At Progression we assess thousands of young school, college and varsity leavers for entry into the workplace or further skills opportunities each year. What constantly amazes me is that only a very small percentage of these individuals have the ability to think critically and strategically, a skill that would make them workplace ready. This is a skill that is missing regardless of the level of qualification that the candidate holds, the quality of the education facility they have graduated from or the amount of working experience they have achieved.
Critical thinking skills involve logical reasoning based on available evidence and give an individual the ability to evaluate and improve on thought processes. Above all it is the ability for an individual to think independently and link ideas in a way that is original and unique.
So why are critical thinking skills such an important asset to the workplace?
To put in simple terms, learning itself involves two elements: A theory or instruction on how something should be done, followed by the application or practical implementation of that theory. What we know for sure, especially in the workplace, is that the success between theory and application is sometimes misguided resulting in the objective of the application not being achieved. If an individual has honed the skills of being able to think critically they will seek to apply new strategies or ways of working in order to achieve the outcome whilst taking cognisance of previous mistakes.
It is an unfortunate reality that our education system, although in theory focuses on outcome-based learning, is in fact being applied as a means of preparing learners for assessments and standardised testing. This restricts in many instances our youth’s ability to learn, and instead teaches them how to follow instructions.
Employers are at a great advantage when it comes to mobilising their workforces- access to information, new technologies as well as a constant changing ‘rulebook’ for doing business can be just as beneficial to our business as the challenges that they bring with it. In fact many organisations may not be aware that critical thinking is the missing link in their business’ success.
Developing a ‘critical thinking’ culture
So how do we as leaders, employers and mentors encourage these skills in our young employees? First and foremost ensure that you yourself are not making knee-jerk decisions, lead by example, demonstrate that you make decisions based on facts and not purely intuition. Create an organisational culture of collaboration, knowledge sharing and learning. Prioritise the collection and analysis of data to drive decisions.
Organisations who harness the skill of critical thinking are better geared to respond to changes in the market, innovate new products, promote team work, streamline processes and systems and all those other good things, that make business sense. These skills lead to relevance, contributing to the growth of the individual and the organisation.