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Soft Skills & Hard Skills

Soft-skills: How to develop critical thinking skills for managers?

eye 1376 Published on 28 Mar. 2023
tag #Managerial skills #Leadership

How can one be sure of making the right decisions? Can one be confident when making a decision? Unfortunately, this is often only known afterwards. Decisions always involve this unavoidable element of risk since they only take into account past and present data. 

However, there is a way to increase the reliability of our decisions through an exceptional skill: critical thinking. Critical thinking is one of the most sought-after skills in business today. Critical thinking not only contributes to effective decision-making but also accurately assesses the complexity of the world in which we live and facilitates the search for original solutions. 

What is critical thinking? 

Critical thinking is a blend of cognitive and soft skills, situated at a midpoint between thinking and interpersonal abilities. It is a way of reasoning effectively and consciously, but also a way of facing the world and questioning it in order to grasp its complexity.

Critical thinking is thus based on sharpened logical reasoning that calls for open-mindedness, intellectual humility and self-confidence. These components allow the person to evaluate information from several angles, question it, and reach informed conclusions to decide what to believe or do.

Using critical thinking, a person may ask: "What is the core of the problem?", "What approach should I use to solve it?", "Does this data allow me to draw this conclusion?", "Doesn't this argument conflict with this one?", "If this is true, then what does it entail?" and so on before making a decision.

Why is critical thinking important? 

Critical thinking is particularly important for people in management and leadership positions, as these roles require making complex decisions that can have significant consequences for the organisation and its stakeholders. Managers and leaders must be able to evaluate information objectively, identify biases and assumptions, and reach informed conclusions. 

Critical thinking also enables managers and leaders to anticipate and respond to changing circumstances, identify opportunities for innovation and make strategic decisions that align with the organisation's goals and values.

How can it be developed? 

Here are three practical tips for managers to improve their critical thinking skills:

Play the detective: Critical thinking involves that intellectual rigour where nothing can be taken for granted. In an age where the internet bombards us with information of all kinds and where false information uses subtlety to avoid exposure, critical thinking is more important than ever to ensure an accurate reading of the world around us. By playing the detective, managers can delve deeper into a subject, go back to the source, look for evidence, and cross-reference information - in short, use their discernment to sort out what is true from what is false and form the most accurate and objective opinion possible.

Seeking different points of view: One of the difficulties with critical thinking is confirmation bias. People naturally tend to consider information and ideas that confirm their own. This is mentally less demanding, but in reality, people miss out on rich and relevant information to support the facts or situation. Thus, managers can practice seeking out different points of view. They can do this by networking with people who have different personalities, experiences and perspectives. By actively listening to them and considering their opinions, managers can broaden their understanding of complex issues and make more informed decisions.

Demonstrate intellectual humility: Doubt and questioning is not a sign of weakness; on the contrary, it is an openness to understand differently what is around us and to broaden our knowledge base based on new information. It involves recognising and admitting one's limitations and prejudices and being open to feedback and criticism. By cultivating intellectual humility, managers can become more receptive to other perspectives and more willing to question their assumptions and beliefs.

In addition to these, managers can benefit from further critical thinking training. Training programs can include workshops, seminars, regular individual exercises, or classes focusing on critical thinking skills and techniques. By committing to continuous learning and improvement, managers can develop and refine their critical thinking skills over time to become effective thinkers and trustworthy decision-makers.

Helen Simard

Consultant psychologist (career guidance and psychometrics)

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