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How to promote critical thinking in the workplace

By Fi Darby

In today’s competitive and ever changing job market, standing out from the crowd is really important. Your career is likely to take you into a variety of industries and settings. It will often be your personal skills that help you land your dream job or beat your teammates up the career ladder. You only have to read a few job adverts to realise that critical thinking is high on the wish list for many employers.

What is critical thinking?

We all know the pace of working life is extremely variable. As deadlines tighten or problems arise, we can find ourselves making snap decisions and failing to look at the bigger picture. If this only happens occasionally, it isn’t a problem. However, allowing quick decisions to take over from considered thinking could be a long-term mistake.

Critical thinking allows you to disconnect yourself from the way you feel about a situation and make decisions based on information rather than emotions or opinions. There is always room for improvement with critical thinking skills but you may already be better at it than you think. If you recognise yourself in the statements below, you are on your way to being a great critical thinker.
  • I have a tendency to think before I act
  • I use solid information to inform my decisions
  • I don’t base decisions on feelings
  • I am happy to change methods
  • I find it easy to explain the reasoning behind my decisions
You don’t necessarily have to be good at remembering information to be a critical thinker. Great problem solving comes from being able to use information to work out probable outcomes. There are some careers that require obvious critical thinking skills. For example, jobs in finance such as an accountant require great organisational skills, as well as an ability to analyse problems.

The truth is, however, that most roles require some critical thinking ability. Take the role of marketing manager as an example. Creativity and communication skills are perhaps the two most obvious requirements. However, successful marketing managers also need to be able to assess and respond effectively to changing marketing practices.

How do we use critical thinking in the workplace?

team brainstorming with post its

Critical thinking skills aren’t just valuable for those in management positions. We all need to make sure the decisions we make are based on solid information. Let’s take the job of aged care worker as an example. In this role, you would be responsible for providing in-home assistance to elderly people.

This would involve working independently and making important decisions. As a good critical thinker, you would make these decisions based on a number of factors. These might include existing knowledge, professional advice and daily changes. By taking all of these factors and more into account, you would ensure your client had the best and most effective care for their situation and needs.

There are many ways you can use critical thinking in the workplace. These are common to most careers and include:
  • Ensuring you always have your eye on the end goal
  • Talking to other people and collecting relevant information
  • Using information and facts to inform your actions
  • Making sure your own preconceptions don’t influence a situation
  • Building solutions that are individual to each situation
  • Anticipating both the long and the short-term consequences of decisions

Why is workplace critical thinking so significant?

Business decisions can be big or small. Whatever the size, failing to utilise critical thinking skills in the workplace can cause a number of problems. These include:
  • Poor decision making
  • Unhappy colleagues
  • A lack of necessary action
  • Dysfunctional systems
  • Financial losses
  • Wasted time and effort
One of the most serious consequences of poor or non-existent critical thinking skills is the issue of repeated mistakes. One-time errors can be corrected but errors that become engrained in the culture of a workplace can be really costly.

These costs can include avoidable financial losses, a decreasing talent pool and the loss of company reputation. Ultimately, any organisation that doesn’t build critical thinking skills into workplace culture and training is setting itself up for costly failure.

How can I develop my critical thinking skills?

online learning concept

If you want to take on new and exciting roles, the more opportunities you have to develop your critical thinking skills, the better. Employers are always on the lookout for people who can demonstrate their abilities in this area. During an interview, you may well be asked how critical thinking has helped you in the past. Here are a few things you can do to build your critical thinking skills.
  • Get into the habit of asking important but basic questions such as, ‘What do we already know about this situation?’ or ‘What is our main goal here?’
  • Gain a solid understanding of your own preconceptions. Learn how to override them
  • Do plenty of research but don’t forget to think for yourself as well
  • Talk to your employer about a whole organisation approach
  • Consider a career move into job roles that often require expert critical thinking. There are many of these but IT business analyst, project analyst and supervisor are popular cross-industry examples.
  • Investigate training opportunities. For example, Upskilled’s BSB50215 - Diploma of Business can help you develop a competitive edge and includes a unit on applying advanced critical thinking to work processes.
Online courses are a great way to add skills to your resume and get yourself noticed. Most Upskilled courses take only 12-months and fit easily into a busy lifestyle.

With online learning, you can study at the same time as juggling a hectic home and work life. Why not update your personal, business and management skills today with Upskilled's extensive range of business and management courses.
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