By Nor Izmawati Mostapar, Vice President, MII Corporate Communications and e-Learning
The act of thinking comes naturally to all of us. Critical thinking, however, is a different process and skill altogether. The reason critical thinking is a skill 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. This is what makes us human.
Thinking critically is the ability to analyse a concept objectively, considering the facts and differing perspectives to reach a sound, logical conclusion. Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from information provided, and discriminate between useful and less useful details to solve a problem or make decisions. This is particularly important in the workplace as it not only affects how a company operates but its strategic business decisions and ultimately the overall growth of the company. There are many ways to shape thought processes towards thinking critically. This article serves as a guide for those who wish to learn more about the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of critical thinking.
How to Use Critical Thinking in the Workplace
Developing critical thinking skills will help employees become valued members of a team especially when contributing to decision making or problem solving. Critical thinking in the workplace can also differentiate between employees who are just good enough and those who are performing above and beyond everyone else in the team.
If employees and the company employ critical thinking consistently, the entire organisation can work more effectively and productively. Here are some ways to improve your critical thinking skills:
• Keep the goal in mind
Every thinking process requires a basis. Know, remember, and always refer to the ultimate goal in relation to the work that you are doing. Think critically to not only come up with solutions to problems but also to meet goals and objectives of the organisation.
• Ask questions, gather information and evaluate the facts of the situation
Remember, even if you possess the most extensive knowledge ever of something, this will not create any impact if you do not know how to make the most of it. Instead of solving work issues symptomatically, use critical thinking to drill down to the very root of the problem. If you receive ongoing customer complaints, offering an apology or a discount may resolve individual claims, but may not reduce the frequency of customer grievances. Instead, examine every aspect of how your product or service is delivered and how employees interact with customers. If you scrutinize the situation, you may realize the issue is not with your product, but with how it is marketed to customers.
• Collaborate and get feedback from others
If you are stuck on a problem, consider it from another person’s point of view to give you the insight you need to find an effective and innovative solution. Use critical thinking to get inside the mind of your customers or clients so you can improve the products or services you offer them. You may find you have overlooked a valuable feature you can add to attract more buyers.
• Recognize opportunities and follow trends
To remain competitive, use critical thinking to recognize opportunities and understand how to take advantage of them. This can help your company spot opportunities for growth, expansion, or product development before anyone else, giving you a valuable edge in the marketplace. Consider recent events, such as technological advances, and how you can use them to attract customers or enhance your company’s image.
• Consider the short and long-term consequences of implementing each solution
Instead of going for a quick fix, use critical thinking to evaluate the long-term consequences of the decision to the business. An option may look attractive in the short term but could have unintended and potentially disastrous consequences months or years later.
Benefits of Critical Thinking in the Workplace
Critical thinking can be a long process that requires input from different people within an organisation. It is worthwhile to invest on developing critical thinkers in the company as it not only enhances skills but also helps the company grow. Here are some benefits of critical thinking in the workplace:
• Generates New Ideas
Critical thinking forces employees and managers to look beyond conventional solutions and look for new ideas that can help to efficiently address problems.
• Encourages Teamwork
The critical thinking process is not necessarily a one-person show. An entire team can get involved in the critical thinking process. Critical thinking exercises promote workplace tolerance,encourages teamwork, and gives each employee a chance to play a role in the future of the organization.
• Offers Options
Organizations can develop multiple solutions to the same problem through critical thinking exercises. This is even more effective when critical thinking activities are done as a team. The outcome will be many possible solutions to a single problem, that will benefits customers as they are able to choose the option that best suits their needs.
• Enbles Discoveraies
Diving deep into an issue, its symptoms, causes and effects will lead to expected and unexpected discoveries regarding the issue at hand and related products and services. When a solution is produced, it can be applied to many other situations in the organization and able to address other unresolved issues.
Why Do Employers Value Critical Thinking Skills?
Critical thinking abilities are some of the most sought-after skills in almost every industry and workplace. Employers want job candidates who can evaluate a situation using logical thought and come up with the best solution, and often without the constant need to hand-hold.
We must all realize and understand that critical thinking is more than a desirable soft skill. Critical thinking is a valuable competency that is the basis for innovation and problem-solving. When properly cultivated in the workplace, critical thinking can help individuals and teams overcome challenges and meet business goals.
To kickstart this process and help the organization see greater results, as logical thinkers, employees need to see the success and effectiveness of applying critical thinking, before attempting this new skill. Hence, it is the role of the management to build a culture that promotes and values critical thinking.