a vital creative thinking skill for today. 

Consider how meetings between some members of a team might often end in conflict. While it might first seem that these two people just can’t get along, it might actually be that certain emotional triggers are being tripped or the format of the conversation isn’t working. Looking beyond your initial impressions and from a new perspective might let you find a repeating pattern that isn’t immediately obvious.

When trying to spot patterns, try to be mindful of existing biases so you avoid bending what is happening to fit a pattern you might be expecting. Be sure to interpret all data fairly and honestly, even if you believe a pattern is already forming. 

Affinity Map   #idea generation   #gamestorming   Most of us are familiar with brainstorming—a method by which a group generates as many ideas around a topic as possible in a limited amount of time. Brainstorming works to get a high quantity of information on the table. But it begs the follow-up question of how to gather meaning from all the data. Using a simple Affinity Diagram technique can help us discover embedded patterns (and sometimes break old patterns) of thinking by sorting and clustering language-based information into relationships. It can also give us a sense of where most people’s thinking is focused

Pattern recognition is a skill that benefits from thoughtful practice. Try starting with a deliberate pattern-finding process like Affinity Map to build the ability to see patterns where they might not first be obvious.

While it might not seem like it at first, being a good listener is a creative thinking skill. It asks that a person not only try to understand what is being said but also to engage with the why and how of the conversation in order to reframe prior thinking and see things from a new perspective.

Deep listening or active listening is not only hearing the words that someone is saying but actively seeking to interpret their intent, understand their position, and create a positive space for further conversation. Not only does this create a deeper conversation for both parties, but this act of engagement and understanding leads to more creative and dynamic results too. 

Think of a workplace grievance that one person might have against another. Without actively listening and trying to understand the core issues from the perspective of everyone involved, you might not only fail to solve the issue but actually make staff feel less heard and valued too.

By employing this creative thinking skill in such a conversation you can see things more clearly and find a way to creatively satisfy the needs of everyone involved. 

Active Listening   #hyperisland   #skills   #active listening   #remote-friendly   This activity supports participants to reflect on a question and generate their own solutions using simple principles of active listening and peer coaching. It’s an excellent introduction to active listening but can also be used with groups that are already familiar with it. Participants work in groups of three and take turns being: “the subject”, the listener, and the observer.

Trying to be more present in conversations is a great place to begin building your deep listening and active listening skills . Want to supercharge the process as a group? Try a role-play activity like Active Listening to more thoughtfully see and reflect on how important this skill can be.

Not all established working practices are the best way of doing things. People who practice this creative thinking skill are likely to question the status quo in search of something new which can deliver meaningful change. While any challenge to the established order needs to be conducted respectfully and thoughtfully, thinking of how to go beyond the norm is how innovation occurs and where creative thinkers excel.

When trying to practice this skill, be prepared to question existing methods and frameworks and ask if there might be a better way outside of the limits of the current system. 

As with lateral thinking, it’s important to recognize that not everything is a problem that needs to be solved and so you may need to be selective in which norms should be challenged – otherwise, you may never make it out of the front door!

Additionally, challenging the established order often means questioning the work someone else has already done. While this is a necessary part of growth, it should always be done constructively and respectfully.  

W³ – What, So What, Now What?   #issue analysis   #innovation   #liberating structures   You can help groups reflect on a shared experience in a way that builds understanding and spurs coordinated action while avoiding unproductive conflict. It is possible for every voice to be heard while simultaneously sifting for insights and shaping new direction. Progressing in stages makes this practical—from collecting facts about What Happened to making sense of these facts with So What and finally to what actions logically follow with Now What . The shared progression eliminates most of the misunderstandings that otherwise fuel disagreements about what to do. Voila!

Challenging norms without a considered approach can be ineffective and potentially frustrating. Taking the time to build shared understanding and push in the same direction with What, So What, Now What? is a great way to explore how your existing process is or isn’t working and challenge norms productively.

Creative thinking doesn’t mean being disorganized or chaotic just because you have an abundance of ideas. In order to facilitate creative thinking, it’s important to stay organized and approach the process with the right framework, mindset, and space. As a creative thinking skill, lean organization means considering what you absolutely need to do in order to make things happen, versus what you don’t.

Think of how a large, multi-discipline team might go about organizing themselves for a big project. While it’s vital everyone is aligned and kept up to date, a traditional system of scheduled meetings might not be the most productive. Lean organization means considering the needs of the team, the project and thinking creatively about what you need to stay organized, and keeping unnecessary admin to a minimum.

Thinking creatively about organization is something all leaders should practice but any project can benefit from thinking through the process by which it will be accomplished. 

MoSCoW   #define intentions   #create   #design   #action   #remote-friendly   MoSCoW is a method that allows the team to prioritize the different features that they will work on. Features are then categorized into “Must have”, “Should have”, “Could have”, or “Would like but won‘t get”. To be used at the beginning of a timeslot (for example during Sprint planning) and when planning is needed.

Lean organization often means being honest and realistic about what is absolutely necessary versus nice to have. MoSCoW is an effective agile framework for planning work and also reframing your approach to organizing time, tasks and more!

Simplifying, presenting or decoding any information is a vital skill when working with others. In a creative thinking context, simplification is the act of seeing what is important about a task or piece of data and stripping away the extraneous parts to see things more clearly.

Some problems can feel unassailable because of their complexity or scale – simplification allows you to reconsider a problem in simple terms and reframe it in a way that means you can approach it productively. 

An example of using this creative thinking skill at work might be when presenting the results of a project to the rest of your organization. People working on other teams and in different disciplines could become disengaged if exposed to too many complex moving parts or it might simply be a waste of time to discuss every detail.

By simplifying a project into more succinct terms, you not only can help your group connect with the material swiftly but also boil a project down to its most important elements . This is a great way to creatively re-energize a project and identify where you can make an impact immediately. 

6 Words   #ufmcs   #red teaming   This tool is designed to help critical thinkers focus on a core idea by writing a short phrase summarizing their thoughts into a set number of words that are clear, concise, and accurate. This idea is based on a complete short story written by Ernest Hemingway: “For sale, baby shoes – never worn.” Six Words forces people to synthesize their ideas in a succinct and meaningful way, cutting away fluff and distilling the idea to its bare essence.

One way of practicing simplification is by summarising or condensing thoughts, ideas of stories into a more concise, compressed form . 6 Words is a method for cutting away extraneous material from ideas that engages creative thinking and reframing approachably – great for groups!

Any major project requires some measure of planning in order to succeed, especially when working with others. But are there times where overplanning or traditional working processes feel too slow or frustrating for the project at hand? This is where these creative thinking skills come in handy! Radical planning is a way of approaching project planning from an alternative angle in order to generate fast, effective results.  

When taking this planning approach, you will often shuffle the order of the normal planning process in order to create alternative outcomes and cut out elements you may not need. For example, with the backcasting workshop activity, the approach is to think of desired outcomes up to twenty years in the future and work backward to figure out how we can make small steps today.

You might also try planning with a mindset of what you and your team can each achieve immediately and in a more experimental fashion with an activity like 15% solutions . 

By approaching planning with a creative thinking mindset, you can surface ideas and plans which may not have come up with a more traditional planning process. Another great benefit is to question the normal manner in which your team or organisation approaches planning and can help your team find a method that works best for you!

Backcasting   #define intentions   #create   #design   #action   Backcasting is a method for planning the actions necessary to reach desired future goals. This method is often applied in a workshop format with stakeholders participating. To be used when a future goal (even if it is vague) has been identified.

Collaborative thinking 

Effective collaboration requires us to bring many different skills together, but consciously considering how to be a more effective collaborator is worth mentioning separately. When a creative thinker approaches collaboration, they will try to think of how to use alternative approaches to make the collaborative process more effective while also helping everyone on the team contribute and be heard.

An example is when it comes to getting work done in meetings – if the current process isn’t enabling everyone to collaborate effectively, you might employ creative thinking to try finding an alternative format, consider working asynchronously, or timeboxing parts of your agenda.

The best collaborators also find ways to champion the work of others and create a safe space for everyone to contribute – it might not be enough to assume collaboration will be accomplished when you get people in a room.

Employing this creative thinking skill can make all the difference when it comes to job satisfaction, interpersonal relationships and group outcomes too! Try approaching your collaborative projects more mindfully and see how it changes things for you!

Marshmallow challenge with debriefing   #teamwork   #team   #leadership   #collaboration   In eighteen minutes, teams must build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. The marshmallow needs to be on top. The Marshmallow Challenge was developed by Tom Wujec, who has done the activity with hundreds of groups around the world. Visit the Marshmallow Challenge website for more information. This version has an extra debriefing question added with sample questions focusing on roles within the team.

Working together on a task as a team is an effective way of kickstarting collaborative thinking, especially if you approach the task mindfully . The Marshamllow Challenge with debriefing is a proven method for engaging teamwork and by adding reflection time afterward, your group can share and build on what they learned.

Collecting data might seem like a solely analytical skill, but it is another area where creative thinking can lead to productive, unexpected and transformative results. Approaching the data collection process creatively might mean trying new techniques or sources, or simply reconsidering the how and why of your data collection processes.  

Imagine you are running a survey to measure customer happiness. You might try asking traditional survey questions, but find that your response rate is low and furthermore, your approach might be invasive and actively decrease happiness too!

If you were to approach this problem creatively, you might find that using a simplified form, asking for feedback at a different point in the customer journey, or utilizing an alternative measurement scheme delivers the data you are looking for. In many cases, thinking about the questions you are asking from a new point of view is what unlocks a better data collection process.

The key to this creative thinking skill is to try looking at the data collection process from a new, preferably customer-centric perspective while also considering why and how you are collecting data. You will likely find that by asking for input from your customers more creatively, you create space for more creative responses too!

3 Question Mingle   #hyperisland   #team   #get-to-know   An activity to support a group to get to know each other through a set of questions that they create themselves. The activity gets participants moving around and meeting each other one-on-one. It’s useful in the early stages of team development and/or for groups to reconnect with each other after a period of time apart.

3 Question Mingle is a get to know you activity that does double duty in demonstrating the power of approaching data collection creatively. By creating their own questions, a group can really think about what they want to know, how they ask questions, and how the results differ. Be sure to give it a try!

Interpretation and analysis

Interpretation skills can be varied though in a creative thinking context it means being able to successfully analyze an idea, solution, dataset, or conversation and draw effective conclusions. Great interpreters are people with a desire to listen, understand, and dig deeper in order to make their interpretation fully realised.

One of the ways creative thinking can improve interpretation is in helping us challenge assumptions or initial readings of data in order to consider other possible interpretations and perspectives.

Say your product is having a problem with losing lots of new customers shortly after signing up. You do a survey and people say that they leave because the product isn’t useful to them. Your initial interpretation of that data might be that you’re not the right fit for these customers or that the product needs new features.

If you were to apply creative thinking to the interpretation of this data, you might conduct further research and see that the product is fine, but people didn’t find the right features for them and that your onboarding process needs to be improved.

The key here is interpreting the data from various perspectives and then correlating that with other sources to form an accurate and representative interpretation, rather than going with your initial assumption . By following this process, you might also find that the way you are collecting data is flawed (perhaps not asking the right questions) or that more research and data collection is needed.

So long as you are sure to have data points and analysis to back up your findings, it pays to explore alternative interpretations so you can avoid bias and find the most accurate takeaways . 

Fishbone diagram   #frame insights   #create   #design   #issue analysis   Fishbone diagrams show the causes of a specific event.

Effective interpretation and analysis isn’t possible without a thorough exploration of the problem or topic at hand. Fishbone Diagram is a simple method for not only surfacing insights but framing them in a way that allows for proper and multi-perspective analysis.

Einstein is quoted as saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” In this mold, sometimes the best ideas and solutions come from fields and disciplines outside of our own. By considering how someone with a different skillset to your own would solve a problem or deploy solutions, you can often find ideas and techniques you may never have considered. 

Consider being tasked with improving employee happiness. A social media manager with a background in illustration and events management would likely try a very different approach to a sales manager who is used to a culture of incentives and bonuses. If you were trying to develop a new product, think of how a developer would approach deciding on key features versus an academic or a customer success manager? 

The important thing here is to try and use the perspective, skill set , and approach of another field or discipline to first consider and then solve a problem more fully . Where possible, try and include people from other disciplines in the process and try to avoid making assumptions.

As with all creative thinking skills, being open-minded and sourcing the expertise and opinions of others where necessary is vital when creating true innovation.

Mash-Up Innovation   #hyperisland   #innovation   #idea generation   Mash-ups is a collaborative idea generation method in which participants come up with innovative concepts by combining different elements together. In a first step, participants brainstorm around different areas, such as technologies, human needs, and existing services. In a second step, they rapidly combine elements from those areas to create new, fun and innovative concepts. Mash-ups demonstrates how fast and easy it can be to come up with innovative ideas.

Interdisciplinary thinking isn’t just for radical academics. By combining ideas from disparate fields in a fast, fun manner, Mash-Up Innovation is great for building creative thinking skills and generating results in one fell swoop!

All creative thinking skills are about reframing things in a new way of finding alternative approaches. This can often mean abandoning an existing framework and thinking outside of the box. That said , another way of applying creative thinking is by bringing rulesets, constraints, or frameworks to your approach in order to trigger deeper creative work and tap into a problem-solving mindset . 

Consider a simple task like trying to generate more customers. With free reign, there are innumerable ways to accomplish this. But what happens if you create a rule like, we cannot spend any money, or, these must be driven by social media alone. In order to accomplish your goal under these conditions, you must think more creatively and deeply, deploying more concentrated problem-solving skills than if you could try any approach you wanted. 

Alternatively, you might approach a problem with a framework that forces you to think under specific circumstances or with a rigid set of steps. Six thinking hats is a great workshop activity that asks participants to frame and reframe a problem from six different angles. While it might first seem counterintuitive, the use of rules or frameworks can create fertile ground for creative thinking and lead to more realized solutions!

The Six Thinking Hats   #creative thinking   #meeting facilitation   #problem solving   #issue resolution   #idea generation   #conflict resolution   The Six Thinking Hats are used by individuals and groups to separate out conflicting styles of thinking. They enable and encourage a group of people to think constructively together in exploring and implementing change, rather than using argument to fight over who is right and who is wrong.

Not all problems are created equal. Depending on how much it directly affects you, you might see a given problem as being more or less important than your colleagues, leading to a different response and approach to solving the problem. This creative thinking skill is all about being able to switch between seeing the bigger picture while also considering how something might manifest on a smaller scale.

Think of how frustrating it can be when an executive team makes sweeping changes that affect frontline staff in a way they might not have anticipated. Micro and macro thinking means seeing both problems and potential solutions from multiple perspectives and adjusting accordingly. 

Another key aspect of applying this approach is knowing the limits of your own knowledge and involving stakeholders from all levels of an organization to inform your ideation and problem-solving process.

If you’ve never worked in support and don’t regularly talk to your support team, you might not understand how a change to helpdesk software could impact your team and your clients – remember that a big part of any change in perspective is doing the research and talking to who will be affected ! 

Stakeholder Round Robin Brainstorm   #idea generation   #brainstorming   #perspectives   #remote-friendly   #online   A divergent process to generate ideas and understanding from different perspectives.

Learning to practice micro and macro thinking often starts with first listening to and understanding the needs and perspectives of others . Especially those who have varied positions in relation to the problem, solutions, or organization you are working with. Stakeholder Round Robin Brainstorm is an effective method of surfacing insights and perspectives quickly and productively.

Of all the creative thinking skills on this list, visual thinking might be one you are most familiar with. Visual thinking is a method of processing, learning, and presenting information and concepts with visual assets such as images.

Visual thinking is often associated with creative thinking because of the consumption and creation of images at its heart. Don’t let this make you think you have to be able to draw in order to be a visual thinker.

Applying this creative thinking skill means being able to interpret visual information, present concepts in an often simple visual manner, and communicate in a way that is more universally understood.  Drawing stick people is actively encouraged!

Visual approaches to problem-solving can help foster shared understanding and help people be more succinct or creative in their ideas. Remember: if an idea is too complex to be put into pictures, perhaps it needs further refinement .

Imagie-ination   #idea generation   #gamestorming   Images have the ability to spark insights and to create new associations and possible connections. That is why pictures help generate new ideas, which is exactly the point of this exercise.

While you might be able to jump straight into direct applications of visual thinking, it can help to try an exercise where you and a group explore using images simply and engagingly. Imagie-ination helps unlock the power of visual thinking as a team while also helping generate ideas too!

Abstraction or abstract thinking is the art of taking things out of their normal context and presenting them in a radical new light . While most creative thinking skills utilise abstraction in some form, it’s worth noting that actively trying to take an idea from one context and place it in another is a creative approach all on its own.

Think of Pablo Picasso’s cubist portraits – by taking something as common as a human face and bringing abstraction to his process, he created something radically different and innovative. You can create a similar effect by recontextualizing ideas, concepts, and problems and by looking at them from different, perhaps even conflicting points of view.

Abstract thinking is often built on engaging with absurdities, paradoxes, and unexpected connections . As such, it can often be fun, wild and surprising, and is a great way to generate creative ideas even in those who might be resistant to other forms of creative thinking. Lean into the weird!

Forced Analogy   #divergent thinking   #zoom   #virtual   #remote-friendly   People compare something (e.g. themselves, their company, their team) to an object.  

Forced Analogy is a quick, fun activity you can use to promote abstract thinking. Comparing one thing to another seemingly unrelated thing asks for a creative approach to context and metaphor and can really unlock a groups divergent thinking process.

Telling stories or narrativizing a problem can help us not only see things differently but understand where we share common ground with others. Everybody tells stories – whether that’s explaining our employment history, telling colleagues about what happened at the weekend, or when creating user personas and journeys. 

Leverage this inclination to help people not only realize they are creative thinkers by nature but to help them share something of themselves too!

As a creative thinking skill, storytelling is about applying our natural proclivity for stories into new situations or thinking about how to reappraise or present material narratively . Think of the basic storytelling concept like the idea that all stories have a beginning, middle, and end – how might we bring this thinking to a tough challenge, a new product, or when solving a customer complaint?

You might even use storytelling tropes like the hero’s journey when exploring ideas or company conflicts. Whichever way you go, remember that stories are a universal element of culture and you have a rich lineage to dip into if you need a new perspective. 

Telling Our Stories   #hyperisland   #team   #teambuilding   To work effectively together team members need to build relations, show trust, and be open with each other. This method supports those things through a process of structured storytelling. Team members answer questions related to their childhood, young adulthood, and now; then weave them into a story to share with the rest of their team.

Telling Stories in a collaborative space is one of the best ways you can approach creative thinking through narrative . By doing this activity as a team, you can help a group see the benefit of applying storytelling approaches outside of more traditional forms.

How many times have you had a tough problem that you can’t seem to solve so you get frustrated and leave your desk. Then, when you’re on a walk, standing in the supermarket, or falling asleep, a solution seems to arrive out of thin air? Often, you’ll find that creating space to reflect on a problem is an effective way to find a way forward.

The trick with making reflective space work as a larger part of your working practice is knowing when to take time to reflect, building space into your regular schedule, and finding techniques that allow things to surface effectively.

This might mean going for a walk with the intention to be present in noticing the world around you and gaining insights that can help your situation. It might also mean remembering to take time to rest or simply read and give your brain something good to chew on.

I notice, I wonder   #design   #observation   #empathy   #issue analysis   Learn through careful observation. Observation and intuition are critical design tools. This exercise helps you leverage both. Find clues about the context you’re designing for that may be hidden in plain sight.

In a creative thinking context, reflection often means giving an idea time to unfurl and to resist the temptation to force it – by creating space to observe and reflect with I notice, I wonder you might see new ways of thinking emerge naturally.

How to use creative thinking skills at work? 

At SessionLab, we’ve found many of the above creative thinking skills helpful when finding better ways to collaborate , handle workplace challenges or generate new ideas . Here are just a few small examples of things we’ve done that have benefited from thinking creatively as a team.

Using creative thinking to facilitate a site redesign

Using creative thinking to improve team communication, using creative thinking to improve collaboration.

Remember that creative thinking needn’t be explosive or radical to be useful – a simple shift in mindset or perspective can be all you need to create meaningful and impactful change.

When we began working on a site-wide redesign, we had to deploy a large number of creative thinking skills to make the process smooth and effective.

When first determining how to approach the project and scope the work, we reviewed how we had worked together on large projects in the past. While we saw there was room to improve, finding the best way to proceed and make the changes we needed was no easy task.

Challenging the entire process from start to finish with a creative thinking mindset and trying to stay open to alternative methods where possible was what unlocked the process for us. By reconsidering how we were running meetings, sharing feedback, and collaborating, we were able to identify where we were going wrong and then try alternative approaches more freely.

When it came to implementing solutions, we were also sure to  stay open to experimentation while challenging our core assumptions of what would work and wouldn’t. This really helped us refine the working process and tailor it to our particular team and goals.

Another example came with finding a new approach when work stalled on a specific page. For our features page, we began by following the standard approach we had developed – writing the copy and structuring the page first before then following with illustrations and images.

In this case, our existing approach got us to an impasse : it felt difficult for our designer to be creative and find the best way to translate ideas into images if the copy had already been defined and the structure felt too rigid. What we decided to do was to reverse the workflow completely and allow the designer to create design elements before we wrote the copy and implemented too rigid a structure.  

Throughout the project, creative thinking allowed us to challenge whether the existing way we did something was the right one and gave us scope to experiment and be open when finding solutions. Not only did this help us solve the immediate problems as they arose but they helped us come up with a great new design too! 

Creative thinking can come in extremely handy when it comes to communicating. If one form of communication or working process isn’t working, approaching the discussion with a creative thinking mindset can help resolve the immediate issue and create lasting change in how we converse and work together too. 

Like many virtual teams, we faced the challenge of some meetings feeling unproductive . The issues ranged from overrunning, crosstalk, not everyone feeling heard or able to contribute, or getting lost in ancillary discussions that were not productive or necessary. In an online setting, it can be hard to keep everyone on track and for things to run smoothly without accidentally talking over one another or causing frustration. 

When it came to crosstalk, we wanted to avoid the frustration of interruption and disruption but also wanted to ensure people did not feel like they couldn’t contribute . Using the finger rules technique in a remote setting allowed people to easily show when they wanted to speak and what they wanted to discuss without disrupting the flow of the meeting.

We also found that the reason some daily meetings felt unproductive was because the meetings were for the purpose of daily updates and there didn’t always feel like there was a lot to say, thus leading to frustration or unproductive time being spent in these meetings.

In this example, we moved to a weekly format while also ensuring that we continue daily check-ins on Slack. This approach meant that we cut down on unnecessary meetings while still ensuring everyone’s needs were met .

This method is an example of creatively approaching a communication problem by thinking outside of the box and being prepared to challenge core assumptions . While we all wanted to stay informed, it really helped to reconsider the methods for staying informed and whether our current approach was the best way to achieve what we needed. It was also useful to reassess how we approached meeting agendas and goal-setting – follow the link for more on that if you’re having difficulty with unproductive meetings!

Remember that creative thinking needn’t be explosive or radical to be useful – a simple shift in mindset or perspective can be all you need to create meaningful and impactful change .

Remember that looking to others and being inspired by how they did things can be as transformative as trying to reinvent the wheel!

A final example is how we approached collaborating on creating the new design. While all projects at SessionLab feature collaboration between multiple parties, in this case we wanted to create space for everyone on the team to contribute.

We found that when trying to collectively brainstorm in a live, remote session, it became difficult for everyone to contribute and reflect on what was being shared by other members of the team effectively .

Some people had been able to prepare less than others, other people were less aware of all the circumstances of the project, or others were less able to switch gears during their working day. This led to some contributions being missed, a messier working process, and a feeling of being rushed – all of which lead to less effective outcomes than we might have hoped for.

In this case, we thought of how asynchronous work , reflection time, and some small process changes might help solve the problems we were running into. We wanted to be able to respond to what was being shared more effectively while also creating space for everyone to contribute in a way that was most productive for them.

Starting the brainstorming session in personal MURAL boards asynchronously and on our own time meant everyone was able to ideate at the time that was best for them and without any distractions . By then encouraging review and reflection on other people’s boards ahead of the main session, we were able to properly take in ideas and let them develop without feeling hurried.

This approach reduced the amount of time we actively spent working together in a meeting while improving the quality of the work . It helped people engage with the process, reduced potential frustration, and also meant we were more able to respond fully to the suggestions of others. This was a great example of how thinking creatively and learning from others can help create better outcomes and a more streamlined process. 

It’s also worth noting that reflecting on our conversation with Anja Svetina Nabergoj regarding asynchronous learning and finding inspiration there was part of what helped this process along. Remember that looking to others and being inspired by how they did things can be as transformative as trying to reinvent the wheel!

Creative workshops and meetings made easy

how to use critical thinking skills at work

Whether you find that creative thinking doesn’t come naturally, if your skills need some attention, or even if you just want to try new ways of working, it can be difficult to know where to begin .

Thinking about the creative thinking skills above and considering which you might be missing or could benefit from purposeful attention is a great place to start, though there are also some concrete ways you can approach the process and improve your creative thinking abilities in a pinch. Let’s see how! 

Be present and aware of how you feel

Create space for new ideas, look to others for inspiration, throw yourself into new things, encourage creative thinking in others.

All skills get better with practice and creative thinking is no exception. Whether it’s active listening, experimentation or any other creative thinking style, it’s okay to not get it right the first time . The very act of being open to new approaches and perspectives is itself a way to improve your creative thinking skill set. However you try to implement creative thinking, know that exploration, iteration, and practice are fundamental parts of the process.

Try starting small and practice your creative thinking skills in your interpersonal relationships and collaborative projects. Take note of how it goes and try building up to larger and larger implementations of your creative thinking approaches. 

A key part of cultivating or improving any new skill is to be fully present and aware when utilizing that skill. Consider how a sculptor needs to be aware of their materials, how they handle the material and place them on the board in order to be truly successful. Being present in the moment is important for any collaborative process, but is an especially vital aspect of creative thinking.

If you find yourself frustrated, excited, engaged, or stuck, make a mental note of how you are feeling and consider how you might do things differently. Staying present and actively engaging with how a situation makes you feel before responding is one of the most effective ways of cultivating and improving your creative thinking – be sure to give it a go! 

As with many aspects of creativity, it’s not always effective to force it. Good ideas and finding new approaches can take time and an important part of the creative thinking process is creating space not only for reflection but to rest and allow things to surface. This might mean building more quiet, mindful time into your routine, reading and finding new inspiration, or simply learning to take a break. 

While this can be difficult to get into the habit of, it does get easier with time. Try blocking out reflective time in your calendar or letting others know that you are taking the time in order to make it stick and avoid interruptions. Reflective space is important and useful, and by treating it as such, you can help ensure it happens and doesn’t get discarded or forgotten about.

One of the biggest barriers to thinking creatively is simply not being open to what is in front of you. Whether it’s rushing to use an existing solution without investigating alternatives, failing to listen or be present when something new is being presented, or sticking with your existing assumptions, a failure to stay open and reserve judgment can kill creative thinking.

Try to stay open and apply creative thinking without pressure or being overly critical in order to improve those skills and let more creative approaches surface in the future. 

One of the best ways to find new perspectives and alternative ways of thinking is by looking to others. Whether it’s finding inspiration from other creative thinkers via conversation, reading and researching new sources, or simply listening and observing, looking outside of yourself is one of the most effective ways you can jolt your creative thinking. 

Try finding sources outside of your normal circles, whatever the medium. It can be very easy to get into creative bubbles that might unwittingly exclude new forms of thinking. By broadening your social, creative and critical circles , you can be exposed to all kinds of potentially inspiring or creatively engaging ways of thinking and doing.

It’s hard to create space and an opportunity for new ways of thinking if you stick to the same routines and activities. You’ll often find that trying new things and exposing yourself to new hobbies, skills and approaches can be massively engaging and exciting too.

An important aspect of creative thinking is applying the learnings from one discipline or approach to another. If a developer were to throw themselves into learning how to dance, they might learn something they can apply to their role as a developer.

An open and honest desire to explore new experiences in and outside of your working life is a vital ingredient in the creative thinking process. Try saying yes to doing new things wherever you can find them – being alive to possibility and engaging in the world is a great way of supercharging your creativity! 

Creativity is even better when shared. Whether it’s crowdsourcing new ideas, iterating together, or helping others build their creative thinking skills, sharing the experience is often a useful and generative process for all involved.

Try bringing a group together to explore thinking creatively together or run a workshop on developing creative thinking skills in the workplace. Not only will it help your participants with their own creative discovery, but it will also help you develop your own creative skills. 

Over to you

As facilitators and advocates of the power of workshops, we’re passionate about how creative thinking can improve many aspects of a group’s personal and working lives. At its heart, creative thinking is an empathic, generative act, and by bringing those concepts to the fore, we believe everyone can see better outcomes when solving problems, generating ideas or communicating with others. 

We hope we’ve given you some great examples of creative thinking at work and how you might discover and nurture your own creative thinking skills . That said, this list is by no means exhaustive and there are many more ways you might try thinking creatively. Think of this post as a jumping-off point for further exploration and creative development!

Do you have any concepts or approaches you’ve used to become a better creative thinker? Did you find any of the creative thinking methods above particularly helpful? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

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Very nice information. Thanks for posting such an informative blog. Creative thinking is an unconventional thinking that looks at an issue from different perspectives. Innovative thinking is a thinking that converts / commercializes a creative idea into practical application.

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The Fosbury Flop is a very good example of a creative idea and trend when we apply “the learnings from one discipline or approach [Engineering] to another [High Jump].”

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thanks alot…very informative and thoroug

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  1. A Short Guide to Building Your Team's Critical Thinking Skills

    A Short Guide to Building Your Team's Critical Thinking Skills. by. Matt Plummer. October 11, 2019. twomeows/Getty Images. Summary. Most employers lack an effective way to objectively assess ...

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    Ask questions and dig deep, rather than accepting information at face value. Keep your own biases and perceptions in check to stay as objective as possible. Rely on your emotional intelligence to fill in the blanks and gain a more well-rounded understanding of a situation. So, critical thinking isn't just being intelligent or analytical.

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    7. Optimizing processes for efficiency. Critical thinking examples in the workplace clearly show how teams can improve their processes. Customer service. Imagine a company that sells gadgets. When customers have problems, the customer service team reads their feedback.

  4. What Are Critical Thinking Skills and Why Are They Important?

    According to the University of the People in California, having critical thinking skills is important because they are [ 1 ]: Universal. Crucial for the economy. Essential for improving language and presentation skills. Very helpful in promoting creativity. Important for self-reflection.

  5. 6 Main Types of Critical Thinking Skills (With Examples)

    Critical thinking skills examples. There are six main skills you can develop to successfully analyze facts and situations and come up with logical conclusions: 1. Analytical thinking. Being able to properly analyze information is the most important aspect of critical thinking. This implies gathering information and interpreting it, but also ...

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    2. Understand your mental process. Identify and evaluate how you receive and process information. Understanding how you listen, then interpret, and finally react to information is vital to becoming more mentally efficient in the workplace. Being a critical thinker means you recognize your prejudices and how they influence solutions and decisions.

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    How to practice critical thinking skills at work. Thinking critically is easier said than done. To help you understand its impact (and how to use it), here are two scenarios that require critical thinking skills and provide teachable moments. Scenario #1: Unexpected delays and budget. Imagine your team is working on producing an event.

  10. Critical Thinking

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    The importance of critical thinking skills for success is evident in the improved decision-making abilities, enhanced creativity and innovation, increased efficiency and productivity, better communication and collaboration within teams, and adaptability and resilience in the face of challenges that it brings.

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    Communication: Once critical thinking ability has helped you arrive at a decision, it is necessary to communicate your decision effectively to others, whether at work or within your personal life. Rationalization: The ability to legitimize your rationale for a decision is crucial to the process of critical thinking.

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    Evaluate all existing evidence and be open to revising your hypothesis. Pull in related information for a more systemic, broader understanding of the issue. 5. Develop conclusions based on data and present recommendations. Drawing conclusions is the final and most crucial part of critical thinking.

  16. Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

    Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings. Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful ...

  17. 6 Critical Thinking Skills and Why They are Important at Work

    Here are six critical thinking skills you can develop, use at work and include on your resume: 1. Observation. Observation skills refer to the ability to use your five senses to identify opportunities, and solutions in your surroundings. Observant people can spot problems or predict issues before they happen.

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    Identify the problem. The first step of critical thinking is to identify the problem or question that you need to address. This means clarifying the scope, context, and criteria of the problem ...

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    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.

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