Critical thinking has gained relevance in a world of dynamic industries and economic insecurity. The Society for Human Resource Management called it one of the top requirements among employers. You may object that technical skills and digital business transformation are more vital because society continues living online. However, soft skills of your managers and teams are significant contributors and drivers of any tech innovation. So, learning how to improve critical thinking among the workforce to remain competitive is just as vital.
But let’s start by explaining what this soft skill means and why you need it. So, critical thinking is the process of thought that is not influenced or misled by personal prejudices or prior assumptions. It helps individuals see beyond their point of view to manage a problem and make the best decision possible pragmatically. You may be wondering, why is critical thinking important, and how can it be developed?
The problem is that this ability cannot be digitized or learned in a class. It requires practice and experiences where you were forced to debate and confront diverse opinions. Unlike with other skills, in this case you learn primarily from failure, especially from solving complicated problems, which teaches you to experiment with different solutions. Therefore, only companies willing to give their leaders the freedom to learn from their mistakes will gain from this experience.
Critical thinking vs. technical skills
Today, the rise of new products, services, and market models makes companies introduce new skills and change their business approaches. The demand for innovation and competency has required companies to look for the best technical talent to innovate rapidly. However, only one-third of high innovators believe they have the right competencies and workers in place for the future.
Surprisingly, the abilities that industry leaders work hard to develop among their workforce are problem solving and critical thinking. Although technical capabilities are highly valued, human skills have also proven to be vital for success.
After the impact generated by the pandemic along with pervasive intelligent process automation, industries demand new abilities and talents. The World Economic Forum states that problem solving and analysis will be rising in prominence by 2025. The same report predicts that around 40 percent of workers will need to be reskilled within the next five years. Clearly, the evolution of the workplace has become the main driver of change for what is expected in the future.
As more companies understand the relevance of critical thinking and its influence, they also think of ways to help their employees improve non-technical abilities. Whether by hiring new people or reskilling their current workforce, most innovative business leaders believe new technologies will only boost human competencies.
The essential concepts of the critical thinking model and how to implement it
A critical thinker is a go-to person when challenges and problems emerge. You know that they can make quick and assertive decisions. They are full of resources, consider different opinions, and offer a list of solutions. Of course, becoming an influential critical thinker does not happen overnight. Still, when you understand the stages of critical thinking, it will be easier to practice and eventually make it part of your mental process. So, the essential steps of the critical thinking model are:
- Identify the problem. Once you have determined the issue, analyze what could have caused it to happen. Question, find, and understand the triggers.
- Collect data. Check the arguments and views of everyone involved in the problem or situation. You may not agree with some of them and if that’s the case, research more independently to not be affected by their ideas.
- Analyze the information. Once you have gained a better understanding of where everyone involved in the process stands, evaluate opinions with facts and come to your own conclusions by consulting all the sources.
- Identify assumptions. As you analyze the information, consider what facts or opinions lack significance, and do not be afraid to exclude data that has no relevance.
- Consider all opinions. At this point, you have an excellent opportunity to help those you lead to practice critical thinking. Assemble your team and consider all viable solutions together.
- Make a decision/conclusion. Unwrapping the collected information will help you make proactive and quick decisions. If you need more time to reflect on the solutions, always keep your team and leaders aware of the process and timeline. Also, consider having a plan to present viable solutions.
- Present and communicate. It is crucial to communicate your conclusions to the team but be clear to prevent confusion. This last step may seem like a simple action, but it’s essential to continue the workflow and have precise objectives.
As you consider these components, ask yourself what your current level of critical thinking is. It may be a complex evaluation to make, but it will help you map where you stand and what competencies you need to work on. Strengthen current skills and develop those that will help you become a more decisive leader.
How to improve critical thinking
Now more than ever, clients look to partner with companies that take time to evaluate their concerns in all their bearings, those who reason through demanding matters. The opposite of critical thinking is overconfidence. Unfortunately, too often leaders overestimate this ability and base their decisions on previous beliefs or assumptions.
If you want to become an expert, you should be self-aware and work on specific areas to help you develop this highly desired skill faster. At first glance you may consider the following techniques as simple activities you’re already doing. However, you’ll be surprised what a difference it makes when you practice them more consciously. If you wonder how to improve critical thinking, start by evaluating how you practice these habits deliberately:
1. Question assumptions
Making assumptions is often easy when someone has been in business for a long time. However, it may also be very harmful to a company. Periodically questioning our own beliefs helps gather new information to understand problems that perhaps may not exactly be the real problem.
When we allow ourselves to change perspective on issues we thought we knew all about, we open our minds to new possibilities and more effective solutions. By evaluating other options and questioning your ideas and beliefs, you will sharpen your thinking and improve your ability to make wise decisions.
2. Reason through evidence
Some critical thinking barriers interfere when we lack outcome evidence of previous problems and solutions. Do managers truly analyze why certain issues happen? Can they prove their assumptions? You can think more logically if you’re aware of recurring misconceptions. Test your deductions and obtain evidence of your findings to get precise data and suitable resolutions.
3. Diversify thought
One of the most significant milestones in critical thinking resides in stepping out of your comfort zone and approaching those who have a different point of view. You may learn a lot by exploring and listening to the ideas of those who have unrelated backgrounds to yours. Perhaps if you’re in finance, get acquainted with people from marketing. Find out where they come from and take advantage of the knowledge they can share.
People tend to partner with those who think alike, impeding the opportunities to escape their everyday thinking. Train yourself to withhold your preferences and allow your teammates to share their opinions privately so that the group won’t influence them.
The future of work requires innovative skills
Leaders carry the responsibility to bring out the best in their workforce. That’s why, after facing a global crisis such as the pandemic and other subsequent problems, companies are not only focusing resources on creating environments where employees feel engaged and productive. Organizations have realized that those mentally wired to solve unprecedented issues become essential to the team in binding times. Critical thinking abilities can generate creative solutions for many of the complex topics we currently face in the world.
Today, companies that deliver exceptional results are 208 percent more focused on innovation leadership. They’re also 182 percent more successful at managing change than other organizations. Although CEOs deal with tremendous disturbances and transformations, implementing and encouraging creativity can help overcome those challenges.
Critical thinking, along with collaboration and creativity, is considered a crucial innovation skill highly valued by any leader. As more companies prepare for the future, they concentrate on excelling those abilities that only humans have. Developing and understanding human skills may be the best way to stay relevant in the age of machine learning. Start adding value to your staff, use and empower their unique human talents and benefit from their insights and critical thinking as you fully embrace developing technologies.