When facing a problem or an issue, taking the right decision is a fundamental task. Critical thinking helps us to understand the pros and cons of every possible outcome and to value them according to the goal we want to achieve. Improving its utilisation in the workplaces, can results in better decisions, fewer mistakes and in a significant improvement of the collaboration between people within the same organisation.
Thinking is conceived as a common activity among people because, in a way or another, everybody does it. It is a process closely related to our mind and its purpose is to interpret and analyse the stimuli we perceive through our senses.
Being thinking an action which involves a specific process, we should be able to have a certain level of control on it. We should be aware of some good models to do and improve it.
Critical thinking is one of these good models. Understanding what it is and how to apply it in life, can lead people to come to better conclusions and better decisions. Workplaces can also benefit of the employment of critical thinking as the ability of choosing between a good and bad decisions is crucial, often vital, in business.
How can we define critical thinking and what is it aimed at? The Alec Fisher’s book ‘Critical thinking – an introduction’, provides a good insight into this topic by expounding a selection of the most explanatory definitions which have been developed by some important authorities on this subject. One of these definitions comes from Robert Ellis who states that ‘Critical thinking is reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe and do’ (Ellis qtd. in Critical Thinking an Introduction 2001: 4).
Another interesting definition included in the Alec Fisher’s work is ‘Critical thinking is that mode of thinking – about any subject, content or problem in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skilfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them’ (Paul qtd. in Critical Thinking An Introduction: 4).
Therefore, critical thinking is focused on testing the validity of assumptions or beliefs by the application of a set of cognitive skills such as ‘interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation and self-regulation’ (Facione, 2010: 5).
The application of critical thinking has some significant benefits: it improves the process of thinking and, as a consequence, it leads to a better interpretation and a rational evaluation of the assumptions.
The application of the critical thinking allows us to come to a reasoned conclusion with a full understanding of its consequences. It also assures that all the relevant hypotheses are taken into due account, avoiding the inferences of personal biases or conflicts among people within a team.
Critical thinking, decision making and creative thinking
Due to its characteristics, critical thinking has a great impact on the decision making, where people are asked to take decisions in order to resolve a particular problem or issue. In this situation, critical thinking provides a helpful method to measure the possible solutions in the light of a set of collected evidence. Furthermore the relevance between the hypotheses and their evidence as well as their correlation to the main problem is appraised. In this scenario, critical thinking is a useful method to reach an outcome with a good level of confidence.
In relation to the decision making, creative thinking can also play a crucial role, when problems call for innovative solutions. In this case these two different processes can work side by side; the first one is meant to discover new ideas, while the second one is called to logically test the strength of each of them. The frame provided by critical thinking gives the same level of importance to every single hypothesis raised, for example, in a creative brainstorming. This assures that all the possible solutions are equally considered. When working together, critical and creative thinking are able to transform problems into new opportunities.
Critical thinking in the workplace
Why is critical thinking important in the workplace? Critical thinking is applicable whenever people are called to investigate in order to resolve a problem. This happens all the time in workplaces at any level. In fact not only managers have the responsibility of taking decisions, but people at all levels into an organisation are called to face and resolve problems inherent their area of expertise. Many decisions are taken without thinking too much as people are often asked to deal with problems which require immediate solutions. But for critical problems, bad decisions can negatively impact, sometime seriously, business. To mitigate the risk of serious negative consequences, it is important to take decisions which are carefully weighted and reasoned on the grounds of all the evidence provided and to take the right time to evaluate it.
The application of critical thinking in the workplace also has a good impact on the relationship between people working within the same team or organisation as well as between people working at different levels. In fact, when using an unreasonable and unreflective thinking, hypotheses are a priori discarded or not properly evaluated and personal biases as well as personal contrasts affect the final decision. People, in such a case, do not feel as they were working as part of a team or they feel the management doesn’t listen to their opinions. Using critical thinking instead assures that everybody’s opinion is actively valued and taken into due account. Everyone feels considered. They act as part of a team actively working together in order to achieve a common goal.
Critical thinking is a process which leads to reasoned conclusions, through the application of a set of skills. It can be applied and used in different contexts in order to test the validity of several hypotheses presented as solutions of a problem or an issue. Critical and creative thinking, although different, can work together when problems call for innovative solutions. In the workplace, the application of critical thinking results in better decisions, fewer mistakes and improves the level of collaboration among people.
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