Critical thinking is one of those things that always seems in short supply. Instead of applying logical reasoning to our decisions, we often make them based on intuition or instinct.
When you’re just deciding how to spend a weekend, this isn’t an issue. In the workplace, though, making decisions can require a more considerate approach. If there’s a situation you must deal with, you need to look at it from all angles to find the right solution. This can involve considering the facts, validating the evidence, and evaluating the outcomes.
Today’s employers are aware of these situations. This is why more and more of them are looking for candidates that display strong critical thinking and decision-making skills, even outside of managerial roles. On top of helping achieve business goals, critical thinking can help you drive your career forward as well.
Looking to develop your critical thinking skills in the workplace? Start by following these six simple habits.
- Practice Active Listening
There’s a big difference between hearing something and actively listening to it. Being an active listener means paying close attention to the details and context of the conversation. By practicing active listening, it will be much easier to consider things from different perspectives.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to be involved in a conversation to learn from it – as long as it’s not private. You can pick up a lot simply by listening to a debate between your colleagues or between other employees and their supervisors.
- Be Aware of Your Biases
Our values and beliefs have a huge influence on how we perceive information and make decisions. We’re usually drawn toward information that already supports our point of view. As comforting as “confirming” your biases can be, it’s counter-productive to critical thinking.
To be a better critical thinker, you first need to recognize your biases. Think about why you process information in a certain way and consider how this might be impacting your judgment. The more familiar you’re with your biases, the easier it becomes to balance them out.
- Seek Out Other Perspectives
In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk about diversity in the workplace. There’s a good reason for it: when people from different backgrounds work together, their unique perspectives and experience make for a more constructive debate and better-informed decisions.
Critical thinking works in much the same way. By engaging with a wide range of people, you gain more understanding of the issue at hand. As a result, your approach to solving the issue should become more objective and efficient.
- Ask More Questions
Critical thinking revolves around clarity, and the best way to obtain clarity is to ask questions. Otherwise, many things may be overlooked, misinterpreted, or misunderstood. Make it a habit to ask others questions any time you need clarification or more details.
You can also direct those questions inward. Keep asking yourself what you already know, how you came to know it, and what you’re trying to achieve. With every question you ask yourself or others, you’re expanding your knowledge and supporting your goals.
- Learn From Experience
Contrary to popular opinion, critical thinking isn’t all about the here and now – it’s also about the future implications of your decisions. Well, one of the best ways to understand what may happen in the future is to reflect on your past experiences.
In many cases, learning from experience provides a level of foresight. It gives you a better idea of how your actions will be received and how they’ll affect other processes. Periodically looking back at your experiences can do wonders for guiding your critical thinking.
- Question Assumptions
Taking things at face value is the antithesis to critical thinking. Even if something’s widely assumed to be true, there’s often no guarantee that it is. To be an effective critical thinker, you must be able to look beyond presumptions to find the truth.
How often do you hear the phrase “Because that’s how it is” or something to that effect? The next time someone says that to you, analyze the information objectively. If you’re not satisfied with the explanation, consider exploring the alternatives.