How do you define critical thinking?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Critical thinking in the workplace involves a structured thinking process that includes the skills of assessment, analysis, inference, deduction, and interpretation that lead to sound, logical decision making.

Jen Lawrence, author of Engage the Fox: A Business Fable About Thinking Critically and Motivating Your Team"

...noted that critical thinking helps employees gather all of the information required to...generate optimal solutions to a problem and get feedback from all the people involved in the situation.

According to Lawrence, these steps, that are outlined in her book, contribute to better business solutions overall. Good critical thinking eliminates emotion from an issue and involves close observation so that facts will be evaluated logically and decisions will be arrived at sensibly by means of a thorough process. Another factor that is important nowadays in critical thinking is the input of different genders and people of varied ethnicity so that the conclusion arrived at can be agreeable to all and understood by all. Often the varied perspectives of different people assists leaders in clear and objective conclusions.

Dr. Peter A. Facione of Rasmussen College outlines for young people who are about to embark on professional careers six essential critical skills necessary for successful decision-making and leadership:

  1. Interpretation - Understanding information and being able to communicate its meaning to others
  2. Analysis - Ability to put together information and determine the meaning that is appropriate and intentional
  3. Inference - Ability to process information and arrive at some conclusion that, although it is not logically derivable, it still possesses a certain degree of probability relative to the premises of this information. 
  4. Evaluation - Ability to evaluate the validity of information that is being presented and the credibility of statements
  5. Explanation - Ability to restate information while adding clarity and a certain perspective to the information that will be appropriate
  6. Self-Regulation - Ability to sift out one's own self-interests and biases from the other parts of the process of critical thinking, such as analysis, inference, and evaluation.

David A. Garvin of the Harvard Business School agrees with Dr. Facione on "Self-Regulation," asserting, 

I think there is a feeling that people need to sharpen their thinking skills, whether it is questioning assumptions, or looking at problems from multiple points of view.

Others agree, and add that perceiving potential and "managing ambiguity" are also important factors.

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