Sometimes our work processes can become routine. After years on the job, you will most likely know how to deal with those little day-to-day issues and carry out your business quite smoothly without a moment’s thought. When this level of experience meets routine, damaging mistakes can be made because people rely on their knee-jerk reaction to regular or even brand new challenges. Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally about what to do when faced with an idea, problem or concept. Critical thinking’s practical applications lie in being reflective and independent in your thinking process; being able to see yourself as part of a larger picture.
Critical thinking can often be used to make workflows more efficient, often resulting in the kind of observations at work that come to veteran employees over time. For instance, if you are working for a large company as a complaint handler, resolving customer issues on a case-by-case basis, you make have to write a short report after each case, whether they are resolved or not. These reports will often contain similar content and wording with a few key details changing for each case, and writing them out after every case takes far too much time – a critical thinker might see a solution around this laborious process. By writing a standard report template and filling in certain sections about case specifics and actions, the critical thinker increases their efficiency. While this approach may be slightly flawed and could be seen as ‘cutting corners’ if the employee judges each case correctly they could save themselves a lot of time – after all, with most workflows being based on a series of set processes, why can’t the reports follow suit?
When made practical by application, critical thinking could easily be described as being engaged in your work, but what does a fostered culture of critical thinking achieve in the workplace?
Critical thinking, especially collaborative critical thinking, allows employees the freedom to consider multiple approaches to the same problem. This is especially useful in a customer/client facing environment, where changing circumstances may mean that individuals want the same solutions but require a different set of processes.
Comprehensive observation and research
A key critical thinking skill is to understand the link between ideas. Have you ever read an article or book passively and not understood what you’ve read by the end of the page? That’s okay, none of us think critically all the time – that would be exhausting, but when you really need to grasp something you should take the reading slowly and ask a variety of questions. Are there any particular segments you don’t understand? Is a background search required? What is the purpose of the text? And at which point did your brain ‘switch off’? Thinking critically about both the nature of a text and your own approach to it will ensure you have a more comprehensive understanding of the reading.
Foresight and outcomes
Critical thinking is an essential project management skill. The need to assess the outcomes of future events is imperative to the smooth operation of any project and, once again, critical thinking comes into play as a question asking exercise. Ensuring that all considerations are covered and measuring the outcomes is something that applies in-depth thought. Everything from suppliers to staffing needs to be evaluated for suitability, longevity and proper practice. Using critical thinking practice, project managers should have a number of intellectual standards (clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth and significance) to measure their decisions by.
Critical thinking primarily started as an academic practice but is incredibly useful as a professional tool. If you’ve never spent time in an academic environment but have relevant work experience, studying an online degree in Management and Leadership or Management and Professional Accounting is an ideal way to boost your qualifications and your critical thinking skills. If you’d like to enquire about one of our courses fill out our enquiry form and a dedicated recruitment advisor will contact you shortly.
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