How often have you reacted hurriedly to a given situation at work or made a rushed business decision only to later backtrack because you didn’t sit down and mull it over? This usually happens to everyone at one point, even to the best of the best. This is where critical thinking comes into play.
According to the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking, it is the intellectually disciplined means of aggressively conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing and assessing information collected through experience, observation or reflection, as a guide to taking actions.
Another definition is that critical thinking is the ability to deliberate rationally and clearly concerning what to do or what to believe in. Critical thinking is not all about gathering information. Someone with a good memory and is knowledgeable is not essentially a good critical thinker.
Some of the characteristics of a good critical thinker include:
- Self-confidence in the ability to reason
- The urge to be and remain well-informed
- Flexibility in taking into account alternative opinions
- Honesty, when it comes to one’s own biases
- Discretion in making judgments
- Inquisitive concerning some issues
Critical thinking and reflection can be beneficial in the workplace in the following ways:
Maintaining Effective Leadership
Critical thinking and reflection are crucial in the work environment. Those involved in management should improve their critical thinking skills as these skills will more often than not enable them to comprehend various situations in the workplace in a better manner. This, in turn, helps the leaders make impartial judgments.
Critical thinking enables one to look at situations keenly and weigh all probable solutions before coming up with the ultimate decision. Because critical thinking is a form of in-depth analysis, it involves intellectual criticism thus allowing the decision makers to combine knowledge and research.
To be a successful leader, one must be able to utilize critical thinking skills.
2. Teamwork Advancement
During a critical thinking process, the whole workforce can be involved. The more persons that are involved in the process, the more the solutions that are arrived at. Critical thinking can be of great benefit to a workplace that comprises workers from different backgrounds.
Not only does it give a justification for these people to work collectively to come up with solutions, but it also promotes teamwork and gives each employee a chance to have a say in the progression of the company.
It is also important to note that critical thinking tasks promote tolerance amongst workers within the work environment and can be used as part of diversity training.
3. Time Saving
Not all information is relevant during the decision-making process. Critical thinking can, therefore, teach you how to prioritize your time and resources by systematically analyzing what is useful and what is not.
Ultimately, through critical thinking, a good leader will know that the decisions arrived at are the correct ones, in effect saving time that may be used on other matters.
4. Different Approaches to Problem Solving
In the workplace, critical thinking enables one to be aware of the different approaches to a problem and the ability to evaluate these approaches systematically.
Through critical thinking, instead of relying on regular problem-solving techniques, workers will be able to identify other valuable approaches. This will eventually make the company successful in its day to day activities.
5. Improved Communication
Critical thinking teaches you how to evaluate and come up with evidence for any given idea, thus making you an effective communicator. Consistent and appropriate points to back up your idea are crucial in communicating a proposal effectively.
6. Discovery of Spin-offs
During the critical thinking process, extra information can be uncovered that can be applied to several other situations. For example, a critical thinking task on how to undertake a new business venture may lead to new ideas for pursuing other business endeavors.
7. Resolution of Workplace Conflicts
In a workplace, non-critical thinking can create an atmosphere that can cause anxiety for some workers and a sense of confidence that is false for those who subscribe to it. However, critical thinkers can create a setting where conversation cultivates fresh ideas. It builds understanding and allows for self-reflection.
Whenever you are dealing with a conflict, critical thinking can help you make a decision that is fair to those involved, thus benefiting the whole company or organization.
8. Final Product
Coming up with the best final product requires a keen eye for detail and willingness to search for flaws. These abilities can be provided for by a critical thinker. The capacity to evaluate a product for accuracy and functionality, among other qualities is important in the sustenance of a company’s or organization’s standards.
Mediocrity is bound to arise in the absence of critical thinkers within the workplace. Some human thoughts tend to be biased and full of assumptions. Critical thinking will, therefore, help you to be aware of and rectify your faults.
For example, if you are the one who came up with a product, you may be biased towards it. However, the critical evaluation will enable you to look at the product without prejudice.
Nowadays, it’s been somehow complicated to advance critical thinking at work due to the fact that most people presume that every person in their place of work is busy and has no time.
Clearly, from the above, it is evident that critical thinking is beneficial for everyone in the workplace and can contribute in taking a company to the next level.
There are websites that provide useful information on how to become an effective leader in the workplace. Gaining such knowledge can prove to be a worthwhile venture for you and your colleagues.
Categories:LeadershipTags:Alice Jones, Critical Thinking, Guest Post, Leadership, mastersinleadership.org, thewritingkid.com
How many times have you responded too quickly to a message or made a hasty business decision, only to find that you needed to correct yourself later because you didn't think it all the way through? It happens to even the best workers, but having to backtrack and fix these kinds of avoidable mistakes costs you more than your pride — it's a waste of valuable time.
"Everyone is incredibly busy, and often we believe that we don't have the time to really think through an issue," said Jen Lawrence, co-author of "Engage the Fox: A Business Fable About Thinking Critically and Motivating Your Team" (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2014). "Using a structured thinking process will actually save employees time in the long run because they avoid making mistakes such as jumping to the wrong conclusion or making a decision that others reject down the road."
Critical thinking — which business consultant and author Steve Siebold defines as the ability to remove all emotion from an issue and observe the facts objectively to make a logical decision — is clearly advantageous for business. Lawrence noted that critical thinking helps employees gather all of the information required to analyze a situation, generate optimal solutions to a problem and get feedback from all the people involved in the situation. All of these steps, she said, contribute to better business solutions overall.
But why is it so difficult to encourage critical thinking in the workplace? Part of it is that people assume everyone in their workplace is busy and has no time, but it's also because critical thought isn't a priority in U.S. society as a whole. [The 10 Job Skills Employers Want]
"Schools are no longer routinely teaching basic thinking processes, such as rhetoric or the scientific method," Lawrence told Business News Daily. "Many companies find that they need to provide training in critical thinking."
"It's just not something we're really focused on," added Siebold, author of "177 Mental Toughness Secrets of The World Class" (London House Press, 2010). "We're emotional creatures by default. We're trained to think with emotions instead of using statistics, logic, reason, etc. Society fosters emotion-based thinking and decision making."
Critical thinkers are open-minded, confident, decisive, not reliant on others' approval and able to see past their emotions when making choices, Siebold said. To encourage your team to think critically, he advised asking employees how they make most of their decisions. Is it based on concrete proof, rather than a gut feeling? Can the decision be justified beyond the person's intuition, or be supported by anything that's not emotionally related? If a person can answer "yes" to these questions, he or she is engaging in a critical thought process.
Anyone is capable of learning and improving critical-thinking skills, but teaching your employees how to do this isn't always an easy task, especially if, as a leader, you're prone to quick, thoughtless decisions. The best way to encourage critical thinking is to lead by example, Lawrence said.
"If a CEO makes knee-jerk reactions that do not take all stakeholders into account, it will be hard to cultivate a culture of critical thinking," Lawrence said. "Good thinking practices should be modeled by the senior management team."