Critical thinking is one of the most highly sought after skills in the workplace. Critical thinking skills allow a person to analyse information, arrive at conclusions and make sound decisions. Applying critical thinking in the workplace is an essential skill everyone should be trying to improve. It can set you apart as a leader, improve the quality of your work, and the perception those higher up the chain have of you. So what is critical thinking, and why is it important in the workplace?
What is Critical Thinking in the Workplace?
Although it sounds negative, critical thinking is not about being cynical or resistant. Critical thinking in the workplace is a deeper level of thinking where we question, analyse and draw conclusions about information and evidence. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of critical thinking is "the process of thinking carefully about a subject or idea, without allowing feelings or opinions to affect you." Essentially this means to think about something without falling prey to personal bias or doing things the way they have always been done.
Top companies are placing increasing importance on critical thinking skills in business. Business success depends on a person's ability to learn quickly and perform in jobs requiring decision making and problem-solving. To keep up with the rapid advancements in technology and rapidly changing business environments, businesses need critical thinkers to make reliable decisions and ensure the company moves forward.
Why is Critical Thinking Important in the Workplace?
Critical thinking skills are valuable in all roles in an organisation. These skills enhance communication, creativity and problem-solving. Thinking critically in the workplace allows you to connect ideas, evaluate arguments, find errors and solve complex issues. The workplace is packed with situations that require teams and individuals to approach complex problems and solve them using new and innovative approaches. Employees who can communicate and relate with coworkers, develop strategies and overcome issues are more likely to succeed.
Critical thinking is especially important in three areas of business:
Leaders often need to think critically when making decisions that impact the business. They need to employ critical thinking skills when considering situations and weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of possible solutions. Critical thinking is an essential skill for successful leadership.
Problems arise within all organisations daily. Some have a straightforward solution, whereas others require a more complex approach. As a business leader or employee, it's essential to think critically when facing more significant issues. Thinking critically will enable you to produce several alternative solutions to a problem, ensuring that the decision made is best for the company overall.
There is a strong link between critical thinking and communication. Applying critical thinking skills to communication allows you to consider the perspectives of others, anticipate how they might respond and formulate the most appropriate response. This leads to effective communication and improves productivity.
How to Improve Critical Thinking in the Workplace
Here are the top three ways to improve critical thinking skills in the workplace to become a more effective employee:
- Ask Questions
- Consider the Source
Questioning is an essential skill to develop if you are trying to perfect your critical thinking skills. When presented with a problem, asking questions will help you understand and evaluate it. Questioning is a great way to learn more about a situation and help expand how you think about things.
Consider the Source
Uncovering the source of information can help you understand the motivation or perspectives behind it. When learning or problem-solving, you should consider the source's motivation and evidence to support their argument. Examine if there may be other possible solutions or perspectives.
Once you have questioned the new information and considered multiple perspectives, you need to form your own opinion and act on the information. If it's a common issue or situation, you can research using the internet or discuss it with others who have also encountered the same problem. Search for reputable information from sources like news sites, educational institutions and nonprofit organisations
How to Measure Critical Thinking
There are several critical thinking tests to measure critical thinking skills in the workplace. The most applicable test to the workplace is a reasoning test. Reasoning skills play an essential role in workplace tasks requiring different elements of intelligence like critical thinking, problem-solving and tasks involving creativity. A reasoning test enables employers to assess critical thinking skills in the workplace.
Critical thinking and reasoning processes require active and thorough processing of information by collecting, analysing, conceptualising, combining and assessing it. Many jobs performed in organisations require these skills. Although we can develop these skills, a person with advanced reasoning skills is likely to perform more effectively in tasks requiring reasoning skills, such as critical thinking.
Every person is unique, and so are our reasoning skills. Genetics, education and intelligence all contribute to our level of reasoning skills. A reasoning or cognitive ability test is designed to assess critical thinking skills. The reasoning test will produce an assessment of our current level of reasoning skills, what this might look like in practice and which reasoning skills we may want to develop. As we can learn any other skills, we can also learn reasoning skills if we want to.
Examples of Critical Thinking the Workplace
There are many critical thinking in the workplace examples. Some of them we do regularly and may not identify them as critical thinking skills.
- Risk Assessment
Employees in the construction industry or in health and safety departments often need to complete risk assessments. This requires them to consider the situation before them, identify potential hazards and predict areas that may produce a level of risk. Risk assessments require employees to think critically about the information from multiple perspectives, such as the types of contractors entering the site, evaluate possible risks and overcome these problems
- Data Analysis
Multiple roles and industries require the analysis of data. These include accountants, business analysts and marketing strategists. While digital applications can collate large data, only humans can analyse and interpret what the data may be telling us. For example, a digital marketing strategist looks at website data, infers what it means, and develops a strategy to improve. This process requires marketing strategists to apply critical thinking skills to evaluate the situation.
One of the fundamental elements of critical thinking is being able to look at a situation objectively. This is also fundamental in recruitment. Recruiters and HR Managers need to analyse several CVs and other information objectively to identify the ideal candidate for the role. Demonstrating the ability to hire without considering age, gender, and other factors shows the ability to think critically.