Why Critical Thinking matters for managers

We live in a time where information knowledge is readily available through computers, smart phones, and electronic tablets. However, we lack the basic skills to reflect on this information or sift through the dirt to find the worth. The problem is no longer one of access to information. But is, instead, the lack of ability to process and make sense of that information.

Critical thinking has always been a valuable leadership attribute. Over the years though, leadership training has favoured quantitative skills over qualitative ones. As a result, critical thinking has taken a backseat. However, as the complexities of the work environment increases, so too does the demand for critical thinking. Understanding key methods of critical thinking helps managers to address the right problems, identify risks and make better decisions. Moreover, managers can pass on their critical thinking skills to their staff.

Question assumptions

Critical thinkers are inquisitive and deep dive into the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind every proposition. We saw the need for this when financial markets melted in 2008. Critical thinking during or after a crisis forces you to question how and why you ended up in trouble. From there, you can ensure it doesn’t happen again. Another advantage of questioning assumptions is the idea that our assumptions can be wrong. Imagine where we’d be if engineers hadn’t questioned the assumption that telephone communication couldn’t take place wirelessly. There would be no mobile phones.

See potential

Questioning assumptions helps to see opportunities where others see obstacles. For example, most individuals might see a production hitch as a problem. But a critical thinker will see it as an opportunity to revamp processes. Being able to see new ways to organise a work environment more efficiently is important and requires managers to “think outside the box”. Strategies like incorporating remote working, so less office space is needed, can lead to large monetary gains for a company. However, these ideas won’t occur as long as managers refuse to use critical thinking.

Brainstorm ideas

We live in an age where information is widely available. Whenever people face a question, their default response is to Google it, rather than brainstorm for an answer. Brainstorming provides the freedom for team members to offer improbable or even wild suggestions. This harnesses creative energy, resulting in a multitude of ideas that help the group dig down to the ‘right’ solutions. Moreover, a seemingly banal suggestion by one person may lead to an intuitive leap by another.

Companies depend on critical thinkers to develop, produce and deliver their goods and services. Furthermore, in a world of growing uncertainty, one thing is certain. We need sharp critical thinkers who can size up the situation, see the potential, and grab hold of the opportunities.