Critical thinking is the ability to make informed decisions by evaluating several different sources of information objectively. As such, critical thinkers possess many other essential skills, including analysis, creativity, problem-solving and empathy.
Employers have always found critical thinking extremely valuable – after all, no boss wants to constantly handhold their employees because they are unable to make their own judgements about how best to proceed.
However, all too often people talk about critical thinking in theory, while never really explaining what that knowledge looks like in practice. As a result, many have never really understood the importance of thinking critically in business. Which is why we’ve created this list of examples of how critical thinking skills are used in the workplace.
Critical thinking example 1: Problem-solving
Imagine you’re at work. Someone, potentially your manager, presents you with a problem. You immediately go off and start looking for solutions. But do you take a step back first to analyse the situation, gathering and reviewing as much information as possible? Do you ask each of the different people involved what their opinion is, or how the problem affects their and the broader business’ day-to-day? And do you decide to run with the first solution you find, or take the time to come up with a number of different options and test each before making your final judgement?
While a lot of people may think they have problem-solving skills, if you aren’t taking the time to follow the above steps, you’re not really being a critical thinker. As such, you may not find the best solution to your problem.
Employing critical thinking skills when solving a problem is absolutely essential – what you decide could impact hundreds of people and even have an effect on the financial health of the business. If you’re not looking at it from multiple perspectives, you’re never going to be able to understand the full impact of a decision.
Critical thinking example 2: Risk assessment
Economic uncertainty, climate change, political upheaval … risks abound in the modern workforce, and it’s an employee’s critical thinking skills that will enable a business to assess these hazards and act on them.
Risk assessment occurs in a number of different scenarios. For example, a construction company has to identify all potential hazards on a building site to ensure its employees are working as safely as possible. Without this analysis, there could be injuries or even deaths, causing severe distress to the workforce and negatively impacting the company’s reputation (not to mention any of the legal consequences).
In the finance industry, organisations have to assess the potential impacts of new legislation on the way they work, as well as how the new law will affect their clients. This requires critical thinking skills such as analysis, creativity (imagining different scenarios arising from the legislation) and problem-solving (finding a way to work with the new legislation). If the financial institution in this example doesn’t utilise these critical thinking skills, it could end up losing profit or even suffering legal consequences from non-compliance.
Critical thinking example 3: Data analysis
In the digital age critical thinking has become even more, well, critical. While machines have the ability to collate huge amounts of information and reproduce it in a readable format, the ability to analyse and act on this data is still a skill only humans possess.
Take an accountant. Many of their more mundane tasks have passed to technology. Accounting platforms have the ability to produce profit and loss statements, prepare accounts, issue invoices and create balance sheets. But that doesn’t mean accountants are out of a job. Instead, they can now focus their efforts on adding real value to their clients by interpreting the data this technology has collated and using it to give recommendations on how to improve. On a wider scale, they can look at historic financial trends and use this data to forecast potential risks or stumbling blocks moving forward.
The core skill in all of these activities is critical thinking – being able to analyse a large amount of information and draw conclusions in order to make better decisions for the future. Without these critical thinkers, an organisation may easily fall behind its competitors, who are able to respond to risks more easily and provide more value to clients.
Critical thinking example 4: Talent hiring
One of the most important aspects of the critical thinking process is being able to look at a situation objectively. This also happens to be crucial when making a new hire. Not only do you have to analyse a large number of CVs and cover letters in order to select the best candidates from a pool, you also need to be able to do this objectively. This means not giving preferential treatment to someone because of their age, gender, origin or any other factor. Given that bias is often unconscious, if you can demonstrate that you are able to make decisions like this with as little subjectivity as possible, you can show that you possess objectivity – a key critical thinking skill.
Hiring the right talent is essential for a company’s survival. You don’t want to lose out on top candidates because of someone’s unconscious bias, showing just how essential this type of knowledge is in business.
Prove your critical thinking skills with professional practice credentials
As you can see, critical thinking skills are incredibly important to organisations across all industries. In today’s constantly changing world, businesses need people who can adapt and apply their thinking to new situations. No matter where you’re at in your career, you need critical thinking skills to complete your everyday tasks effectively, and when it comes to getting your next promotion, they’re vital.
But the problem with critical thinking skills, just like all soft skills, is that they are hard to prove. While you can show your employer you have a certificate in computer programming, you can’t say the same of critical thinking.
Until now. Enter Deakin’s professional practice credentials. These are university-level micro-credentials that provide an authoritative assessment of your proficiencies in a range of areas. This includes critical thinking, as well as a number of other soft skills, such as communication, innovation, teamwork and self-management.
Find out more about our credentials here or contact a member of the team today to find out how you can prove your critical thinking skills and take your career to the next level.