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“Critical Thinking” What is it and why is everyone talking about it?

Our world is a fast evolving environment and working in the nonprofit space requires a team that is able to adapt and respond – a skill that can be honed with a focus on critical thinking. We know that this is a skill that is often discussed. Mentions of critical thinking in job postings have doubled since 2009, according to an analysis by career-search site Indeed.com. The site, which collects job advertisements from several sources, recently found that more than 21,000 health-care and 6,700 management postings contained some reference to the “critical-thinking,”

Like a lot of buzz-words, “critical thinking” is a loosely defined term that can mean different things to different people. 

First, let’s agree what it is not. It is not permission to do what you want, at your own pace, and according to your own standards. Rather, it is a conscious act that examines your thought-process and raises the quality of your thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and rational decision-making – all of which leads to better outcomes. Here are some popular definitions of critical thinking from the experts:

  • “The ability to cross-examine evidence and logical argument. To sift through all the noise.” 
    Richard Arum, New York University sociology professor 
  • “Thinking about your thinking, while you’re thinking, in order to improve your thinking.” 
    Educational psychologist; president, Foundation for Critical Thinking
  • “Do they make use of information that’s available in their journey to arrive at a conclusion or decision? How do they make use of that?” 
    Global head of recruiting, Goldman Sachs Group

So how can you develop critical thinking skills?

The great news is that you can learn critical thinking skills.  It’s a skill that can be acquired and practiced. Over time, individuals can become proficient.

Step one: looking for applicants that possess the ability to think critically. According to Insperity, you can start assessing your team’s ability to think critically.  

How do you assess a person’s ability to think critically?

Improving an employee’s ability to think critically involves more than their scoring well on job-specific hard skills such as software knowledge, writing ability or mathematical aptitude. 

Employees also need emotional intelligence (EQ), the suite of soft skills in demand along with critical thinking, creativity and active listening.

To assess those employees who can develop critical thinking skills, start by looking for the desirable traits critical thinkers possess: 

  • Curious and interested in learning more
  • Sees connections between two different pieces of information that point to a trend or observation
  • Open-minded listener eager to hear different perspectives
  • Self-reflective in examining their own biases or prejudices
  • Naturally creative in crafting solutions
  • Self-confident, as confidence is essential in thinking independently, presenting conclusions and making decisions

Look for a healthy combination of interpersonal skills and cognitive intelligence. These employees have a higher potential for critical thinking than those who excel only in the technical sense.

Insperity.com

Step two: coaching

Look to encourage a culture of coaching, discussion, and collaboration. 

Step three: Don’t be afraid of failure! Build in safeguards where employees can be creative and critical thinkers – while also having clear guidelines to ensure the highest quality of work. At Nonprofit Resources one of our core values is Creative Problem-Solving. We often bring challenging situations to our team and get feedback on solutions that worked and didn’t work. And we edit, review, proof, and test. This internal checklist ensures that creative doesn’t deviate from our standards. 


Find out how Nonprofit Resources can help solve your organizations current challenges. 

Works cited:

Wall Street Journal: https://www.wsj.com/articles/bosses-seek-critical-thinking-but-what-is-that-1413923730

Insperity: https://www.insperity.com/blog/critical-thinking-skills/


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