Did you know that you make 35,000 remotely conscious decisions in a given day? Think about it - you have to decide whether you want to get up when your alarm rings or hit snooze, how long to take a shower for, what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, and the list goes on.
When you step into a workplace, your decisions revolve around when to grab a cup of coffee, if you would like to converse with your colleagues during your break, and what you should start work on once you have settled in at your desk.
Of course, there are some decisions you routinely address, and then there are others that require more focus and attention. In hiring, specifically, critical thinking is a soft skill that is rare to find and highly prized among potential candidates.
Employees with strong critical thinking skills are able to solve problems better and thus drive more effective results. In this blog post, we discuss the importance of critical thinking in the workplace and how it can be promoted and cultivated:
What is critical thinking?
Critical thinking involves using rationality and common sense to determine the best decision in a given situation. You can absorb information and then use that information to make deductions and drive desirable outcomes.
Critical thinking also makes you adept at studying arguments, identifying inconsistencies, and using introspection to develop stronger solutions.
Many companies, therefore, tend to value critical thinking in employees and assign them to complex projects that require more than just average effort. Key critical thinking skills include:
- Analysis - gathering and interpreting information as relevant
- Inference - reaching conclusions based on the data
- Observation - being able to notice and identify gaps and opportunities
- Communication - sharing those solutions with relevant team members along with appropriate explanations and supporting data
- Problem-solving - troubleshooting solutions based on those conclusions
What are critical thinking examples in the workplace?
One typical example of critical thinking at work is problem-solving, which involves identifying and analyzing a problem, evaluating potential solutions, and implementing the most effective one.
For instance, a manager might use critical thinking to address a production issue by analyzing the root cause, evaluating various solutions, and selecting the best one to improve the production process.
Another example is decision-making, which enables the employee to weigh the pros and cons of different options and make a rational choice. This can include evaluating the impact of a decision on the company’s bottom line or assessing the potential risks and benefits of a new product launch.
In another example, a data analyst will use critical thinking skills to identify trends, patterns, and anomalies in the data to make informed decisions and recommendations.
Critical thinking is also essential in communication, allowing employees to convey their ideas and understand others’ perspectives effectively. For example, a team leader who uses critical thinking skills will be able to present a proposal clearly and logically and anticipate and address any potential objections or concerns, thus enhancing the team dynamics.
Why critical thinking in the workplace matters
Regardless of your industry, you should be able to make reasonable, rational, and logical decisions without relying on a manager or colleague to make decisions for you.
Over the past 3 years, the proportion of jobs that demand critical thinking has increased by 158%.
Critical thinking sets an employee apart from those who merely memorize information or need to be told what to do. It is thus a highly coveted skill in any kind of workplace. Some ways in which it matters in the workplace include:
1. Making better decisions
Critical thinking enables employees to find the most efficient path forward at work and elsewhere. It is instrumental when it comes to big decisions, such as whether or not to apply for a promotion.
2. Meeting job requirements
Certain jobs, like those in the medical and legal professions, require employees to be good at complex problem-solving by default. Critical thinking is much more than nice to have in those cases.
3. Achieving greater happiness
Critical thinkers are able to understand themselves much better, which means they can make the necessary decisions to improve their lives. This will make them happier people.
4. Standing out as knowledgeable
In the information age, everyone has access to data. However, those who know how to sift through that data, find the relevant facts, and apply them to problem-solving are the ones who will make a mark as contributors and thought leaders.
5. Being open to new perspectives
Critical thinkers are always open to absorbing new information and seeing how it shines a light on questions they are trying to answer. This allows them to see situations from multiple perspectives and be open to opinions that differ from their own.
How to promote critical thinking in the workplace
Critical thinking is an ability - some are born with it, others nurture it along the way. Being a critical thinker does not just help employees get ahead at work but also help them make smarter decisions about their own life. Here is how to cultivate an environment at work that emphasizes critical thinking:
1. Hire and build a team of critical thinkers
Actively seek out and hire individuals with strong critical thinking skills using behavioral interviewing techniques to assess their abilities in areas such as logical reasoning, aptitude, and lateral thinking.
Additionally, by making this skill a desired competency for leadership positions and promotions, you can identify and develop a pipeline of talented critical thinkers who can take on key roles within the company, pushing forward succession planning.
2. Foster inquiry and learning at work
This can be achieved by creating opportunities for employees to reflect on their work and identify areas where more critical thinking could have been beneficial. For example, holding “lessons learned” discussions after completing essential projects will compel them to look back and identify areas for improvement and boost their learning agility.
3. Make it cool to ask questions
When working with others, it is important to ask questions to understand the topic from all angles. This includes considering who the topic is for, what it hopes to achieve, what other perspectives exist on the topic, and why it matters to the problem at hand.
Additional research may be needed to answer these questions adequately. Even when working independently, one must ponder over these questions to ensure a thorough understanding of the topic.
Fostering an environment where employees feel comfortable asking tough questions and openly discussing alternatives can encourage critical thinking and encourage them to question assumptions and explore new ideas.
4. Stimulate opinion formation
Armed with all the necessary information and answers, employees can make an informed opinion rather than something copied from their colleagues or someone online. However, encourage them to be open to changing it if new information comes their way.
The source of any information holds weight as it determines what angle is being pushed and whether there is any hidden agenda. For instance, information in an advertisement will always paint the brand in a positive light.
Whether it is a news article employees read or something a colleague passes on to them, it is vital not just to accept it blindly. Push employees to consider it, weigh it from all angles, understand what other perspectives might exist on it, and keep doing so until they find something that is the objective truth.
And information from an individual might be presented in a way that makes the individual look good. Wherever possible, it is essential to look for unbiased sources and study those. News sites, educational journals, and academic books are always good ideas.
Curiosity is a necessary part of true critical thinking and is the quality that even the smartest people often forget about. It is, therefore, essential to put oneself ahead of the pack and hold on to your curiosity.
Why people lack critical thinking skills
A study found that people are worried about the impact of technology on the acquisition of critical thinking skills. They also blamed deficits in critical thinking on changing societal norms and the education system.
Hire critical thinkers in the workplace
So you see how critical thinking is a highly valued soft skill in companies. It enables employees to make rational, logical, and informed decisions independently, without relying on others to make decisions for them.
The Critical Thinking Test is an effective tool for recruiters and hiring managers to identify qualified candidates from a pool of resumes and make objective hiring decisions. It reduces the administrative burden of interviewing many candidates and saves precious time by separating the wheat from the chaff.
The test screens candidates for skills such as making correct inferences, recognizing assumptions, making deductions, coming to conclusions based on given data, interpreting and evaluating arguments. The insights generated from this skill assessment test can be used to identify the best candidates for the role. Give it a go today!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the four qualities of critical thinkers?
The four main qualities of critical thinkers are curiosity, open-mindedness, skepticism, and flexibility. They possess a desire to learn and explore new ideas, a willingness to consider and evaluate different perspectives, a questioning attitude and tendency to seek evidence, and the ability to adapt their thinking and outlook in light of new information or evidence.
What are the barriers to critical thinking in the workplace?
One of the main barriers to critical thinking in the workplace is the pressure to conform to group opinions or company culture. This can lead individuals to suppress their thoughts and ideas and instead go along with the status quo.
Another barrier is the tendency to rely on intuition or gut feelings rather than taking the time to gather and evaluate evidence. This can lead to poor decision-making. Cognitive diversity biases such as confirmation bias and groupthink can impede critical thinking.
Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out and interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs. At the same time, groupthink is where a group’s desire for harmony and agreement overrides the critical evaluation of ideas and information.