How to Improve Critical Thinking Within the Workplace
There are many skills that are considered essential by employers. Critical thinking is one of the many skills that companies encourage within the workplace, as evidence has shown that it can make people better at their jobs and improve company performance.
But, what is it, why is it beneficial for businesses and how can it be improved within the workplace?
What Is Critical Thinking?
Put simply, critical thinking is the ability to look at a situation or problem in a way which is impersonal and unbiased.
It removes personal opinions and emotions, meaning that you are able to consider all of the options with neutrality. By considering a situation without the filter of traditions or personal bias, you are able to truly look at the information you are given and form a logical response.
Often, people will get bogged down in tradition, doing things the same way over and over again simply because it is the way things have always been.
This can lead to mistakes and errors, as well as large amounts of wasted time. By being able to think critically, you are able to consider all of the relevant data and make a logical decision that is based on facts, rather than traditions.
This means that, for most people, the ability to think critically is something inherent to their personality.
This does not mean, however, that individuals who are not natural critical thinkers are unable to develop the skill. There are ways to improve your abilities and develop skills even if you aren’t naturally a critical thinker.
Key Features of Critical Thinking
- Asking questions
- Defining a problem
- Analyzing evidence
- Examining assumptions and bias
- Avoiding emotional responses
- Avoiding oversimplifying a situation
- Considering alternative interpretations
- The ability to tolerate ambiguity
- An awareness of your own thinking processes
How to Display Critical Thinking on Your Resume
Many employers consider critical thinking to be an essential skill.
So you may want to show that you have these skills when applying for a new role or position. Listing critical thinking skills within your resume can highlight your strengths to employers.
Some of the skills you should consider adding to your resume to highlight critical thinking include:
- Analysis skills
- Research skills
- Effective communication
- Attention to detail
- Decision making
- Project management
Why Is Critical Thinking Important in the Workplace?
For employers, critical thinking has a multitude of benefits. Not only can it help their business to run smoothly, but it also helps to foster a sense of independence and self-reflection within employees.
Critical thinkers have been shown to make good decisions more frequently than those who don’t possess this skill, understanding how to relate best with their co-workers, when to communicate information with senior staff members and knowing how best to complete tasks.
Benefits of Critical Thinking
Happier Staff Members
One of the main things that critical thinking allows is an increased sense of independence and autonomy.
Staff members are encouraged to make their own decisions and form conclusions based on their own research. This will, in turn, help employees to feel happy, valued and appreciated, as they will know that their thoughts and abilities are important.
By allowing employees to consider tasks and problems themselves before coming to a decision, it will actually save a company time.
Rather than have in-depth meetings with multiple team members to discuss strategies and solutions, decisions can be made quickly and decisively. This means that less time is spent in meetings and more time can be spent completing tasks.
Effective Communication Between Teams and Departments
Rather than having multiple phone calls, emails and meetings to discuss a point before finally making a decision, employees with critical thinking skills can look at all of the information they are presented with before forming a decision or a selection of choices.
They can then present this information to the relevant person rather than discussing it with an entire department or a number of co-workers.
This means that communication may occur less frequently, but, when it does, the information shared will be complete and valuable.
Encourages a Variety of Approaches
By considering all of the available information in a neutral way, employees are able to form a variety of possible solutions to a problem.
This means that responses are well thought-out and, therefore, likely to be more effective than decisions that are made on a snap-judgement or gut instinct.
Workplace Conflict Resolution
No matter how good a team is or how well a company is run, conflicts will happen within a workplace.
But, when they happen it is important to look at the situation from a neutral viewpoint. By considering the events or situation without any conscious or unconscious bias, it is possible to quickly resolve conflicts in a way that satisfies those involved.
Examples of Critical Thinking Within the Workplace
Within a hospital setting, critical thinking is vital. Doctors and nurses use their critical thinking skills to accurately evaluate and diagnose patients.
These skills help them to make informed decisions based on facts rather than emotions. Treatment plans can then be made that use all of the relevant facts to obtain the best outcome.
When there is a conflict among employees in the workplace, individuals will use critical thinking skills in order to resolve it.
By remaining impartial, they will be able to understand both sides of the issue and all of the relevant information.
This means that a decision can be made as to how best to move forwards. In this situation, it is vital to be neutral and avoid being guided by emotions or opinions.
In a business that relies on customer satisfaction, such as retail, critical thinking skills are essential.
They can be used to analyze relevant customer feedback data to strategize improvements. This can involve the introduction of staff training or new policies that are informed by the relevant data.
For those in managerial roles, critical thinking can be used in a variety of ways.
For example, critical thinking skills can be used to decide how best a company's budget should be used.
By analyzing expenditures and costs, you can accurately predict how much materials are likely to cost in the future and whether trends are likely to change.
This also means that you will be able to source new suppliers when required to reduce spending.
Five Tips for Improving Critical Thinking in the Workplace
As critical thinking is fundamental to the success of a business, it is important to understand how to improve your employees’ skills in this area.
Some people will be naturally inclined to consider situations critically, whereas others will need to be trained to understand the process.
Whether your employees are natural critical thinkers or not, improvements can be made that will benefit a company in the long run.
1. Create and Participate in Forums
Forums are an excellent way of helping employees develop critical thinking skills. By creating and participating in forums, employees are able to hear other people's viewpoints and learn how to evaluate problems in a way that generates new ideas and collaborates with others.
2. Assess Your Assumptions and Those of Colleagues
Understanding your own assumptions is the first step in addressing them and changing your own thought process.
It is important to realize whether you are making assumptions that are based on personal feelings.
If you are making decisions that are not based on facts, then you will be able to challenge yourself to adjust your thought process.
3. Hire Critical Thinkers and Celebrate Critical Thinking Success
Many companies will focus on recruiting critical thinkers to their companies to foster this thought process within their business.
This can be done by using behavioral testing as part of the interview process and evaluating a candidate's strengths.
4. Encourage and Participate in Continuous Learning and Development
As individuals, we are always learning. By encouraging employees to participate in a combination of staff development programmes and learn through experience, you are helping them to continually learn and develop critical thinking skills that can be used practically within the workplace.
5. Make Better Use of Data Within Your Team
One of the most important things when it comes to critical thinking is the ability to use data to form decisions.
Making sure that data is used to the best of its potential helps to encourage better critical thinking skills among staff.
This is because when data is effectively presented and analyzed, it is easier to make decisions that are based on facts rather than emotions.
Critical thinking is a vital life skill that is important to practice in both your personal and work life.
Understanding the value of critical thinking and its place within the workplace will help you to implement these skills in other areas of your life where it is important to remain neutral.