Decision-making is an integral part of our everyday lives. While some may not have much impact, others can change the course of our lives.
Whether significant or otherwise, it would be advantageous to have the skill to make good decisions. Critical thinking skill is all about the ability to examine the problem, detect glitches or obstacles in the path ahead and adapt, improvise or change course for a better outcome.
In short, whatever stage in life and circumstances you are in, the ability to make good decisions can take you much further and get you more without investing additional effort or time.
If you are still skeptical about the need for critical thinking skills, read on to learn more about it. In this article, you will also find tips and suggestions on how to improve critical thinking skills in the work context.
What is critical thinking and how to use it?
Critical thinking is essentially the ability to think ahead, identify problems areas, analyze facts available at hand, and come up with solutions. This means the process also involves compiling relevant information and coming up with the right questions to get the information you are seeking.
Your skill in these related areas can be advantageous. Understanding the cause of the problem, various solutions open to you, drawing inferences from the situation, collecting and arranging information in an organized manner, and arriving at an answer or solution.
The capacity to think and make decisions objectively is an asset for critical thinking. Avoiding emotions, personal bias, and preconceived ideas in the process can lead to better decisions.
The role of critical thinking doesn’t end with finding solutions and identifying the right approach. It also involves developing ways to implement solutions and executing them. And, that is not the end either.
You need to continue monitoring the effectiveness of your decision or solution. If you are satisfied, well and good. Store it away in your mind for future reference and use. If not, you need to analyze the problem by including fresh information and come up with better solutions.
Critical thinking can be advantageous in any situation. When you are applying for a job, you can highlight your critical thinking skills in your resume and demonstrate them if given a chance. Employees with critical thinking abilities are always highly valued.
Here are the steps you can take to enhance your critical thinking skills.
Tips to improve your critical thinking
You can improve your critical thinking by working on these related skills – observation, analysis, inference, communication, and problem-solving.
1. Be clear about your path/goal
To make good decisions, you should know exactly what you want. All decisions are made with specific purposes or objectives. This means that having a clear-cut understanding of your goal can improve the chance of making a good decision.
You can use your objectives and expectations from the decision as a starting point.
So, you need to ask yourself questions – What is it that I want? What are my expectations from it?
The answers to these questions can help you get a crystal clear picture of your goals.
2. Get rid of biases
Often you go wrong with your decisions because you were taking into consideration your perspective alone. And the chances are high that your own thinking is biased. To make better decisions, you need to eliminate bias from the process and include all perspectives in the mix.
The ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes is an asset. Empathy can help you see the bigger picture. You can develop this skill by imagining yourself as someone you know well enough and think like them. Such as at work, think about how your colleague or boss would deal with it.
Viewing the problem with various perspectives and diverse angles can give you insights into the problem you never knew existed and offer solutions you would never have considered otherwise.
3. Think it through
Decisions, especially important life-altering ones, cannot be taken light-heartedly without considering the ramifications. When you have to choose between the ones available, consider the consequences of each one of them before arriving at a decision.
At times, your decisions can impact the lives of others as well. Even after much soul-searching, if you aren’t able to identify a perfect solution that would have only positive consequences, take the one that offers the maximum benefits and the least setbacks for all involved.
This means you need to gather all the information related to the problem. And, list out all possible favorable and unfavorable outcomes. Then it is time to put into use your analytical skill to arrive at an informed decision.
4. Do due diligence
Making good decisions is a simple task if you are willing to let go of your biases, preconceived ideas, and consider all perspectives and options.
Often you tend to see the problem through the lens of your preconceived beliefs which may offer a skewed view. Hesitation to let go of outdated beliefs and embrace new ones can cost you dearly. To improve your decision-making skills, you should be willing to revisit your belief system periodically and do away with ones that do not conform to your present ideals and state of mind.
Keep your mind open to new ideas and beliefs. Be ready to research hard and collect information. Be willing to learn and adapt to new ideas and situations. With all these, you are improving your critical thinking skills.
5. Admit your mistakes
It is hard to accept that something you did with all the assurance in the world was a mistake. After all, as Shakespeare puts it, “to err is human”. There is nothing to be ashamed about. We all make mistakes.
By acknowledging the fact that you are not always right, you get the chance to correct it and move forward. Instead, if you hold on to the belief that you can never go wrong, you will keep repeating the same mistake. This can set you back in your pursuits, whatever it may be.
You need to double-check your solutions and look over them from a critical point of view. Use your mistakes as an opportunity to learn rather than as a mark of failure.
6. Avoid overthinking
In your enthusiasm for getting things right, you may end up overthinking and overcomplicating the problem at hand. There is a fine line that separates thinking and overthinking. How much thinking is right is something you learn with experience.
How you approach a problem can make all the difference. It is good to have the bigger picture. But to understand the problem and arrive at a solution, you need to break it down into smaller elements. This can simplify the problem to a large extent, thus making it easier to arrive at a solution.
Consider this example of critical thinking. As the floor manager at a restaurant, you have to pacify angry customers without losing the support of your staff. It is your critical thinking skills that will save the day.
Most of us are not naturally inclined to critical thinking. It doesn’t come easy either. It is a skill that is worth acquiring if you can manage to get it right.