Are you a job candidate looking to land the perfect job? Or an employee aiming to climb the next rung on your career ladder?
Developing your critical thinking skills will make you a better candidate for that new job or that promotion.
The words “critical thinking” frequently pop up in job descriptions and on adjective lists for resume-writing, so it’s clearly a desirable characteristic.
What Is Critical Thinking?
Thinking critically is the ability to analyze a concept objectively, considering the facts and differing perspectives to reach a sound, logical conclusion.
The reason critical thinking is a skill—and not just an automatic thought process—is because most people naturally think “uncritically,” making decisions based on personal biases, self-interest, or irrational emotions. Everyone is vulnerable to this type of simplistic thinking—it’s human nature.
However, there are ways to improve your thought process to be more intentional about thinking critically.
How to Think Critically
Developing your critical thinking skills will help you become a valued member of any team—at work, at school, or anywhere that solid decision-making skills are needed.
Here are some ways to improve your critical thinking skills:
- Know your biases and try to look past them
- Ask questions and gather information
- Evaluate the facts of the situation and all available data
- Collaborate and get feedback from others—especially people with different backgrounds to your own
- Generate possible solutions, particularly out-of-the-box ideas
- Consider the short- and long-term consequences of implementing each solution
Impress Employers With Your Critical Thinking Skills
Employers value workers who know how to think critically. Critical thinkers bring creative solutions to the table and help businesses to innovate and remain competitive.
Critical thinking examples exist in every part of the workplace, from the corporate executive offices to the sales floor. Whether you’re the boss or an intern, knowing how to think critically gives you the power to make positive contributions to the company.
Here are some critical thinking examples in different job positions.
As team leaders, managers are role models for their direct reports. How managers analyze problems influences how their team members will handle issues going forward. Managers that use critical thinking processes foster teams that are intentional about assessing problems and devising solutions.
A business analyst’s job is to evaluate data and make informed decisions regarding a company’s performance. Careful critical thinking can uncover innovative solutions to address issues that come up and to boost business growth in the future.
Human Resources Specialist
Workers in the human resources department are responsible for hiring new talent, determining which employees get pay raises and deciding appropriate consequences for workers who have violated company policy. Each of those situations requires deliberate critical thinking on the part of human resources specialists, who literally have the power to make or break a colleague’s career.
Well-developed critical thinking skills are vital to the marketing team’s ability to create and manage successful marketing campaigns. Marketing associates must be able to gather and analyze demographic information about an organization’s target audience in order to know how to reach customers effectively when promoting the brand.
Sales Agent and Customer Service Representative
Customer service reps and sales agents have the most direct contact with clients. The ability to think critically enables both groups of workers to satisfy customers’ needs. For instance, if a disgruntled customer storms into a store to complain about a faulty product, a critically thinking customer service associate can get to the root of the problem and suggest possible solutions to the client, who can then choose the best option and leave on a positive note.
Written by Jessica L. Mendes.
How many times have you responded too quickly to a message or made a hasty business decision, only to find that you needed to correct yourself later because you didn't think it all the way through? It happens to even the best workers, but having to backtrack and fix these kinds of avoidable mistakes costs you more than your pride — it's a waste of valuable time.
"Everyone is incredibly busy, and often we believe that we don't have the time to really think through an issue," said Jen Lawrence, co-author of "Engage the Fox: A Business Fable About Thinking Critically and Motivating Your Team" (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2014). "Using a structured thinking process will actually save employees time in the long run because they avoid making mistakes such as jumping to the wrong conclusion or making a decision that others reject down the road."
Critical thinking — which business consultant and author Steve Siebold defines as the ability to remove all emotion from an issue and observe the facts objectively to make a logical decision — is clearly advantageous for business. Lawrence noted that critical thinking helps employees gather all of the information required to analyze a situation, generate optimal solutions to a problem and get feedback from all the people involved in the situation. All of these steps, she said, contribute to better business solutions overall.
But why is it so difficult to encourage critical thinking in the workplace? Part of it is that people assume everyone in their workplace is busy and has no time, but it's also because critical thought isn't a priority in U.S. society as a whole. [The 10 Job Skills Employers Want]
"Schools are no longer routinely teaching basic thinking processes, such as rhetoric or the scientific method," Lawrence told Business News Daily. "Many companies find that they need to provide training in critical thinking."
"It's just not something we're really focused on," added Siebold, author of "177 Mental Toughness Secrets of The World Class" (London House Press, 2010). "We're emotional creatures by default. We're trained to think with emotions instead of using statistics, logic, reason, etc. Society fosters emotion-based thinking and decision making."
Critical thinkers are open-minded, confident, decisive, not reliant on others' approval and able to see past their emotions when making choices, Siebold said. To encourage your team to think critically, he advised asking employees how they make most of their decisions. Is it based on concrete proof, rather than a gut feeling? Can the decision be justified beyond the person's intuition, or be supported by anything that's not emotionally related? If a person can answer "yes" to these questions, he or she is engaging in a critical thought process.
Anyone is capable of learning and improving critical-thinking skills, but teaching your employees how to do this isn't always an easy task, especially if, as a leader, you're prone to quick, thoughtless decisions. The best way to encourage critical thinking is to lead by example, Lawrence said.
"If a CEO makes knee-jerk reactions that do not take all stakeholders into account, it will be hard to cultivate a culture of critical thinking," Lawrence said. "Good thinking practices should be modeled by the senior management team."