Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It's Important

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 5, 2022

Published April 17, 2020

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.

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Critical thinking is a key soft skill in the workplace. After all, critical thinking helps employees solve problems and build strategies that make them better at their jobs. For this reason, employers may look to hire employees who have strong critical thinking skills.

In this article, we'll talk about the importance of critical thinking in the workplace and what it means for you as an employee.

Critical Thinking Skills
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Critical thinking skills:

  1. Observation: The ability to notice and predict opportunities, problems and solutions.

  2. Analysis: The gathering, understanding and interpreting of data and other information.

  3. Inference: Drawing conclusions based on relevant data, information and personal knowledge and experience.

  4. Communication: Sharing and receiving information with others verbally, nonverbally and in writing.

  5. Problem solving: The process of gathering, analyzing and communicating information to identify and troubleshoot solutions.

What is critical thinking?

People exercise critical thinking by using rationality to determine what to do or believe in a specific situation. Employees who can engage in critical thinking are reflective, independent and competent.

If you practice critical thinking, you logically connect ideas, scrutinize and evaluate arguments, find inconsistencies and errors in your work and the work of others, solve complex problems and engage in reflection.

A critical thinker doesn’t only accumulate information well, but they also know how to use the information to deduce facts and determine outcomes. By conceptualizing outcomes, critical thinkers tend to be better at solving problems than people who simply memorize information.

Because of this, employers value critical thinking—especially in roles where preparing strategy is an essential part of the job. Critical thinking is considered a soft skill, which means it's a skill inherent in a person’s personality. That said, it is possible to develop this skill.

Related: 5 Examples of Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking in the workplace

Here are some of the ways critical thinking is important to the workplace:

Some professions require it

For career success in law, education, research, medical, finance and many other career fields, it's important to display critical thinking skills. It's an essential facet of any profession where the goal is to deduce information objectively without bias, analyze the context, solve creative problems and come up with realistic solutions.

Decision-making improves

Applying critical thinking helps you make decisions that require a lot of thought. Big, life-changing decisions, like whether or not to make a career move, are aided by critical thinking, which encourages you to research and favor objective logic over your initial emotional response.

Read more: 12 Decision-Making Strategies

Critical thinkers are happier

Critical thinking helps people better understand themselves, their motivations and goals. When you can deduce information to find the most important parts and apply those to your life, you can change your situation and promote personal growth and overall happiness.

Being well-informed is a bonus

In an age when people have more access to information than ever before, critical thinkers excel at research and finding the most important pieces of information that make them well-informed on any given topic. This is helpful in workplace discussions and when positioning yourself as a thought-leader in your industry.

It encourages self-reflection

Critical thinkers have the inherent ability to see challenges from several perspectives. By deflecting the reaction to defend their personal beliefs, critical thinkers are more self-reflective and can change their minds and opinions in light of new information.

Related: Analytical Thinking vs. Critical Thinking (Plus Jobs That Use Them)

How to improve critical thinking skills

Here's how to improve your critical thinking skills:

1. Evaluate new information

The first step to thinking critically is to accept information only after evaluating it. Whether it's something read or heard, critical thinkers strive to find the objective truth. In doing this, these employees evaluate by considering possible challenges and solutions. This process of vetting new information and considering outcomes is called evaluation.

2. Consider the source

Next, you should consider where you are getting your information from. For example, if the new information comes from an advertisement, understanding that the ad is a marketing technique designed to sell a product will help you evaluate potential bias.

Each piece of information you receive was given to you by someone with the motivation to exchange knowledge. Critical thinkers evaluate the source by considering their motivation for providing information.

3. Ask lots of questions

Asking questions is an important skill to master if you are trying to perfect your critical thinking skills. When presented with information, you need to decide what questions will help you evaluate it better. Some examples include:

  • In what ways can this problem be solved?

  • Who is providing this information?

  • Why is this information being provided?

  • What other perspectives exist on this topic?

  • What research exists on the issue?

Related: How To Ask Better Questions in 5 Simple Steps

4. Follow up with research

Before you can form your own opinion using critical thinking, you need to do your own research. Once you've brainstormed a list of questions that need answers, you can use resources like the internet, to learn what you can about the issue.

If you decide to look online, look for reputable information from sources like syndicated news sites, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations. Other options are to use resources like the encyclopedia, or review materials at your local library.

Related: What Are Research Skills? Definition, Examples and Tips

5. Form an opinion

With answers to critical questions, you can form your opinion. In this step, you can be confident that you are basing your opinion on logical, factual information because you've followed the steps to thinking critically.

Read more: How To Think Critically: 7 Ways To Improve Your Skills

Critical thinking skills on a resume

If you want to highlight your critical thinking in the skills section of your resume, consider using terms like the following:

  • Observation skills: These skills are important to critical thinking overall because observation is a primary way people receive information. When employees see how to complete a task or observe the actions of their coworkers in a staff meeting, that serves as a starting point for evaluation.

  • Analytical skills: Evaluation and analysis are synonyms. Analysis implies the technical review of information and the ability to draw educated inferences from it.

  • Communication skills: When it comes to critical thinking, it's important to be able to communicate ideas and strategies that help you do your job better or make your team stronger.

  • Problem-solving skills: After identifying an issue, critical thinkers come up with solutions and outcomes. This process is commonly known as problem-solving on a resume.

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