How to Retrain Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking is defined as being the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment. Since people tend to think uncritically and make decisions based on things like irrational emotions and personal biases, critical thinking is seen as a skill rather than as a thought process. Critical thinking skills are extremely valuable in business and in life, with studies showing that critical thinking skills can predict whether people will make positive decisions at work and at home.

This skill has also been shown to be a far more reliable predictor of success than raw intelligence, which is largely genetic. Critical thinking skills can be picked up and developed through training, with the benefits of critical thinking resonating over time. Employees who have developed excellent critical thinking skills will focus more on the big picture rather than on minute details, increasing their productivity and job satisfaction.

The ability to think critically in the workplace has been shown to increase employee creativity, enhance job performance, and make for stronger leaders. Employees who have been away from the workplace for an extended period, or who have been dealing with large amounts of stress - as we all have in 2020 - may not currently be practicing critical thinking skills in the workplace. They may require additional training to once again become productive and effective members of the team. Thankfully, retraining and improving critical thinking skills in the workplace is simple - especially since these skills can be learned and developed by anybody. Productivity gains can be managed with a tool which tracks productivity in actionable metrics. 


Promote a learning environment

Workplace culture is an important part of developing critical thinking skills, especially when that culture promotes constant learning among its employees. Learning from projects and opportunities, both good and bad, should take place regularly. When projects are successful, this should become a learning opportunity for employees: what led to the success of this project, how did your team go about meeting or exceeding expectations, how can this be applied to future projects to ensure success, and what could have been improved on or done differently? Posing these difficult questions to your teams will allow them to reflect critically on the success of the project, developing their critical thinking skills in the process. Recognizing and discussing the good decisions that were made will help employees recall them later on.

Failures should also be reflected on when looking to retrain critical thinking skills in the workplace. Failed projects or missed opportunities happen for a reason, and these reasons should be identified and discussed. Where did the team go wrong? Why was this project a failure when other similar projects have been successful? Did members of the team recognize the project’s failure along the way? Was there room for improvement, and could these improvements have saved the project? Discussing failures and bad decisions in a critical way will go a long way in improving future project outcomes by helping your team members avoid making the same mistakes.

Critical thinking questions can also go a long way in retraining these skills in employees. Before starting a project or meeting with a client, posing hypotheticals like “what would happen if we were to do this?” or “what alternatives are available to us in this situation?” and “what evidence is there to support that this plan would or wouldn’t work” will ensure that your employees are thinking in an unbiased, critical manner about the task at hand, including possible opportunities and risks.


Focus on communication across your entire workforce

Promoting communication between your employees is an excellent way to develop critical thinking skills, allowing team members to discuss new ideas and the merits to these ideas in an uncritical way. This should be promoted through real-time communication tools like Slack and Google Meet, where employees can brainstorm, give each other feedback, generate new ideas, and participate in debates. 

This can help employees overcome personal biases or preconceived notions, and consider things that they may never have thought of before. It also allows teams to better consider the pros and cons of certain decisions or opportunities, which can prompt critical thinking in your employees.

Healthy debate is another very useful training tool for critical thinking skills, as it forces employees to consider ideas from a different perspective. Recognizing your biases and being able to look at things from a neutral perspective is one of the most difficult aspects of retraining critical thinking skills, with debate helping employees overcome the difficulties and discomfort sometimes associated with thinking outside of your own experiences and opinions.


Using scenarios to develop critical thinking

It’s easy to stop thinking critically in a job that doesn’t offer its employees diverse challenges - encountering the same scenario over and over again just leads to employees using the same proven strategies. With just about any job in the modern world, things are always open to sudden, drastic change. This is why it’s important to use simulations to help retrain critical thinking in your workforce - after all, practice makes perfect.

Present your employees with situations and scenarios they’ve never encountered before, letting them work out how they would overcome unique challenges presented, avoid failure, and use logic and decision-making to lead to a successful outcome. Simulations help break up monotony, forcing employees to approach scenarios in a completely new and original way, exercising critical thinking along the way and preparing them for the possibility of sudden change in the business or industry. 

They’ll learn to solve new problems efficiently, without being clouded by bias about their role. Learning new skills and ways of thinking will let them apply these to real-life situations, refreshing the way they look at challenges they’re currently facing in the workplace.

Critical thinking is a must-have skill to succeed in the modern workplace. Investing in training your employees critical thinking skills requires persistence on your part, but can have massive benefits for your business and its stakeholders. Enhancing critical thinking skills in employees will make them better problem solvers, allow them to overcome their biases, increase productivity, and lead to developing strong leaders.

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