An often over-looked skill that will move you up in your organization is that of critical thinking; this is going deep in analyzing and interpreting situations to form beliefs, opinions and judgements for how to best handle them. It’s about looking at a situation from different viewpoints and not just staying with what is seen.
There are six aspects to critical thinking: interpretation, analysis, inference, evaluation, explanation, and self-regulation (Tillus, 2012). Each plays a part in coming to a conclusion as to how we view a problem or issue and then how we will handle it.
I think this is a skill that is lacking but is so needed today. It fosters self-empowerment and confidence by not taking situations so personally and looking at it from an outsider’s perspective, which leads to a broader picture. More ideas will come and finding the answers from within. While critical thinking is needed in all areas of ones’ live, two most needed are the workplace and the classroom.
Students, no matter the age, are in school to learn new concepts and theories that will give them broader knowledge and develop their skills and abilities. The higher the education level, the more SKA’s – skills, knowledge and abilities will be developed. And the higher the level of critical thinking is required as these translate to the work you do (or will do). While mundane as it may seem, those concepts and theories are meant to be analyzed and synthesized into real-world situations. How could they be used? Are they useful or applicable?
In the workplace, problems are there to be resolved; goals are given to get the work done. From my experience, most workers want to do the work in their way and don’t want to be micro-managed – this is where your critical thinking skills need to come into play. Don’t give the boss any reason to oversee you. Think like the boss does and how he or she would handle tasks you’re given; reframe the goal in your own words as the answers will come easier.
This will raise your self-empowerment and self-efficacy; as you solve problems, your confidence will grow – from both yourself and from your upline. As they see you take control in how you think and handle situations, others will take notice; soon, you will start seeing your expertise noticed, which then can lead to handling more projects, getting more recognition, which can then lead to promotional opportunities. You will be on the fast-track upward.
Critical thinking should start early; kids will eventually figure something out if allowed, without parental intervention. It needs to be fostered, but with guidance. Take initiative on your own to sit back, take a deep breath, and critically think about your work tasks (any situation, really) for how you will go about making them happen. Write them, diagram them – it really doesn’t matter how you do it so just get started. I need to get up and walk around when I’m in this mode so see if that will work for you.
I think employers should be fostering a culture for critical thinking: giving the task, stepping back but being available as needed, and then providing feedback and recognition on the results. Soon, this will become an effortless process as you make your way up.
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