when would you use critical thinking to solve a workplace problem

Catch These Benefits! 13 Examples of Critical Thinking in the Workplace

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Catch These Benefits! 13 Examples of Critical Thinking in the Workplace

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Your team is dealing with a sudden decrease in sales, and you’re not sure why.

When this happens, do you quickly make random changes and hope they work? Or do you pause, bring your team together , and analyze the problem using critical thinking?

In the pages ahead, we’ll share examples of critical thinking in the workplace to show how critical thinking can help you build a successful team and business.

Ready to make critical thinking a part of your office culture?

Let’s dive in!

What Is Critical Thinking? A Quick Definition

Critical thinking is the systematic approach of being a sharp-minded analyst. It involves asking questions, verifying facts, and using your intellect to make decisions and solve problems.

The process of thinking critically is built upon a foundation of six major steps:

6 Steps of Critical Thinking

  • Comprehension
  • Application
  • Creation/Action

First, you gather “knowledge” by learning about something and understanding it. After that, you put what you’ve learned into action, known as “application.” When you start looking closely at the details, you do the “analysis.”

After analyzing, you put all those details together to create something new, which we call “synthesis.” Finally, you take action based on all your thinking, and that’s the “creation” or “action” step.

Examples of Critical Thinking in the Workplace

Even if the tasks are repetitive, or even if employees are required to follow strict rules, critical thinking is still important. It helps to deal with unexpected challenges and improve processes.

Let’s delve into 13 real examples to see how critical thinking works in practice.

1. Evaluating the pros and cons of each option

Are you unsure which choice is the best? Critical thinking helps you look at the good and bad sides of each option. This ensures that you make decisions based on facts and not just guesses.

Product development : For example, a product development team is deciding whether to launch a new product . They must evaluate the pros and cons of various features, production methods, and marketing strategies to make an informed decision. Obviously, the more complete their evaluation is, the better decisions they can make.

2. Breaking down complex problems into smaller, manageable parts

In the face of complex problems, critical thinkers are able to make the problem easier to solve. How? They create a step-by-step process to address each component separately.

Product deliveries and customer support . Imagine you work in a customer service department, and there has been a sudden increase in customer complaints about delayed deliveries. You need to figure out the root causes and come up with a solution.

So, you break down the problem into pieces – the shipping process, warehouse operations, delivery routes, customer communication, and product availability. This helps you find out the major causes, which are:

  • insufficient staff in the packaging department, and
  • high volume of orders during specific weeks in a year.

So, when you focus on smaller parts, you can understand and address each aspect better. As a result, you can find practical solutions to the larger issue of delayed deliveries.

3. Finding, evaluating and using information effectively

In today’s world, information is power. Using it wisely can help you and your team succeed. And critical thinkers know where to find the right information and how to check if it’s reliable.

Market research : Let’s say a marketing team is conducting market research to launch a new product. They must find, assess, and use market data to understand customer needs, competitor tactics, and market trends. Only with this information at hand can they create an effective marketing plan.

4. Paying attention to details while also seeing the bigger picture

Are you great at noticing small things? But can you also see how they fit into the larger picture? Critical thinking helps you do both. It’s like zooming in and out with a camera. Why is it essential? It helps you see the full story and avoid tunnel vision.

Strategic planning . For instance, during strategic planning, executives must pay attention to the details of the company’s financial data, market changes, and internal potential. At the same time, they must consider the bigger picture of long-term goals and growth strategies.

5. Making informed decisions by considering all available information

Ever made a choice without thinking it through? Critical thinkers gather all the facts before they decide. It ensures your decisions are smart and well-informed.

Data analysis . For example, data analysts have to examine large datasets to discover trends and patterns. They use critical thinking to understand the significance of these findings, get useful insights, and provide recommendations for improvement.

6. Recognizing biases and assumptions

Too many workplaces suffer from unfair and biased decisions. Make sure yours isn’t on this list. Critical thinkers are self-aware and can spot their own biases. Obviously, this allows them to make more objective decisions.

Conflict resolution . Suppose a manager needs to mediate a conflict between two team members. Critical thinking is essential to understand the underlying causes, evaluate the validity of each person’s opinion, and find a fair solution.

Hiring decisions . Here’s another example. When hiring new employees, HR professionals need to critically assess candidates’ qualifications, experience, and cultural fit. At the same time, they have to “silence” their own assumptions to make unbiased hiring decisions.

7. Optimizing processes for efficiency

Critical thinking examples in the workplace clearly show how teams can improve their processes.

Customer service . Imagine a company that sells gadgets. When customers have problems, the customer service team reads their feedback. For example, if many people struggle to use a gadget, they think about why that’s happening. Maybe the instructions aren’t clear, or the gadget is too tricky to set up.

So, they work together to make things better. They make a new, easier guide and improve the gadget’s instructions. As a result, fewer customers complain, and everyone is happier with the products and service.

8. Analyzing gaps and filling them in

Discovering problems in your company isn’t always obvious. Sometimes, you need to find what’s not working well to help your team do better. That’s where critical thinking comes in.

Training and development . HR professionals, for instance, critically analyze skill gaps within the organization to design training programs. Without deep analysis, they can’t address specific needs and upskill their employees .

9. Contributing effectively to team discussions

In a workplace, everyone needs to join meetings by saying what they think and listening to everyone else. Effective participation, in fact, depends on critical thinking because it’s the best shortcut to reach collective decisions.

Team meetings . In a brainstorming session, you and your colleagues are like puzzle pieces, each with a unique idea. To succeed, you listen to each other’s thoughts, mix and match those ideas, and together, you create the perfect picture – the best plan for your project.

10. Contributing effectively to problem-solving

Effective problem-solving typically involves critical thinking, with team members offering valuable insights and solutions based on their analysis of the situation.

Innovative SaaS product development . Let’s say a cross-functional team faces a challenging innovation problem. So, they use critical thinking to brainstorm creative solutions and evaluate the feasibility of each idea. Afterwards, they select the most promising one for further development.

11. Making accurate forecasts

Understanding critical thinking examples is essential in another aspect, too. In fact, critical thinking allows companies to prepare for what’s coming, reducing unexpected problems.

Financial forecasting . For example, finance professionals critically assess financial data, economic indicators, and market trends to make accurate forecasts. This data helps to make financial decisions, such as budget planning or investment strategies.

12. Assessing potential risks and recommending adjustments

Without effective risk management , you’ll constantly face issues when it’s too late to tackle them. But when your team has smart thinkers who can spot problems and figure out how they might affect you, you’ll have no need to worry.

Compliance review . Compliance officers review company policies and practices to ensure they align with relevant laws and regulations. They want to make sure everything we do follows the law. If they find anything that could get us into trouble, they’ll suggest changes to keep us on the right side of the law.

13. Managing the crisis

Who else wants to minimize damage and protect their business? During a crisis, leaders need to think critically to assess the situation, make rapid decisions, and allocate resources effectively.

Security breach in a big IT company . Suppose you’ve just discovered a major security breach. This is a crisis because sensitive customer data might be at risk, and it could damage your company’s reputation.

To manage this crisis, you need to think critically. First, you must assess the situation. You investigate how the breach happened, what data might be compromised, and how it could affect your customers and your business. Next, you have to make decisions. You might decide to shut down the affected systems to prevent further damage. By taking quick, well-planned actions, you can minimize the damage and protect your business.

Critical Thinking in Your Team

Encouraging Critical Thinking in Your Team: A Brief Manager’s Guide

According to Payscale’s survey, 60% of managers believe that critical thinking is the top soft skill that new graduates lack. Why should you care? Well, among these graduates, there’s a good chance that one could eventually become a part of your team down the road.

So, how do you create a workplace where critical thinking is encouraged and cultivated? Let’s find out.

Step 1: Make Your Expectations Clear

First things first, make sure your employees know why critical thinking is important. If they don’t know how critical it is, it’s time to tell them. Explain why it’s essential for their growth and the company’s success.

Step 2: Encourage Curiosity

Do your employees ask questions freely? Encourage them to! A workplace where questions are welcomed is a breeding ground for critical thinking. And remember, don’t shut down questions with a “That’s not important.” Every question counts.

Step 3: Keep Learning Alive

Encourage your team to keep growing. Learning new stuff helps them become better thinkers. So, don’t let them settle for “I already know enough.” Provide your team with inspiring examples of critical thinking in the workplace. Let them get inspired and reach new heights.

Step 4: Challenge, Don’t Spoon-Feed

Rethink your management methods, if you hand your employees everything on a silver platter. Instead, challenge them with tasks that make them think. It might be tough, but don’t worry. A little struggle can be a good thing.

Step 5: Embrace Different Ideas

Do you only like ideas that match your own? Well, that’s a no-no. Encourage different ideas, even if they sound strange. Sometimes, the craziest ideas lead to the best solutions.

Step 6: Learn from Mistakes

Mistakes happen. So, instead of pointing fingers, ask your employees what they learned from the mistake. Don’t let them just say, “It’s not my fault.”

Step 7: Lead the Way

Are you a critical thinker yourself? Show your employees how it’s done. Lead by example. Don’t just say, “Do as I say!”

Wrapping It Up!

As we’ve seen, examples of critical thinking in the workplace are numerous. Critical thinking shows itself in various scenarios, from evaluating pros and cons to breaking down complex problems and recognizing biases.

The good news is that critical thinking isn’t something you’re born with but a skill you can nurture and strengthen. It’s a journey of growth, and managers are key players in this adventure. They can create a space where critical thinking thrives by encouraging continuous learning.

Remember, teams that cultivate critical thinking will be pioneers of adaptation and innovation. They’ll be well-prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow’s workplace with confidence and competence.

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when would you use critical thinking to solve a workplace problem

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when would you use critical thinking to solve a workplace problem

How to build critical thinking skills for better decision-making

It’s simple in theory, but tougher in practice – here are five tips to get you started.

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Have you heard the riddle about two coins that equal thirty cents, but one of them is not a nickel? What about the one where a surgeon says they can’t operate on their own son?

Those brain teasers tap into your critical thinking skills. But your ability to think critically isn’t just helpful for solving those random puzzles – it plays a big role in your career. 

An impressive 81% of employers say critical thinking carries a lot of weight when they’re evaluating job candidates. It ranks as the top competency companies consider when hiring recent graduates (even ahead of communication ). Plus, once you’re hired, several studies show that critical thinking skills are highly correlated with better job performance.

So what exactly are critical thinking skills? And even more importantly, how do you build and improve them? 

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to evaluate facts and information, remain objective, and make a sound decision about how to move forward.

Does that sound like how you approach every decision or problem? Not so fast. Critical thinking seems simple in theory but is much tougher in practice, which helps explain why 65% of employers say their organization has a need for more critical thinking. 

In reality, critical thinking doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us. In order to do it well, you need to:

  • Remain open-minded and inquisitive, rather than relying on assumptions or jumping to conclusions
  • Ask questions and dig deep, rather than accepting information at face value
  • Keep your own biases and perceptions in check to stay as objective as possible
  • Rely on your emotional intelligence to fill in the blanks and gain a more well-rounded understanding of a situation

So, critical thinking isn’t just being intelligent or analytical. In many ways, it requires you to step outside of yourself, let go of your own preconceived notions, and approach a problem or situation with curiosity and fairness.

It’s a challenge, but it’s well worth it. Critical thinking skills will help you connect ideas, make reasonable decisions, and solve complex problems.

7 critical thinking skills to help you dig deeper

Critical thinking is often labeled as a skill itself (you’ll see it bulleted as a desired trait in a variety of job descriptions). But it’s better to think of critical thinking less as a distinct skill and more as a collection or category of skills. 

To think critically, you’ll need to tap into a bunch of your other soft skills. Here are seven of the most important. 

Open-mindedness

It’s important to kick off the critical thinking process with the idea that anything is possible. The more you’re able to set aside your own suspicions, beliefs, and agenda, the better prepared you are to approach the situation with the level of inquisitiveness you need. 

That means not closing yourself off to any possibilities and allowing yourself the space to pull on every thread – yes, even the ones that seem totally implausible.

As Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D. writes in a piece for Psychology Today , “Even if an idea appears foolish, sometimes its consideration can lead to an intelligent, critically considered conclusion.” He goes on to compare the critical thinking process to brainstorming . Sometimes the “bad” ideas are what lay the foundation for the good ones. 

Open-mindedness is challenging because it requires more effort and mental bandwidth than sticking with your own perceptions. Approaching problems or situations with true impartiality often means:

  • Practicing self-regulation : Giving yourself a pause between when you feel something and when you actually react or take action.
  • Challenging your own biases: Acknowledging your biases and seeking feedback are two powerful ways to get a broader understanding. 

Critical thinking example

In a team meeting, your boss mentioned that your company newsletter signups have been decreasing and she wants to figure out why.

At first, you feel offended and defensive – it feels like she’s blaming you for the dip in subscribers. You recognize and rationalize that emotion before thinking about potential causes. You have a hunch about what’s happening, but you will explore all possibilities and contributions from your team members.

Observation

Observation is, of course, your ability to notice and process the details all around you (even the subtle or seemingly inconsequential ones). Critical thinking demands that you’re flexible and willing to go beyond surface-level information, and solid observation skills help you do that.

Your observations help you pick up on clues from a variety of sources and experiences, all of which help you draw a final conclusion. After all, sometimes it’s the most minuscule realization that leads you to the strongest conclusion.

Over the next week or so, you keep a close eye on your company’s website and newsletter analytics to see if numbers are in fact declining or if your boss’s concerns were just a fluke. 

Critical thinking hinges on objectivity. And, to be objective, you need to base your judgments on the facts – which you collect through research. You’ll lean on your research skills to gather as much information as possible that’s relevant to your problem or situation. 

Keep in mind that this isn’t just about the quantity of information – quality matters too. You want to find data and details from a variety of trusted sources to drill past the surface and build a deeper understanding of what’s happening. 

You dig into your email and website analytics to identify trends in bounce rates, time on page, conversions, and more. You also review recent newsletters and email promotions to understand what customers have received, look through current customer feedback, and connect with your customer support team to learn what they’re hearing in their conversations with customers.

The critical thinking process is sort of like a treasure hunt – you’ll find some nuggets that are fundamental for your final conclusion and some that might be interesting but aren’t pertinent to the problem at hand.

That’s why you need analytical skills. They’re what help you separate the wheat from the chaff, prioritize information, identify trends or themes, and draw conclusions based on the most relevant and influential facts. 

It’s easy to confuse analytical thinking with critical thinking itself, and it’s true there is a lot of overlap between the two. But analytical thinking is just a piece of critical thinking. It focuses strictly on the facts and data, while critical thinking incorporates other factors like emotions, opinions, and experiences. 

As you analyze your research, you notice that one specific webpage has contributed to a significant decline in newsletter signups. While all of the other sources have stayed fairly steady with regard to conversions, that one has sharply decreased.

You decide to move on from your other hypotheses about newsletter quality and dig deeper into the analytics. 

One of the traps of critical thinking is that it’s easy to feel like you’re never done. There’s always more information you could collect and more rabbit holes you could fall down.

But at some point, you need to accept that you’ve done your due diligence and make a decision about how to move forward. That’s where inference comes in. It’s your ability to look at the evidence and facts available to you and draw an informed conclusion based on those. 

When you’re so focused on staying objective and pursuing all possibilities, inference can feel like the antithesis of critical thinking. But ultimately, it’s your inference skills that allow you to move out of the thinking process and onto the action steps. 

You dig deeper into the analytics for the page that hasn’t been converting and notice that the sharp drop-off happened around the same time you switched email providers.

After looking more into the backend, you realize that the signup form on that page isn’t correctly connected to your newsletter platform. It seems like anybody who has signed up on that page hasn’t been fed to your email list. 

Communication

3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

If and when you identify a solution or answer, you can’t keep it close to the vest. You’ll need to use your communication skills to share your findings with the relevant stakeholders – like your boss, team members, or anybody who needs to be involved in the next steps.

Your analysis skills will come in handy here too, as they’ll help you determine what information other people need to know so you can avoid bogging them down with unnecessary details. 

In your next team meeting, you pull up the analytics and show your team the sharp drop-off as well as the missing connection between that page and your email platform. You ask the web team to reinstall and double-check that connection and you also ask a member of the marketing team to draft an apology email to the subscribers who were missed. 

Problem-solving

Critical thinking and problem-solving are two more terms that are frequently confused. After all, when you think critically, you’re often doing so with the objective of solving a problem.

The best way to understand how problem-solving and critical thinking differ is to think of problem-solving as much more narrow. You’re focused on finding a solution.

In contrast, you can use critical thinking for a variety of use cases beyond solving a problem – like answering questions or identifying opportunities for improvement. Even so, within the critical thinking process, you’ll flex your problem-solving skills when it comes time to take action. 

Once the fix is implemented, you monitor the analytics to see if subscribers continue to increase. If not (or if they increase at a slower rate than you anticipated), you’ll roll out some other tests like changing the CTA language or the placement of the subscribe form on the page.

5 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Think critically about critical thinking and you’ll quickly realize that it’s not as instinctive as you’d like it to be. Fortunately, your critical thinking skills are learned competencies and not inherent gifts – and that means you can improve them. Here’s how:

  • Practice active listening: Active listening helps you process and understand what other people share. That’s crucial as you aim to be open-minded and inquisitive.
  • Ask open-ended questions: If your critical thinking process involves collecting feedback and opinions from others, ask open-ended questions (meaning, questions that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”). Doing so will give you more valuable information and also prevent your own biases from influencing people’s input.
  • Scrutinize your sources: Figuring out what to trust and prioritize is crucial for critical thinking. Boosting your media literacy and asking more questions will help you be more discerning about what to factor in. It’s hard to strike a balance between skepticism and open-mindedness, but approaching information with questions (rather than unquestioning trust) will help you draw better conclusions. 
  • Play a game: Remember those riddles we mentioned at the beginning? As trivial as they might seem, games and exercises like those can help you boost your critical thinking skills. There are plenty of critical thinking exercises you can do individually or as a team . 
  • Give yourself time: Research shows that rushed decisions are often regrettable ones. That’s likely because critical thinking takes time – you can’t do it under the wire. So, for big decisions or hairy problems, give yourself enough time and breathing room to work through the process. It’s hard enough to think critically without a countdown ticking in your brain. 

Critical thinking really is critical

The ability to think critically is important, but it doesn’t come naturally to most of us. It’s just easier to stick with biases, assumptions, and surface-level information. 

But that route often leads you to rash judgments, shaky conclusions, and disappointing decisions. So here’s a conclusion we can draw without any more noodling: Even if it is more demanding on your mental resources, critical thinking is well worth the effort.

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How to Improve Critical Thinking in the Workplace

A man sits in a chair looking at a scribble on the wall feeling confused — lack of critical thinking concept.

Employers want critical thinkers — those with sound judgment who can evaluate and analyze issues, make decisions, and overcome obstacles. Hiring managers are looking for people who can think critically and resolve issues quickly and effectively.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers ( NACE ) lists critical thinking as one of the eight career readiness competencies that demonstrate a recent college graduate has been educated for success in the workplace. Career readiness is “key to ensuring successful entrance into the workforce,” NACE reports.

Employers have not been shy about the lack of critical thinking skills in the workforce.

According to a 2023 ZipRecruiter skills hiring report , for which more than 2,000 U.S. employers were surveyed, the top three skills employers say candidates are “most lacking in” are:

  • Time management
  • Professionalism
  • Critical thinking

In addition, the global management consulting firm McKinsey and Company projects that the demand for skills such as critical thinking and decision-making will grow by 19% in the U.S. and by 14% in Europe through 2030.

Critical thinkers, where are you? Hone your critical thinking skills, and become an indispensable member of your team with these five steps.

1. Formulate Your Questions

First thing to do: Identify the problem and the questions you need to ask. When you ask smart questions from the beginning, you can get a clearer picture of the issues involved. Questions to ask during this stage include:

  • What’s happening?
  • Why is this happening?
  • What is most concerning about X?
  • What is holding people back from solving X?
  • What is the desired outcome?

2. Gather Information

Now it’s time to perform research. Depending on the nature of your problem, you may need to interview people, gather data and statistics, get historical project information, etc.

Make sure to get diverse input, too. It’s natural to want to talk with like-minded people, but this does nothing to help you get diverse perspectives and potential solutions.

In the research phase, consider asking stakeholders:

  • How would you solve the problem?
  • What other ways have you tried so far?
  • What do you need to happen for this problem to be solved?
  • Is there anything we haven’t discussed that you need me to know?

Don’t be afraid to ask for clarity. If someone you’re interviewing says something you’re not familiar with, ask them to tell you more about it. How does it fit into the problem or solution?

Aim to ask open-ended yet short questions. “How can I better understand this issue?” and “What if we tried a new approach?” can help others frame and communicate their own hypotheses.

3. Question Your Assumptions

Critical thinking depends on objectivity. You just collected a slew of facts in step two; now it’s time to vet your information.

If it’s from an online source, make sure the site is reputable and trustworthy. What’s their motive in sharing this information? Is the information complete and current? Are they trying to get you to take action (for example, send money or vote for them)?

Look for evidence that the source itself received diverse input. Ask if someone’s voice is missing in the presentation of the facts.

Finally, as you move to step four to apply the information, keep this question in mind: “Am I making any assumptions about this information?” Decisions need facts, not assumptions, to support them.

4. Apply the Information to Identify the Best Solution

Ask yourself this at the start of this step: “Are there any viewpoints I missed?” If all stakeholders have had an equal voice, you’re good to proceed. At this stage, you will use reason and logic to synthesize your information and arrive at the best solution. Questions to consider include:

  • Are there other factors I haven’t considered?
  • Have I evaluated the information from every perspective?
  • Are my conclusions supported by sufficient evidence?

After completing the due diligence outlined above, you are ready to form your own opinion about the problem and devise a solution — or, solutions. There may be more than one, so plan to present them all.

5. Communicate and Evaluate Your Solution

Now you will share your findings with the stakeholders, such as your manager, executives, coworkers, and anybody else who should be involved.

After you’ve implemented your solution, evaluate whether it was effective. Did it solve the initial problem? What lessons can you take from this experience? How will you improve your critical thinking for next time?

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How to build your critical thinking skills in 7 steps (with examples)

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Critical thinking is, well, critical. By building these skills, you improve your ability to analyze information and come to the best decision possible. In this article, we cover the basics of critical thinking, as well as the seven steps you can use to implement the full critical thinking process. 

Critical thinking comes from asking the right questions to come to the best conclusion possible. Strong critical thinkers analyze information from a variety of viewpoints in order to identify the best course of action.

Don’t worry if you don’t think you have strong critical thinking abilities. In this article, we’ll help you build a foundation for critical thinking so you can absorb, analyze, and make informed decisions. 

What is critical thinking? 

Critical thinking is the ability to collect and analyze information to come to a conclusion. Being able to think critically is important in virtually every industry and applicable across a wide range of positions. That’s because critical thinking isn’t subject-specific—rather, it’s your ability to parse through information, data, statistics, and other details in order to identify a satisfactory solution. 

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Top 8 critical thinking skills

Like most soft skills, critical thinking isn’t something you can take a class to learn. Rather, this skill consists of a variety of interpersonal and analytical skills. Developing critical thinking is more about learning to embrace open-mindedness and bringing analytical thinking to your problem framing process. 

In no particular order, the eight most important critical thinking skills are:

Analytical thinking: Part of critical thinking is evaluating data from multiple sources in order to come to the best conclusions. Analytical thinking allows people to reject bias and strive to gather and consume information to come to the best conclusion. 

Open-mindedness: This critical thinking skill helps you analyze and process information to come to an unbiased conclusion. Part of the critical thinking process is letting your personal biases go and coming to a conclusion based on all of the information. 

Problem solving : Because critical thinking emphasizes coming to the best conclusion based on all of the available information, it’s a key part of problem solving. When used correctly, critical thinking helps you solve any problem—from a workplace challenge to difficulties in everyday life. 

Self-regulation: Self-regulation refers to the ability to regulate your thoughts and set aside any personal biases to come to the best conclusion. In order to be an effective critical thinker, you need to question the information you have and the decisions you favor—only then can you come to the best conclusion. 

Observation: Observation skills help critical thinkers look for things beyond face value. To be a critical thinker you need to embrace multiple points of view, and you can use observation skills to identify potential problems.

Interpretation: Not all data is made equal—and critical thinkers know this. In addition to gathering information, it’s important to evaluate which information is important and relevant to your situation. That way, you can draw the best conclusions from the data you’ve collected. 

Evaluation: When you attempt to answer a hard question, there is rarely an obvious answer. Even though critical thinking emphasizes putting your biases aside, you need to be able to confidently make a decision based on the data you have available. 

Communication: Once a decision has been made, you also need to share this decision with other stakeholders. Effective workplace communication includes presenting evidence and supporting your conclusion—especially if there are a variety of different possible solutions. 

7 steps to critical thinking

Critical thinking is a skill that you can build by following these seven steps. The seven steps to critical thinking help you ensure you’re approaching a problem from the right angle, considering every alternative, and coming to an unbiased conclusion.

 First things first: When to use the 7 step critical thinking process

There’s a lot that goes into the full critical thinking process, and not every decision needs to be this thought out. Sometimes, it’s enough to put aside bias and approach a process logically. In other, more complex cases, the best way to identify the ideal outcome is to go through the entire critical thinking process. 

The seven-step critical thinking process is useful for complex decisions in areas you are less familiar with. Alternatively, the seven critical thinking steps can help you look at a problem you’re familiar with from a different angle, without any bias. 

If you need to make a less complex decision, consider another problem solving strategy instead. Decision matrices are a great way to identify the best option between different choices. Check out our article on 7 steps to creating a decision matrix .

1. Identify the problem

Before you put those critical thinking skills to work, you first need to identify the problem you’re solving. This step includes taking a look at the problem from a few different perspectives and asking questions like: 

What’s happening? 

Why is this happening? 

What assumptions am I making? 

At first glance, how do I think we can solve this problem? 

A big part of developing your critical thinking skills is learning how to come to unbiased conclusions. In order to do that, you first need to acknowledge the biases that you currently have. Does someone on your team think they know the answer? Are you making assumptions that aren’t necessarily true? Identifying these details helps you later on in the process. 

2. Research

At this point, you likely have a general idea of the problem—but in order to come up with the best solution, you need to dig deeper. 

During the research process, collect information relating to the problem, including data, statistics, historical project information, team input, and more. Make sure you gather information from a variety of sources, especially if those sources go against your personal ideas about what the problem is or how to solve it.

Gathering varied information is essential for your ability to apply the critical thinking process. If you don’t get enough information, your ability to make a final decision will be skewed. Remember that critical thinking is about helping you identify the objective best conclusion. You aren’t going with your gut—you’re doing research to find the best option

3. Determine data relevance

Just as it’s important to gather a variety of information, it is also important to determine how relevant the different information sources are. After all, just because there is data doesn’t mean it’s relevant. 

Once you’ve gathered all of the information, sift through the noise and identify what information is relevant and what information isn’t. Synthesizing all of this information and establishing significance helps you weigh different data sources and come to the best conclusion later on in the critical thinking process. 

To determine data relevance, ask yourself:

How reliable is this information? 

How significant is this information? 

Is this information outdated? Is it specialized in a specific field? 

4. Ask questions

One of the most useful parts of the critical thinking process is coming to a decision without bias. In order to do so, you need to take a step back from the process and challenge the assumptions you’re making. 

We all have bias—and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unconscious biases (also known as cognitive biases) often serve as mental shortcuts to simplify problem solving and aid decision making. But even when biases aren’t inherently bad, you must be aware of your biases in order to put them aside when necessary. 

Before coming to a solution, ask yourself:

Am I making any assumptions about this information? 

Are there additional variables I haven’t considered? 

Have I evaluated the information from every perspective? 

Are there any viewpoints I missed? 

5. Identify the best solution

Finally, you’re ready to come to a conclusion. To identify the best solution, draw connections between causes and effects. Use the facts you’ve gathered to evaluate the most objective conclusion. 

Keep in mind that there may be more than one solution. Often, the problems you’re facing are complex and intricate. The critical thinking process doesn’t necessarily lead to a cut-and-dry solution—instead, the process helps you understand the different variables at play so you can make an informed decision. 

6. Present your solution

Communication is a key skill for critical thinkers. It isn’t enough to think for yourself—you also need to share your conclusion with other project stakeholders. If there are multiple solutions, present them all. There may be a case where you implement one solution, then test to see if it works before implementing another solution. 

7. Analyze your decision

The seven-step critical thinking process yields a result—and you then need to put that solution into place. After you’ve implemented your decision, evaluate whether or not it was effective. Did it solve the initial problem? What lessons—whether positive or negative—can you learn from this experience to improve your critical thinking for next time? 

Depending on how your team shares information, consider documenting lessons learned in a central source of truth. That way, team members that are making similar or related decisions in the future can understand why you made the decision you made and what the outcome was. 

Example of critical thinking in the workplace

Imagine you work in user experience design (UX). Your team is focused on pricing and packaging and ensuring customers have a clear understanding of the different services your company offers. Here’s how to apply the critical thinking process in the workplace in seven steps: 

Start by identifying the problem

Your current pricing page isn’t performing as well as you want. You’ve heard from customers that your services aren’t clear, and that the page doesn’t answer the questions they have. This page is really important for your company, since it’s where your customers sign up for your service. You and your team have a few theories about why your current page isn’t performing well, but you decide to apply the critical thinking process to ensure you come to the best decision for the page. 

Gather information about how the problem started

Part of identifying the problem includes understanding how the problem started. The pricing and packaging page is important—so when your team initially designed the page, they certainly put a lot of thought into it. Before you begin researching how to improve the page, ask yourself: 

Why did you design the pricing page the way you did? 

Which stakeholders need to be involved in the decision making process? 

Where are users getting stuck on the page?

Are any features currently working?

Then, you research

In addition to understanding the history of the pricing and packaging page, it’s important to understand what works well. Part of this research means taking a look at what your competitor’s pricing pages look like. 

Ask yourself: 

How have our competitors set up their pricing pages?

Are there any pricing page best practices? 

How does color, positioning, and animation impact navigation? 

Are there any standard page layouts customers expect to see? 

Organize and analyze information

You’ve gathered all of the information you need—now you need to organize and analyze it. What trends, if any, are you noticing? Is there any particularly relevant or important information that you have to consider? 

Ask open-ended questions to reduce bias

In the case of critical thinking, it’s important to address and set bias aside as much as possible. Ask yourself: 

Is there anything I’m missing? 

Have I connected with the right stakeholders? 

Are there any other viewpoints I should consider? 

Determine the best solution for your team

You now have all of the information you need to design the best pricing page. Depending on the complexity of the design, you may want to design a few options to present to a small group of customers or A/B test on the live website.

Present your solution to stakeholders

Critical thinking can help you in every element of your life, but in the workplace, you must also involve key project stakeholders . Stakeholders help you determine next steps, like whether you’ll A/B test the page first. Depending on the complexity of the issue, consider hosting a meeting or sharing a status report to get everyone on the same page. 

Analyze the results

No process is complete without evaluating the results. Once the new page has been live for some time, evaluate whether it did better than the previous page. What worked? What didn’t? This also helps you make better critical decisions later on.

Critically successful 

Critical thinking takes time to build, but with effort and patience you can apply an unbiased, analytical mind to any situation. Critical thinking makes up one of many soft skills that makes you an effective team member, manager, and worker. If you’re looking to hone your skills further, read our article on the 25 project management skills you need to succeed . 

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A Short Guide to Building Your Team’s Critical Thinking Skills

  • Matt Plummer

when would you use critical thinking to solve a workplace problem

Critical thinking isn’t an innate skill. It can be learned.

Most employers lack an effective way to objectively assess critical thinking skills and most managers don’t know how to provide specific instruction to team members in need of becoming better thinkers. Instead, most managers employ a sink-or-swim approach, ultimately creating work-arounds to keep those who can’t figure out how to “swim” from making important decisions. But it doesn’t have to be this way. To demystify what critical thinking is and how it is developed, the author’s team turned to three research-backed models: The Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment, Pearson’s RED Critical Thinking Model, and Bloom’s Taxonomy. Using these models, they developed the Critical Thinking Roadmap, a framework that breaks critical thinking down into four measurable phases: the ability to execute, synthesize, recommend, and generate.

With critical thinking ranking among the most in-demand skills for job candidates , you would think that educational institutions would prepare candidates well to be exceptional thinkers, and employers would be adept at developing such skills in existing employees. Unfortunately, both are largely untrue.

when would you use critical thinking to solve a workplace problem

  • Matt Plummer (@mtplummer) is the founder of Zarvana, which offers online programs and coaching services to help working professionals become more productive by developing time-saving habits. Before starting Zarvana, Matt spent six years at Bain & Company spin-out, The Bridgespan Group, a strategy and management consulting firm for nonprofits, foundations, and philanthropists.  

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What is Critical Thinking and Why is it Valuable in the Workplace?

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  • > What is Critical Thinking and Why is it Valuable in the Workplace?

There are times at work when you simply have to “do.” A tight deadline, a demanding project outline, or a highly particular superior might mean that it makes sense to complete a task without too much mental tinkering. But work like this can be unsustainable and worse — it won’t leverage your ability to think critically.

There is value in thinking critically in every aspect of your life. From making decisions in your personal life, to interrogating the media you consume, to assessing your work with a critical eye, applying critical thinking is an essential skill everyone should be trying to hone.

At your workplace, critical thinking can distinguish you as a leader, and a valuable mind to bounce ideas off. It can help improve the quality of your work, and the perception those higher up the chain have of you.

Here’s what you need to know about critical thinking in the workplace:

What Exactly is “Critical Thinking”?

  In a nutshell, critical thinking is the ability to think reasonably, detaching yourself from personal bias, emotional responses, and subjective opinions. It involves using the data at hand to make a reasoned choice without falling prey to the temptations of doing things simply because they’ve always been done a certain way.

Critical thinking takes time. It might be quicker simply to take instruction at face value, or rely on the traditions of your team. But without analyzing the reasons behind decisions and tasks, it becomes extremely easy to adopt bad habits. This might be time-wasting meetings, inefficient uses of effort, or poor interactions with team members. Taking the time to ask “why” you’re doing something is the first step to thinking critically.

Sometimes, data is available which allows you to make reasoned decisions based on absolute facts. If you can show that a new best practice can objectively improve current processes with hard data, you’ve used the very basics of critical thinking. That said, actual numbers aren’t always available when making a decision. Real critical thinking involves taking a careful look at situations and making a decision based on what is known, not what is felt.

Why Is Critical Thinking Important in the Workplace?

The short answer to the above question is this: critical thinkers make the best decisions, most often. And in the workplace, where choices about how to complete tasks, communicate information, relate with coworkers, and develop strategy are so common, critical thinkers are extremely valuable.

A savvy hiring manager will make this part of the recruitment process. It’s pretty easy to gauge how someone is inclined to solve a problem — ask them how they would deal with a specific situation, and give them the opportunity to use their critical thinking skills, versus deferring to an emotional, or prescribed reaction. Employing people who can think and act reasonably will pay enormous dividends down the road.

Using your critical thinking skills in the workplace will define you as a problem solver. This is not only useful career-wise (although having upper-level people at your company think highly of you is undoubtedly a benefit) it also establishes you as a leader among your fellow team members. Demonstrating your ability to solve problems and accomplish goals effectively will help instill confidence in you with all your coworkers.

How to Use Critical Thinking in the Workplace

The first step to actually using critical thinking is approaching every situation with an open mind. You need to be receptive to all information available, not just the kind that satisfies your preconceived notions or personal biases. This can be easier said than done, of course — lessons learned and beliefs held are often done so with a reason. But when it comes to critical thinking, it’s important to analyze each situation independently.

Once you’ve analyzed a situation with an open mind, you need to consider how to communicate it properly. It’s all very well and good to approach situations with objective logic, but it doesn’t do you any favours to sound like  Mr. Spock  when you’re conveying your conclusions. Be tactful, patient and humble when you are explaining how and why you’ve come to decisions. Use data if available to support your findings, but understand that not everyone is able to remove emotion from situations.

when would you use critical thinking to solve a workplace problem

The final, and perhaps least obvious, application with critical thinking is creativity. Often, getting creative means pushing boundaries and reshaping convention. This means taking a risk — one that can often be worth the reward. Using a critical thinking approach when getting creative can help you mitigate the risk, and better determine what value your creativity can bring. It will help you and your team try new things and reinvent current processes while hopefully not rocking the boat too much.

Learn More About Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a valuable skill for all aspects of your life. It benefits problem solving, creativity, and teamwork. And it translates particularly well to the workplace, where it can distinguish you as a valuable employee and leader.

Taking the extra time to examine things objectively, make decisions based on logic, and communicate it tactfully will help you, those you work with, and your work goals prosper. To learn more about how to do that, have a look at our  Critical Thinking and Problem Solving for Effective Decision-Making   workshop and register today!

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Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

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Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings.

Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful details to solve problems or make decisions. These skills are especially helpful at school and in the workplace, where employers prioritize the ability to think critically. Find out why and see how you can demonstrate that you have this ability.

Examples of Critical Thinking

The circumstances that demand critical thinking vary from industry to industry. Some examples include:

  • A triage nurse analyzes the cases at hand and decides the order by which the patients should be treated.
  • A plumber evaluates the materials that would best suit a particular job.
  • An attorney reviews the evidence and devises a strategy to win a case or to decide whether to settle out of court.
  • A manager analyzes customer feedback forms and uses this information to develop a customer service training session for employees.

Why Do Employers Value Critical Thinking Skills?

Employers want job candidates who can evaluate a situation using logical thought and offer the best solution.

Someone with critical thinking skills can be trusted to make decisions independently, and will not need constant handholding.

Hiring a critical thinker means that micromanaging won't be required. Critical thinking abilities are among the most sought-after skills in almost every industry and workplace. You can demonstrate critical thinking by using related keywords in your resume and cover letter and during your interview.

How to Demonstrate Critical Thinking in a Job Search

If critical thinking is a key phrase in the job listings you are applying for, be sure to emphasize your critical thinking skills throughout your job search.

Add Keywords to Your Resume

You can use critical thinking keywords (analytical, problem solving, creativity, etc.) in your resume. When describing your work history, include top critical thinking skills that accurately describe you. You can also include them in your resume summary, if you have one.

For example, your summary might read, “Marketing Associate with five years of experience in project management. Skilled in conducting thorough market research and competitor analysis to assess market trends and client needs, and to develop appropriate acquisition tactics.”

Mention Skills in Your Cover Letter

Include these critical thinking skills in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, mention one or two of these skills, and give specific examples of times when you have demonstrated them at work. Think about times when you had to analyze or evaluate materials to solve a problem.

Show the Interviewer Your Skills

You can use these skill words in an interview. Discuss a time when you were faced with a particular problem or challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking to solve it.

Some interviewers will give you a hypothetical scenario or problem, and ask you to use critical thinking skills to solve it. In this case, explain your thought process thoroughly to the interviewer. He or she is typically more focused on how you arrive at your solution rather than the solution itself. The interviewer wants to see you analyze and evaluate (key parts of critical thinking) the given scenario or problem.

Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully and focus on the skills listed by the employer.

Top Critical Thinking Skills

Keep these in-demand skills in mind as you refine your critical thinking practice —whether for work or school.

Part of critical thinking is the ability to carefully examine something, whether it is a problem, a set of data, or a text. People with analytical skills can examine information, understand what it means, and properly explain to others the implications of that information.

  • Asking Thoughtful Questions
  • Data Analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Questioning Evidence
  • Recognizing Patterns

Communication

Often, you will need to share your conclusions with your employers or with a group of classmates or colleagues. You need to be able to communicate with others to share your ideas effectively. You might also need to engage in critical thinking in a group. In this case, you will need to work with others and communicate effectively to figure out solutions to complex problems.

  • Active Listening
  • Collaboration
  • Explanation
  • Interpersonal
  • Presentation
  • Verbal Communication
  • Written Communication

Critical thinking often involves creativity and innovation. You might need to spot patterns in the information you are looking at or come up with a solution that no one else has thought of before. All of this involves a creative eye that can take a different approach from all other approaches.

  • Flexibility
  • Conceptualization
  • Imagination
  • Drawing Connections
  • Synthesizing

Open-Mindedness

To think critically, you need to be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments and merely analyze the information you receive. You need to be objective, evaluating ideas without bias.

  • Objectivity
  • Observation

Problem-Solving

Problem-solving is another critical thinking skill that involves analyzing a problem, generating and implementing a solution, and assessing the success of the plan. Employers don’t simply want employees who can think about information critically. They also need to be able to come up with practical solutions.

  • Attention to Detail
  • Clarification
  • Decision Making
  • Groundedness
  • Identifying Patterns

More Critical Thinking Skills

  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Noticing Outliers
  • Adaptability
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Brainstorming
  • Optimization
  • Restructuring
  • Integration
  • Strategic Planning
  • Project Management
  • Ongoing Improvement
  • Causal Relationships
  • Case Analysis
  • Diagnostics
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Business Intelligence
  • Quantitative Data Management
  • Qualitative Data Management
  • Risk Management
  • Scientific Method
  • Consumer Behavior

Key Takeaways

  • Demonstrate you have critical thinking skills by adding relevant keywords to your resume.
  • Mention pertinent critical thinking skills in your cover letter, too, and include an example of a time when you demonstrated them at work.
  • Finally, highlight critical thinking skills during your interview. For instance, you might discuss a time when you were faced with a challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking skills to solve it.

University of Louisville. " What is Critical Thinking ."

American Management Association. " AMA Critical Skills Survey: Workers Need Higher Level Skills to Succeed in the 21st Century ."

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What Are Critical Thinking Skills and Why Are They Important?

Learn what critical thinking skills are, why they’re important, and how to develop and apply them in your workplace and everyday life.

[Featured Image]:  Project Manager, approaching  and analyzing the latest project with a team member,

We often use critical thinking skills without even realizing it. When you make a decision, such as which cereal to eat for breakfast, you're using critical thinking to determine the best option for you that day.

Critical thinking is like a muscle that can be exercised and built over time. It is a skill that can help propel your career to new heights. You'll be able to solve workplace issues, use trial and error to troubleshoot ideas, and more.

We'll take you through what it is and some examples so you can begin your journey in mastering this skill.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to interpret, evaluate, and analyze facts and information that are available, to form a judgment or decide if something is right or wrong.

More than just being curious about the world around you, critical thinkers make connections between logical ideas to see the bigger picture. Building your critical thinking skills means being able to advocate your ideas and opinions, present them in a logical fashion, and make decisions for improvement.

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Why is critical thinking important?

Critical thinking is useful in many areas of your life, including your career. It makes you a well-rounded individual, one who has looked at all of their options and possible solutions before making a choice.

According to the University of the People in California, having critical thinking skills is important because they are [ 1 ]:

Crucial for the economy

Essential for improving language and presentation skills

Very helpful in promoting creativity

Important for self-reflection

The basis of science and democracy 

Critical thinking skills are used every day in a myriad of ways and can be applied to situations such as a CEO approaching a group project or a nurse deciding in which order to treat their patients.

Examples of common critical thinking skills

Critical thinking skills differ from individual to individual and are utilized in various ways. Examples of common critical thinking skills include:

Identification of biases: Identifying biases means knowing there are certain people or things that may have an unfair prejudice or influence on the situation at hand. Pointing out these biases helps to remove them from contention when it comes to solving the problem and allows you to see things from a different perspective.

Research: Researching details and facts allows you to be prepared when presenting your information to people. You’ll know exactly what you’re talking about due to the time you’ve spent with the subject material, and you’ll be well-spoken and know what questions to ask to gain more knowledge. When researching, always use credible sources and factual information.

Open-mindedness: Being open-minded when having a conversation or participating in a group activity is crucial to success. Dismissing someone else’s ideas before you’ve heard them will inhibit you from progressing to a solution, and will often create animosity. If you truly want to solve a problem, you need to be willing to hear everyone’s opinions and ideas if you want them to hear yours.

Analysis: Analyzing your research will lead to you having a better understanding of the things you’ve heard and read. As a true critical thinker, you’ll want to seek out the truth and get to the source of issues. It’s important to avoid taking things at face value and always dig deeper.

Problem-solving: Problem-solving is perhaps the most important skill that critical thinkers can possess. The ability to solve issues and bounce back from conflict is what helps you succeed, be a leader, and effect change. One way to properly solve problems is to first recognize there’s a problem that needs solving. By determining the issue at hand, you can then analyze it and come up with several potential solutions.

How to develop critical thinking skills

You can develop critical thinking skills every day if you approach problems in a logical manner. Here are a few ways you can start your path to improvement:

1. Ask questions.

Be inquisitive about everything. Maintain a neutral perspective and develop a natural curiosity, so you can ask questions that develop your understanding of the situation or task at hand. The more details, facts, and information you have, the better informed you are to make decisions.

2. Practice active listening.

Utilize active listening techniques, which are founded in empathy, to really listen to what the other person is saying. Critical thinking, in part, is the cognitive process of reading the situation: the words coming out of their mouth, their body language, their reactions to your own words. Then, you might paraphrase to clarify what they're saying, so both of you agree you're on the same page.

3. Develop your logic and reasoning.

This is perhaps a more abstract task that requires practice and long-term development. However, think of a schoolteacher assessing the classroom to determine how to energize the lesson. There's options such as playing a game, watching a video, or challenging the students with a reward system. Using logic, you might decide that the reward system will take up too much time and is not an immediate fix. A video is not exactly relevant at this time. So, the teacher decides to play a simple word association game.

Scenarios like this happen every day, so next time, you can be more aware of what will work and what won't. Over time, developing your logic and reasoning will strengthen your critical thinking skills.

Learn tips and tricks on how to become a better critical thinker and problem solver through online courses from notable educational institutions on Coursera. Start with Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking from Duke University or Mindware: Critical Thinking for the Information Age from the University of Michigan.

Article sources

University of the People, “ Why is Critical Thinking Important?: A Survival Guide , https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/why-is-critical-thinking-important/.” Accessed May 18, 2023.

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Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

when would you use critical thinking to solve a workplace problem

10 Tips to Succeed with Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving at Work

What are critical thinking and problem-solving skills, how can managers improve their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, how can managers use critical thinking to solve problems, examples of critical thinking and problem-solving for managers , 10 tips for critical thinking & problem-solving for managers.

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  • Seek out diverse perspectives: Engage with people with different perspectives and experiences. This can help managers to consider multiple viewpoints and make more informed decisions.
  • Read widely: Read books, articles, and other materials from various disciplines and perspectives. It can help managers to broaden their knowledge base and develop new insights and ideas.
  • Practice active listening: Listen carefully to others and seek to understand their perspectives. This can help managers to identify potential problems and develop more effective solutions.
  • Ask probing questions: Ask questions that challenge assumptions and encourage deeper thinking. It can help managers identify the problem’s root causes and develop more effective solutions.
  • Use data to inform decisions: Use data and evidence to inform decision-making . It will help managers to identify patterns and trends and make more informed decisions.
  • Embrace uncertainty: Embrace uncertainty and be open to the possibility of failure. This can help managers to take calculated risks and learn from mistakes.
  • Engage in reflection: Reflect on past decisions and problem-solving efforts. Consider what worked well and what could have been done differently.
  • Practice creativity: Practice creative thinking techniques such as brainstorming , mind-mapping, or lateral thinking. It helps managers to generate new ideas and develop innovative solutions.
  • Define the problem: Clearly define the problem or issue that needs to be addressed. Use facts and data to clarify the issue and determine the scope of the problem.
  • Gather information: Collect relevant data and information to understand the problem better. Use both internal and external sources to gather insights and perspectives.
  • Analyze the information: Use critical thinking skills to analyze the data and information collected. Look for patterns, identify cause-and-effect relationships, and consider potential solutions.
  • Generate potential solutions: Use creative thinking techniques such as brainstorming to generate a list of potential solutions. Consider multiple options and evaluate them based on their feasibility, impact, and alignment with team goals.
  • Evaluate potential solutions: Evaluate each solution using critical thinking skills. Consider the pros and cons of each option, weigh the risks and benefits, and consider potential unintended consequences.
  • Choose a solution: Based on evaluating solutions, choose the most appropriate solution. Consider the resources required to implement the solution, the timeline for implementation, and any potential obstacles.
  • Implement the solution: Develop a plan for implementing the chosen solution. Communicate the plan to stakeholders, assign roles and responsibilities, and establish a timeline for implementation.
  • Evaluate the solution: Monitor the implementation of the solution and evaluate its effectiveness. Collect feedback from stakeholders and make adjustments as necessary.
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  • Identifying root causes: A critical-thinking manager might investigate a recurring problem in their department by asking questions to identify the root cause. They might analyze data and seek input from team members to identify potential contributing factors and develop a plan to address the issue.
  • Evaluating risks: A manager might use critical thinking to assess the risks associated with a proposed project or initiative. They might consider potential risks and develop contingency plans to mitigate them or decide to postpone the project if the risks are deemed too high.
  • Analyzing data: A manager might use critical thinking to analyze data to identify trends and patterns. For example, they might analyze sales data to identify growth opportunities or analyze employee performance data to identify areas for improvement.
  • Developing creative solutions: A manager might use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to develop creative solutions to complex problems. For example, they might brainstorm with team members to create innovative products or services that meet customer needs.
  • Evaluating proposals: A manager might use critical thinking to assess proposals from vendors or outside consultants. They might ask questions to ensure the proposal aligns with the team’s goals and objectives and consider potential risks and benefits before deciding.
  • Develop a growth mindset: Embrace a growth mindset and believe your skills and abilities can improve with effort and practice.
  • Challenge your assumptions: Identify them and challenge them by considering alternative perspectives.
  • Use logic and reasoning: Use logical reasoning to evaluate arguments and evidence and make informed decisions.
  • Practice active listening: Listen carefully to others and ask questions to clarify their perspectives .
  • Analyze data: Use data to inform decision-making and analyze trends and patterns.
  • Develop creative solutions: Practice creative techniques like brainstorming and lateral thinking to generate new ideas and solutions.
  • Consider potential consequences: Evaluate the possible consequences of your decisions and actions, both positive and negative.
  • Seek feedback: Seek feedback from others to identify areas for improvement and growth.
  • Practice mindfulness: Practice mindfulness to reduce stress and improve focus and clarity.
  • Continuously learn: Seek opportunities to learn and develop new skills, such as attending workshops, taking courses, or reading books and articles.

when would you use critical thinking to solve a workplace problem

Suprabha Sharma

Suprabha, a versatile professional who blends expertise in human resources and psychology, bridges the divide between people management and personal growth with her novel perspectives at Risely. Her experience as a human resource professional has empowered her to visualize practical solutions for frequent managerial challenges that form the pivot of her writings.

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Critical Thinking Training For Managers Simplified

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when would you use critical thinking to solve a workplace problem

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Culture Development

Workplace problem-solving examples: real scenarios, practical solutions.

  • March 11, 2024

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing work environment, problems are inevitable. From conflicts among employees to high levels of stress, workplace problems can significantly impact productivity and overall well-being. However, by developing the art of problem-solving and implementing practical solutions, organizations can effectively tackle these challenges and foster a positive work culture. In this article, we will delve into various workplace problem scenarios and explore strategies for resolution. By understanding common workplace problems and acquiring essential problem-solving skills, individuals and organizations can navigate these challenges with confidence and success.

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Understanding Workplace Problems

Before we can effectively solve workplace problems , it is essential to gain a clear understanding of the issues at hand. Identifying common workplace problems is the first step toward finding practical solutions. By recognizing these challenges, organizations can develop targeted strategies and initiatives to address them.

Identifying Common Workplace Problems

One of the most common workplace problems is conflict. Whether it stems from differences in opinions, miscommunication, or personality clashes, conflict can disrupt collaboration and hinder productivity. It is important to note that conflict is a natural part of any workplace, as individuals with different backgrounds and perspectives come together to work towards a common goal. However, when conflict is not managed effectively, it can escalate and create a toxic work environment.

In addition to conflict, workplace stress and burnout pose significant challenges. High workloads, tight deadlines, and a lack of work-life balance can all contribute to employee stress and dissatisfaction. When employees are overwhelmed and exhausted, their performance and overall well-being are compromised. This not only affects the individuals directly, but it also has a ripple effect on the entire organization.

Another common workplace problem is poor communication. Ineffective communication can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and errors. It can also create a sense of confusion and frustration among employees. Clear and open communication is vital for successful collaboration and the smooth functioning of any organization.

The Impact of Workplace Problems on Productivity

Workplace problems can have a detrimental effect on productivity levels. When conflicts are left unresolved, they can create a tense work environment, leading to decreased employee motivation and engagement. The negative energy generated by unresolved conflicts can spread throughout the organization, affecting team dynamics and overall performance.

Similarly, high levels of stress and burnout can result in decreased productivity, as individuals may struggle to focus and perform optimally. When employees are constantly under pressure and overwhelmed, their ability to think creatively and problem-solve diminishes. This can lead to a decline in the quality of work produced and an increase in errors and inefficiencies.

Poor communication also hampers productivity. When information is not effectively shared or understood, it can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and rework. This not only wastes time and resources but also creates frustration and demotivation among employees.

Furthermore, workplace problems can negatively impact employee morale and job satisfaction. When individuals are constantly dealing with conflicts, stress, and poor communication, their overall job satisfaction and engagement suffer. This can result in higher turnover rates, as employees seek a healthier and more supportive work environment.

In conclusion, workplace problems such as conflict, stress, burnout, and poor communication can significantly hinder productivity and employee well-being. Organizations must address these issues promptly and proactively to create a positive and productive work atmosphere. By fostering open communication, providing support for stress management, and promoting conflict resolution strategies, organizations can create a work environment that encourages collaboration, innovation, and employee satisfaction.

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The Art of Problem Solving in the Workplace

Now that we have a clear understanding of workplace problems, let’s explore the essential skills necessary for effective problem-solving in the workplace. By developing these skills and adopting a proactive approach, individuals can tackle problems head-on and find practical solutions.

Problem-solving in the workplace is a complex and multifaceted skill that requires a combination of analytical thinking, creativity, and effective communication. It goes beyond simply identifying problems and extends to finding innovative solutions that address the root causes.

Essential Problem-Solving Skills for the Workplace

To effectively solve workplace problems, individuals should possess a range of skills. These include strong analytical and critical thinking abilities, excellent communication and interpersonal skills, the ability to collaborate and work well in a team, and the capacity to adapt to change. By honing these skills, individuals can approach workplace problems with confidence and creativity.

Analytical and critical thinking skills are essential for problem-solving in the workplace. They involve the ability to gather and analyze relevant information, identify patterns and trends, and make logical connections. These skills enable individuals to break down complex problems into manageable components and develop effective strategies to solve them.

Effective communication and interpersonal skills are also crucial for problem-solving in the workplace. These skills enable individuals to clearly articulate their thoughts and ideas, actively listen to others, and collaborate effectively with colleagues. By fostering open and honest communication channels, individuals can better understand the root causes of problems and work towards finding practical solutions.

Collaboration and teamwork are essential for problem-solving in the workplace. By working together, individuals can leverage their diverse skills, knowledge, and perspectives to generate innovative solutions. Collaboration fosters a supportive and inclusive environment where everyone’s ideas are valued, leading to more effective problem-solving outcomes.

The ability to adapt to change is another important skill for problem-solving in the workplace. In today’s fast-paced and dynamic work environment, problems often arise due to changes in technology, processes, or market conditions. Individuals who can embrace change and adapt quickly are better equipped to find solutions that address the evolving needs of the organization.

The Role of Communication in Problem Solving

Communication is a key component of effective problem-solving in the workplace. By fostering open and honest communication channels, individuals can better understand the root causes of problems and work towards finding practical solutions. Active listening, clear and concise articulation of thoughts and ideas, and the ability to empathize are all valuable communication skills that facilitate problem-solving.

Active listening involves fully engaging with the speaker, paying attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues, and seeking clarification when necessary. By actively listening, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of the problem at hand and the perspectives of others involved. This understanding is crucial for developing comprehensive and effective solutions.

Clear and concise articulation of thoughts and ideas is essential for effective problem-solving communication. By expressing oneself clearly, individuals can ensure that their ideas are understood by others. This clarity helps to avoid misunderstandings and promotes effective collaboration.

Empathy is a valuable communication skill that plays a significant role in problem-solving. By putting oneself in the shoes of others and understanding their emotions and perspectives, individuals can build trust and rapport. This empathetic connection fosters a supportive and collaborative environment where everyone feels valued and motivated to contribute to finding solutions.

In conclusion, problem-solving in the workplace requires a combination of essential skills such as analytical thinking, effective communication, collaboration, and adaptability. By honing these skills and fostering open communication channels, individuals can approach workplace problems with confidence and creativity, leading to practical and innovative solutions.

Real Scenarios of Workplace Problems

Now, let’s explore some real scenarios of workplace problems and delve into strategies for resolution. By examining these practical examples, individuals can develop a deeper understanding of how to approach and solve workplace problems.

Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

Imagine a scenario where two team members have conflicting ideas on how to approach a project. The disagreement becomes heated, leading to a tense work environment. To resolve this conflict, it is crucial to encourage open dialogue between the team members. Facilitating a calm and respectful conversation can help uncover underlying concerns and find common ground. Collaboration and compromise are key in reaching a resolution that satisfies all parties involved.

In this particular scenario, let’s dive deeper into the dynamics between the team members. One team member, let’s call her Sarah, strongly believes that a more conservative and traditional approach is necessary for the project’s success. On the other hand, her colleague, John, advocates for a more innovative and out-of-the-box strategy. The clash between their perspectives arises from their different backgrounds and experiences.

As the conflict escalates, it is essential for a neutral party, such as a team leader or a mediator, to step in and facilitate the conversation. This person should create a safe space for both Sarah and John to express their ideas and concerns without fear of judgment or retribution. By actively listening to each other, they can gain a better understanding of the underlying motivations behind their respective approaches.

During the conversation, it may become apparent that Sarah’s conservative approach stems from a fear of taking risks and a desire for stability. On the other hand, John’s innovative mindset is driven by a passion for pushing boundaries and finding creative solutions. Recognizing these underlying motivations can help foster empathy and create a foundation for collaboration.

As the dialogue progresses, Sarah and John can begin to identify areas of overlap and potential compromise. They may realize that while Sarah’s conservative approach provides stability, John’s innovative ideas can inject fresh perspectives into the project. By combining their strengths and finding a middle ground, they can develop a hybrid strategy that incorporates both stability and innovation.

Ultimately, conflict resolution in the workplace requires effective communication, active listening, empathy, and a willingness to find common ground. By addressing conflicts head-on and fostering a collaborative environment, teams can overcome challenges and achieve their goals.

Dealing with Workplace Stress and Burnout

Workplace stress and burnout can be debilitating for individuals and organizations alike. In this scenario, an employee is consistently overwhelmed by their workload and experiencing signs of burnout. To address this issue, organizations should promote a healthy work-life balance and provide resources to manage stress effectively. Encouraging employees to take breaks, providing access to mental health support, and fostering a supportive work culture are all practical solutions to alleviate workplace stress.

In this particular scenario, let’s imagine that the employee facing stress and burnout is named Alex. Alex has been working long hours, often sacrificing personal time and rest to meet tight deadlines and demanding expectations. As a result, Alex is experiencing physical and mental exhaustion, reduced productivity, and a sense of detachment from work.

Recognizing the signs of burnout, Alex’s organization takes proactive measures to address the issue. They understand that employee well-being is crucial for maintaining a healthy and productive workforce. To promote a healthy work-life balance, the organization encourages employees to take regular breaks and prioritize self-care. They emphasize the importance of disconnecting from work during non-working hours and encourage employees to engage in activities that promote relaxation and rejuvenation.

Additionally, the organization provides access to mental health support services, such as counseling or therapy sessions. They recognize that stress and burnout can have a significant impact on an individual’s mental well-being and offer resources to help employees manage their stress effectively. By destigmatizing mental health and providing confidential support, the organization creates an environment where employees feel comfortable seeking help when needed.

Furthermore, the organization fosters a supportive work culture by promoting open communication and empathy. They encourage managers and colleagues to check in with each other regularly, offering support and understanding. Team members are encouraged to collaborate and share the workload, ensuring that no one person is overwhelmed with excessive responsibilities.

By implementing these strategies, Alex’s organization aims to alleviate workplace stress and prevent burnout. They understand that a healthy and balanced workforce is more likely to be engaged, productive, and satisfied. Through a combination of promoting work-life balance, providing mental health support, and fostering a supportive work culture, organizations can effectively address workplace stress and create an environment conducive to employee well-being.

Practical Solutions to Workplace Problems

Now that we have explored real scenarios, let’s discuss practical solutions that organizations can implement to address workplace problems. By adopting proactive strategies and establishing effective policies, organizations can create a positive work environment conducive to problem-solving and productivity.

Implementing Effective Policies for Problem Resolution

Organizations should have clear and well-defined policies in place to address workplace problems. These policies should outline procedures for conflict resolution, channels for reporting problems, and accountability measures. By ensuring that employees are aware of these policies and have easy access to them, organizations can facilitate problem-solving and prevent issues from escalating.

Promoting a Positive Workplace Culture

A positive workplace culture is vital for problem-solving. By fostering an environment of respect, collaboration, and open communication, organizations can create a space where individuals feel empowered to address and solve problems. Encouraging teamwork, recognizing and appreciating employees’ contributions, and promoting a healthy work-life balance are all ways to cultivate a positive workplace culture.

The Role of Leadership in Problem Solving

Leadership plays a crucial role in facilitating effective problem-solving within organizations. Different leadership styles can impact how problems are approached and resolved.

Leadership Styles and Their Impact on Problem-Solving

Leaders who adopt an autocratic leadership style may make decisions independently, potentially leaving their team members feeling excluded and undervalued. On the other hand, leaders who adopt a democratic leadership style involve their team members in the problem-solving process, fostering a sense of ownership and empowerment. By encouraging employee participation, organizations can leverage the diverse perspectives and expertise of their workforce to find innovative solutions to workplace problems.

Encouraging Employee Participation in Problem Solving

To harness the collective problem-solving abilities of an organization, it is crucial to encourage employee participation. Leaders can create opportunities for employees to contribute their ideas and perspectives through brainstorming sessions, team meetings, and collaborative projects. By valuing employee input and involving them in decision-making processes, organizations can foster a culture of inclusivity and drive innovative problem-solving efforts.

In today’s dynamic work environment, workplace problems are unavoidable. However, by understanding common workplace problems, developing essential problem-solving skills, and implementing practical solutions, individuals and organizations can navigate these challenges effectively. By fostering a positive work culture, implementing effective policies, and encouraging employee participation, organizations can create an environment conducive to problem-solving and productivity. With proactive problem-solving strategies in place, organizations can thrive and overcome obstacles, ensuring long-term success and growth.

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Eggcellent Work

5 creative and critical thinking examples in workplace  .

In our blog  How To Improve Critical Thinking Skills at Work And Make Better Decisions ,  we highlighted some essential skills and activities that can make you a more valuable employee. We demonstrated how critical thinking is the ability to make informed, logical decisions, overcome bias through self-knowledge and collaboration with others.

In this blog we will list five creative and critical thinking examples in workplace settings. Critical thinking scenarios in the workplace can arise from the mundane, everyday tasks of data analysis to solving critical problems–each requiring logic and critical thinking.

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10 best books on critical thinking and problem solving.

  • 12 Common Barriers To Critical Thinking (And How To Overcome Them)
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Table of Contents

Creative and critical thinking examples in workplace settings

Critical thinking to solve a problem example 1: analyzing data.

In these days of data overload, automation can sift, sort, and report data in a more-or-less manageable form. The ability to analyze, make sense of, and make informed decisions on data is a uniquely human quality.

A core skill of leveraging all that information into sound business decisions is critical thinking. For example, a critical thinker can look at a sales projection report and judge whether the source information was slanted, or skewed because of past seasonal effects on sales.

Critical thinking to solve a problem; Example 2: Promoting a team and collaborative approach to solve a problem

One of the most common creative and critical thinking examples in workplace settings is applying the principle that, contrary to the old saying, too many cooks don’t necessarily “spoil the broth.”

One recipe for successful problem solving in any organization is effective team collaboration. The team must employ a strategy that logically analyzes each team member’s input. Individual members of the team must be prepared (and encouraged) to offer constructive criticism and reasoned input based on the precepts of critical thinking.

Read More: Is Common Sense a Skill in the Workplace? (+How to Cultivate It)

Critical thinking to solve a problem; Example 3: Assessing risks

Logical and critical thinking examples of successfully coping with risks include:

  • identifying potential hazards at a construction site and matching those hazards with the health and safety requirements of OSHA
  • providing a risk assessment and developing an emergency reaction plan for business continuity
  • assessing the potential impacts of new financial privacy and compliance rules with a plan of action that mitigates and effectively responds to risks

Critical thinking to solve a problem; Example 4: Hiring new talent

As discussed in our previous blog, overcoming bias is an important step in critical thinking. When making a new hire, you must read, analyze, and digest multiple job application packages.

Your first step in the process is to remove bias and personal preferences from your applicant selection process. That means disregarding the applicants’ age, gender, place origin or other factors.

Remember that bias is often unconscious. To eliminate bias from your thinking process, know that bias can be insidious. Bias has a tendency to produce irrational judgments in a consistent pattern.

In his article on  Entrepreneur.com , Dr. Travis Bradberry cites cognitive biases and how they influence your judgement. When hiring, be on the lookout for the following biases:

  • Confirmation bias , which is a tendency to look for information that supports a pre-existing belief. Say the applicant attended an educational institution that received some bad publicity recently. You believe that the institution is flawed, so the applicant must also be flawed.
  • The Halo effect , which happens when someone creates a strong first impression and that impression sticks. Perhaps the applicant attended one of your favorite Ivy League institutions. Dig deeper and see if that good first impression of the applicant is warranted.

So, if you can recognize and understand bias, you can think more objectively, and recruit the best talent for your organization.

Critical thinking to solve a problem; Example 5: Knowing your true value to the organization

Self-reflection  involves an honest analysis of your worth to the organization and how your experience and talents add value and help you find ways to improve your performance.

One suggested practice is to list the ways you are contributing to the goals of your organization. How are your contributions impacting the overall progress of the organization’s mission, and how do they positively (or negatively) affect your potential for growth and assuming increasing responsibilities in your organization?

The foregoing analysis has an added advantage. Reflecting on your thought processes is an important step in critical thinking, which, in turn, helps you become a better critical thinker—with the compounding effect of improving your performance and value to your organization.

Outcomes of applying the above “logic and critical thinking” examples

By applying the foregoing examples of critical thinking in workplace settings you can open new opportunities of improved performance and effectiveness on the job. For example:

Critical thinking opens the door to trying something new.  Group-thinking can stifle positive change. Resistance to change can strangle a good idea at birth when someone says, “We have always had success with the old method.”

A critical thinker, instead of shooting down a new idea, seeks out more information, and asks:

  • Why is that a good idea?
  • What is the data that shows that the new method could result in a better outcome?
  • What, if any, are the metrics that can be applied to measure results?

Critical thinking provides quick and accurate decisions in high-risk situations.  High-risk implies bad consequences, and  critical thinking is a must .

A classic example would be triaging victims during a medical emergency. Medical personnel must apply all their training and best judgement in rapidly and critically analyzing the sequence of emergency patient treatment without bias based on a combination of factors to help them reach those decisions.

Critical thinkers are in control of their emotions.  On the job, you could be faced with ethical and moral challenges. At times, emotions can cloud judgment and put you in a tough spot where you have to choose between what your heart wants and what your brain knows is best.

Say that you are faced with the dilemma of reporting a colleague’s dishonest or illegal behavior on the job. The dilemma is that the colleague is your friend, has a family, and has a substance-use problem. You can remain silent and your colleague will get away with the act, or you can report the infraction.

A critical thinker will think things through. How will the colleague’s actions negatively affect your work unit? Could there be an audit trigger and disruptive investigation where you’ll have to risk lying—and perhaps losing your job? Might this be a serendipitous opportunity to get your colleague to resolve a substance-use problem?

No one ever claimed that critical thinking was easy. But, paraphrasing the words of Teddy Roosevelt, nothing worth doing is easy.

  • Critical Thinking vs Problem Solving: What’s the Difference?
  • Is Critical Thinking Overrated?  Disadvantages Of Critical Thinking
  • 25 In-Demand Jobs That Require Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills
  • Brainstorming: Techniques Used To Boost Critical Thinking and Creativity
  • 11 Principles Of Critical Thinking  

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Jenny Palmer

Founder of Eggcellentwork.com. With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

Further Reading...

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How To List Skills That I Taught Myself On Resume

when would you use critical thinking to solve a workplace problem

How to promote critical thinking in the workplace

when would you use critical thinking to solve a workplace problem

What is critical thinking?

  • I have a tendency to think before I act
  • I use solid information to inform my decisions
  • I don’t base decisions on feelings
  • I am happy to change methods
  • I find it easy to explain the reasoning behind my decisions

How do we use critical thinking in the workplace?

team brainstorming with post its

  • Ensuring you always have your eye on the end goal
  • Talking to other people and collecting relevant information
  • Using information and facts to inform your actions
  • Making sure your own preconceptions don’t influence a situation
  • Building solutions that are individual to each situation
  • Anticipating both the long and the short-term consequences of decisions

Why is workplace critical thinking so significant?

  • Poor decision making
  • Unhappy colleagues
  • A lack of necessary action
  • Dysfunctional systems
  • Financial losses
  • Wasted time and effort

How can I develop my critical thinking skills?

online learning concept

  • Get into the habit of asking important but basic questions such as, ‘What do we already know about this situation?’ or ‘What is our main goal here?’
  • Gain a solid understanding of your own preconceptions. Learn how to override them
  • Do plenty of research but don’t forget to think for yourself as well
  • Talk to your employer about a whole organisation approach
  • Consider a career move into job roles that often require expert critical thinking. There are many of these but IT business analyst , project analyst and supervisor are popular cross-industry examples.
  • Investigate training opportunities. For example, Upskilled’s BSB50215 - Diploma of Business can help you develop a competitive edge and includes a unit on applying advanced critical thinking to work processes.

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Critical Thinking for Problem Solving

Critical thinking is the process to rationally analyze and attempt to solve a problem – accurately and efficiently. This method is made without the use of guesses and assumptions.

Business leaders use critical thinking to solve day-to-day problems. On the other hand, students rely on critical thinking for their learning process and research.

You’ll need to actively question every idea and assumptions instead of simply accepting them at face value. You’ll always seek to determine if certain arguments, ideas, and findings actually represent the whole picture. However, you’ll have to be open to the idea that they might not represent the entire picture.

Critical Thinking Methods

Thinking through the scenario helps separate real problems from simple misunderstandings or disagreements.

With the use of critical thinking, assessing a problem might reveal that there was never a problem at all. It might also show that a problem cannot be solved with the present circumstances or situations. This helps in reducing the harmful effects of a problem as opposed to just quickly looking for an outright solution.

This process often encourages creativity. With creativity, one considers a set of diverse solutions before making and acting on decisions. A creative strategy might need working with others to get a different point of view and to prevent internal biases.

Once you have narrowed your list of options, you’ll need to decide which one is the most appropriate solution for the problem at hand.

Once the solution is implemented and you managed to solve the problem, you should follow up on the outcome. Compare your outcomes to your predicted ones and use the information to identify any flaw in the decision-making process.

How to Achieve Critical Thinking Skills

Convergent thinking is where all facts and data are brought together from different areas with the aim to solve problems, achieve the desired outcome, and make informed and proper decisions. It is a process that focuses on developing the best answer to a problem.

These two can be used together. For example, you may use divergent thinking to detail the most obvious and random ideas first then use convergent thinking to filter the possible best ideas or solutions. In other options, you can mix divergent and convergent options in the process.

The main point of critical thinking is to achieve the best possible outcomes in any given situation (scenario). To achieve this, you’ll have to gather and evaluate information from many different sources. Critical thinking needs a clear, but often uncomfortable, assessment of your own strengths, weaknesses, and preferences, and the possible impact on the decisions you’ll make.

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when would you use critical thinking to solve a workplace problem

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Team Building World

10 Critical Thinking Team Building Activities for Work

10 Critical Thinking Team Building Activities for Work

Are you looking for some critical thinking team building activities ?

Employees who can think critically and solve complex problems are valuable assets to any company. With this skill, they can objectively analyze data and make informed decisions.

This will ease your job as a leader, right?

In this article, let’s see 10 critical thinking activities for your employees.

What are the Main Benefits of Critical Thinking in the Workplace?

Critical thinking helps employees to assess situations accurately and make sound decisions. When it is incorporated into the workplace, it can help teams become more collaborative and productive. Moreover, they can think strategically under pressure.

Here are 10 activities that will help your teams develop their critical thinking skills:

#1. Debate It Out

This activity requires teams to debate a controversial topic and come to a consensus.

Time: You decide

Materials: None

Participants: 3-10 people per group

Instructions

• Break the participants into small groups and assign each group a controversial topic to debate.

• Give them some time to research their topics and discuss possible arguments.

• During the debate, encourage all group members to participate and cooperate while developing their arguments.

• Finally, each group should come up with a consensus.

Discuss how the groups reach a consensus. Ask them how they overcame disagreements to come to an agreement.

#2. The Challenge Quest

This activity requires employees to answer questions and solve puzzles to reach a common goal.

Materials: Questions, puzzles, and clues about the given subject.

Participants: 3-10 people in a team

• Break the participants into teams and give each one a set of questions, puzzles, and clues related to a given topic. For example, the topic could be sustainability in the workplace.

• Give the teams time to discuss and answer each question or puzzle.

• Once they’ve answered all the questions, they must come up with a plan to reach a common goal.

During the debrief, see how each team worked together and what strategies they used to solve the puzzles. Encourage them to think strategically and in an orderly manner.

#3. Fishbowl

This team building activity requires employees to come up with solutions to a given problem.

Materials: Questions, topics, and discussion prompts

Participants: 5-15 people per group

• Choose a person to be in the center of the circle that everyone else can see. Everyone else stands around them in a circle.

• Ask the group a question or provide a discussion prompt, and allow the person in the center to begin discussing their thoughts.

• Everyone else takes turns providing input and suggestions, helping the individual in the center reach a solution or conclusion.

Discuss how the group worked together to come up with ideas and solutions. Talk about what strategies were used, how people communicated, and any key points that came up during the discussion.

#4. Elimination Match

This exercise requires employees to use their strategic planning skills. Here groups must complete tasks quickly in order to win the game.

Time: 15-30 minutes

Materials: Cards with various tasks, such as creating a budget or developing a marketing plan

Participants: 5-10 people divided into teams of 2-3

• Ask teams to pick one card from the deck and assign each team the task indicated.

• Give them some time to complete their tasks.

• After the time is up, ask each team to present their results.

• Award points to the teams based on how well they completed the task, and choose the winner!

Discuss how each group planned and worked together to complete the task. Also, talk about the importance of thinking critically and strategically under pressure.

#5. Quick Brainstorming

In this activity, employees must quickly brainstorm ideas in order to come up with solutions.

Time: 5 minutes

Materials: Problem and discussion prompts

Participants: 4-10 people per team

• Initially, present a problem to the group. Next, give them 2-3 minutes to brainstorm as many solutions as possible.

• Have each team present their ideas.

• Ask the teams to discuss each solution and vote on the best one.

Have employees reflect on the ideas that were generated during the activity. Discuss how open and honest communication can help groups come up with creative solutions in a short amount of time.

#6. Creative Writing

This team building exercise encourages employees to think creatively while crafting a story.

Materials: Story prompts and writing utensils

Participants: 4-10 people in a group

• Give each group a short story or scenario to work with.

• Have the groups discuss potential plot points, character traits, and other creative aspects of the story.

• Each group should write the completed story collaboratively.

Evaluate the effectiveness of teamwork and recognize any biases or patterns noticed while writing the stories. Talk about how important it is to communicate openly and consider different perspectives while solving problems.

#7. The Exchange

This exercise requires teams to work together by exchanging and reallocating items.

Time: 10-20 minutes

Materials: Any items needed to complete the task such as cards, balls, puzzles, etc.

Participants: At least two teams of any size

• Give each team a different task to complete. For example, building the highest tower or creating the most complex puzzle.

• Provide a set of items to each team.

• Allow them to exchange items with the other teams until they have created their final product.

Evaluate the team members’ problem-solving abilities and recognize any biases that may have impacted their decisions. Also, assess what they learned about communication and collaboration during the exercise. ​​​ ​​

#8. Idea Generation Game

This team building activity encourages groups to think creatively by generating ideas for a particular challenge.

Time: 5-10 minutes

Materials: Any items needed to complete the task such as construction paper, tape, scissors, etc.

Participants: 3-10 members in a team

• Assign each team a set of items and ask them to come up with an innovative idea or invention using the materials provided.

• Encourage them to brainstorm and generate ideas with their team members.

• Allow each team to create prototypes or models of their idea if desired.

Evaluate the creative problem-solving skills displayed by team members. Also, identify any potential areas for improvement.​​ ​​

#9. The Case Study

This activity encourages employees to collaborate and think critically in order to solve a case study.

Materials: Case study, research materials, and discussion prompts

Participants: Any number of members per group

• Present the groups with a case study that requires critical thinking to solve.

• Provide them with research materials and discussion prompts to come up with solutions.

• Each group should present their findings and solutions to the other groups.

Assess how well the teams worked together, and evaluate their strategies for problem-solving. Also, discuss which solution was the most effective.​​​ ​​​ ​​

#10. Desert Survival

This exercise encourages employees to work together and think critically in order to survive in the desert.

Materials: A list of items, paper, and pen

Participants: Teams of 3-8 members

• Each team should assume that they are stuck in a desert. Their goal is to come up with solutions for survival.

• Now, provide a list of 10 items to each team. Some of the items can be food, shelter, water, etc.

• Instruct them to choose five items from the list that they value the most.

• After a few minutes, ask each team to present their solution.

• Award points to the teams based on how effectively they used the items to survive.

Discuss how the teams used their problem solving skills to come up with solutions and ask them what other strategies they could have used in this situation. Also, talk about the importance of being able to think critically and strategically under pressure.

Want Unique Team Building Exercises?

If you want some unique team building exercises for your employees, you can get my new e-book:

The Busy Leader’s Guide of Unique Team Building Activities: 30 Fully Customizable Exercises That You Can Conduct with Any Group of Employees, Anywhere

Or Want Some Unique Leadership Development Activities?

If you want some unique activities to equip your employees with leadership skills, qualities, and mindset, you can get my new e-book:

The Empowering Guide of Unique Leadership Development Activities: 100 Fully Customizable Exercises That You Can Conduct with Any Group of Employees, Anywhere

Final Words

Teams can enhance their critical thinking skills by taking part in the above-mentioned activities in a fun and collaborative environment. Since everyone has varying viewpoints, you must exercise patience and respect while exchanging ideas. Finally, conducting a debrief after each activity is essential to help everyone gain insight from the experience and incorporate it into future scenarios.

FAQ: Critical Thinking Team Building Activities

You might have these questions in mind.

What are critical thinking activities?

These are exercises that can help your teams to think outside the box and solve complex problems. They will help your employees work under pressure and make the right decisions.

What are some critical thinking 5-minute team building activities?

Some 5-minute activities that can help your employees think critically are Idea Generation Game, Quick Brainstorming, and The Challenge Quest.

How does improving critical thinking skills increase workplace performance?

Having good critical thinking skills helps employees think strategically and analyze data efficiently. They also become better problem solvers and are able to generate innovative solutions more quickly. All of this helps to improve overall workplace performance and productivity.

Like this article on “10 Critical Thinking Team Building Activities for Work”? Feel free to share your thoughts.

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when would you use critical thinking to solve a workplace problem

Course details

Problem solving and critical thinking.

The ability to problem solve and think critically has never been more important. As the speed of decision making and the accuracy of information vary across both personal and organisational life, having the chance to problem solve is difficult. Thinking critically is hugely important to balance longer term consequences with current day action, avoiding the ramifications of poor decision making in an instant. 

Critical Thinking is therefore a vital skill to learn, practice and refresh.

By following a disciplined process, understanding what critical thinking is and why it can be so difficult, this interactive day event will allow you to raise issues or challenges you currently have and use new tools to think these through from an unbiased perspective.

Please note: this event will close to enrolments at 23:59 UTC on 26 February 2025.

Programme details

10.15am Registration at Rewley House reception

10.30am Problem solving: what is a problem and how to define it?

11.45am Tea/coffee

12.15pm Problem solving: tools and tips

1.30pm Lunch

2.30pm Critical thinking: how we as humans think and process information 

3.45pm Tea/coffee

4.15pm Critical thinking: tools and tips to improve 

5.30pm End of day

Recommended reading

Conn, C., Bulletproof Problem-Solving  (Wiley March, 2019) 

Atkinson, I., The Creative Problem Solver  (Pearson Business, 2014)

Kahneman, D., Thinking, Fast and Slow (Penguin, 2012)

Description Costs
Course Fee (includes tea/coffee) £125.00
Baguette Lunch £7.30
Hot Lunch (3 courses) £19.25

If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses

Sean Heneghan

Sean runs his own HR/Coaching Consultancy individuals, teams and organisations to identify and develop their potential. 

Prior to establishing his HR/Coaching Consultancy, Sean worked as an operations manager within one of the UK’s largest retailers. After taking his MSc in Organisational Psychology and then his degree in Coaching, Sean worked with a leading Training and Development organisation. Sean was able to utilise his skills in psychometric testing, leadership and development before working with this organisation in Europe and Asia at a senior level with directors and senior teams.     

Since 2003, Sean has worked across private, public and voluntary sectors helping them to transmit ideas into actions. He has trained/coached and worked alongside managers and directors within all three sectors enabling them to recognise/work with and be aware of working practices at the highest level. This has enabled them to improve within their area of operation and own performance.

Application

Please use the 'Book' button on this page. Alternatively, please  contact us  to obtain an application form.

Accommodation

Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email  [email protected]  for details of availability and discounted prices.

Terms & conditions for applicants and students

Information on financial support

when would you use critical thinking to solve a workplace problem

IMAGES

  1. 5 Critical Thinking Examples In The Workplace To Become A Better

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  2. 10 Tips to Succeed with Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving at Work

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  6. 5 Creative and Critical Thinking Examples In Workplace

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VIDEO

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COMMENTS

  1. 13 Examples of Critical Thinking in the Workplace

    7. Optimizing processes for efficiency. Critical thinking examples in the workplace clearly show how teams can improve their processes. Customer service. Imagine a company that sells gadgets. When customers have problems, the customer service team reads their feedback.

  2. 6 Main Types of Critical Thinking Skills (With Examples)

    Critical thinking skills examples. There are six main skills you can develop to successfully analyze facts and situations and come up with logical conclusions: 1. Analytical thinking. Being able to properly analyze information is the most important aspect of critical thinking. This implies gathering information and interpreting it, but also ...

  3. Critical thinking skills: what they are and how to build them

    The best way to understand how problem-solving and critical thinking differ is to think of problem-solving as much more narrow. You're focused on finding a solution. In contrast, you can use critical thinking for a variety of use cases beyond solving a problem - like answering questions or identifying opportunities for improvement. Even so ...

  4. Critical Thinking Exercises for Employees: Boosting Workplace Problem

    In summary, promoting critical thinking within team building exercises is essential for strengthening collaboration, problem-solving, and decision-making skills. Implementing activities such as debates, reverse-engineering Google tasks, and brainstorming can foster robust critical thinking skills amongst team members and ultimately lead to ...

  5. How to Improve Critical Thinking in the Workplace

    Hone your critical thinking skills, and become an indispensable member of your team with these five steps. 1. Formulate Your Questions. First thing to do: Identify the problem and the questions you need to ask. When you ask smart questions from the beginning, you can get a clearer picture of the issues involved.

  6. 5 Top Critical Thinking Skills (And How To Improve Them)

    Top 5 critical thinking skills. Here are five common and impactful critical thinking skills you might consider highlighting on your resume or in an interview: 1. Observation. Observational skills are the starting point for critical thinking. People who are observant can quickly sense and identify a new problem.

  7. Build Critical Thinking Skills in 7 Steps w/ Examples [2024] • Asana

    Open-mindedness: This critical thinking skill helps you analyze and process information to come to an unbiased conclusion. Part of the critical thinking process is letting your personal biases go and coming to a conclusion based on all of the information. Problem solving: Because critical thinking emphasizes coming to the best conclusion based ...

  8. A Short Guide to Building Your Team's Critical Thinking Skills

    Summary. Most employers lack an effective way to objectively assess critical thinking skills and most managers don't know how to provide specific instruction to team members in need of becoming ...

  9. How To Improve Critical Thinking Skills at Work in 6 Steps

    2. Understand your mental process. Identify and evaluate how you receive and process information. Understanding how you listen, then interpret, and finally react to information is vital to becoming more mentally efficient in the workplace. Being a critical thinker means you recognize your prejudices and how they influence solutions and decisions.

  10. What is Critical Thinking and Why is it Valuable in the Workplace

    At your workplace, critical thinking can distinguish you as a leader, and a valuable mind to bounce ideas off. It can help improve the quality of your work, and the perception those higher up the chain have of you. ... To learn more about how to do that, have a look at our Critical Thinking and Problem Solving for Effective Decision-Making ...

  11. Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

    You can use critical thinking keywords (analytical, problem solving, creativity, etc.) in your resume. When describing your work history, include top critical thinking skills that accurately describe you. You can also include them in your resume summary, if you have one.

  12. What Are Critical Thinking Skills and Why Are They Important?

    It makes you a well-rounded individual, one who has looked at all of their options and possible solutions before making a choice. According to the University of the People in California, having critical thinking skills is important because they are [ 1 ]: Universal. Crucial for the economy. Essential for improving language and presentation skills.

  13. 10 Tips to Succeed with Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving at Work

    Gather information: Collect relevant data and information to understand the problem better. Use both internal and external sources to gather insights and perspectives. Analyze the information: Use critical thinking skills to analyze the data and information collected. Look for patterns, identify cause-and-effect relationships, and consider ...

  14. Workplace Problem-Solving Examples: Real Scenarios, Practical Solutions

    Essential Problem-Solving Skills for the Workplace. To effectively solve workplace problems, individuals should possess a range of skills. These include strong analytical and critical thinking abilities, excellent communication and interpersonal skills, the ability to collaborate and work well in a team, and the capacity to adapt to change.

  15. The benefits of critical thinking scenarios in the workplace

    Updated 21 July 2022. Critical thinking scenarios can be very valuable in helping people use and improve their critical skills in the workplace. These skills can help you understand complex situations and problems, address them effectively and consider different points of view. Assessing these scenarios also gives you actionable ways to develop ...

  16. 5 Creative and Critical Thinking Examples In Workplace

    Creative and critical thinking examples in workplace settings Critical thinking to solve a problem Example 1: Analyzing data. In these days of data overload, automation can sift, sort, and report data in a more-or-less manageable form. The ability to analyze, make sense of, and make informed decisions on data is a uniquely human quality.

  17. Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It's Important

    An example of critical thinking in the workplace is performing a self-evaluation. You can use critical thinking to analyze your performance and your contributions to a team or organization. For example, you may examine your performance reviews and collect information about the impacts you've made to help you assess your own work fairly.

  18. What's the Importance of Critical Thinking in the Workplace?

    Related: 10 Helpful Tips for Communication Skills in the Workplace Problem-solving When faced with a challenge, critical thinkers may develop several solutions to achieve the desired outcome. You can include details of how you used your problem-solving skills to solve a work challenge in your CV.

  19. You have a complex work problem to solve. How can you use critical

    By using these four critical thinking skills, you can make your problem-solving process easier and more effective. You can also apply them to other aspects of your work, such as decision making ...

  20. How to promote critical thinking in the workplace

    Great problem solving comes from being able to use information to work out probable outcomes. There are some careers that require obvious critical thinking skills. For example, jobs in finance such as an accountant require great organisational skills, as well as an ability to analyse problems.

  21. PDF Problem Solving and Critical Thinking

    include critical thinking and problem solving, according to a 2010 Critical Skills Survey by the American Management Association and others. Problem solving and critical thinking refers to the ability to use knowledge, facts, and data to effectively solve problems. This doesn't mean you need to have an immediate answer, it means

  22. Critical Thinking for Problem Solving

    Critical thinking is the process to rationally analyze and attempt to solve a problem - accurately and efficiently. This method is made without the use of guesses and assumptions. It is a cognitive skill or a mental process. Based on acquired knowledge, you'll have to analyze, examine, and scrutinize options to create an opinion or set of ...

  23. 10 Critical Thinking Team Building Activities for Work

    Also, talk about the importance of thinking critically and strategically under pressure. #5. Quick Brainstorming. In this activity, employees must quickly brainstorm ideas in order to come up with solutions. Time: 5 minutes. Materials: Problem and discussion prompts. Participants: 4-10 people per team. Instructions.

  24. Guide Your Team with Critical Thinking for Problem Solving

    When facing complex challenges, the ability to guide your team through an effective problem-solving process is invaluable. Critical thinking is not just a skill, but a mindset that allows you to ...

  25. Problem Solving and Critical Thinking

    Critical Thinking is therefore a vital skill to learn, practice and refresh. By following a disciplined process, understanding what critical thinking is and why it can be so difficult, this interactive day event will allow you to raise issues or challenges you currently have and use new tools to think these through from an unbiased perspective.