In this Information Age that we currently live in, one skill stands out in its importance. Yes, there are many skills that are deemed valuable presently, but nothing really is as relevant as critical thinking. With the influx of information in our midst, it is ultimately our ability to think critically that helps us find the clarity we need amidst several ideas. Critical thinking helps us to think on our own and approach situations systematically.
Critical thinking is a person's ability to think and reason with the use of their logic. It is the ability to understand the connection between ideas, and not simply to accept everything at face value and to remain passive regarding the information they read or have put to them. It involves active engagement with information.
Sometimes we may find ourselves unthinkingly directed by our own biases, but to think critically means to set prejudices aside in order to arrive at a logical and reasonable perspective regarding situations. We may find it very difficult to do this when we're looking at something through the lens of our own emotions and personal biases.
Learners are first taught about the critical thinking process in school, but it remains one of the things that are useful way beyond formal education. The ability to think critically is ultimately very necessary at work, in business, and most especially within leadership roles. It enables a person to analyze situations and solve problems, which are always present regardless of what industry one finds themselves in.
Critical thinking is an invaluable skill to have and it enables a person to see the world in a very different way than others who don't engage in this type of conscious behavior.
Some of the core skills that contribute to a person's critical thinking abilities include:
To think critically usually starts with the identification of the problem or situation that needs our critical eye. But to do this, we first need to observe. We will find it difficult to focus on a certain problem if we do not recognize the situation we are dealing with in the first place. If we miss this vital step, we'll simply get lost amidst all the data and information we'll be receiving, with no particular aim on how to proceed. This phase may also include the gathering of facts and correct data which we'll need to take into consideration.
When all of the information that needs to be considered is gathered (note – not all of them may be useful), it demands our interpretation. To interpret doesn't mean giving our own meaning to things. It means defining the problem or situation. We need to determine which information is useful or valid and to clarify any logical relationship that exists among several ideas.
Unlock Your Full Potential: Explore our Personal Development Checklists
The process of analysis is an integral aspect of critical thinking. This is the bedrock of our evaluation and judgment. It is where we discover unseen values and possibly incorrect assumptions made along the way of gathering our information. The aim is to discern reality from the context of a situation and available information. This can be a long, winding, and even messy process but it is necessary to be able to arrive at a reasonable conclusion and judgment.
To think critically demands reliance on evidence. It will require us to look into and consider facts, rather than relying only on hunches or intuition. From facts, we are able to deduce from the information that we currently possess. From this point, we can extrapolate and infer, proposing probable outcomes and paths.
That is, whatever we come up with is based on the present facts and proof, even if our proposed plan or solution is not yet proven. It may or may not be true until proven correct, but chances of success are much higher than simply taking a random or emotional approach.
We also need to be able to put our conclusions to the test and determine their accuracy. This is why evaluation skills are a necessary component. Critical thinking necessitates being able to accept the possibility that we might be wrong in our assumptions.
In order to make the critical thinking process worthwhile, we need the capacity to reflect further on our suppositions and, if necessary further challenge our own values and long-held beliefs. Our goal ultimately is to find and deliver the best solution there is in each of the circumstances that need our critical judgment.