In our blog How To Improve Critical Thinking Skills at Work And Make Better Decisions, we highlighted some essential skills and activities that can make you a more valuable employee. We demonstrated how critical thinking is the ability to make informed, logical decisions, overcome bias through self-knowledge and collaboration with others.
In this blog we will list five creative and critical thinking examples in workplace settings. Critical thinking scenarios in the workplace can arise from the mundane, everyday tasks of data analysis to solving critical problems–each requiring logic and critical thinking.
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Creative and critical thinking examples in workplace settings
Critical thinking to solve a problem Example 1: Analyzing data
In these days of data overload, automation can sift, sort, and report data in a more-or-less manageable form. The ability to analyze, make sense of, and make informed decisions on data is a uniquely human quality.
A core skill of leveraging all that information into sound business decisions is critical thinking. For example, a critical thinker can look at a sales projection report and judge whether the source information was slanted, or skewed because of past seasonal effects on sales.
Critical thinking to solve a problem; Example 2: Promoting a team and collaborative approach to solve a problem
One of the most common creative and critical thinking examples in workplace settings is applying the principle that, contrary to the old saying, too many cooks don’t necessarily “spoil the broth.”
One recipe for successful problem solving in any organization is effective team collaboration. The team must employ a strategy that logically analyzes each team member’s input. Individual members of the team must be prepared (and encouraged) to offer constructive criticism and reasoned input based on the precepts of critical thinking.
Critical thinking to solve a problem; Example 3: Assessing risks
Logical and critical thinking examples of successfully coping with risks include:
- identifying potential hazards at a construction site and matching those hazards with the health and safety requirements of OSHA
- providing a risk assessment and developing an emergency reaction plan for business continuity
- assessing the potential impacts of new financial privacy and compliance rules with a plan of action that mitigates and effectively responds to risks
Critical thinking to solve a problem; Example 4: Hiring new talent
As discussed in our previous blog, overcoming bias is an important step in critical thinking. When making a new hire, you must read, analyze, and digest multiple job application packages.
Your first step in the process is to remove bias and personal preferences from your applicant selection process. That means disregarding the applicants’ age, gender, place origin or other factors.
Remember that bias is often unconscious. To eliminate bias from your thinking process, know that bias can be insidious. Bias has a tendency to produce irrational judgments in a consistent pattern.
In his article on Entrepreneur.com, Dr. Travis Bradberry cites cognitive biases and how they influence your judgement. When hiring, be on the lookout for the following biases:
- Confirmation bias, which is a tendency to look for information that supports a pre-existing belief. Say the applicant attended an educational institution that received some bad publicity recently. You believe that the institution is flawed, so the applicant must also be flawed.
- The Halo effect, which happens when someone creates a strong first impression and that impression sticks. Perhaps the applicant attended one of your favorite Ivy League institutions. Dig deeper and see if that good first impression of the applicant is warranted.
So, if you can recognize and understand bias, you can think more objectively, and recruit the best talent for your organization.
Critical thinking to solve a problem; Example 5: Knowing your true value to the organization
Self-reflection involves an honest analysis of your worth to the organization and how your experience and talents add value and help you find ways to improve your performance.
One suggested practice is to list the ways you are contributing to the goals of your organization. How are your contributions impacting the overall progress of the organization’s mission, and how do they positively (or negatively) affect your potential for growth and assuming increasing responsibilities in your organization?
The foregoing analysis has an added advantage. Reflecting on your thought processes is an important step in critical thinking, which, in turn, helps you become a better critical thinker—with the compounding effect of improving your performance and value to your organization.
Outcomes of applying the above “logic and critical thinking” examples
By applying the foregoing examples of critical thinking in workplace settings you can open new opportunities of improved performance and effectiveness on the job. For example:
Critical thinking opens the door to trying something new. Group-thinking can stifle positive change. Resistance to change can strangle a good idea at birth when someone says, “We have always had success with the old method.”
A critical thinker, instead of shooting down a new idea, seeks out more information, and asks:
- Why is that a good idea?
- What is the data that shows that the new method could result in a better outcome?
- What, if any, are the metrics that can be applied to measure results?
Critical thinking provides quick and accurate decisions in high-risk situations. High-risk implies bad consequences, and critical thinking is a must.
A classic example would be triaging victims during a medical emergency. Medical personnel must apply all their training and best judgement in rapidly and critically analyzing the sequence of emergency patient treatment without bias based on a combination of factors to help them reach those decisions.
Critical thinkers are in control of their emotions. On the job, you could be faced with ethical and moral challenges. At times, emotions can cloud judgment and put you in a tough spot where you have to choose between what your heart wants and what your brain knows is best.
Say that you are faced with the dilemma of reporting a colleague’s dishonest or illegal behavior on the job. The dilemma is that the colleague is your friend, has a family, and has a substance-use problem. You can remain silent and your colleague will get away with the act, or you can report the infraction.
A critical thinker will think things through. How will the colleague’s actions negatively affect your work unit? Could there be an audit trigger and disruptive investigation where you’ll have to risk lying—and perhaps losing your job? Might this be a serendipitous opportunity to get your colleague to resolve a substance-use problem?
No one ever claimed that critical thinking was easy. But, paraphrasing the words of Teddy Roosevelt, nothing worth doing is easy.
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