What is Critical Thinking and why do jobseekers need it?

One of the key skills employers are looking for is Critical Thinking. According to bebrainfit.com, critical thinking has become one of the most sought-after skills, ahead of creativity and presentation skills. In fact, only digital literacy skills are in demand.
A recent report by the AACU revealed that 93% of employers value critical thinking over the candidate’s undergraduate degree.

Further, WeForum.com cites critical thinking and complex problem solving as key skills to succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Yes, we are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution which began in the last 20th century but accelerated as the global pandemic drove the need for technology. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (also called the knowledge economy) is best recognized for the digital transformation of how we work and live. It is a “fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.”

What is critical thinking?

Chron.com defines critical thinking as “the act of analyzing a subject or a situation and forming a judgment based on that analysis. Nearly everybody uses some form of critical thinking in their day-to-day life, which often includes critical thinking at work.”

A critical thinker is not necessarily a trivia buff or Jeopardy champion. A person with good memory and who knows a lot of facts may not be good at critical thinking. Critical thinkers can use the information they have accumulated to identify a problem, evaluate the consequences of what they know, and then make use of that information to find solutions. A good critical thinker can also identify their own biases in choosing solutions and self-correct. Critical thinkers are good at foresight – they are always thinking a few steps ahead of the immediate problem.

What are examples of critical thinking?

  1. A triage nurse analyzes the cases at hand and decides the order in which the patients should be treated.

  2. A construction engineer evaluates the materials that would best suit a particular job.

  3. An attorney reviews the evidence and devises a strategy to win a case or decide whether to settle out of court.

  4. A logistics manager analyses the best warehouse configuration to store the maximum number of products while being able to access products for shipping

  5. An accountant reviews tax laws and policies to determine the appropriate tax approach to minimize his client’s tax bill.

Why is critical thinking a key skillset in the new knowledge economy?

The velocity, breadth, and depth of change are impacting our lives and disrupting almost every industry and country. As a result, critical thinking is very important for employees and leaders alike. The knowledge economy is driven by information and technology. Employees must be able to deal with changes quickly and effectively. The new economy places increasing demands on flexible intellectual skills, and the ability to analyze information and integrate diverse sources of knowledge in solving problems. Good critical thinking is relevant for any career path and allows employees to recognize disruption, identify plausible solutions and manage exponential change to remain competitive in the fast-changing workplace.
For employers, the benefits of employees' critical thinking include:

  • Finding multiple solutions to problems

  • Communicating effectively between teams and individual employees

  • Developing unique perspectives on situations and challenges at work

  • Creating processes that capture changes in production, service, or quality control

  • Understanding competitive activities and inferring the future implications for your business

How can you develop your critical thinking skills?

Critical thinking in practice is a process that allows us to make the best decisions and find the best solutions to a problem. The “skills” that we need to practice in order to develop our critical thinking “muscle” include observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem-solving, and decision making.
According to Indeed.com, there are several ways to improve your critical thinking in the workplace and become a stronger employee:

  1. Become more self-aware.

  2. Understand your mental process.

  3. Develop foresight.

  4. Practice Active Listening.

  5. Ask Questions.

  6. Evaluate evidence.

Indeed also recommends finding a mentor who can challenge your critical thinking process; take part in team-building exercises where you are likely to deal with conflict resolution and proactively ask for more leadership opportunities which will likely expose you to complex problem-solving.

When upskilling your critical thinking, you are not only benefiting your employer and your own professional skill set for internal and external professional mobility. Critical thinking can also benefit you and help you navigate personal decisions and assess the validity of news and information you are exposed to. Critical thinking is a life skill you can use in every area of life, including interpersonal relationships, financial planning, and career decisions.

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