What Is Critical Thinking Skills?

Critical thinking is critical – pun intended – in today’s problem-riddled workplace. Every single day we are faced with issues that require us to dig deeper than the surface level in order to find the solutions we need. That requires critical thinking.
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Critical thinking skills are what help you make fact-based decisions without being swayed by the opinions of others. Your employer (and clients) wants to know that you can start with a hypothesis, gather facts to prove or disprove it, and then develop a problem statement / solution based on available information.

Most of the thinking you do every day is not critical. You breathe without thinking about it. You reach for coffee on autopilot (or is that just us?) Critical thinking is important because it involves following a process to deliberately evaluate a situation to identify and solve problems.

If you are helping a client navigate a serious cash crunch or consulting on a corporate downsizing, you will need to do more than just put your brain on autopilot.

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What Does Critical Thinking Mean?

So, what is the definition of critical thinking? Critical thinking involves your ability to assess a situation based on available information and make a judgment based on your findings. Furthermore – and this step is vital – critical thinking also involves being able to clearly communicate what you learned.

What does critical thinking mean? It means you can gather information on a given problem and make an informed decision. You are able to approach a solution and articulate your opinion, rather than adopting someone else’s opinion or conclusion.

How to Improve Critical Thinking?

When assessing how to improve critical thinking, there are key steps for you to consider:

  • Learn more about the industry you are in and increase your technical skills. This will allow you to better identify problems.
  • Challenge yourself to solve 1 new problem daily for your employer, your clients, and yourself.
  • Gain an awareness of how you approach problems and implement the 7 critical thinking skills we discuss below.
  • Track your progress as you grow in your problem-solving abilities.
  • Further your education. Advanced education is structured in a way to help develop your critical thinking skills.
  • Seek out courses in your industry that are geared toward helping you collect data, do research and conduct analysis.
  • Look for apps and games that require you to think critically. You can have fun and improve your critical thinking skills at the same time!
  • Ask for feedback from industry peers. Ask for advice, and as you improve, ask for continued feedback.

7 Critical Thinking Skills

Now that we have established that critical thinking skills are required for your personal and career-related success, what are the 7 critical thinking skills you must employ? When approaching a problem or determining if there is a problem or issue you should:

  1. Observe

Start by always having your eyes open and notice when things seem like they are going in the wrong direction. This is the first step in critical thinking. It could even be as simple as a gut feeling – don’t ignore it!

  1. Analyze

If you find a problem or think there could be an issue, it is time to conduct research. You need to collect data and facts and determine if you have enough information to come to a conclusion or a problem statement.

  1. Assume Nothing

You know what they say about assuming, right? Approach problem solving with a completely open mind, as if the data and information you are evaluating is novel to you. This will help to remove any bias you may have from visiting a similar topic previously.

  1. Draw Conclusions or Make a Hypothesis

You may have to use the information you find to infer what a problem is – even prior to testing – to see if you are correct.

A physician may remove certain foods from your diet if you are seemingly allergic to something. He or she doesn’t have the answer yet but is trying to find the culprit via a process of elimination. You may have to eliminate certain solutions as you home in on the right one.

  1. Communicate Clearly

As you obtain data and information, you will need to share your findings with your coworkers, employer and/or clients. Being able to bring forth your findings clearly and succinctly and help others understand your thought process is key to the successful culmination of critical thinking.

Knowing how to not overwhelm your audience with all the details is key. Keep it to the point and actionable.

  1. Use Problem-Solving Skills

Based on the data you have, develop possible ways to solve the problem at hand. Test your thought process with others.

  1. Think for Yourself!

After all, your employer hired you and not a robot or anyone else. Don’t be afraid to share what you think, even if it is outside of what you have learned through your research. Your thoughts could in fact connect the dots in a way that creates a completely different or new approach to solving a problem.

Critical Thinking Skills – Worth Developing

In a world that is advancing so quickly, it has never been more important for you to utilize and improve critical thinking skills. Learning critical thinking skills will set you up for success in your career!

How have you intentionally focused on improving your critical thinking skills in the past 3 months? If you haven’t, how do you plan to? Let us know in the comments!

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Filed Under: business consulting, Consulting skills, Corporate Training, management consulting