What Is Critical Thinking, And How to Promote It in the Workplace? 4 Helpful Exercises

Critical Thinking
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Critical thinking involves deciding or judging based on facts, analysis, and thorough consideration of the situation. It’s most commonly used in business, and academic settings but can be helpful in other conditions. This post will teach you what critical thinking is and how to promote it in the workplace so that employees aren’t prone to faulty decision-making, which could cost the company thousands or even millions of dollars.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking involves analyzing, understanding, evaluating, and applying information. For an individual to be able to think critically, three essential components must be present: knowledge, reasoning skills, and judgment.

The Importance of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking can be tricky for some people to wrap their heads around. It’s very different from using your mind or brain, so let’s first address what critical thinking isn’t:

  • Critical thinking is not deductive reasoning or inductive reasoning
  • Critical thinking is not logic.

These are all separate elements of our thought process that work together with emotion and rational thought. However, they do not encompass an entire thought process in itself.

Critical Thinking Skills Can Be Taught.

Critical thinking is, at its core, a way of analyzing and evaluating information that can then be used to make better decisions. Unfortunately, many business professionals have yet to master these skills. But you can take steps as an employer or supervisor for your workers. If you’re struggling with poor performance due to poor decision-making skills, there are several ways you can help your employees grow as critical thinkers.

Critical Thinking
What Is Critical Thinking, And How To Promote It In The Workplace? 4 Helpful Exercises

The Three Stages to Better Critical Thinking

If you want to improve your employees’ critical thinking skills, focus on these three stages: problem identification, solution identification, and decision-making. The first step (problem identification) will be focused on general skill sets like communication or research. But as they move through each stage, they’ll need to gain more specialized skills—in logical reasoning or programming languages, for example—to advance toward a solution. Once they’ve reached that point, you can help them decide which path to take next. This cycle of learning new skills, identifying problems with those skills, and gaining new knowledge continues until they reach their goal.

One of these cycles will be different from another, but you’ll start with a broad set of skills everyone on your team needs. Then, through a series of smaller cycles, those employees will gain more specialized skills. Finally, once they’ve reached their goal, you can help them decide what to do next.

Tools For Better Problem Solving

Critical thinking is more about approaching problems than a defined set of tools. Here are some guidelines for smarter problem solving: Break big problems into small pieces. Don’t focus on finding the answer, but rather search for solutions (as there may not be one). Focus on preventing errors (instead of making them right after they happen). Solve more minor problems first, eventually leading to eliminating the more significant issues.

How Can We All Learn More About This Skill Set?

Critical thinking may sound like an academic skill set—and it certainly is essential for anyone who works with data or ideas. However, anyone can learn critical thinking at any level, from CEOs to entry-level employees. Critical thinkers think creatively, strategically, and independently; they know how to work under pressure and make decisions based on evidence. They also embrace change—they don’t fear what’s coming next because they’re prepared for anything.

Examples of Effective Critical Thinkers

Critical thinkers are required for problem-solving, which means they can be identified by observing their ability to identify problems, collect information on those problems, analyze them, form hypotheses, test them, and draw conclusions. If you know what an excellent critical thinker looks like, you know what not-so-good ones also look like.

Critical Thinking Exercises

It may sound like a buzzword, but critical thinking is key to success—not just professionally but also in life. For example, job interviews are all about critical thinking: A hiring manager will be asking you questions that require some thought before you respond. So what exactly is critical thinking? Simply put, it’s when you evaluate information and make decisions based on evidence rather than emotions or biases. To improve your ability to think critically, try these exercises next time you have a few minutes of downtime.

  1. Make a list of the pros and cons of an argument or decision. Then, flip your list around so that you now consider only cons (or pros). What do you notice? Do both lists seem valid? Or did one side win over another? If so, why do you think that happened?
  2. How many different ways can you come up with to solve a problem or address an issue at work? You might even want to write them down.
  3. Think of a recent conversation you had with someone at work. Now, ask yourself: Why did I say what I said? Was there any other way I could have phrased my response?
  4. Next time you watch TV or read something online, stop after every paragraph and ask yourself if everything makes sense. If not, why not? These things will help you to become a critical thinker.

Tips to Improve Your Employees’ Critical Thinking

Making sure you have a team of employees who can think critically about problems will help ensure your business’ success. Here are some tips on how to improve employees’ critical thinking abilities. First, make time for discussion. Take advantage of regular meetings with staff to brainstorm solutions or problems that need solving, such as strategy sessions or weekly one-on-one check-ins with each team member.

Make sure everyone has a chance to contribute their ideas, even if they aren’t immediately relevant to that particular meeting. And this helps stimulate ideas and allows individuals from different areas of expertise within your company to interact and discuss different perspectives that could lead to new solutions.
Remember, it is a process and takes time and sincere efforts to master it.