How To Think Critically and Improve Problem-Solving Skills

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 8 November 2022

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Critical thinking is a skill that allows you to make informed, logical decisions. Learning how to think critically helps you to analyse situations, facts and information, identify problems and create appropriate solutions. When preparing for a job interview, it's essential to consider how you can demonstrate the skill of critical thinking because it's a vital asset in the workplace. In this article, we outline straightforward advice on how to think critically, how to improve critical thinking skills and discuss its importance in the workplace so that you can develop this skill and apply it in your career.

How to think critically

The following are steps you can take to learn how to think critically. These can help you to become more observant and improve your thought process. They're skills that you can develop and practise daily until they become part of your normal thinking:

1. Ask questions more often

Learning to think critically means that you make asking questions a habit. Ask relevant questions objectively before taking action. This helps you to take deliberate, thought-through actions and reduces your chances of mistakes.

Related: What Are Critical Thinking Skills and How Are They Used?

2. Keep in mind that there might be errors

When it comes to analysing data, problems or opportunities, learn to keep an open mind and reconsider your decisions to avoid making errors. When you observe a mistake, put in the effort to see what you can improve and take responsibility for your actions. You can compare your solutions to those of others to promote proper evaluation of data and reduce error. When presented with a set of data, be sure to verify the information. If you can access the source of information, you can make better analyses and inferences.

3. Do your research

The more you study your data, the more quickly and accurately you can solve problems, spot ideas and identify opportunities. Research helps to provide you with insights into the actions and outcomes of decisions made by others. It allows you to avoid making decisions without a sound, rational basis and also helps you in weighing your options to make more logical decisions firmly based on evidence.

4. Develop the habit of thinking for yourself

To become a critical thinker, endeavour to arrive at logical decisions by yourself, rather than relying on input from others to decide. Strive for accuracy and learn from past experiences by yourself. People may advise you, but always be assertive in thinking about the results and coming to your own conclusions. Consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • Is this the outcome that I want?

  • Is there a better way?

  • Have I tried this before?

5. Remember your goals

It's a good idea to develop a habit of writing down your goals and keeping them in mind when carrying out observations, making analyses and solving problems. There is no limit to the kinds of goals you can write down. For example, you could decide how many clients to reach out to weekly or by how much you want to reduce the complaints about a product at a specific time. Doing this helps you to keep track of your progress and serves as a reminder of the next goal that you want to achieve.

6. Understand yourself

Understanding yourself means that you are aware of your wants, needs, biases, strengths, weaknesses and beliefs. It affects your decision-making and your response to situations around you. This can help you to become self-aware of what influences your choices and actions and take steps to counteract any biases.

7. Build your observation skills

To think critically, observing your environment and the people around you is crucial. Being observant helps you become sensitive to your environment and easily detect problems. It also helps you to spot opportunities and solve problems faster, which can be helpful for you, your team and your employer.

8. Improve your listening skills

The ability to listen to yourself and others while paying attention to the details of what you hear can help you develop the skill of critical thinking. Listening to the opinions and ideas of others helps you to identify possible solutions or approaches to a problem.

Related:10 Valuable Soft Skills That You Need to Succeed in Your Career

The importance of critical thinking skills in the workplace

The ability to make decisions and present ideas effectively play a role in how successful you can be in your workplace. This is because critical thinking enables good decision-making and problem-solving, which contribute to the smooth running of operations at work. While these are some of the perks of critical thinking, here are some areas in which you can contribute at work as a critical thinker:

  • Critical thinking boosts productivity: Firms with critical thinkers tend to identify opportunities and solve problems fast and effectively. This increases productivity in your workplace. For example, you can develop an idea that reduces manual labour and utilises machines to boost productivity in your workplace.

  • Critical thinking enables you to detect problems: Critical thinkers are good at analysing information, drawing out possible problems and detecting errors. They can then identify solutions and employ strategies to resolve problems because they can follow logical steps and arrive at a decisive, appropriate conclusion.

  • It promotes a good working environment: Most critical thinkers seek ways to improve themselves and make better choices. This brings about a happier mind and a healthy working environment.

  • It encourages good communication: Critical thinking helps you to strive to be clear when speaking and writing. This helps to boost good communication between you and your team, colleagues and employers.

  • It boosts your ability to reflect on your beliefs and actions: Learning how to be a critical thinker enables you to reflect on your actions more logically, both personally and professionally. It helps you to avoid repeating past mistakes because you learn from them.

  • It promotes personal growth: Critical thinking allows you to spot and correct your shortcomings in the workplace. Most critical thinkers don't mind being corrected by others because they strive to improve and remain open to new perspectives and concepts.

  • It supports your personal intellectual development: Being a critical thinker helps you to develop your analysis and problem-solving skills. Over time, by solving problems and working on challenges, you begin to develop clarity and precision to get results. Your thought process improves because you are applying past knowledge to new situations.

  • It improves your decision-making skills: Critical thinking helps you to make better quality logical decisions because it helps you to evaluate tough decisions before going ahead.

  • It builds self-confidence: Being a critical thinker makes you strong and independent. It helps you to believe in yourself.

  • It's a job-winning skill: Most employers seek to hire individuals with this skill to support more efficient work processes. Critical thinkers are assets to themselves and their employers.

Related: 10 Best Skills To Include on a CV

How critical thinking improves your professional skills

You can use critical thinking skills in different ways to make progress in your career and improve your professional skills, including:

Leadership skills

This is an important skill when it comes to working with a team. It determines how well and how much you and your team can achieve. As a leader, critical thinking helps in dispute resolution and evaluation of your work to determine ways to improve quality and efficiency.

Time management skills

Time management is an essential aspect of effectiveness at work. It involves your ability to plan and stick to deadlines. Critical thinking helps you to identify and focus on activities and deadlines that are critical to improving results.

Social skills

Critical thinking helps you to identify and understand others' emotions in complex social situations. It can also help you to express the right emotion at the right time. It supports your ability to manage tense situations.

Good communication skills

This involves your ability to communicate ideas clearly and efficiently. For example, it's helpful to find the right words to say to your manager, talk politely and understand the desired outcome that you wish to achieve. Taking into account the impact of your words can help foster good relationships in the workplace.

Management skills

When applying for a managerial position or jobs that require teamwork, it's essential to develop your management skills to help you work efficiently. Knowing how to manage people is effective in building a productive team. When working with others, it's important to be able to deal effectively with conflicts within and outside your workplace.

Adaptability and flexibility skills

Your ability to adapt to change and work efficiently depends on how you relate to the people around you. For example, if you share office space with others, the ability to adapt to your colleagues flexibly produces a friendly workspace. This skill is also important when dealing with unexpected situations and problems that you may face at work.

Related:

  • Why Critical Thinking Is Important Plus Definition and Tips

  • Problem-solving skills: definitions and examples

  • The advantages of creative problem solving

  • Team-building and problem-solving activities

  • 8 common problem-solving interview questions to understand

  • A guide to problem-solving skills on your CV


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