In terms of soft skills, critical thinking is still a sought after skill by businesses. A worrying statistic is that 60% of hiring managers believe graduates lack problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Yet, critical thinking isn’t a key skill taught within schools, even though surveys show that 55% believe critical thinking is a skill thought to be best developed between the ages 5 – 12.
Furthermore, a recent article by learning scientists suggests that we cannot fully teach critical thinking skills due to limitations as critical thinking is a “complex, higher-order skill that is hard to learn and even harder to transfer across domains”. Essentially – we require the need to experience a subject we can form an expertise in, to think about this area critically.
Why is this important?
It’s clear that businesses require critical thinking within the day-to-day activities of work. However, management may need to reframe how they think about critical thinking as a concept to accept that new, young talent within their organisation requires the opportunity for experience and development in order to enhance critical thinking skills.
This brings an interesting quandary around investing in talent for future gains versus the inherent need for critical thinking and abstract reasoning skills in the immediate future.
Businesses therefore might ask the following questions:
The second is the most important – often, businesses and Exec teams may not have enough time to quantity talent development benefits beyond the immediate future. However, for medium – long term company stability and performance, understanding the benefits of critical thinking development is a key area to address. We all want employees who can make good decisions consistently.
Businesses see immediate benefits from developing their employees’ critical thinking. This will naturally vary on the scale of experience and expertise within a subject matter. However, both new, young and more experienced talent can benefit from enhanced critical thinking skills over time.
Naturally, the benefits to the business from enhancing critical thinking skills will range from the commercial impact to the solutions delivered and the innovations developed by their teams.
The core key skills developed through critical thinking are:
In an operational context, these skills provide talent the ability to do and think in unique/innovative ways than they might have before. For example:
Thinking conceptually is extremely important for businesses providing solutions to problems for clients, or marketing campaigns and creative outlets. The ability to conceptualise through analysis, interpretation and problem solving allows talent to identify new areas of opportunity to explore.
Rather than using data to support an argument, critical thinking development allows talent to look at the data objectively and make a conscious business-orientated decision on the best solution/course of action without taking an emotional point of view.
Whether a product for market, a marketing campaign or an internal process requiring efficiency optimisations, the ability to think critically takes away many biases in debate and allows people to positively engage in debate and challenge ideas to find the best solution to the problem for the businesses needs.
Even with the clear benefits of critical thinking skills, not enough businesses invest in developing the skill set. It’s an expected and required skill that sometimes just won’t be fully developed in your talent pool.
This is why critical thinking tests are important to businesses. Tests like the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Test are what helps businesses to understand the level of critical thinking within their organisation.
Without a baseline understanding, strengths and weaknesses for businesses critical thinking capabilities cannot be identified. The benefits of something like a critical thinking test will naturally vary from the ability to think within reason and objectively, to conceptualising ideas within a required set of parameters.
This then raises the question – why aren’t more businesses investing in the testing and training of their employees’ abstract reasoning and critical thinking abilities? Because without developing your talent, you stand to lose a lot more than money.