Critical Thinking: Everything You Need To Know

Critical Thinking: Everything You Need To Know
Last Updated: May 10, 2024

Did you know that critical thinking goes beyond classroom walls? Research shows that critical thinking has been associated with education, more than anything. Despite being linked to education, the American Associate of Colleges conducted a survey that showed that 74% of the respondents appreciated critical thinking as a core objective of learning, but a California study showed that only 19% of faculties could clearly explain what critical thinking is. Consequentially, this has limited the appreciation for it. However, researchers have recently started studying critical thinking in different contexts, such as the workplace.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the “ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment." This includes evaluating different sources such as observable phenomena, facts, research findings, and data. According to Ruggiero (2012), critical thinking means going beyond common ways of thinking and using different probing techniques to discover new ideas. He also argued that it involves looking at a problem from different perspectives before choosing a course of action. Researchers have identified some of the elements and traits of critical thinking to understand it better.


Critical elements


  1. Understanding links between ideas
  2. Determining the relevance and importance of arguments and ideas
  3. Identifying errors and inconsistencies in reasoning
  4. Justifying assumptions, values, and beliefs
  5. Acknowledging personal limitations
  6. Using evidence rather than feelings to make decisions
  7. Active listening


Critical thinking and the workplace

When people are asked to make a decision or solve a problem, critical thinking comes into play. Employees make decisions. Some are wise actions that help move the company ahead and increase profits. Others are terrible choices that harm the company and lower profits. This is a common occurrence at any level. Decision-making and problem-solving are also constant activities in organizations. Contrary to popular belief, these responsibilities do not lie on Management and upper-level executives only. Despite positions, each individual in an organization makes decisions concerning the business daily.


Employees who are critical thinkers are "reflective, independent, and competent.” They can connect ideas logically, evaluate arguments, and identify inconsistencies in their work and others. These employees are also able to reflect on and solve complex problems.


The value of critical thinkers as employees

Efficiency is among the top goals of every organization. Since critical thinkers can evaluate situations and apply the best solutions, such employees improve efficiency levels. This means that they can implement the most appropriate means of action. A larger pool of such employees means greater efficiency for the business, increasing the chances of the organization meeting its top goals. Therefore critical thinkers are valuable.


Related: Is critical thinking a skill?

Similarly, critical thinkers foster innovation. Such employees are most likely to develop new solutions to problems. Every organization faces the risk of its employees becoming accustomed to certain ways of problem-solving. This limits growth and efficiency and will reflect on the performance of the business. However, the employment of critical thinkers may curb such problems.


Moreover, critical thinking in the workplace promotes teamwork. Innovation means that employees work together to materialize ideas. As much as critical thinkers may develop new ways of doing things, they need input from their colleagues. Therefore, they find more ways to solve problems by working together.  


Additionally, because of how critical thinkers evaluate situations, they can be trusted to make independent decisions.


There is strong evidence that critical thinking skills are highly sought after by employers. A 2007 report that the Society of Human Resources Management published showed that when hiring, employers placed 47% weight on critical thinking skills. At the same time, 46% was placed on problem-solving. Also, employees allocated 48% to critical thinking as a desired skill to increase their employability and success in the workplace. Furthermore, the importance of critical thinking in the workplace has also been shown by a 2015 Australian 2015 report. A 158 % increase in the demand for critical skills in new graduates over three years was recorded. Therefore, critical thinking skills are " among the most sought-after skills in almost every industry and workplace."

How to Build Critical Thinking Skills

How to build critical thinking skills in employees

According to Ruggiero (2012), "critical thinkers learn to focus." It does not mean that they experience fewer distractions compared to others but, "they simply deal with them more quickly and more effectively than ineffective thinkers do" (Ruggiero, 2012). Critical thinking is a skill that can be mastered and practised for improvement. Therefore organizations can help employees in bettering their critical thinking skills. This can be done in the following phases:


Phase 1: Execution

If employees are new to their roles or have never been challenged to think for themselves, they are most likely to be in the execution phase. Employees what is expected of them throughout this period. This may appear simple and even pre-critical thinking, yet putting instructions into action necessitates many critical thinking skills: verbal reasoning, decision-making, and problem-solving. When you can answer "yes" to these three questions, you know your employee is getting it:

  • Is it true that they have completed all aspects of their assignments?
  • Is it true that they finish them on time?


Do they complete things to your standard of quality or near to it?

If an employee is having trouble with this, make sure they understand your instructions by having them rephrase each assignment before they start. Begin by assigning them lesser tasks with shorter deadlines. Ask them to explain what they did, how they did it, and why they did it that way once they've started working. When employees start suggesting ways to improve their work, you know they're ready to go on to the next stage.


Phase 2: Synthesizing

During this phase, employees learn to sort through various data to determine what is most significant. They can, for example, summarize the essential insights from a crucial meeting. You should be able to answer "yes" to the following questions:

  • Will they be able to recognize all of the key insights?
  • Do they omit all irrelevant information?
  • Are they able to appropriately estimate the relative value of key insights?
  • Can they effectively communicate the key points?

Synthesis, like any other skill, improves with practice. Give employees who are stuck as many opportunities to synthesize as they can.


Phase 3: Recommending

At this stage, employees move from recognizing what is important to deciding what should be done. The primary objective is for them to constantly provide well-thought-out recommendations, even if their recommendations differ from yours. Here are some ways to evaluate their progress:

  • Do they always give you advice instead of depending on you to come up with answers when they ask you questions?
  • Do they show that they are aware of the potential drawbacks of their recommendation?
  • Do they think about other options before making a recommendation?
  • Are their suggestions based on solid, logical reasoning?

When employees approach this phase, ask them to make recommendations before expressing their thoughts.


Tinotenda Shannon Denhere

Related Articles


Sign up now to get updated on latest posts and relevant career opportunities