Business executives and leaders often talk about the importance of critical thinking to their organization. But the truth is, few address how to promote critical thinking in the workplace among their teams.
Critical thinking, or the ability to make informed decisions by evaluating several different sources of information objectively, is key to business outcomes. As former U.S. Sen. J. William Fullbright of Arkansas said: “We must dare to think about ‘unthinkable things’ because when things become ‘unthinkable,’ thinking stops and action becomes mindless.”
Managers and business owners value critical thinking because it means they are not required to micromanage workers. Effective critical thinking means business leaders can rely on employees to make important decisions to successfully perform their jobs to help meet business objectives. A study by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 93% of business leaders value critical thinking more than a college degree.
Business leaders and owners can empower employees to perform at a higher level by encouraging critical thinking. Here are some tips on how to promote critical thinking in the workplace.
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Give Workers a Forum to Express Their Opinions
A key way to inspire critical thinking among your employees is to make sure everyone has a voice at the office. Offer workers a platform to express their opinions. Create a comfortable environment in which employees feel comfortable speaking up.
At first, workers may be hesitant to express their opinions. Make it clear when they do express themselves, there are no wrong answers or bad ideas. Share insights into why you believe such open forums are important as a way to generate great ideas.
Also, discuss individually with each employee the process they use for making decisions and for coming to conclusions in their role. Offer them useful guidance and feedback about their process. Challenge them to make their own decisions, review the results and to make adjustments to achieve the desired result.
Encourage Brainstorming and Problem Solving Among Teams
If you are wondering how to promote critical thinking in the workplace, encourage team brainstorming sessions. Employees will feel valued and their opinions appreciated when you rely on them to brainstorm ideas and troubleshoot problems. Once they realize their opinions matter to the organization, give them the flexibility to strategize together.
Your employees are a valuable asset, with different backgrounds, experience and insights that can serve your organization. Create team environments that allow workers to collaborate, discuss and brainstorm on ideas. Demand respect and appreciation for everyone’s opinion, and don’t tolerate belittling or dismissing of ideas.
Your workers will present ideas that can help expand or reposition your business objectives. They know the operation and can offer great insight into innovations, solutions and adjustments that can improve your business.
Promote Thoughtful, Defensible, Data-Driven Ideas
While experience and intuition are important qualities, critical thinking relies on logic, data and evidenced-based ideas. You want your employees to be creative and inspired, but you should set expectations for fact-based reasoning and rationale. Give your workers the tools they need to find the evidence and data to support their positions.
Provide the training employees may need to access and use data and evidence to support their positions. Make sure they have the resources needed to obtain this fact-based insight. Reward employees who develop and build on this skill to improve their contributions to the organization.
Promote the value of information and how it contributes to good decision making in business. This is how to promote critical thinking in the workplace, teaching how to use evidence and data.
Advocate the Value of Attention to Detail
As workers begin to appreciate the value of evidence and data to support their views, they should begin to appreciate the importance of details. Attention to detail is a sign that someone respects the work that they do. But it also helps workers evaluate how they perform their duties and to find ways to improve.
It’s that level of attention to detail that produces excellent work. It also helps generate great solutions to problems your business may be experiencing. Once employees appreciate the value of attention to detail, they can begin identifying solutions to solve business problems.
Promote Problem Solving to Encourage Critical Thinking in the Workplace
As your workers learn the value of team collaboration, fact-based decision making and effective communication, they can tackle business problems. Empower your employees to work as a team to identify challenges and to develop solutions. Your workers can use their team skills to brainstorm solutions to your business problems.
The only people who may know your business better than you are your workers. Encourage them to work as a team to overcome business challenges. Charge them with finding multiple solutions to a single problem and then to rate each solution based on your business’ needs.
Reward Employees By Investing in Their Skills and Development
You can create a culture of critical thinking in the workplace by teaching employees how to put it into practice. Let them know you want to invest in their career by giving them the skills they need to succeed. Offer some of your best performers more responsibility as mentors to other workers who are learning about critical thinking.
Help employees understand the fundamentals of logic, business methodology and critical thinking. Explain where they can find the reliable information they need to make sound business decisions. Point out that these skills will always serve them in their career.
Your workers will appreciate your investment in them and their careers. They also will be more likely to serve you loyally as a valued member of your organization.
Lead By Example and Offer Praise
Just as you have created a safe place for employees to express their ideas, make it ok for them to fail. Their solutions do not always have to be perfect or a home run. Instead, praise them for their efforts and teach them how to evaluate what went right and what went wrong.
Offer workers constructive feedback and a healthy dose of praise for their work. Give them context into the process of critical thinking at work by sharing your experiences. When your employee struggles, share with them your own challenges and how you overcome them.
Serve as a role model for your employees by offering ideas for solutions, praising the opinions of others and seeking their input. Workers watch business leaders and owners for cues on workplace behavior. By teaching them how to encourage critical thinking in the workplace, you are leading by example.
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