How to develop critical thinking skills and think clearer

Critical thinking is the process of analyzing information to get the best answer to a question or problem. By drawing upon your own experience, reasoning, observation and communication with others, you can make informed decisions that yield positive solutions.

In this article, we’ll show you how to improve your critical thinking skills in the workplace so you can become a more effective employee.

Why critical thinking is important

Critical thinkers are in high demand in the workplace because companies always need better, more informed solutions. More specifically, critical thinking at work helps you:

  • Improve decision-making, evaluate an argument’s validity and its potential impact
  • Form your own opinions on a topic, develop your personal ethics and confidence
  • Engage on a deeper, more intellectual level with your coworkers and supervisors to form stronger working relationships
  • Evaluate your own work to determine ways to improve quality and efficiency
  • Develop better comprehension skills, both in conversation and reading

Critical thinking skills:
1. Observation: The ability to notice and predict opportunities, problems and solutions.
2. Analysis: The gathering, understanding and interpreting of data and other information.
3. Inference: Drawing conclusions based on relevant data, information and personal knowledge and experience.
4. Communication: Sharing and receiving information with others verbally, nonverbally and in writing.
5. Problem solving: The process of gathering, analyzing and communicating information to identify and troubleshoot solutions.

Steps of Critical Thinking

  1. Identify the problem or question. Be specific about the question you are asking.
  2. Gather and organize information. Find several sources that present different perspectives and points of view. This will ensure that you are not creating bias by only presenting data that supports your initial view.
  3. Analyze the data and sources. Evaluate the credibility and reliability of your sources of information. Look for bias in your methods of gathering data.
  4. Determine the significance of data. Establish which information is most important to the problem at hand. You may or may not have enough relevant information to make an informed decision.
  5. Make a decision. Of the various possible conclusions, which one is supported by the evidence.
  6. Communicate your conclusion. Present your final decision to stakeholders

How to improve critical thinking

Here are several ways to improve critical thinking skills in the workplace to become a stronger employee:

  1. Become more self-aware.
  2. Understand your mental process.
  3. Develop foresight.
  4. Practice active listening.
  5. Ask questions.
  6. Evaluate existing evidence.

1. Become more self-aware

Becoming more self-aware means considering your thought process, values, morals, ethics and other beliefs. What do you believe in? How do your thoughts reflect these values? Think objectively about your likes and dislikes. Knowing what your personal preferences, strengths/weaknesses and biases are can help you better understand why you approach specific situations from a certain perspective.

2. Understand your mental process

Identify and evaluate how you receive and process information. Understanding how you listen, then interpret, and finally react to information is vital to becoming more mentally efficient in the workplace.

Being a critical thinker means you recognize your own prejudices and how they influence solutions and decisions. Taking time to analyze your mental process before making a work decision can help you act more objectively.

3. Develop foresight

Consider how others might feel about a situation or decision you make. Determine the possible outcomes of a situation and what might change, both positively and negatively. Having the foresight to predict how your actions at work will produce reactions will help you make the right choice.

4. Practice active listening

Active listening is a foundational element of effective critical thinking. Listen carefully and attentively while coworkers and supervisors are talking. Practice empathy and focus on understanding their perspective(s). Gaining a full understanding of what they want, need or expect can help you react positively and have a subsequent productive conversation.

5. Ask questions

When you’re not sure, always ask questions. Start with what you already know and confirm you have all of the details correct. Ask to have points repeated or consider rephrasing in your own words to determine whether you’ve accurately understood. Consider asking follow-up questions to get details that may have been left out or misheard. Follow up by asking yourself if something is a fact, an opinion or an idea. This step can help you assign purpose and value to a piece of information.

6. Evaluate existing evidence

Use previous experience and facts to help you make your current decision through critical thinking. Have you encountered a similar project or challenge before? What did you learn from that experience? By conducting research, sorting facts and using previous experience as existing evidence you can arrive at a more applicable and effective solution to work with in your present.

Tips for improving critical thinking skills

There are many ways to improve your critical thinking skills during your career development, including:

Meeting with a mentor

Having a mentor can help you develop a variety of skills in addition to being able to collaborate on solutions and decisions. They can help you focus while using critical thinking techniques, or they may have resources to help you improve your critical thinking skills.

Participating in team-building exercises

Many team-building exercises aim to improve critical thinking skills, both for groups and individuals. If your organization employs these exercises, be sure to participate. If your organization does not, consider introducing your team to examples during a meeting to gain similar benefits.

Asking for leadership opportunities

As a leader, you may be required to manage conflict resolution and make important decisions. These responsibilities are real-world experiences that require keen critical thinking skills. Consider asking to lead a new project or assist a team member in training to refine these skills.

How to develop critical thinking skills and think clearer

Do you react to situations based on your emotions or personal biases? Are you looking for ways to improve communication and the flow of ideas with those around you? There are skills that have the capability to greatly improve your capacity to make objective, effective choices and arguments, and those are critical thinking skills. Without these skills, arguments can often be one-sided. Criticism can feel like a personal attack on your character rather than an opportunity to open up dialogue and communicate productively.

Let’s take a look at how to develop critical thinking skills so that you can walk into any situation with the tools needed to set intense emotions aside and make insightful decisions.

1. Become a self-critic.

The very first and most important step for developing critical thinking skills is becoming a critic of your own thoughts and actions. Without self-reflection, there can’t be growth. You can break down your own thoughts by asking yourself why you believe something. When you do this, you need to clarify your thoughts by assessing this information objectively and finding a solid logic to what you believe, rather than just a muddled idea. Why do I believe this? Can I think of examples in my life when this proved true or false? Am I attached to this idea emotionally? Why? When we self-reflect, we are able to observe how we respond to a situation, in our minds and out loud.

Another aspect of becoming a self-critic is acknowledging your strengths, weaknesses, personal preferences and biases. When you know this information, you can understand why you approach certain situations from a specific perspective, and then you can step around that viewpoint because you are aware of its presence.

2. Active listening.

Thinking and listening are nearly impossible to do at the same time. To become a critical thinker, you need to be able to listen to others’ ideas, arguments and criticisms without thinking of your response or reaction while they are speaking. You can’t properly absorb the information someone is trying to convey to you if you don’t take the time to truly listen. Listening allows us to feel empathy. We hear someone else’s story, struggles, ideas, successes and passions, and how they reached them. When we hear their perspective, we can take that information and analyze it. When we use active listening skills, we can fully understand what someone is trying to tell us because that conversation continues until all parties can reiterate what the other is trying to say.

3. Analyzing information.

Analyzing information is paramount for critical thinking. No one thinks critically at all times. Sometimes our joy, anger, sadness or other emotions are too great, and other times we struggle to focus on the central issue at hand. To reach success, we need to analyze the information before us, whether it is information in our mind or being shared by others. We can break it down by assessing what is being said, and ensuring that we clearly understand what it is that needs to happen. Then we can dissect and appraise all arguments, including our own, and think about how the decisions would impact others, as well as the bottom line. When we can step back and analyze an argument, it allows us to approach it from an objective viewpoint.

4. Nonviolent communication.

Critical thinking isn’t much help if you can’t communicate in a nonviolent, productive way. When listening and analyzing different arguments, you first need the ability to recognize valid logic. Then you need to be able to communicate with other people in a productive way. The basis of nonviolent communication is compassion, observation and collaboration. When we approach any scenario with compassion, we are already in a peaceful mindset, rather than a defensive one. When we observe, we can observe our arguments and others without judgment and evaluation. We can detach our emotions from an idea. He doesn’t like my idea, so he must not like me. And collaboration naturally happens when everyone comes into the process with a compassionate, open mind, with the focus on solving the objective at hand rather than protecting anyone’s ego.

5. Developing foresight.

The ability to predict the future impact of a decision is foresight. Foresight is a critical component for success in all aspects of your life. When you move somewhere, you plan ahead to see what the job outlook is and the safety of a neighborhood. If you are moving a business, it is wise to examine the impact of that decision. Will it be too far for some of your talented employees to drive? Will you lose business because of the change? What will you gain? Every decision should be weighed carefully, with consideration of how the choice affects your bottom line, but also for the people who are working toward success alongside you.

Critical thinking requires the ability to reflect on one’s own beliefs, as well as someone else’s ideas, and then see the connections between those things. It requires the ability to actively listen to others, to assess, dissect and appraise arguments, and to separate intense emotions from the topic at hand.

Every day, we are bombarded by information. From the morning paper to news and on social media throughout the day. We might not think of it much now but, that’s an…

How to develop critical thinking skills and think clearer

How to develop critical thinking skills and think clearer

Did you know that 75% of the population suffers from glossophobia? That scary sounding word is one of the most common phobia’s in the world, fear of public speaking.

I’ll bet even as you are reading this, you are getting nervous thinking about giving a speech.

I have got good news for you. In this article, I will share with you a step by step method on how to memorize a speech the smart way. Once you have this method down, your confidence in yourself to deliver a successful speech will increase substantially. Read on to feel well prepared the next time you have to memorize and deliver a speech.

Common Mistakes of Memorizing a Speech

Before we get to the actual process of how to memorize a speech the smart way, let’s look at the two most common mistakes many of us tend to make while preparing for a speech.

Complete Memorization

In an attempt to ensure they remember every detail, many people aim to completely memorize their speech. They practice it over and over until they have every single word burned into their brain.

In many ways, this is understandable because most of us are naturally frightened of having to give a speech. When the time comes, we want to be completely and totally prepared and not make any mistakes.

While this makes a lot of sense, it also comes with its own negative side. The downside to having your speech memorized word for word is that you sound like a robot when delivering the speech. You become so focused on remembering every single part that you lose the ability to inflect your speech to varying degrees, and free form the talk a bit when the situation warrants.

Lack of Preparation

The other side of the coin to complete memorization is people who don’t prepare enough. Because they don’t want to come off sounding like a robot, they decide they will mostly “wing it”.

Sometimes they will write a few main points down on a piece of paper to remind themselves. They figure once they get going, the details will somehow fill themselves in under the big talking points while they are doing the talking.

The problem is that unless this is a topic you know inside and out and have spoken on it many times, you’ll wind up missing key points. It’s almost a given that as soon as you are done with your speech, you’ll remember many things you should have brought up while talking.

There’s a good balance to be had between over and under preparing. Let’s now look at how to memorize a speech the smart way.

Critical thinking is the process of analyzing information to get the best answer to a question or problem. By drawing upon your own experience, reasoning, observation and communication with others, you can make informed decisions that yield positive solutions.

In this article, we’ll show you how to improve your critical thinking skills in the workplace so you can become a more effective employee.

Why critical thinking is important

Critical thinkers are in high demand in the workplace because companies always need better, more informed solutions. More specifically, critical thinking at work helps you:

  • Improve decision-making, evaluate an argument’s validity and its potential impact
  • Form your own opinions on a topic, develop your personal ethics and confidence
  • Engage on a deeper, more intellectual level with your coworkers and supervisors to form stronger working relationships
  • Evaluate your own work to determine ways to improve quality and efficiency
  • Develop better comprehension skills, both in conversation and reading

Critical thinking skills:
1. Observation: The ability to notice and predict opportunities, problems and solutions.
2. Analysis: The gathering, understanding and interpreting of data and other information.
3. Inference: Drawing conclusions based on relevant data, information and personal knowledge and experience.
4. Communication: Sharing and receiving information with others verbally, nonverbally and in writing.
5. Problem solving: The process of gathering, analyzing and communicating information to identify and troubleshoot solutions.

Steps of Critical Thinking

  1. Identify the problem or question. Be specific about the question you are asking.
  2. Gather and organize information. Find several sources that present different perspectives and points of view. This will ensure that you are not creating bias by only presenting data that supports your initial view.
  3. Analyze the data and sources. Evaluate the credibility and reliability of your sources of information. Look for bias in your methods of gathering data.
  4. Determine the significance of data. Establish which information is most important to the problem at hand. You may or may not have enough relevant information to make an informed decision.
  5. Make a decision. Of the various possible conclusions, which one is supported by the evidence.
  6. Communicate your conclusion. Present your final decision to stakeholders

How to improve critical thinking

Here are several ways to improve critical thinking skills in the workplace to become a stronger employee:

  1. Become more self-aware.
  2. Understand your mental process.
  3. Develop foresight.
  4. Practice active listening.
  5. Ask questions.
  6. Evaluate existing evidence.

1. Become more self-aware

Becoming more self-aware means considering your thought process, values, morals, ethics and other beliefs. What do you believe in? How do your thoughts reflect these values? Think objectively about your likes and dislikes. Knowing what your personal preferences, strengths/weaknesses and biases are can help you better understand why you approach specific situations from a certain perspective.

2. Understand your mental process

Identify and evaluate how you receive and process information. Understanding how you listen, then interpret, and finally react to information is vital to becoming more mentally efficient in the workplace.

Being a critical thinker means you recognize your own prejudices and how they influence solutions and decisions. Taking time to analyze your mental process before making a work decision can help you act more objectively.

3. Develop foresight

Consider how others might feel about a situation or decision you make. Determine the possible outcomes of a situation and what might change, both positively and negatively. Having the foresight to predict how your actions at work will produce reactions will help you make the right choice.

4. Practice active listening

Active listening is a foundational element of effective critical thinking. Listen carefully and attentively while coworkers and supervisors are talking. Practice empathy and focus on understanding their perspective(s). Gaining a full understanding of what they want, need or expect can help you react positively and have a subsequent productive conversation.

5. Ask questions

When you’re not sure, always ask questions. Start with what you already know and confirm you have all of the details correct. Ask to have points repeated or consider rephrasing in your own words to determine whether you’ve accurately understood. Consider asking follow-up questions to get details that may have been left out or misheard. Follow up by asking yourself if something is a fact, an opinion or an idea. This step can help you assign purpose and value to a piece of information.

6. Evaluate existing evidence

Use previous experience and facts to help you make your current decision through critical thinking. Have you encountered a similar project or challenge before? What did you learn from that experience? By conducting research, sorting facts and using previous experience as existing evidence you can arrive at a more applicable and effective solution to work with in your present.

Tips for improving critical thinking skills

There are many ways to improve your critical thinking skills during your career development, including:

Meeting with a mentor

Having a mentor can help you develop a variety of skills in addition to being able to collaborate on solutions and decisions. They can help you focus while using critical thinking techniques, or they may have resources to help you improve your critical thinking skills.

Participating in team-building exercises

Many team-building exercises aim to improve critical thinking skills, both for groups and individuals. If your organization employs these exercises, be sure to participate. If your organization does not, consider introducing your team to examples during a meeting to gain similar benefits.

Asking for leadership opportunities

As a leader, you may be required to manage conflict resolution and make important decisions. These responsibilities are real-world experiences that require keen critical thinking skills. Consider asking to lead a new project or assist a team member in training to refine these skills.

How to develop critical thinking skills and think clearer

What exactly is critical thinking? It’s a very business-speak title, so you’re forgiven for not knowing. Critical thinking is a group of soft skills which you use every day. These are leadership skills, so you’re already honing your expertise without even knowing. Awesome!

When you break critical thinking down, it’s the ability to think clearly and rationally. It’s being able to understand logical connections between ideas. It’s using your ability to reason. It’s questioning things in a way that’s active rather than passive. As a critical thinker, you identify, analyze, and then solve problems rather than tackling them with instinct and intuition.

What are the 8 elements of critical thinking?

A good way to polish your critical thinking further is to work on these eight core components.

  1. Analysis: being able to break information down to gain a better understanding of it
  2. Interpretation: to form an opinion on the information you have analyzed.
  3. Inference: to be able to draw conclusions based on the evidence available to you.
  4. Evaluation: the ability to make decisions based on the available information.
  5. Explanation: clear communication of your findings, reasoning, and/or hypotheses.
  6. Self-regulation: the ability to monitor and manage your ways of thinking.
  7. Open-mindedness: considering other options and opinions.
  8. Problem-solving: defining what the problem is, its cause, generating ideas, and choosing a solution.

Why critical thinking is important

Crucial to any business? People who can analyze vast amounts of information and draw conclusions that make better decisions for the future. While machines can gather and interpret massive amounts of information, the ability to analyze and act on this data is still a skill only humans possess.

Both while studying at Hult and in your career, you’ll put your critical thinking skills to the test across multiple real-world scenarios. You might find you need to analyze things like if an existing firm is operating at optimum efficiency or not. Or perhaps which demographics should you target in your marketing? Which is the best direction for you to strategically innovate your product or service? Critical thinking is part of your everyday business.

Also, it’s not just the creativity to invent new things that disrupts industries. It’s the ability to critically assess the opportunity—and the risk—that these new developments offer to society. Take the societal changes brought on by the invention and expansion of the railroad. What were the new business opportunities and challenges? How can we apply these learnings to the emerging technology of today? These are all critical thinking examples.

#2 Critical thinking is the second most important skill in the workplace, according to the World Economic Forum

And 60% of companies think that new grads lack critical thinking skills.

How to be a critical thinker

There are three simple habits you can work on to strengthen your critical thinking skills. The first? Question assumptions: yours, your firm’s, and your colleagues. Test things out. Do surveys, engage with consumers–whatever it takes to get data to validate any hypotheses.

Second, reason through logic. There are plenty of ways you can do this. For example, you might be considering becoming a buyer or merchandiser. When factoring in what to sell, you need to reason through logic. For example, rather than selling the same things globally, it would be wise to do your research on each territory and its consumers’ tastes. What sells in the US may not sell in Europe. And that product may differ altogether to what flies off the shelves in the UK.

Third, collaborate with others to seek out diversity of thought. Listen, discuss, and explore different beliefs. Widen your professional and social circles. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can both help you learn valuable and different perspectives and broaden your open-mindedness.

Don’t forget the idea that practice makes perfect. Start practicing your critical thinking skills with greater awareness. You can learn and build on these each day.

Gain your critical thinking skills and leadership experience at Hult

Hult’s MBAs have leadership skills, like critical thinking, baked into their curriculum. Take, for example, the Financial Management MBA, where you’ll develop the knowledge, skills, critical-thinking abilities, and behaviors required of any manager.

Hult’s Global Strategy MBA also covers critical thinking. The MBA teaches you to be able to think and act strategically without losing agility. Strengthen your critical-thinking skills and develop the business acumen to be able to assess key challenges and opportunities in a global environment.

Master more leadership skills to stand out even more

Amazingly, 60% of companies think that new grads lack critical thinking skills. That alone should have you off studying! There’s plenty more you can do to convince those future employers differently. We’ve identified seventeen more leadership skills you can learn with ease and practice.

Better still, these are all straightforward to learn. Think skills like communication, active listening, creative thinking, and team building. These are all things that you can apply to your everyday. Speaking with family, friends, and the people you meet gives you a chance to try things out. Think of every project as an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership skills–you’ll be an expert before you know it.

Source:

Hult offers a range of highly skills-focused and employability-driven business school programs. Get the right skills to succeed in any business environment with Hult.

How to develop critical thinking skills and think clearer

Every parent wants to see their child succeed. And the groundwork you put in with them at a young age has a huge impact on where they get to later in life.

Problem is, it’s hard to know exactly what a child needs, to grow into the very best version of themselves.

Should they learn another language? Pick up an instrument? Play sports, or master chess, or learn how to code? Sure, these skills will certainly give them an edge, but it won’t be enough unless they learn the essential life skill that is critical thinking.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is not just seeing the world around you, but taking the time to process, analyze, and question situations in order to form a judgment. It’s a deeper form of thinking — one that’s a necessary part of everyday life in our complex world.

By teaching critical thinking to young children, you’re giving them the skills they’ll need in their teen years and adulthood. Critical thinking helps to expand their minds so they can absorb new information and quickly solve difficult problems.

It all sounds a bit abstract. But critical thinking is about learning how to approach issues with perspective. It’s about learning that not all questions have multiple-choice options — in fact, some questions have no definite answers at all.

11 ways to help your child develop critical thinking skills

Critical thinking skills develop over time — it’s not something your child can sit down and study in a textbook.

Instead, here’s what you need to do…

Don’t answer every question they have off the bat

Kids are full of questions, aren’t they? And most of them are extremely random and/or out of left-field. Rather than trying to answer all of your little one’s queries, you could respond with another question: “What do you think?.

This encourages your children to come up with a solution on their own. Even if they’re completely wrong, they’re developing critical thinking skills by trying to figure it out. Then together, you can go online to research and find the correct answer.

Dive further into questions

You can also take a moment to further explore any questions your children come to you with. Instead of just asking “what”, encourage them to discover the “how” and “why” as well. For example, if they ask what clouds are, you could then explore how clouds are formed and why we need them.

Give them time to answer

Some children will take a long time to digest information and form a response. If you ask them a probing question, allow them to take their time in coming up with an answer.

Again, once they’ve responded, leave another period of silence. This will give them time to reflect on what they’ve said, in case they want to amend their gut reply.

Encourage them to think of others’ experiences

It’s understandable for young kids to assume their own experience is the same as everyone else’s. But as they grow up, it’s important for them to acknowledge the perspectives of others and look beyond their own point of view.

You can encourage this by reading books and talking about how the characters might be feeling. Identify their emotions and the reasons behind their feelings. You can also check out our senses and feelings worksheet pack to help learn how to differentiate the two.

Give them opportunities to explore

Toddlers are constantly building critical thinking skills: they love to wander around, play with stuff, and learn cause and effect. They’ll drop their spoon off a high chair repeatedly just to see what will happen — annoying as it is, that’s their critical thinking on display!

As your child ages, continue to give them indoor and outdoor space to experience the world and exercise their natural curiosity.

Ask them to build hypotheses

While playing with your child, ask them what they think will happen as the result of an action. Try asking something like, “If we do this, what do you think will happen?” or “Let’s predict what we think will happen next”.

It could be pushing a Slinky down the stairs, or mixing paint colors together.

Encourage children to form opinions

Learning how to form well-reasoned opinions is an important part of critical thinking practice. Start out by making sure they know the difference between fact and opinion, then encourage them to list some opinions that are important to them.

You could even stage a mini-debate and ask them to come up with a convincing fact-based argument for their opinion.

Give them a journal

While some kids might be opposed to it, keeping a daily journal is a great way to flex critical thinking skills. Even capturing one page a night will make children reflect on their day, on situations that arose, and learn how to analyze what happened.

They can keep the diary private, which may help them be more honest with the thoughts they share. If your child isn’t keen on writing, drawing pictures is also a good tool to work through a situation in their head.

Talk about current affairs

This one varies with the age of your children, and how much you want to expose them to the news cycle.

There are some great news sources for young kids — like KidNuz, a daily five-minute podcast with headlines suitable for children from 5-8 years old. Use this as a jumping-off point for discussions that’ll help broaden their understanding of the world. You can put news stories in context, then ask questions like “What do you think about these events?”, “How do you think these things happen?”.

Here’s some more insight on how to talk about the news with kids.

Find similarities and differences

This is a great one for toddlers. Pick up two similar items — like a fork and a spoon — and ask your child what makes them similar and what makes them different.

Having to distinguish two similar items but identify why they’re not the same will help build a basis of their critical thinking skills.

Play 20 Questions

This is a simple and fun game — excellent for long car rides. One player thinks of a person, place, or thing, and the other competitors must ask fewer than 20 questions to figure out what it is. It’s an educational exercise in processing information and analyzing it to narrow down options.

How to develop critical thinking skills and think clearer

How to develop critical thinking skills and think clearerCritical thinking is a valuable skill to have in your toolbox. Honing this skill set may help you tackle everyday decisions and excell in new areas of your professional life.

In a study conducted by Global Strategy Group found that today’s young professionals are lacking in the skills most prioritized by business leaders and it’s not the skills you may be thinking – like technical or specialized skills – as critical thinking skills topped the list. What does this mean? If you want to stand out at work or in a job interview, you may need to improve your critical thinking skills.

Take the next step in your career with a degree that sharpens the skills employers desire.

Start Improving Today

A recent TED-Ed lesson [video below] describes how a simple 5-step process may be the key to catapulting your ability to match difficult decisions or find solutions to problems. Here’s how you can start improving today.

  • Formulate your question. Know what you’re looking for specifically. If you’re considering going on a diet, for example, know whether you’re trying to lose weight, have more energy, or just to improve your nutrition. Break things down to their base level.
  • Gather your information. Now that you know what’s relevant to your problem or decision, research it. Reach out to an expert, read up on the subject, or talk to people who have experience with the same subject matter.
  • Apply the information. What concepts are at work? What assumptions exist? Is your interpretation of the information logically sound?
  • Consider the implications. Look beyond the short-term and think about how your decision will shape things in the long-term. Something that will benefit you now may not benefit you in the future. What’s at stake? What can go wrong?
  • Explore other points of view. By understanding other perspectives, you learn more about the subject. You’re also given an opportunity to reflect on the information you have and how you feel. For example, if you learn why people are against the diet you’re considering, that may affect your decision.

Why is Critical Thinking Important?

A manager applies critical thinking when he/she looks at all sides of a situation and weighs several possible solutions before responding. In a society where most people rush through decisions and respond from emotion rather than logic, many businesspeople overlook the importance of critical thinking. But by gathering all the information to generate solutions and solicit feedback, managers develop better business solutions and help create a more productive workplace.

In an article for Harvard Business Review, John Baldoni speaks to the nuances of critical thinking. Today’s graduates should not only understand critical thinking principles, but also know how they apply on the job.

Let Norwich Help You Go Further

Doing well in your job isn’t just about what you know; it’s also about how you think. Being able to research and analyze information and develop innovative solutions to problems are both necessary skills for professional success – no matter the field. Norwich University’s online Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program focuses on developing these essential skills and how to take principles learned in the classroom and apply in the workforce.

Critical thinking is the process of analyzing information to get the best answer to a question or problem. By drawing upon your own experience, reasoning, observation and communication with others, you can make informed decisions that yield positive solutions.

In this article, we’ll show you how to improve your critical thinking skills in the workplace so you can become a more effective employee.

Why critical thinking is important

Critical thinkers are in high demand in the workplace because companies always need better, more informed solutions. More specifically, critical thinking at work helps you:

  • Improve decision-making, evaluate an argument’s validity and its potential impact
  • Form your own opinions on a topic, develop your personal ethics and confidence
  • Engage on a deeper, more intellectual level with your coworkers and supervisors to form stronger working relationships
  • Evaluate your own work to determine ways to improve quality and efficiency
  • Develop better comprehension skills, both in conversation and reading

Critical thinking skills:
1. Observation: The ability to notice and predict opportunities, problems and solutions.
2. Analysis: The gathering, understanding and interpreting of data and other information.
3. Inference: Drawing conclusions based on relevant data, information and personal knowledge and experience.
4. Communication: Sharing and receiving information with others verbally, nonverbally and in writing.
5. Problem solving: The process of gathering, analyzing and communicating information to identify and troubleshoot solutions.

Steps of Critical Thinking

  1. Identify the problem or question. Be specific about the question you are asking.
  2. Gather and organize information. Find several sources that present different perspectives and points of view. This will ensure that you are not creating bias by only presenting data that supports your initial view.
  3. Analyze the data and sources. Evaluate the credibility and reliability of your sources of information. Look for bias in your methods of gathering data.
  4. Determine the significance of data. Establish which information is most important to the problem at hand. You may or may not have enough relevant information to make an informed decision.
  5. Make a decision. Of the various possible conclusions, which one is supported by the evidence.
  6. Communicate your conclusion. Present your final decision to stakeholders

How to improve critical thinking

Here are several ways to improve critical thinking skills in the workplace to become a stronger employee:

  1. Become more self-aware.
  2. Understand your mental process.
  3. Develop foresight.
  4. Practice active listening.
  5. Ask questions.
  6. Evaluate existing evidence.

1. Become more self-aware

Becoming more self-aware means considering your thought process, values, morals, ethics and other beliefs. What do you believe in? How do your thoughts reflect these values? Think objectively about your likes and dislikes. Knowing what your personal preferences, strengths/weaknesses and biases are can help you better understand why you approach specific situations from a certain perspective.

2. Understand your mental process

Identify and evaluate how you receive and process information. Understanding how you listen, then interpret, and finally react to information is vital to becoming more mentally efficient in the workplace.

Being a critical thinker means you recognize your own prejudices and how they influence solutions and decisions. Taking time to analyze your mental process before making a work decision can help you act more objectively.

3. Develop foresight

Consider how others might feel about a situation or decision you make. Determine the possible outcomes of a situation and what might change, both positively and negatively. Having the foresight to predict how your actions at work will produce reactions will help you make the right choice.

4. Practice active listening

Active listening is a foundational element of effective critical thinking. Listen carefully and attentively while coworkers and supervisors are talking. Practice empathy and focus on understanding their perspective(s). Gaining a full understanding of what they want, need or expect can help you react positively and have a subsequent productive conversation.

5. Ask questions

When you’re not sure, always ask questions. Start with what you already know and confirm you have all of the details correct. Ask to have points repeated or consider rephrasing in your own words to determine whether you’ve accurately understood. Consider asking follow-up questions to get details that may have been left out or misheard. Follow up by asking yourself if something is a fact, an opinion or an idea. This step can help you assign purpose and value to a piece of information.

6. Evaluate existing evidence

Use previous experience and facts to help you make your current decision through critical thinking. Have you encountered a similar project or challenge before? What did you learn from that experience? By conducting research, sorting facts and using previous experience as existing evidence you can arrive at a more applicable and effective solution to work with in your present.

Tips for improving critical thinking skills

There are many ways to improve your critical thinking skills during your career development, including:

Meeting with a mentor

Having a mentor can help you develop a variety of skills in addition to being able to collaborate on solutions and decisions. They can help you focus while using critical thinking techniques, or they may have resources to help you improve your critical thinking skills.

Participating in team-building exercises

Many team-building exercises aim to improve critical thinking skills, both for groups and individuals. If your organization employs these exercises, be sure to participate. If your organization does not, consider introducing your team to examples during a meeting to gain similar benefits.

Asking for leadership opportunities

As a leader, you may be required to manage conflict resolution and make important decisions. These responsibilities are real-world experiences that require keen critical thinking skills. Consider asking to lead a new project or assist a team member in training to refine these skills.

How to develop critical thinking skills and think clearer

What exactly is critical thinking? It’s a very business-speak title, so you’re forgiven for not knowing. Critical thinking is a group of soft skills which you use every day. These are leadership skills, so you’re already honing your expertise without even knowing. Awesome!

When you break critical thinking down, it’s the ability to think clearly and rationally. It’s being able to understand logical connections between ideas. It’s using your ability to reason. It’s questioning things in a way that’s active rather than passive. As a critical thinker, you identify, analyze, and then solve problems rather than tackling them with instinct and intuition.

What are the 8 elements of critical thinking?

A good way to polish your critical thinking further is to work on these eight core components.

  1. Analysis: being able to break information down to gain a better understanding of it
  2. Interpretation: to form an opinion on the information you have analyzed.
  3. Inference: to be able to draw conclusions based on the evidence available to you.
  4. Evaluation: the ability to make decisions based on the available information.
  5. Explanation: clear communication of your findings, reasoning, and/or hypotheses.
  6. Self-regulation: the ability to monitor and manage your ways of thinking.
  7. Open-mindedness: considering other options and opinions.
  8. Problem-solving: defining what the problem is, its cause, generating ideas, and choosing a solution.

Why critical thinking is important

Crucial to any business? People who can analyze vast amounts of information and draw conclusions that make better decisions for the future. While machines can gather and interpret massive amounts of information, the ability to analyze and act on this data is still a skill only humans possess.

Both while studying at Hult and in your career, you’ll put your critical thinking skills to the test across multiple real-world scenarios. You might find you need to analyze things like if an existing firm is operating at optimum efficiency or not. Or perhaps which demographics should you target in your marketing? Which is the best direction for you to strategically innovate your product or service? Critical thinking is part of your everyday business.

Also, it’s not just the creativity to invent new things that disrupts industries. It’s the ability to critically assess the opportunity—and the risk—that these new developments offer to society. Take the societal changes brought on by the invention and expansion of the railroad. What were the new business opportunities and challenges? How can we apply these learnings to the emerging technology of today? These are all critical thinking examples.

#2 Critical thinking is the second most important skill in the workplace, according to the World Economic Forum

And 60% of companies think that new grads lack critical thinking skills.

How to be a critical thinker

There are three simple habits you can work on to strengthen your critical thinking skills. The first? Question assumptions: yours, your firm’s, and your colleagues. Test things out. Do surveys, engage with consumers–whatever it takes to get data to validate any hypotheses.

Second, reason through logic. There are plenty of ways you can do this. For example, you might be considering becoming a buyer or merchandiser. When factoring in what to sell, you need to reason through logic. For example, rather than selling the same things globally, it would be wise to do your research on each territory and its consumers’ tastes. What sells in the US may not sell in Europe. And that product may differ altogether to what flies off the shelves in the UK.

Third, collaborate with others to seek out diversity of thought. Listen, discuss, and explore different beliefs. Widen your professional and social circles. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can both help you learn valuable and different perspectives and broaden your open-mindedness.

Don’t forget the idea that practice makes perfect. Start practicing your critical thinking skills with greater awareness. You can learn and build on these each day.

Gain your critical thinking skills and leadership experience at Hult

Hult’s MBAs have leadership skills, like critical thinking, baked into their curriculum. Take, for example, the Financial Management MBA, where you’ll develop the knowledge, skills, critical-thinking abilities, and behaviors required of any manager.

Hult’s Global Strategy MBA also covers critical thinking. The MBA teaches you to be able to think and act strategically without losing agility. Strengthen your critical-thinking skills and develop the business acumen to be able to assess key challenges and opportunities in a global environment.

Master more leadership skills to stand out even more

Amazingly, 60% of companies think that new grads lack critical thinking skills. That alone should have you off studying! There’s plenty more you can do to convince those future employers differently. We’ve identified seventeen more leadership skills you can learn with ease and practice.

Better still, these are all straightforward to learn. Think skills like communication, active listening, creative thinking, and team building. These are all things that you can apply to your everyday. Speaking with family, friends, and the people you meet gives you a chance to try things out. Think of every project as an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership skills–you’ll be an expert before you know it.

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Hult offers a range of highly skills-focused and employability-driven business school programs. Get the right skills to succeed in any business environment with Hult.