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Critical thinking is an essential workplace skill, research shows

In order for an organization to successfully navigate change and solve problems, its employees must have critical thinking skills, according to research by Dale Carnegie and Associates.

Critical thinking is a process of asking questions, analyzing information and drawing conclusions based on evidence.

Critical thinking skills are highly valued by employers. In a survey by Dale Carnegie Training across 20 countries and territories, 57% of respondents identified critical thinking as important for workplace success. Employers are having difficulty finding people who can think critically, however. In a 2019 State of the Workplace survey, 50% of respondents identified critical thinking as a workplace skill in short supply.

Dale Carnegie Training has developed a model to help people develop critical thinking skills. The model consists of five phases:

  1. Problem Identification: Visualizing the desired outcome and gathering facts to identify the reasons why that outcome is not being achieved.
  2. Creative Thinking: Identifying possible solutions through brainstorming and “green light thinking,” which encourages generating ideas rather than evaluating them. 
  3. Logical Analysis: Recognizing and testing assumptions, weighing options and drawing conclusions that are based on facts.
  4. Decision Making: Reaching consensus on the proposed solution.
  5. Coordination: Rolling the solution out to the organization. 

Although it is up to individuals to learn and practice critical thinking, there are things that leaders can do to foster it in the workplace. The first step is for leaders to develop and model critical thinking. Next, organizations should build critical thinking phases into their project designs and problem-solving processes. Finally, leaders should develop employees’ critical thinking skills, and encourage them to put these skills to use.

“When employees are skilled at critical thinking, they are better equipped to contribute to well-considered solutions to help steer their organizations through the rough waves of change, making the organizations they work for better at navigating — and succeeding in — the new normal and beyond,” the research report concludes.

Read the entire study here.