Can Critical Thinking Improve Business Performance?

Can Critical Thinking Improve Business Performance?

By definition, we all have some level of critical thinking. We take information, identify patterns and can make conclusions objectively. 

Naturally, there are those within businesses that possess more of a natural ability to think critically and reason more so than others. Critical thinking, however, is a skill that can be developed throughout a career.

An individual talent’s ability to possess all individual aspects of what makes up critical thinking will naturally vary, too. 

Specifically, there are individual critical thinking skills most businesses require from their talent to perform to expected levels within an individuals’ role. Some of these skills include:

Analysis: The ability to Objectively Collect and Process Data

Data analysis from a critical thinking perspective must be objective to ensure abstract reasoning provides clarity. Otherwise, the data is skewed from the get-go. 

An example would be looking for information on the benefits of a product without objectively looking at the negatives. The thinking behind this becomes biased and effective critical thinking is not taking place. 

Interpretation: Interpreting Information Without Assumption

A critical thinker will naturally understand the true meaning of the information without subjective opinion.

While critical thinking comes from experience, learning, and a degree of nuance, an interpretation of information will use these experiences objectively when understanding the information.

Evaluating: Objectivity When Making Decisions

A true critical thinker in this instance will be able to conclude objective on the information collected. 

Effective Communication: Clear Reasoning

Here a critical thinker possesses the skill of effectively communicating their conclusions and reasoning clearly and succinctly without suggesting an unconscious bias. 

Liberation: Freedom of Thought, Not Restricted or Bias

Here, the skill of the thinker is the ability to take outside opinion and perspective to challenge, enhance or reconsider the evaluation of information if necessary.

Problem-Solving: A Creative Way to Identify and Solve a Problem

A key aspect for many businesses is to acquire talent that can solve problems. This is almost a prerequisite for any business to have on a job description before posting an interview. 

Here, the thinker must be able to objectively tackle unexpected problems that arise during the process of information collection and analysis. 

Combined, these thinking skills improve an individual’s ability to think critically and so focusing on developing these individual facets are important to personal development programmes within organisations across the globe.

Biases that Hinder Critical Thinking

For businesses, critical thinking in such a busy world is important. Especially, in a world that is growing with disinformation

This, for business leaders within industries that require the skill of abstract reasoning, emphasises a need for critical thinking training and testing. 

Often, there are cognitive biases that hinder an individual’s ability to apply some form of critique to thinking or information provided. 

Specifically, the types of biases individuals come up against are:

The Unconscious Bias – We are Always Right

Unconscious bias assumes that we are always right. Therefore, an individual who has deduced a conclusion from the information will naturally assume that they are right. 

In being challenged or critiqued, the talent will naturally defend the unconscious bias and their findings clouding their ability to think critically. 

The Action Bias – We are Right, So Lets’ Act Now

As we move from unconscious bias through to action bias, we assume we are right and begin to act on our conclusion perhaps too swiftly. 

For businesses, this is where problems larger than what the original information collection identified can occur. 

At this stage, the need for businesses to ensure critical thinking avoids an action bias is imperative otherwise this is likely to lead to the business making a decision that is perhaps following the wrong path.

The Association Bias – Associating a Moment in Time with Something We Remember

“2020 was a bad year, as we experienced a pandemic.”

This is an association bias – assuming that our belief is correct because of the association between developments we have consciously made. 

Bias by association is the result of learning by association – which is something we learned growing up.

It is these biases that hinder the ability to reason abstractly and think critically. 

Businesses are Turning to Training and Testing Critical Thinking 

As a result, businesses are turning to abstract reasoning and critical thinking training and testing to ensure their teams have a contextually diverse group of talented critical thinkers. 

To do this, there are multiple tests for abstract reasoning or critical thinking. In particular, many businesses, especially within the legal sector, use the Watson Glaser critical thinking test to measure these skills within their organisation and during the recruitment process.

In short, this abstract reasoning test measures the following: 

  1. Think critically
  2. Draw conclusions
  3. Assess strong and weak arguments
  4. Recognise assumptions
  5. Evaluate arguments

In measuring this, businesses can identify a talent or candidates’ strengths and weaknesses on the core facets of what it takes to think critically. 

There’s also training for this, too, with multiple critical thinking hubs online that businesses and individuals access to improve their ability to think critically. 

But there are barriers to critical thinking, too. We know disinformation is a barrier to the effectiveness of our ability to think critically, however,  simple mistakes such as misunderstanding also creates issues. 

These barriers can be challenged – reducing cognitive biases and developing critical thinking training within your organisation are key tools needed to be used. 

There are plenty of ways to develop critical thinking skills within your workplace, too. It’s not simply down to training, but the ability to listen to debates objectively. Reading material on abstract reasoning and critical thinking is also a way to improve knowledge in this area. 

In short, practising these skills first-hand once the knowledge and skill has been acquired and trained will define the effectiveness of abstract reasoning within your organisation. 

Please don’t hesitate to Contact Us or visit our Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal to learn more about how you could benefit by testing your team or candidates critical thinking skills.