Explaining Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is highly valued in the workplace and is one of the top five skills employers look for, in addition to teamwork, professionalism, communication and leadership.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “think critically” or “use your critical thinking,” but what does this even mean? We all think daily, so what makes this “critical thinking” any different?
In this article, we’ll walk you through the critical thinking process, what it is and how to improve.
What is critical thinking?
Critical thinking is the deliberate act of processing information to make informed decisions or solve problems. Through observing, researching, synthesizing and evaluating information one can form opinions and beliefs and particularly how to overcome obstacles.
Steps to critical thinking:
- Identify the problem
- Gather information
- Analyze data
- Determine the relevance of the information
- Make a decision
- Communicate solution
Why is critical thinking important?
Business problems are practically inevitable. Companies across all industries need critical thinkers to help them solve these problems and avoid future risks. Additionally, honing your critical thinking skills will help you:
- Become a more creative and efficient problem solver
- Build comprehension skills in reading and conversation
- Distinguish yourself as a valuable employee
- Establish yourself as a leader amongst your colleagues
- Determine how to improve the quality of your own work and develop professionally
Identify your own bias
The human mind has a habit of using heuristics, also known as shortcuts. These mental shortcuts can help us problem-solve and speed up decision-making. Sounds helpful, right?
As helpful as heuristics are, they also can lead to errors if you aren’t careful. If you don’t keep yourself in check, constantly relying on heuristics can cause bias to form. The scary part is that you probably don’t even know you have these biases.
When we recognize biased thinking, we can prevent prejudice and issues like hiring bias. Recognizing your limitations will help you seek out alternative perspectives and thus improve your critical thinking.
Be okay with being wrong
This can be a hard pill to swallow.
You’re only human; mistakes are bound to happen. But it’s crucial we learn and grow from these mistakes. The first solution you arrive at may not be the final conclusion. And the second, third or fourth solution might not be the right one either, and that’s okay too.
Did anyone ever tell you as a child to “think before you act” or “think before you speak”? Well, this rule is still very integral to the critical thinking process. When you arrive at a solution, you need to consider all possible outcomes that may arise. Ideally, you want to pick the option that will still solve your problem while minimizing any negative impact. Drafting up a pros and cons list can help you visualize all your options and help you make an informed decision.
Break it down
Sometimes a problem can seem so massive and complex that we become overwhelmed. To make it more manageable, break the problem or situation into smaller pieces. Doing so will help you thoroughly analyze the situation and avoid burnout.
Similar to the principles of goal setting, it’s much easier to tackle smaller milestones than one sizeable overarching goal. Make a list of steps you must go through and determine their priority. Go through each step or item individually until each one is complete. As you go through each step, you will discover possible solutions rather than feeling drowned by the problem.
Refer to existing evidence
Using prior knowledge from your own experiences or research can help guide the critical thinking process. If you are unsure where to start, think about similar challenges you’ve faced in the past. How did you approach the problem? What was the outcome? Conducting research and applying your previous experiences can help you find a more effective solution.
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