By Dr Eugene Brink
The knowledge era and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) have propelled critical thinking to the forefront of career and business success.
That is why the World Economic Forum (WEF) has listed it as the fourth most important skill in the run-up to 2025. And yet, it doesn’t feature as prominently as it should and those with the ability to do it will have a competitive advantage for the rest of their working lives.
“Critical thinking is one of the most underused skills among human beings. Most people underestimate their thinking ability and take it for granted,” says Maxim Dsouza, leadership expert.
He says most people find scores of reasons not to take time to reflect and think about problems and issues, from being too busy doing things to not having an exceptional IQ. “Whatever your reason is, you can learn how to improve your critical-thinking skills to make a difference in your goals and self-improvement. Also, you don’t have to beat the smartest people at the thinking game. If you make the best use of your thinking prowess, you’ll reap the rewards.”
Hence, improving your critical thinking is not so much about intelligence but about processes and a willingness to improve it. Let’s dive into what it entails.
“Typically, using critical thinking at work involves processing and organising facts, data and other information to define a problem and develop effective solutions,” the Indeed editorial team opined. “For example, if you’re working in human resources and need to resolve a conflict between two employees, you will use critical thinking to understand the nature of the conflict and what action should be taken to resolve the situation.”
Dsouza describes it as follows: “In simple real life, critical thinking is using your knowledge, experience, and thoughts to make the best possible decision. It also includes learning from your past experiences to improve yourself, avoid mistakes, and make better choices in the future.”
In short, it enables us to spot flaws and act on them. “Critical thinking skills are essential in every industry at every career level, from entry-level associates to top executives. Good critical thinkers can work both independently and with others to solve problems,” says the Indeed team. “Issues such as process inefficiencies, management or finances can be improved by using critical thought. Because of this, employers value and seek out candidates who demonstrate strong critical thinking skills.”
Thus, we are all forced to make frequent decisions. Some are big while others are trivial, but they need to be as successful and accurate as possible and this is where critical thinking comes in. Simply “doing work” is no longer good enough; doing it the best way you can is what counts. This applies to jobs as diverse as office workers, financial experts, teachers and chief executive officers.
There are five key critical thinking skills that you can highlight on a CV or in an interview:
- Observation: Being able to slow down and sense and observe a problem and why it is a problem, is of paramount importance.
- Analysis: Knowing which facts and information about a problem are relevant.
- Inference: This allows you to draw conclusions about a certain problem and producing answers. Being creative is equally important during this step.
- Communication: Conveying these answers to other people in a concise and effective manner.
- Problem-solving: Taking a course of action to solve the problem.
FindcoursesUK, 9 February 2021, “How To Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills”, https://www.findcourses.co.uk/inspiration/articles/how-to-improve-critical-thinking-9900.
Indeed editorial team, 26 July 2021, “10 Essential Critical Thinking Skills (And How to Improve Them)”, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/critical-thinking-skills.
Maxim Dsouza, 2021, “How To Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills – 7 Techniques”, https://productiveclub.com/improve-critical-thinking-skills/