Why critical thinking is important plus definition and tips

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 28 September 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 important in all kinds of jobs across all industries. The term encompasses a wide range of skills that employers value, like logic, reasoning and self-reflection. In a workplace, this lends itself to problem solving and strategy building, which is why employers like employees who show strong critical thinking capabilities. In this article, we discuss what critical thinking is and why critical thinking is important, especially in the workplace.

Why critical thinking is important

Understanding why critical thinking is important can help you effectively improve your short- and long-term career prospects. Despite the negative connotations of the term ‘critical', critical thinking has very little to do with critiquing in the traditional sense. It's not about criticism or being critical of ideas, but is about the logical processes used in decision making. Being able to apply critical thinking skills means you can use rationality and logic to determine the answer to a problem.

Critical thinking example

At school or university, you might come across ‘critical thinking' style exam questions. These usually involve reading a limited set of information and explaining what conclusions you can draw from the facts you have in front of you. An example looks something like this:

Example: Tom has three siblings. The oldest of the four is his sister, Mary. Mary is not Tom's only sister. Based on these facts, show whether the following statements are true, false or if you cannot determine whether they are true or false based on the information given. a) Tom is the youngest in the family, b) At least 50% of the children in the family are girls, c) Tom has two brothers.

In this example, you can use the facts laid out to see that b) is true. We can see that Tom has a sister, and she is not his only sister. The benefits of critical thinking as we work through the scenario means we can deduce that at least 2 of the 4 children are girls. By default, the information tells us that c) is false and that it's not possible to determine whether a) is true or false.

Benefits of critical thinking

Critical thinking is a highly beneficial skill. Consider these advantages you may enjoy from developing and utilising your critical thinking skills:

Critical thinking can positively impact your career trajectory

In real life, you're extremely unlikely to be in a scenario where you're required to work out who someone's siblings are using only a snippet of information. You might require critical thinking skills to determine which sales pitch would work best for a potential client based on the limited facts you have about them. Or you might read two cover letters and decide which candidate to invite to an interview. In both situations, you're reviewing the information available and using it to make an informed, rational decision.

There are several reasons that employers value critical thinking skills:

  • It can lead to better and more confident decision making.

  • Critical thinking relies on judgement, not emotion.

  • It may encourage people to remain informed.

  • Critical thinking encourages self-reflection.

Related: Inductive Reasoning in the Workplace

It can lead to better and more confident decision making

Many professions rely on making objective deductions based on the information available. This is certainly the case for careers like law and medicine, but also for research, education and a variety of other careers.

Research relies on consuming data and solving problems by formulating realistic solutions based on that data. The process of critical thinking means that you carefully review the information and work out connections or problems using a logical process. Having this mindset encourages you to research things thoroughly and decide based on logic. There are clear advantages to critical thinking in advanced careers. It also helps in careers where your decisions can have a life-changing impact on others, like medicine, social care or veterinary sciences.

Critical thinking relies on judgement, not emotion

Whilst there is a time and a place for emotive thinking, workplaces often need clear and decisive decision-making based on facts. This is beneficial for roles that involve people management or hiring decisions. Being able to critically appraise candidates is a fairer and more open approach than “gut feelings” or basing decisions on internalised bias.

A good example of this could be a hiring decision. If your team has lots of people with similar outlooks, it's easy to see a candidate who matches these qualities and think they would be a good fit. If this forms the basis of your thinking, you might overlook important attributes a different candidate could bring. A critical thinker would be more likely to consider the facts of each application. They would make a logical decision based on the broader information available to them.

Related: 5 Ways To Be A Good Interviewer

It may encourage people to remain informed

In the digital age, being able to effectively mine different sources of information is a valuable skill. For example, if you're setting up your own business, you might want to thoroughly research your competitors. This helps inform who your target audience is. Seeking information about what's already on offer, the price of products and how well companies are doing is valuable business intelligence. The same is true for critical thinkers who work for a business.

The desire to review information from different sources means that critical thinkers are likely to be thorough and diligent in their work. Critical thinkers often excel in researching new jobs and promotion opportunities. This is because they seek information to stay as well-informed as possible.

Critical thinking encourages self-reflection

One benefit of critical thinking is that it helps you free yourself from bias. The process allows you to see challenges from different perspectives. The decisions you reach are no longer pre-determined by your personal beliefs. Interviewing is a good example of this. If you interview a candidate with great verbal communication skills who builds a good rapport, it can be tempting to pick them over other candidates with equal (or even slightly better) qualifications.

Critical thinkers would ask themselves, how much weight do I want to be putting on verbal communication? Was it something I had indicated was a vital quality for the role? Would this person build an equal rapport with clients, or is it because we had a common interest? By reflecting and questioning your own decisions, the process of critical thinking can ensure you're confidently deciding based on the facts.

Related: How To Write A Self-Assessment

How to improve your critical thinking skills

Whether you're applying for new jobs or seeking to improve your decision making in your current role, there are several ways that you can improve your critical thinking abilities:

1. Have as many facts as possible

If you're working to a deadline, or with limited resources, it might not be possible to have every single fact in front of you. Understand what information is missing, as this helps to inform your decision making. Try asking yourself; do I have all the information I need? If not, where could I find out more? If I know I can't access certain information, is there anything I could use as a substitute? Is the missing data likely to favour a particular outcome? How do I adjust for this in my final decision?

2. Consider where your information comes from

In a neat, data-driven example of critical thinking, you would know the exact source of all your data sets and could judge their objectivity. In the real world, this process is likely to be less clear cut. If you're deciding between four new marketing campaigns, you're likely to have all kinds of information about them from different sources.

Ask yourself, who has provided this information? Do they have a reason to favour a particular outcome? Do they have suitable knowledge or are they likely to have missed some facts? Critical thinking helps you evaluate the source by considering its motivation. This can help you weigh the importance of the information when it comes to swaying your final decision.

3. Conduct your own research

If you feel you're lacking information, or it has come from biased or unreliable sources, follow up with your own research. Write a list of questions that you need answers to. Go to colleagues or the Internet to find potential solutions.

4. Form an opinion

The last step in critical thinking is to decide based on factual information. If applied properly, your critical thinking skills help to ensure your decision is logical and fact-based. To form an educated opinion, you want to think critically about how you formed your current opinions and what informed them. This allows you to dissect which of your opinions you've based on logic and which are based on emotion.

Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.


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