How to Foster Critical Thinking in the Workplace to Drive Better Results
Encouraging your employees to think critically and make good decisions is essential to empowering your team to take the reins in their roles and help your business succeed.
You don't want to end up micromanaging employees who need help making every little decision, unable to think for themselves. Critical thinking skills prevent that from happening.
If you're dissatisfied with the level of critical thinking and decision-making in your workforce, discover how you can foster critical thinking skills in your employees.
This guide explains:
- Why critical thinking is vital in the workplace.
- How to develop a critical thinking mentorship program.
🤔 What is critical thinking?
Critical thinking is an essential skill for problem-solving in and out of the workplace.
Critical thinking means:
- Evaluating a situation and relevant information.
- Assessing data logically.
- Identifying different perspectives and facts without personal bias to find the best solution to a problem.
💪 How critical thinking helps a business succeed
Employees who don't excel at critical thinking can still get by and perform well enough.
Blindly following orders and going to others for decision-making doesn't necessarily have to be wrong.
But depending on your business and industry, that might not be good enough.
Employees who practice good critical thinking skills at work can:
- Challenge preset notions within the company.
- Identify and analyze problems, consider various solutions, and choose the most effective one.
- Make better decisions that align with your business goals.
- Propose creative and innovative ideas and solutions.
- Avoid costly mistakes and make the most of opportunities.
- Take responsibility for projects without needing anyone to hold their hand.
- Avoid pitfalls caused by poorly thought-through decisions.
It's better to work with a skilled critical thinker than not.
🧠 6 Brain exercises to develop critical thinking skills
Build your critical skills program using our six recommended brain exercises. Then, your employees can practice these activities to develop their critical thinking skills and make more valuable contributions to your business.
Introduce these critical thinking activities in your organization, and your workforce will learn how to make wise, profitable decisions on the job.
Exercise #1: Play "fact or opinion?"
One essential ability in critical thinking is determining whether a statement is a fact or an opinion. Thus, you must question what you're told and decide whether the information is accurate.
You can help your employees practice this critical thinking skill by challenging them in a "fact vs. opinion" activity:
- Select a news story, ideally related to your industry, and read or listen to it with employees.
- Ask employees to decide if a piece of information presented is a fact or an opinion.
For example, suppose you're reading a news story about a new product launch in your industry.
In that case, you might identify the launch date as a fact, while the company president's quote sharing that he feels the launch was successful is an opinion.
Exercise #2: Hold brainstorming meetings
You can hold a brainstorming meeting as a mock critical thinking exercise or a real team meeting with a business agenda.
Either way, when you invite employees to engage in a brainstorming meeting, you allow them to practice their critical thinking skills creatively.
This exercise can help build employees' confidence to use their critical thinking abilities at work, knowing their contributions to the problem will be heard and valued.
Tip: Because brainstorming can quickly get chaotic and unproductive, we recommend using a brainstorming meeting template to add structure to your session.
A clear structure will help the whole team focus on developing their problem-solving abilities rather than flailing aimlessly in an unstructured meeting.
Exercise #3: Play devil's advocate
When your business has an important decision to make, foster critical thinking skills in your team by asking them to debate the issue with you as the devil's advocate.
In other words, your employees should take the opposing side to your proposed business plan.
Tip: Challenge them to consider all angles of the situation, and argue against you on purpose.
For example, suppose you're considering adopting a new software solution. In that case, you can gather the relevant team for a meeting and run this critical thinking exercise.
Ask the team to identify all potential risks with your proposal, even if it seems like a great idea.
Opposing arguments for a new software solution might be:
- It is too expensive.
- It doesn't integrate with our existing technology.
- The company doesn't offer good technical support.
- The software is more complex than we need.
- The software lacks the key features we want.
Note: This exercise will help your employees practice seeing issues from a different perspective they might not have initially considered. It's an essential critical thinking skill that can improve decision-making in your business.
Exercise #4: Identify facial expressions
Emotional intelligence plays a significant role in critical thinking because our ability to recognize and understand emotions impacts how we perceive and respond to a situation.
Unfortunately, only some have had the opportunity to learn about emotions deeply. You can help your workforce improve their critical thinking skills by introducing simple emotional intelligence exercises, like the facial expression exercise.
To do this activity, gather photos of people making different facial expressions, such as cutouts from a magazine or newspaper or simply found online.
Go through each photo, one by one, and ask your employees to identify which emotion the person in the picture is displaying. Encourage them to use more specific emotional vocabulary as they progress.
For example, they might start with basics like happy, sad, angry, and surprised. Still, they should try to develop their emotional intelligence by using more descriptive words like shocked, tired, enraged, ecstatic, bored, annoyed, etc.
Note: This will allow them to practice thinking more critically about how they interact with others during their workday and make better decisions accordingly.
Exercise #5: Review common fallacies
Critical thinking involves making logical inferences and critical decisions. That means it's important to avoid falling for logical fallacies in your thought processes.
To help your employees do this, engage them in a training exercise that reviews the most common fallacies they need to watch out for when evaluating arguments.
Note: While many people are familiar with basic fallacies, like the ad hominem fallacy that attacks the person instead of their argument, many other logical fallacies are more challenging to remember.
You can make the most impact with your fallacy training by holding this review session multiple times for the same employees. Encourage team members to memorize new fallacies rather than resting on their laurels and focusing on the ones they already know.
Exercise #6: Assign employee self-evaluations
Critical thinking skills involve confidence in yourself to make good decisions and present new ideas backed by evidence. Assigning self-evaluations to your employees is an excellent method for encouraging that confidence.
Tip: Employee self-evaluation is a valuable tool for helping employees pat themselves on the back in areas where they excel while practicing reflection on their weaknesses without criticism from others.
😎 Why ambitious creatives make great critical thinkers
If you're looking for an effective way to skip the training program and hire critical thinkers immediately, aim your talent search at creative professionals who ooze ambition.
These employees bring two soft skills to the table – creativity and ambition – that naturally contribute to critical thinking.
Ambitious creatives are often driven by a desire to produce high-quality work and push the boundaries of their creative field. This drive often leads them to engage in critical thinking in order to solve problems and come up with new and innovative ideas.
Creativity is important because critical thinking requires thinking outside the box, looking at different perspectives, and never limiting yourself to the status quo.
Ambition is crucial because it motivates you to think and take action that drives success.
So ambitious creatives are more inclined to seek out new knowledge and learning opportunities in order to continuously improve their skills and advance their careers.
Together, these two traits make for some of the best critical thinkers at work.
➡️ Develop your people's critical thinking competency with Zavvy
Let's face it – not every great employee will come into your company with high-level critical thinking skills. Some will need training.
Recognizing your employees need help with their critical thinking skills is a great step toward driving better results for your business.
Next, you need to implement training exercises in the workplace to foster better critical thinking by your employees.
Giving your workforce simple, on-the-job coaching in critical thinking can help employees:
- Make better-informed decisions.
- Save time from dealing with problems yourself.
- Drive better results for your business thanks to smoother, more logical, and innovative operations.
If you want to implement an easy workplace critical thinking program for your team members, consider building a training program for brain exercises using Zavvy.
As an employee enablement platform, Zavvy makes it a breeze to create intuitive, easy-to-access training and development programs for employees.
See how it all works in a free 30 minutes demo.
John is a 7-year digital marketing specialist. He spends most of his time testing different strategies and in his spare time, argues his findings with his dog. Zeus. You can follow him @J_PMarquez.