21ST CENTURY JOB SKILLS BLOG


The Impact of Critical Thinking in the Workplace


Nov 09, 2020






Focus on Critical Thinking Skills to Ratchet Up Your Team’s Performance

 

“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”  -- Socrates

 

Socrates would lead his disciples to ultimate truths through continually questioning and analyzing the answers. Because of this, we consider him to be the father of critical thinking.

 

Socrates knew there were so many things that keep us from seeing the truth: our distractions, biases, and filters.

 

But to get to the real answers, we need to do the research, ask the questions, and test our theories so that we can do the best job we possibly can.

 

Emotions and gut feelings do have a role in the business world -- but the best gut feelings are informed by information and solid analysis.

 

  • Do we have all the data we need?
  • Is every option in front of us and what are the pros and cons of each?
  • What do we need to implement?

 

Intuition without critical thinking is guessing… or gambling, and there’s a lot at stake

 

Uninformed emotional decisions can be expensive...We’ve all experienced it. But sometimes we’re at a loss if we don’t know what we don’t know… especially working as a team. Leading your team using critical thinking skills leads you past the guessing game and to the real answers.

 

What are Critical Thinking Skills?

 

The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defines this process as "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."

 

 

Whoa. That’s a mouthful.

 

Let’s try that again. 

 

Critical thinking isn’t just an ability or a soft skill, it’s a process. But the more you and your team use Problem solving skills to arrive at decisions and solve problems, the better you get at it.

 

The process looks like this:

 

  • systematically gathering information
  • analyzing that information
  • developing further ideas based on your information
  • testing those ideas before fully implementing them

 

Most people make decisions using self-interest, bias, and emotions as filters -- sometimes without even knowing those filters are there.

 

Conceptualizing processes help us analyze situations and remove those filters. They help us figure out what we know and what we don’t know... Just like Socrates did throughout his dialogues.

 

Headaches and Disasters Happen without Critical Thinking

 

When your team doesn’t have a well-thought-out approach, bad things can happen:

 

  1. Hurt feelings can cause team tension: Rejection of ideas feels like personal rejection when team members approach a problem according to their own personal style with no way to remove their own biases and filters.
  2. Decisions are made on incomplete information: Incomplete information means a greater chance of making a critical mistake -- impacting the results, the budget, jobs, and timelines.
  3. Your leadership doesn’t have a solid direction: Critical thinking skills provide a compass -- a direction for your team so they know where they’re going.

 

There’s Still Room for Unique Thinking

It’s not that individual team members can’t have unique approaches. The ability to approach problems in different ways is a huge strength of teamwork. But these unique perspectives need a framework of structure and accountability -- a way for the team to review information and find solutions unhindered by ego and bias.

 

Critical Thinking is Rare and Valued in the Workplace

 

When the World Economic Forum surveyed some of the leading human resource officers on the planet, they listed critical thinking as the 2nd most important skill in the workplace. It was preceded by complex problem solving  -- the two abilities are intimately connected.

 

A team that approaches its problems critically will:

 

  • explore all options
  • take fewer risks
  • make fewer critical mistakes
  • solve problems and create processes

 

And this ultimately makes them a better team.

 

A workplace where employees are not allowed to ever fail or make mistakes is not a healthy workplace -- not every project or campaign will be a raging success, no matter how thorough a team is. But every piece of guesswork is a gamble -- the Problem solving approach cuts those odds way down, saving your company time and expense.

 

Follow the Leader: What a Critically-Thinking Leader Looks Like

 

Leaders who are good critical thinkers are:

 

  • Flexible -- able to take alternative perspectives into account.
  • Inquisitive -- pursues knowledge and seeks to understand.
  • Self-aware -- understands that we all have biases and evaluates if their own are getting in the way of real answers.
  • Analytical -- able to reason with self-confidence.
  • Conscientious -- focuses on getting to the answers because that’s what’s needed.

 

A leader like this is approachable and creates an environment where individual team members are free to share and test ideas. You’re creating an environment where team members with different abilities can thrive, explore, and collaborate freely.

 

While you’re giving each worker the ability to let their strengths shine, you’re also keeping them moving in the same direction toward the same goal.

 

When you guide your team through a process of research, analysis, and testing, you keep the attention on the goal and minimize human error because you’re all checking each other and working for the team.

 

How to Increase Critical Thinking in The Workplace

 

How do you bring deliberating thinking skills into the team environment? Start with a few of these tactics:

 

  • In your hiring process, incorporate behavioral interviewing questions that focus on reasoning  abilities. Hiring and promoting critical thinkers makes it part of the fabric of your company. 

 

  • Create an environment where tough questions are asked and welcomed, giving employees the platform to discuss alternatives openly. 

 

  • Approach a problem by first looking at the challenges to develop a shared understanding of factors that impact the process. Always encourage team members to look at the bigger picture. Ask questions that lead them through the process. Challenge assumptions and biases to chip away at filters that keep you and your team from pursuing the ultimate answers.
  • Incorporate "lessons learned" discussions after you finish each project. Employees get a chance to evaluate their own performance and the team’s -- evaluating what went right and brainstorming how to improve.

 

Learn More about Elevating Critical Thinking In Your Company Culture

 

Are you seeing how a team well-versed in inventiveness can make a huge difference? Are you wanting to brush up on your own knowledge of reasoning methods before moving forward with your employees?

 

Sign up for our 21st Century Job Skills “Decision Making and Judgment.” In 90 minutes, you’ll have tools that will take your work the next level that can be incorporated into your work immediately. And as a leader, you’ll be able to create a structure that will take your team to the next level, too.

Focus on Critical Thinking Skills to Ratchet Up Your Team’s Performance

 

“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”  -- Socrates

 

Socrates would lead his disciples to ultimate truths through continually questioning and analyzing the answers. Because of this, we consider him to be the father of critical thinking.

 

Socrates knew there were so many things that keep us from seeing the truth: our distractions, biases, and filters.

 

But to get to the real answers, we need to do the research, ask the questions, and test our theories so that we can do the best job we possibly can.

 

Emotions and gut feelings do have a role in the business world -- but the best gut feelings are informed by information and solid analysis.

 

  • Do we have all the data we need?
  • Is every option in front of us and what are the pros and cons of each?
  • What do we need to implement?

 

Intuition without critical thinking is guessing… or gambling, and there’s a lot at stake

 

Uninformed emotional decisions can be expensive...We’ve all experienced it. But sometimes we’re at a loss if we don’t know what we don’t know… especially working as a team. Leading your team using critical thinking skills leads you past the guessing game and to the real answers.

 

What are Critical Thinking Skills?

 

The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defines this process as "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."

 

 

Whoa. That’s a mouthful.

 

Let’s try that again. 

 

Critical thinking isn’t just an ability or a soft skill, it’s a process. But the more you and your team use Problem solving skills to arrive at decisions and solve problems, the better you get at it.

 

The process looks like this:

 

  • systematically gathering information
  • analyzing that information
  • developing further ideas based on your information
  • testing those ideas before fully implementing them

 

Most people make decisions using self-interest, bias, and emotions as filters -- sometimes without even knowing those filters are there.

 

Conceptualizing processes help us analyze situations and remove those filters. They help us figure out what we know and what we don’t know... Just like Socrates did throughout his dialogues.

 

Headaches and Disasters Happen without Critical Thinking

 

When your team doesn’t have a well-thought-out approach, bad things can happen:

 

  1. Hurt feelings can cause team tension: Rejection of ideas feels like personal rejection when team members approach a problem according to their own personal style with no way to remove their own biases and filters.
  2. Decisions are made on incomplete information: Incomplete information means a greater chance of making a critical mistake -- impacting the results, the budget, jobs, and timelines.
  3. Your leadership doesn’t have a solid direction: Critical thinking skills provide a compass -- a direction for your team so they know where they’re going.

 

There’s Still Room for Unique Thinking

It’s not that individual team members can’t have unique approaches. The ability to approach problems in different ways is a huge strength of teamwork. But these unique perspectives need a framework of structure and accountability -- a way for the team to review information and find solutions unhindered by ego and bias.

 

Critical Thinking is Rare and Valued in the Workplace

 

When the World Economic Forum surveyed some of the leading human resource officers on the planet, they listed critical thinking as the 2nd most important skill in the workplace. It was preceded by complex problem solving  -- the two abilities are intimately connected.

 

A team that approaches its problems critically will:

 

  • explore all options
  • take fewer risks
  • make fewer critical mistakes
  • solve problems and create processes

 

And this ultimately makes them a better team.

 

A workplace where employees are not allowed to ever fail or make mistakes is not a healthy workplace -- not every project or campaign will be a raging success, no matter how thorough a team is. But every piece of guesswork is a gamble -- the Problem solving approach cuts those odds way down, saving your company time and expense.

 

Follow the Leader: What a Critically-Thinking Leader Looks Like

 

Leaders who are good critical thinkers are:

 

  • Flexible -- able to take alternative perspectives into account.
  • Inquisitive -- pursues knowledge and seeks to understand.
  • Self-aware -- understands that we all have biases and evaluates if their own are getting in the way of real answers.
  • Analytical -- able to reason with self-confidence.
  • Conscientious -- focuses on getting to the answers because that’s what’s needed.

 

A leader like this is approachable and creates an environment where individual team members are free to share and test ideas. You’re creating an environment where team members with different abilities can thrive, explore, and collaborate freely.

 

While you’re giving each worker the ability to let their strengths shine, you’re also keeping them moving in the same direction toward the same goal.

 

When you guide your team through a process of research, analysis, and testing, you keep the attention on the goal and minimize human error because you’re all checking each other and working for the team.

 

How to Increase Critical Thinking in The Workplace

 

How do you bring deliberating thinking skills into the team environment? Start with a few of these tactics:

 

  • In your hiring process, incorporate behavioral interviewing questions that focus on reasoning  abilities. Hiring and promoting critical thinkers makes it part of the fabric of your company. 

 

  • Create an environment where tough questions are asked and welcomed, giving employees the platform to discuss alternatives openly. 

 

  • Approach a problem by first looking at the challenges to develop a shared understanding of factors that impact the process. Always encourage team members to look at the bigger picture. Ask questions that lead them through the process. Challenge assumptions and biases to chip away at filters that keep you and your team from pursuing the ultimate answers.
  • Incorporate "lessons learned" discussions after you finish each project. Employees get a chance to evaluate their own performance and the team’s -- evaluating what went right and brainstorming how to improve.

 

Learn More about Elevating Critical Thinking In Your Company Culture

 

Are you seeing how a team well-versed in inventiveness can make a huge difference? Are you wanting to brush up on your own knowledge of reasoning methods before moving forward with your employees?

 

Sign up for our 21st Century Job Skills “Decision Making and Judgment.” In 90 minutes, you’ll have tools that will take your work the next level that can be incorporated into your work immediately. And as a leader, you’ll be able to create a structure that will take your team to the next level, too.



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