When the industrial revolution first hit like a tidal wave, companies were obsessed with mass production. This meant that as an employee, you were supposed to follow significant patterns with little to no meaningful, innovative input. However, with rapid automation replacing manual labor, employers have begun to value your soft skills now more than ever.
When we say soft skills, we mean a combination of skills like communication, interpersonal, social-emotional intelligence, among others, that compliment your hard skills. Out of these, critical thinking skills collectively includes an active thinking process that requires you to use your ability to reason.
Don’t get us wrong here. When we say ‘critical thinking skills’, we don’t really mean the skill to criticize opinions. Rather, we want you to be able to evaluate arguments and ideas in a creative and imaginative manner. This could mean coming to your own deductions, generating alternatives solutions, providing your own reasoning and the like.
Now you might ask: What’s the point of working on my critical thinking skills if I’m already good at what I do? We’ll throw you a bone and tell you--it’s the next big thing.
Soft skills like critical thinking skills are in demand but hard to find. In a few years, it will no longer be about how good you are at maths, or how well you can develop a software. In the end, employers will judge your worth based on how good you are at analyzing the results from a statistical software rather than how you derive them.
These days, CEOs are rethinking their HR function-- in fact, a PWC survey shows that 77% of the CEOs find it difficult to get the innovation and critical thinking skills they need. Moreover, American businessman and investor, Mark Cuban, believes that creative and critical thinking skills will be the next in-demand job skills.
So how can you improve your critical thinking skills? Here are a few tips from our end:
Critical thinking skills also include asking questions to yourself in order to assess the arguments. Don’t take anything at face value--question everything behind the argument, its reasoning, meaning, context, assumptions, and conclusion. Know what kind of questions will give you constructive answers. For better results, follow a thinking map. It’ll help you to come up with a list of key questions for weighing arguments. The deeper you dig, the better the answers you’ll get--and the sharper your critical thinking skills become. After all, as the saying goes, “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back”.
When it comes to developing critical thinking skills, you must be able to reason your way through the intricate web of overwhelming information. Your reasoning can come from your own observation, experience, or prior knowledge, among other sources. Going with an option because it ‘feels right’ doesn’t improve your critical thinking skills. Instead, use the logical mind tools at your disposal, and eliminate any useless and unreliable information.
Think about the consequences of decisions you make; put yourself in the shoes of the people who will be affected. This can help you to gather relevant information and possible experiences to sharpen your critical thinking skills.
We often use the phrase, ‘You Only Live Once (YOLO)’, which can simultaneously mean that you should go wild and live life to its fullest, or live carefully since life is short. Our point here is context matters in developing critical thinking skills. Whether an argument or assumption is valid or not really depends on the context in which it is used.
For instance, suppose you read a headline that went, ‘Train Passes Through Residential Buildings’. Without the critical thinking skills required to understand the context, you’d probably chalk it up to be an accident. However, this headline wouldn’t seem bizarre to the Chinese, since train tracks are often built to pass through high-rise residential buildings in several Chinese cities. Now you can see why context matters in enhancing critical thinking skills.
Critical thinking skills are all about challenging the presented arguments; often, doing so means thinking things differently. If you’re ever stuck on a problem, you could start off by thinking in reverse, or thinking out of the box. This might not give you immediate gratification, but it’ll reset your mind and give you new avenues to explore.
For example, you might hate the Joker, Batman’s archnemesis, because he’s a twisted psychopath who’s always causing trouble. But sit back down, search for more information and use your critical thinking skills-- the ‘Batman: The Killing Joke (1988)’ origin story of Joker explains how Batman was one of the reasons behind his insanity. Does this give you a different take on the Joker’s character?
Cultivating critical thinking skills is easier said than done. That being said, at SAIM College, we adopt a rigorous theoretical instruction complemented by case-based teaching, term-paper writing, seminars and project work to emphasize the application of concepts and theories, which help to improve our students’ critical thinking skills.