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7 Ways to Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills

what are 7 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

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what are 7 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

When I was in 7th grade, my U.S. history teacher gave my class the following advice:

Your teachers in high school won’t expect you to remember every little fact about U.S. history. They can fill in the details you’ve forgotten. What they will expect, though, is for you to be able to think ; to know how to make connections between ideas and evaluate information critically.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my teacher was giving a concise summary of critical thinking. My high school teachers gave similar speeches when describing what would be expected of us in college: it’s not about the facts you know, but rather about your ability to evaluate them.

And now that I’m in college, my professors often mention that the ability to think through and solve difficult problems matters more in the “real world” than specific content.

Despite hearing so much about critical thinking all these years, I realized that I still couldn’t give a concrete definition of it, and I certainly couldn’t explain how to do it. It seemed like something that my teachers just expected us to pick up in the course of our studies. While I venture that a lot of us did learn it, I prefer to approach learning deliberately, and so I decided to investigate critical thinking for myself.

What is it, how do we do it, why is it important, and how can we get better at it? This post is my attempt to answer those questions.

In addition to answering these questions, I’ll also offer seven ways that you can start thinking more critically today, both in and outside of class.

What Is Critical Thinking?

“Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.” – The Foundation for Critical Thinking

The above definition from the Foundation for Critical Thinking website  is pretty wordy, but critical thinking, in essence, is not that complex.

Critical thinking is just deliberately and systematically processing information so that you can make better decisions and generally understand things better. The above definition includes so many words because critical thinking requires you to apply diverse intellectual tools to diverse information.

Ways to critically think about information include:

  • Conceptualizing
  • Synthesizing

That information can come from sources such as:

  • Observation
  • Communication

And all this is meant to guide:

You can also define it this way:

Critical thinking is the opposite of regular, everyday thinking. 

Moment to moment, most thinking happens automatically. When you think critically, you  deliberately  employ any of the above intellectual tools to reach more accurate conclusions than your brain automatically would (more on this in a bit).

This is what critical thinking is. But so what?

Why Does Critical Thinking Matter?


Most of our everyday thinking is uncritical.

If you think about it, this makes sense. If we had to think deliberately about every single action (such as breathing, for instance), we wouldn’t have any cognitive energy left for the important stuff like D&D. It’s good that much of our thinking is automatic.

We can run into problems, though, when we let our automatic mental processes govern important decisions. Without critical thinking, it’s easy for people to manipulate us and for all sorts of catastrophes to result. Anywhere that some form of fundamentalism led to tragedy (the Holocaust is a textbook example), critical thinking was sorely lacking.

Even day to day, it’s easy to get caught in pointless arguments or say stupid things just because you failed to stop and think deliberately.

But you’re reading College Info Geek, so I’m sure you’re interested to know why critical thinking matters in college.

Here’s why:

According to Andrew Roberts, author of The Thinking Student’s Guide to College , c ritical thinking matters in college because students often adopt the wrong attitude to thinking about difficult questions. These attitudes include:

Ignorant Certainty

Ignorant certainty is the belief that there are definite, correct answers to all questions–all you have to do is find the right source (102). It’s understandable that a lot of students come into college thinking this way–it’s enough to get you through most of your high school coursework.

In college and in life, however, the answers to most meaningful questions are rarely straightforward. To get anywhere in college classes (especially upper-level ones), you have to think critically about the material.

Naive Relativism

Naive relativism is the belief that there is no truth and all arguments are equal (102-103). According to Roberts, this is often a view that students adopt once they learn the error of ignorant certainty.

While it’s certainly a more “critical” approach than ignorant certainty, naive relativism is still inadequate since it misses the whole point of critical thinking: arriving at a more complete, “less wrong” answer.

Part of thinking critically is evaluating the validity of arguments (yours and others’). Therefore, to think critically you must accept that some arguments are better (and that some are just plain awful).

Critical thinking also matters in college because:

  • It allows you to form your own opinions and engage with material beyond a superficial level. This is essential to crafting a great essay  and having an intelligent discussion with your professors or classmates. Regurgitating what the textbook says won’t get you far.
  • It allows you to craft worthy arguments and back them up. If you plan to go on to graduate school or pursue a PhD., original, critical thought is crucial
  • It helps you evaluate your own work. This leads to better grades (who doesn’t want those?) and better habits of mind.

Doing college level work without critical is a lot like walking blindfolded: you’ll get  somewhere , but it’s unlikely to be the place you desire.


The value of critical thinking doesn’t stop with college, however. Once you get out into the real world, critical thinking matters even more. This is because:

  • It allows you to continue to develop intellectually after you graduate. Progress shouldn’t stop after graduation –you should keep learning as much as you can. When you encounter new information, knowing how to think critically will help you evaluate and use it.
  • It helps you make hard decisions. I’ve written before about how defining your values  helps you make better decisions. Equally important in the decision-making process is the ability to think critically. Critical thinking allows you compare the pros and cons of your available options, showing that you have more options than you might imagine .
  • People can and will manipulate you . At least, they will if you take everything at face value and allow others to think for you. Just look at ads for the latest fad diet or “miracle” drug–these rely on ignorance and false hope to get people to buy something that is at best useless and at worst harmful. When you evaluate information critically (especially information meant to sell something), you can avoid falling prey to unethical companies and people.
  • It makes you more employable (and better paid). The best employees not only know how to solve existing problems–they also know how to come up with solutions to problems no one ever imagined. To get a great job after graduating , you need to be one of those employees, and critical thinking is the key ingredient to solving difficult, novel problems.

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7 Ways to Think More Critically


Now we come to the part that I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for: how the heck do we get better at critical thinking?  Below, you’ll find seven ways to get started.

1. Ask Basic Questions

“The world is complicated. But does every problem require a complicated solution?” – Stephen J. Dubner

Sometimes an explanation becomes so complex that the original question get lost. To avoid this, continually go back to the basic questions you asked when you set out to solve the problem.

Here are a few key basic question you can ask when approaching any problem:

  • What do you already know?
  • How do you know that?
  • What are you trying to prove, disprove, demonstrated, critique, etc.?
  • What are you overlooking?

Some of the most breathtaking solutions to problems are astounding not because of their complexity, but because of their elegant simplicity.  Seek the simple solution  first.

2. Question Basic Assumptions

“When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.”

The above saying holds true when you’re thinking through a problem. it’s quite easy to make an ass of yourself simply by failing to question your basic assumptions.

Some of the greatest innovators in human history were those who simply looked up for a moment and wondered if one of everyone’s general assumptions was wrong. From Newton to Einstein to Yitang Zhang , questioning assumptions is where innovation happens.

You don’t even have to be an aspiring Einstein to benefit from questioning your assumptions. That trip you’ve wanted to take? That hobby you’ve wanted to try? That internship you’ve wanted to get? That attractive person in your World Civilizations class you’ve wanted to talk to?

All these things can be a reality if you just question your assumptions and critically evaluate your beliefs about what’s prudent, appropriate, or possible.

If you’re looking for some help with this process, then check out Oblique Strategies . It’s a tool that musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt created to aid creative problem solving . Some of the “cards” are specific to music, but most work for any time you’re stuck on a problem.

3. Be Aware of Your Mental Processes

Human thought is amazing, but the speed and automation with which it happens can be a disadvantage when we’re trying to think critically. Our brains naturally use heuristics (mental shortcuts) to explain what’s happening around us.

This was beneficial to humans when we were hunting large game and fighting off wild animals, but it can be disastrous when we’re trying to decide who to vote for.

A critical thinker is aware of their cognitive biases   and personal prejudices and how they influence seemingly “objective” decisions and solutions.

All of us have biases in our thinking. Becoming aware of them is what makes critical thinking possible.

4. Try Reversing Things

A great way to get “unstuck” on a hard problem is to try reversing things. It may seem obvious that X causes Y, but what if Y caused X?

The “chicken and egg problem” a classic example of this. At first, it seems obvious that the chicken had to come first. The chicken lays the egg, after all. But then you quickly realize that the chicken had to come from somewhere, and since chickens come from eggs, the egg must have come first.  Or did it?

Even if it turns out that the reverse  isn’t  true, considering it can set you on the path to finding a solution.

5. Evaluate the Existing Evidence

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton

When you’re trying to solve a problem, it’s always helpful to look at other work that has been done in the same area. There’s no reason to start solving a problem from scratch when someone has already laid the groundwork.

It’s important, however, to evaluate this information critically, or else you can easily reach the wrong conclusion. Ask the following questions of any evidence you encounter:

  • Who gathered this evidence?
  • How did they gather it?

Take, for example, a study showing the health benefits of a sugary cereal. On paper, the study sounds pretty convincing. That is, until you learn that a sugary cereal company funded it.

You can’t automatically assume that this invalidates the study’s results, but you should certainly question them when a conflict of interests is so apparent.

6. Remember to Think for Yourself

Don’t get so bogged down in research and reading that you forget to think for yourself –sometimes this can be your most powerful tool.

Writing about Einstein’s paper “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” (the paper that contained the famous equation  E=mc 2 ), C.P. Snow observed that “it was as if Einstein ‘had reached the conclusions by pure thought, unaided, without listening to the opinions of others. To a surprisingly large extent, that is precisely what he had done'”(121).

Don’t be overconfident, but recognize that thinking for yourself is essential to answering tough questions. I find this to be true when writing essays–it’s so easy to get lost in other people’s work that I forget to have my own thoughts. Don’t make this mistake.

For more on the importance of thinking for yourself, check out our article on mental laziness .

7. Understand That No One Thinks Critically 100% of the Time

“Critical thinking of any kind is never universal in any individual; everyone is subject to episodes of undisciplined or irrational thought.” – Michael Scriven and Richard Paul

You can’t think critically all the time, and that’s okay. Critical thinking is a tool that you should deploy when you need to make important decisions or solve difficult problems, but you don’t need to think critically about everything.

And even in important matters, you will experience lapses in your reasoning. What matters is that you recognize these lapses and try to avoid them in the future.

Even Isaac Newton, genius that he was, believed that alchemy was a legitimate pursuit .


As I hope you now see, learning to think critically will benefit you both in the classroom and beyond. I hope this post has given you some ideas about how you can think more critically in your own life. Remember: learning to think critically is a lifelong journey, and there’s always more to learn.

For a look at critical thinking principles in action, check out our guide to strategic thinking .

  • The Thinking Student’s Guide to College by Andrew Roberts (the source of several of the seven ways to think more critically)
  • What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain (the source of several of the seven ways to think more critically)
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything   by Bill Bryson (the source for the C.P. Snow quote about Einstein and the information about Isaac Newton).

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what are 7 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

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what are 7 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

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. 


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 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. 


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. 


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

Julia Martins contributor headshot

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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Critical Thinking

Developing the right mindset and skills.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

We make hundreds of decisions every day and, whether we realize it or not, we're all critical thinkers.

We use critical thinking each time we weigh up our options, prioritize our responsibilities, or think about the likely effects of our actions. It's a crucial skill that helps us to cut out misinformation and make wise decisions. The trouble is, we're not always very good at it!

In this article, we'll explore the key skills that you need to develop your critical thinking skills, and how to adopt a critical thinking mindset, so that you can make well-informed decisions.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the discipline of rigorously and skillfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions, and beliefs. You'll need to actively question every step of your thinking process to do it well.

Collecting, analyzing and evaluating information is an important skill in life, and a highly valued asset in the workplace. People who score highly in critical thinking assessments are also rated by their managers as having good problem-solving skills, creativity, strong decision-making skills, and good overall performance. [1]

Key Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinkers possess a set of key characteristics which help them to question information and their own thinking. Focus on the following areas to develop your critical thinking skills:

Being willing and able to explore alternative approaches and experimental ideas is crucial. Can you think through "what if" scenarios, create plausible options, and test out your theories? If not, you'll tend to write off ideas and options too soon, so you may miss the best answer to your situation.

To nurture your curiosity, stay up to date with facts and trends. You'll overlook important information if you allow yourself to become "blinkered," so always be open to new information.

But don't stop there! Look for opposing views or evidence to challenge your information, and seek clarification when things are unclear. This will help you to reassess your beliefs and make a well-informed decision later. Read our article, Opening Closed Minds , for more ways to stay receptive.

Logical Thinking

You must be skilled at reasoning and extending logic to come up with plausible options or outcomes.

It's also important to emphasize logic over emotion. Emotion can be motivating but it can also lead you to take hasty and unwise action, so control your emotions and be cautious in your judgments. Know when a conclusion is "fact" and when it is not. "Could-be-true" conclusions are based on assumptions and must be tested further. Read our article, Logical Fallacies , for help with this.

Use creative problem solving to balance cold logic. By thinking outside of the box you can identify new possible outcomes by using pieces of information that you already have.


Many of the decisions we make in life are subtly informed by our values and beliefs. These influences are called cognitive biases and it can be difficult to identify them in ourselves because they're often subconscious.

Practicing self-awareness will allow you to reflect on the beliefs you have and the choices you make. You'll then be better equipped to challenge your own thinking and make improved, unbiased decisions.

One particularly useful tool for critical thinking is the Ladder of Inference . It allows you to test and validate your thinking process, rather than jumping to poorly supported conclusions.

Developing a Critical Thinking Mindset

Combine the above skills with the right mindset so that you can make better decisions and adopt more effective courses of action. You can develop your critical thinking mindset by following this process:

Gather Information

First, collect data, opinions and facts on the issue that you need to solve. Draw on what you already know, and turn to new sources of information to help inform your understanding. Consider what gaps there are in your knowledge and seek to fill them. And look for information that challenges your assumptions and beliefs.

Be sure to verify the authority and authenticity of your sources. Not everything you read is true! Use this checklist to ensure that your information is valid:

  • Are your information sources trustworthy ? (For example, well-respected authors, trusted colleagues or peers, recognized industry publications, websites, blogs, etc.)
  • Is the information you have gathered up to date ?
  • Has the information received any direct criticism ?
  • Does the information have any errors or inaccuracies ?
  • Is there any evidence to support or corroborate the information you have gathered?
  • Is the information you have gathered subjective or biased in any way? (For example, is it based on opinion, rather than fact? Is any of the information you have gathered designed to promote a particular service or organization?)

If any information appears to be irrelevant or invalid, don't include it in your decision making. But don't omit information just because you disagree with it, or your final decision will be flawed and bias.

Now observe the information you have gathered, and interpret it. What are the key findings and main takeaways? What does the evidence point to? Start to build one or two possible arguments based on what you have found.

You'll need to look for the details within the mass of information, so use your powers of observation to identify any patterns or similarities. You can then analyze and extend these trends to make sensible predictions about the future.

To help you to sift through the multiple ideas and theories, it can be useful to group and order items according to their characteristics. From here, you can compare and contrast the different items. And once you've determined how similar or different things are from one another, Paired Comparison Analysis can help you to analyze them.

The final step involves challenging the information and rationalizing its arguments.

Apply the laws of reason (induction, deduction, analogy) to judge an argument and determine its merits. To do this, it's essential that you can determine the significance and validity of an argument to put it in the correct perspective. Take a look at our article, Rational Thinking , for more information about how to do this.

Once you have considered all of the arguments and options rationally, you can finally make an informed decision.

Afterward, take time to reflect on what you have learned and what you found challenging. Step back from the detail of your decision or problem, and look at the bigger picture. Record what you've learned from your observations and experience.

Critical thinking involves rigorously and skilfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions and beliefs. It's a useful skill in the workplace and in life.

You'll need to be curious and creative to explore alternative possibilities, but rational to apply logic, and self-aware to identify when your beliefs could affect your decisions or actions.

You can demonstrate a high level of critical thinking by validating your information, analyzing its meaning, and finally evaluating the argument.

Critical Thinking Infographic

See Critical Thinking represented in our infographic: An Elementary Guide to Critical Thinking .

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How to Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills

Traditional tools and new technologies..

Posted September 29, 2023 | Reviewed by Lybi Ma

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Technology provides access to vast information and makes daily life easier. Yet, too much reliance on technology potentially interferes with the acquisition and maintenance of critical thinking skills in several ways:

1. Information Overload : The constant influx of data can discourage deep critical thinking as we may come to rely on quick, surface-level information rather than delving deeply into a subject.

2. Shortened Attention Span: Frequent digital distractions can disrupt our ability for the sustained focus and concentration required for critical thinking.

3. Confirmatory Bias and Echo Chambers: Technology, including social media and personalized content algorithms, can reinforce confirmation bias . People are often exposed to information that aligns with their beliefs and opinions, making them less likely to encounter diverse perspectives and engage in critical thinking about opposing views.

4. Reduced Problem-Solving Opportunities: Technology often provides quick solutions to problems. While this benefits efficiency, it may discourage individuals from engaging in complex problem-solving, a fundamental aspect of critical thinking.

5. Loss of Research Skills: The ease of accessing information online can diminish traditional research skills, such as library research or in-depth reading. These skills are essential for critical thinking, as they involve evaluating sources, synthesizing information, and analyzing complex texts.

While technology can pose challenges to developing critical thinking skills, it's important to note that technology can also be a valuable tool for learning and skill development. It can provide access to educational resources, facilitate collaboration , and support critical thinking when used thoughtfully and intentionally. Balancing technology use with activities that encourage deep thinking and analysis is vital to lessening its potential adverse effects on critical thinking.

Writing is a traditional and powerful tool to exercise and improve your critical thinking skills. Consider these ways writing can help enhance critical thinking:

1. Clarity of Thought: Writing requires that you articulate your thoughts clearly and coherently. When you need to put your ideas on paper, you must organize them logically, which requires a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

2. Analysis and Evaluation: Critical thinking involves analyzing and evaluating information. When you write, you often need to assess the validity and relevance of different sources, arguments, or pieces of evidence, which hone your critical thinking skills.

3. Problem-Solving: Writing can be a problem-solving exercise in itself. Whether crafting an argument, developing a thesis, or finding the right words to express your ideas, writing requires thinking critically about approaching these challenges effectively.

4. Research Skills: Good writing often involves research, and research requires critical thinking. You need to assess the credibility of sources, synthesize information, and draw conclusions based on the evidence you gather.

5. Argumentation: Constructing a persuasive argument in writing is a complex process requiring critical thinking. You must anticipate counterarguments, provide evidence to support your claims, and address potential weaknesses in your reasoning.

6. Revision and Editing: To be an influential writer, you must learn to read your work critically. Editing and revising requires evaluating your writing objectively, identifying areas that need improvement, and refining your ideas and arguments.

7. Problem Identification: In some cases, writing can help you identify problems or gaps in your thinking. As you write, you might realize that your arguments are not as strong as you initially thought or that you need more information to support your claims. This recognition of limitations is a crucial aspect of critical thinking.

Writing is a dynamic process that engages multiple facets of critical thinking. It has been a valuable tool used in education , business, and personal development for centuries.

Yet, this traditional approach of self-generated written thoughts is rapidly being supplanted by AI -generated writing tools like Chat GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer. With over 100 million users of Chat GPT alone, we cannot ignore its potential impact. How might the increasing reliance on AI-generated writing tools influence our critical thinking skills? The impact can vary depending on how the tools are used and the context in which they are employed.

what are 7 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

Critical thinking involves evaluating information sources for credibility, relevance, and bias. If individuals consistently trust the information provided by chatbots without critically assessing its quality, it can hinder their development of critical thinking skills. This is especially true if they depend on the chatbot to provide answers without questioning or verifying the information. Relying solely on chatbots for answers may also reduce people's effort in problem-solving. Critical thinking often requires wrestling with complex problems, considering multiple perspectives, and generating creative solutions. If we default to chatbots for quick answers, we may miss opportunities to develop these skills.

However, it's essential to note that the impact of chatbots on critical thinking skills may not be entirely negative. These tools can also have positive effects:

1. Chatbots provide quick access to vast information, which can benefit research and problem-solving. When used as a supplement to critical thinking, they can enhance the efficiency of information retrieval.

2. Chatbots can sometimes assist in complex tasks by providing relevant data or suggestions. When individuals critically evaluate and integrate this information into their decision-making process, it can enhance their critical thinking.

3. Chatbots can be used as learning aids. They can provide explanations, examples, and guidance, which can support skill development and, when used effectively, encourage critical thinking.

In summary, the impact of chatbots on critical thinking skills depends on how we use them. The effect will be harmful if they become a crutch to avoid independent thought or analysis. However, they can be valuable resources when used as tools to facilitate and augment critical thinking and writing processes. Individuals must balance leveraging the convenience of chatbots and actively engaging in independent critical thinking and problem-solving to maintain and enhance their cognitive abilities. You can do that effectively through writing regularly.

Copyright 2023 Tara Well, PhD

Tara Well Ph.D.

Tara Well, Ph.D. , is a professor in the department of psychology at Barnard College of Columbia University.

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What are critical thinking skills?

How to develop critical thinking skills: 12 tips, how to practice critical thinking skills at work, become your own best critic.

A client requests a tight deadline on an intense project. Your childcare provider calls in sick on a day full of meetings. Payment from a contract gig is a month behind. 

Your day-to-day will always have challenges, big and small. And no matter the size and urgency, they all ask you to use critical thinking to analyze the situation and arrive at the right solution. 

Critical thinking includes a wide set of soft skills that encourage continuous learning, resilience , and self-reflection. The more you add to your professional toolbelt, the more equipped you’ll be to tackle whatever challenge presents itself. Here’s how to develop critical thinking, with examples explaining how to use it.

Critical thinking skills are the skills you use to analyze information, imagine scenarios holistically, and create rational solutions. It’s a type of emotional intelligence that stimulates effective problem-solving and decision-making . 

When you fine-tune your critical thinking skills, you seek beyond face-value observations and knee-jerk reactions. Instead, you harvest deeper insights and string together ideas and concepts in logical, sometimes out-of-the-box , ways. 

Imagine a team working on a marketing strategy for a new set of services. That team might use critical thinking to balance goals and key performance indicators , like new customer acquisition costs, average monthly sales, and net profit margins. They understand the connections between overlapping factors to build a strategy that stays within budget and attracts new sales. 

Looking for ways to improve critical thinking skills? Start by brushing up on the following soft skills that fall under this umbrella: 

  • Analytical thinking: Approaching problems with an analytical eye includes breaking down complex issues into small chunks and examining their significance. An example could be organizing customer feedback to identify trends and improve your product offerings. 
  • Open-mindedness: Push past cognitive biases and be receptive to different points of view and constructive feedback . Managers and team members who keep an open mind position themselves to hear new ideas that foster innovation . 
  • Creative thinking: With creative thinking , you can develop several ideas to address a single problem, like brainstorming more efficient workflow best practices to boost productivity and employee morale . 
  • Self-reflection: Self-reflection lets you examine your thinking and assumptions to stimulate healthier collaboration and thought processes. Maybe a bad first impression created a negative anchoring bias with a new coworker. Reflecting on your own behavior stirs up empathy and improves the relationship. 
  • Evaluation: With evaluation skills, you tackle the pros and cons of a situation based on logic rather than emotion. When prioritizing tasks , you might be tempted to do the fun or easy ones first, but evaluating their urgency and importance can help you make better decisions. 

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There’s no magic method to change your thinking processes. Improvement happens with small, intentional changes to your everyday habits until a more critical approach to thinking is automatic. 

Here are 12 tips for building stronger self-awareness and learning how to improve critical thinking: 

1. Be cautious

There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of skepticism. One of the core principles of critical thinking is asking questions and dissecting the available information. You might surprise yourself at what you find when you stop to think before taking action. 

Before making a decision, use evidence, logic, and deductive reasoning to support your own opinions or challenge ideas. It helps you and your team avoid falling prey to bad information or resistance to change .

2. Ask open-ended questions

“Yes” or “no” questions invite agreement rather than reflection. Instead, ask open-ended questions that force you to engage in analysis and rumination. Digging deeper can help you identify potential biases, uncover assumptions, and arrive at new hypotheses and possible solutions. 

3. Do your research

No matter your proficiency, you can always learn more. Turning to different points of view and information is a great way to develop a comprehensive understanding of a topic and make informed decisions. You’ll prioritize reliable information rather than fall into emotional or automatic decision-making. 


4. Consider several opinions

You might spend so much time on your work that it’s easy to get stuck in your own perspective, especially if you work independently on a remote team . Make an effort to reach out to colleagues to hear different ideas and thought patterns. Their input might surprise you.

If or when you disagree, remember that you and your team share a common goal. Divergent opinions are constructive, so shift the focus to finding solutions rather than defending disagreements. 

5. Learn to be quiet

Active listening is the intentional practice of concentrating on a conversation partner instead of your own thoughts. It’s about paying attention to detail and letting people know you value their opinions, which can open your mind to new perspectives and thought processes.

If you’re brainstorming with your team or having a 1:1 with a coworker , listen, ask clarifying questions, and work to understand other peoples’ viewpoints. Listening to your team will help you find fallacies in arguments to improve possible solutions.

6. Schedule reflection

Whether waking up at 5 am or using a procrastination hack, scheduling time to think puts you in a growth mindset . Your mind has natural cognitive biases to help you simplify decision-making, but squashing them is key to thinking critically and finding new solutions besides the ones you might gravitate toward. Creating time and calm space in your day gives you the chance to step back and visualize the biases that impact your decision-making. 

7. Cultivate curiosity

With so many demands and job responsibilities, it’s easy to seek solace in routine. But getting out of your comfort zone helps spark critical thinking and find more solutions than you usually might.

If curiosity doesn’t come naturally to you, cultivate a thirst for knowledge by reskilling and upskilling . Not only will you add a new skill to your resume , but expanding the limits of your professional knowledge might motivate you to ask more questions. 

You don’t have to develop critical thinking skills exclusively in the office. Whether on your break or finding a hobby to do after work, playing strategic games or filling out crosswords can prime your brain for problem-solving. 


9. Write it down

Recording your thoughts with pen and paper can lead to stronger brain activity than typing them out on a keyboard. If you’re stuck and want to think more critically about a problem, writing your ideas can help you process information more deeply.

The act of recording ideas on paper can also improve your memory . Ideas are more likely to linger in the background of your mind, leading to deeper thinking that informs your decision-making process. 

10. Speak up

Take opportunities to share your opinion, even if it intimidates you. Whether at a networking event with new people or a meeting with close colleagues, try to engage with people who challenge or help you develop your ideas. Having conversations that force you to support your position encourages you to refine your argument and think critically. 

11. Stay humble

Ideas and concepts aren’t the same as real-life actions. There may be such a thing as negative outcomes, but there’s no such thing as a bad idea. At the brainstorming stage , don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Sometimes the best solutions come from off-the-wall, unorthodox decisions. Sit in your creativity , let ideas flow, and don’t be afraid to share them with your colleagues. Putting yourself in a creative mindset helps you see situations from new perspectives and arrive at innovative conclusions. 

12. Embrace discomfort

Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable . It isn’t easy when others challenge your ideas, but sometimes, it’s the only way to see new perspectives and think critically.

By willingly stepping into unfamiliar territory, you foster the resilience and flexibility you need to become a better thinker. You’ll learn how to pick yourself up from failure and approach problems from fresh angles. 


Thinking critically is easier said than done. To help you understand its impact (and how to use it), here are two scenarios that require critical thinking skills and provide teachable moments. 

Scenario #1: Unexpected delays and budget

Imagine your team is working on producing an event. Unexpectedly, a vendor explains they’ll be a week behind on delivering materials. Then another vendor sends a quote that’s more than you can afford. Unless you develop a creative solution, the team will have to push back deadlines and go over budget, potentially costing the client’s trust. 

Here’s how you could approach the situation with creative thinking:

  • Analyze the situation holistically: Determine how the delayed materials and over-budget quote will impact the rest of your timeline and financial resources . That way, you can identify whether you need to build an entirely new plan with new vendors, or if it’s worth it to readjust time and resources. 
  • Identify your alternative options: With careful assessment, your team decides that another vendor can’t provide the same materials in a quicker time frame. You’ll need to rearrange assignment schedules to complete everything on time. 
  • Collaborate and adapt: Your team has an emergency meeting to rearrange your project schedule. You write down each deliverable and determine which ones you can and can’t complete by the deadline. To compensate for lost time, you rearrange your task schedule to complete everything that doesn’t need the delayed materials first, then advance as far as you can on the tasks that do. 
  • Check different resources: In the meantime, you scour through your contact sheet to find alternative vendors that fit your budget. Accounting helps by providing old invoices to determine which vendors have quoted less for previous jobs. After pulling all your sources, you find a vendor that fits your budget. 
  • Maintain open communication: You create a special Slack channel to keep everyone up to date on changes, challenges, and additional delays. Keeping an open line encourages transparency on the team’s progress and boosts everyone’s confidence. 


Scenario #2: Differing opinions 

A conflict arises between two team members on the best approach for a new strategy for a gaming app. One believes that small tweaks to the current content are necessary to maintain user engagement and stay within budget. The other believes a bold revamp is needed to encourage new followers and stronger sales revenue. 

Here’s how critical thinking could help this conflict:

  • Listen actively: Give both team members the opportunity to present their ideas free of interruption. Encourage the entire team to ask open-ended questions to more fully understand and develop each argument. 
  • Flex your analytical skills: After learning more about both ideas, everyone should objectively assess the benefits and drawbacks of each approach. Analyze each idea's risk, merits, and feasibility based on available data and the app’s goals and objectives. 
  • Identify common ground: The team discusses similarities between each approach and brainstorms ways to integrate both idea s, like making small but eye-catching modifications to existing content or using the same visual design in new media formats. 
  • Test new strategy: To test out the potential of a bolder strategy, the team decides to A/B test both approaches. You create a set of criteria to evenly distribute users by different demographics to analyze engagement, revenue, and customer turnover. 
  • Monitor and adapt: After implementing the A/B test, the team closely monitors the results of each strategy. You regroup and optimize the changes that provide stronger results after the testing. That way, all team members understand why you’re making the changes you decide to make.

You can’t think your problems away. But you can equip yourself with skills that help you move through your biggest challenges and find innovative solutions. Learning how to develop critical thinking is the start of honing an adaptable growth mindset. 

Now that you have resources to increase critical thinking skills in your professional development, you can identify whether you embrace change or routine, are open or resistant to feedback, or turn to research or emotion will build self-awareness. From there, tweak and incorporate techniques to be a critical thinker when life presents you with a problem.

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Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

What is lateral thinking? 7 techniques to encourage creative ideas

Critical thinking is the one skillset you can't afford not to master, thinking outside the box: 8 ways to become a creative problem solver, member story: a copilot for the road ahead, member story: career development and shaping my future with intention, effective negotiation tactics to level-up your career, learn to let it go: how to deal with career disappointment, be cool: how to manage your emotions and avoid rage quitting, entrepreneurial mindset: what is it & how to think like an entrepreneur, similar articles, how to be a good team player: tips for becoming the dreamy coworker, what is creative thinking and why does it matter, 6 big picture thinking strategies that you'll actually use, how divergent thinking can drive your creativity, the most critical skills for leaders are fundamentally human, how intrapersonal skills shape teams, plus 5 ways to build them, what’s convergent thinking how to be a better problem-solver, stay connected with betterup, get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research..

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How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills

Last Updated: June 5, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Sandra Possing . Sandra Possing is a life coach, speaker, and entrepreneur based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sandra specializes in one-on-one coaching with a focus on mindset and leadership transformation. Sandra received her coaching training from The Coaches Training Institute and has seven years of life coaching experience. She holds a BA in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles. There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 803,106 times.

Critical Thinking is the art of using reason to analyze ideas and dig deeper to get to our true potential. Critical thinking isn't about thinking more or thinking harder; it's about thinking better . Honing your critical thinking skills can open up a lifetime of intellectual curiosity. But the journey isn't all rosy. Critical thinking requires a lot of discipline. Staying on track takes a combination of steady growth, motivation, and the ability to take an honest look at yourself, even in the face of some uncomfortable facts.

Honing Your Questioning Skills

Step 1 Question your assumptions.

  • What does it mean to question assumptions? Einstein questioned the assumption that Newtonian laws of motion could accurately describe the world. [2] X Research source He developed an entirely new framework for looking at the world by re describing what he thought had happened, starting from scratch.
  • We can question assumptions in a similar way. Why do we feel the need to eat in the morning, even when we're not hungry? Why do we assume that we'll fail when we haven't even tried?
  • What other assumptions are we taking for granted that might crumble upon further examination?

Step 2 Don't take information on authority until you've investigated it yourself.

  • Get in the habit of using your instinct to investigate questionable pieces of information. If your gut isn't satisfied with an explanation, ask the person to elaborate. If you don't question a fact, read about it or test it yourself. Soon enough, you'll build up a pretty good sense of what deserves more research and what you've determined to be true in your own judgment.

Step 3 Question things.

  • How does ball lightning work?
  • How do fish fall from the sky in the middle of Australia? [4] X Trustworthy Source Library of Congress Official library of the U.S. and main research institution for Congress and the American public Go to source
  • How can we take meaningful steps to fight global poverty ?
  • How do we dismantle production of nuclear weapons worldwide?

Adjusting Your Perspective

Step 1 Understand your own biases.

  • Jeff Bezos, CEO of, famously understood the benefits of thinking several steps ahead. He tired Wired Magazine in 2011: "If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people. But if you’re willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that." When the Kindle first hit stores in 2007 it was more than three years in development, at a time when e-readers were on nobody's radar. [7] X Research source

Step 3 Read great books

  • Solve a problem a day. Spend a little bit of time figuring out a problem and then try to solve it. [11] X Research source The problem could be a theoretical or a personal one.
  • Find the time to exercise consistently. 30 minutes of aerobic exercise — as little as a walk around the neighborhood — can help improve brain function.
  • Eat the right kinds of foods. Avocados, blueberries, wild salmon, nuts and seeds, as well as brown rice play an instrumental role in keeping your brain healthy. [12] X Research source

Putting It All Together

Step 1 Understand all your options.

Expert Q&A

Sandra Possing

Video . By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.

  • Be diplomatic. Your aim is not the person himself, but the proposal he puts forward. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 0
  • Use libraries and the Internet, to find out information on the topic you're critiquing. An uninformed critique is sometimes worse than one merely executed badly. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0

what are 7 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

  • Or utilize the 'sandwich method': compliment, suggestion, compliment. Criticism is received better, using this approach. Also, use the person's name, smile (genuinely), and look them in the eye Thanks Helpful 69 Not Helpful 12
  • Give criticism in a non-offensive way, as people can get defensive if something they pride themselves on gets attacked. Therefore do not antagonize a hard-core abortion supporter by giving a heated anti-abortion speech. It will only make him go on an offensive to defend his beliefs, totally ignore your arguments, and strengthen his resolve to support abortion. Prefacing criticism with praise usually works well. Thanks Helpful 66 Not Helpful 25

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  • ↑ Sandra Possing. Life Coach. Expert Interview. 15 July 2020.
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About This Article

Sandra Possing

You can improve your critical thinking skills by questioning information that you hear instead of taking it at face-value. Double-check facts that you hear, regardless of whether you get your information from other people, on TV, from a newspaper or online. Reading great books is another way to improve critical thinking, as books encourage you to think more deeply and independently about subjects. If there’s anything you don’t understand, ask someone who’s knowledgeable about the subject to explain it to you. With practice, you'll become more and more comfortable with critical thinking! For tips on how the people you hang out with can improve your critical thinking, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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7 Ways to improve your critical thinking skills

Jan 17, 2023

what are 7 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

I’ve had the honor to work with a wide age range of people; from high school students to seasoned professionals. During my interactions with them, I noticed some people were willing to do the hard work and reach their conclusions and answers, and others would always say “I don’t know. Let me Google it.” As technology gets more advanced each day, finding answers oftentimes is just a click away. Having access to search engines like Google for all things we are looking for is certainly convenient, at the same time, this “answer-on-demand” behavior is also chipping away the need to stretch our minds and think critically about what we are looking for.

What is critical thinking?

Let’s first address what critical thinking is. A widely accepted definition was offered by Michael Scriven and Richard Paul : “Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.” In simple words, it’s a process which involves gathering, evaluating, analyzing and applying information and data before a person forms his/her belief and judgment.

The top 5 benefits of Critical Thinking

Some may argue it doesn’t really matter much in terms of where and how people come up with answers, as long as they have them. Not true! If we are just given answers all the time without the ability to think things through carefully and objectively, analyze the collected data, internalize our beliefs, and articulate the whys clearly and convincingly, we will eventually lose the ability to determine our own decisions and destiny, and will simply be a product of what’s being fed to us on a constant basis.

Below are the top 5 benefits for being a critical thinker:

1. You’ll become more objective and less bias

Critical thinking involves gathering, verifying and analyzing sources objectively, which helps you separate facts from opinions and emotions. Eventually, it allows you to look at and approach issues rationally and with less bias.

2. You’ll be a better decision maker

There no doubt about it – better decision making comes from a logical, analytical and bias-less thinking process. The objectivity and rationality will help you consider all possibilities. Furthermore, it will help you make a logical and sound decision and execute your concluded solutions.

3. You’ll be more confident

When you can think critically and independently and demonstrate your skills to solve problems and accomplish goals , your confidence will grow, which, in returns, will boost your desire to become a deeper and more holistic thinker. This is a healthy cycle; your confidence level goes up as you think more critically, and the more you think critically, the more confident you will be in your final decisions.

4. You’ll become a person with credibility and strong character

Have you forwarded something to your friends without much thinking and learned a few minutes later what you shared with others were false? Once you become a critical thinker, what you say and do most likely will be truth backed with objective facts, leading your friends to see you as someone who is responsible, credible and trustworthy.

5. You’ll increase the rate of success

When you adopt the process of thinking and analyzing things critically, you will gain a deep and crystal-clear understanding of the hows and whys of your decisions. Having this level of critical thinking skills will give you higher confidence and make you more open minded when new facts arise. You’ll also be able to analyze issues much more comprehensively, get to a sound decision faster than others, and execute on your plans much more effectively.

Critical thinking is one of the most crucial skills to have in life. It helps you face problems with ease and confidence, make well-thought-out decisions quickly, communicate with clarity, and be a leader in your own life instead of a product of circumstances. Below are 7 ways to help you improve your critical thinking skills.

1. Change your mindset

Decades of “fast-food” and “just-Google-it” culture has made many of you addicted to convenience in exchange for the desire to become an independent thinker. Use the internet as a tool to gather information, then do your research, digest and analyze the information in hand for yourself. Yes, it is more work, but this will pay off in a long run.

2. Examine the big picture

I always enjoy looking down at earth after my flight takes off. It helps me forget the bad traffic on the way to the airport, give me the excuse to forget the text messages and emails waiting to be replied, and offer the headspace to examine my life from a high altitude.

The task or challenge you are facing is a component of a much greater picture. Don’t forget to change your perspective; you might just discover a new way to deal with those few trees while standing on the mountain looking at the forest.

3. Gather, research and evaluate your sources

When you gather your information and data, make sure you not only collect those that support your view, but also those against. In addition, evaluating your sources, confirming their credibility and accuracy, considering their motivation and agenda will also contribute to making the best and most unbiased decision for your own life.

4. Ask a lot of questions

Asking questions is a great way to engage with your own mind. It also helps you learn by exchanging ideas with others and grow by seeing the problems at hand from a different perspective. Remember to always keep a healthy level of skepticism, have fun with asking whys. By questioning your sources and data, possible scenarios or even your own belief, your final decision will be backed by sound facts mixed with great confidence.

5. Be aware of your own assumptions and biases

We all have, unavoidably, biases. So be aware that your assumptions could be under heavy influence over such biases. The way to overcome biases is to always consider others’ point of view. This will help you broaden your horizon, catch your own biases, come up with a new assumption and act from a more neutral perspective.

6. Explore possibilities and consequences before your conclusion

Explore options, connect all dots, and use the facts you gather to form your objective conclusion. And be sure to consider how your conclusion may affect your future. You could read a quick post I have on Facebook about decision making and consequences .

7. Allow time to practice and grow

It’s not realistic to require yourself to think critically all the time. Furthermore, according to Michael Scriven and Richard Paul , everyone is subject to episodes of undisciplined or irrational thoughts. The key is to put what you’ve learned here into practice little by little. Mark Hawthorne’s famous quote “practice makes progress” says it all about practice and improvement. You will improve, you will see changes, and you will get there.

Becoming a critical thinker requires time and effort, but it is crucial to your confidence, success and happiness, and it will have a positive impact to both your personal and professional life. Albert Einstein said, “It’s not the fruits of scientific research that elevate a man and enrich his nature, but the urge to understand and the intellectual work.” I’d like to encourage you to start applying these 7 ways to improve your critical thinking skills. Stretch yourself and make it a fun, enjoyable and life-long learning journey. I promise you; it will only get better.

About Faye Weng

Your Online Life and Career Coach

Faye Weng is an expert life and career coach who works with clients to take back control of their lives by rediscovering their passions, living/working with a clear purpose, and becoming people who can positively impact the communities around them. As your life and career coach, Faye will help you minimize noises and distractions, focus your effort and attention on the right things, execute a clear plan of action, and celebrate alongside of you when each milestone is reached. Click here to book a complimentary session.

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How To Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills

With more information than ever at our fingertips, solving problems and making decisions at work should be easy, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Without critical thinking skills to help us, that mountain of data is just as likely to mislead us as it is to help. Cognitive bias, emotional reactions and an uptick in fake news are all arrayed against us. How can anyone be sure that they’re making the right decision?

Luckily, you can improve your critical thinking skills. No matter what your role, critical thinking skills are a valuable asset that will stand you in good stead – inside and outside the office.

What are critical thinking skills?

Critical thinking is the ability to evaluate information objectively and arrive at a conclusion. It’s a deeper kind of thinking in which you will question, analyse and evaluate the information you have at hand to help solve a problem or arrive at a decision.

This evaluation can include where the information has come from, whether it can be supported by valid, credible evidence and whether the person presenting it – even if that’s you – has any biases or motives.

Why is critical thinking important in business?

Critical thinking helps you succeed in business by helping you make good decisions that solve problems, capitalise on opportunities and ensure that resources are used effectively and efficiently.

This is true no matter what industry you’re in. Beyond the solving of problems, the development of critical thinking skills can also aid the following:

Unlocking creativity

The best critical thinkers are also creative thinkers. Creative people question assumptions and limits. They look past their cognitive biases and take wider information into account. This allows them to take well-calculated risks and come up with bold new ideas.

Encouraging collaboration

When you know how to weigh new information, and are open to conflicting ideas, you’re better able to work in a team. Applying critical thinking skills in team settings means that you’re better able to take on and synthesise the perspectives of others.

Embracing diversity of thought

Different people bring different priorities, perspectives and experiences to bear in a workplace. Critical thinkers are able to see that divergent thinking is valuable , even if other perspectives go against their initial assumptions, and are able to apply them in making decisions and interpreting data.

Strengthening resilience

Critical thinkers understand that their first conclusion may not be the right one. They’re also aware that some information is designed to mislead and play to our biases. Pushing through to a more objective truth – and being less precious about their initial ideas – builds resilience.

7 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

When employing critical thinking, you need to be able to institute a rational process that is suitable for the problem you’re trying to solve and that allows you to assess all the evidence and reach a conclusion.

Critical thinking is not unlike the scientific method, which is viewed as an extensive, structured mode of critical thinking that involves hypothesis, experimentation and conclusion.

To improve your critical thinking skills, implement the following strategies:

1. Start with the right mindset

To get started, choose a time when you’re not under stress. High stakes make for panicked thinking, so start your critical thinking when things are calm and you have some clear head space to focus on it.

2. Stay outcome-focused

Remembering what you’re trying to achieve can help you avoid getting side-tracked and be more discerning about what information you consider. Thinking in different ways may lead you in unexpected and interesting directions, which can derail you if you’re not focused on what you need to achieve.

3. Recognise your biases

Cognitive bias can creep into decision-making at all levels, but cognitive bias can especially affect leaders . Be especially wary if your eventual solution is the one you first thought of, or is convenient to you. This might suggest that you are letting bias creep in to get a desired outcome or conform with assumptions you already hold.

4. Adopt an ‘information funnel’

When you begin the critical thinking process, you should gather information widely – as if from the mouth of a funnel. Ask broad questions and collect data from a wide range of sources. As you learn more, you should narrow your focus to get to the goal. Start focusing on the most credible sources of information and asking more pointed questions.

5. Collaborate with others

Two heads are definitely better than one when trying to come up with an objective strategy. Be open to feedback, especially including opinions that don’t gel with yours.

6. Seek out diverse opinions

To make collaboration more valuable, try and get perspectives from people with a different background, skill set or experiences. They may point out things that wouldn’t have occurred to you.

7. Test your hypothesis

Once you’ve come up with a conclusion, stress-test it. You can do this by conducting thought experiments, seeking alternative points of view or conducting experiments like A/B tests or pilot programs.

Ask yourself questions like: what information would change your mind? What would need to change in the current scenario for the conclusion to be wrong? Is it possible that these variables exist?

Improving critical thinking takes practice

Remember that critical thinking is a skill. And like any skill, keeping it sharp and improving it takes practice. If you find any of these exercises confronting at first, keep at it. It’s a valuable skill both inside and out of the workplace.

This article was written by Tanya Ashworth-Keppel on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Entrepreneur , The Balance and ZipRecruiter .

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*The Australian Institute of Business (AIB) is Australia’s largest provider of MBAs. Source Ready, B. (2023) Domestic Enrolments Surged During COVID After International Students Locked Out, MBA News. Available at: MBA News.


This article has given me something to think about , its very well informative it has answered some of the questions I have had in mind and has made me realize a lot if things i have been seeing but not paying much attention to it

Callie Simmons

Critical thinking is essential, especially today when people have access to any information. Critical thinkers avoid limiting beliefs, preferring to receive information from various sources, analyze it, and only after that do they come to any conclusion. Thank you for sharing strategies that help to improve critical thinking. It was extremely valuable.

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HBR On Strategy podcast series

3 Ways to Build Critical-Thinking Skills

When was the last time you practiced your critical thinking skills?

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When was the last time you practiced your critical thinking skills? Helen Lee Bouygues , an expert in business transformation, says many business problems are really about simple errors in critical thinking.

“People believe that critical thinking is something that we do every day and it comes very natural,” she tells IdeaCast host Curt Nickisch . “But in reality, critical thinking is not only extremely important for success in life, but it’s also something that needs to be learned and practiced.”

In this episode you’ll learn how to practice your critical thinking skills. Bouygues outlines three key components of critical thinking: questioning your assumptions, reasoning through logic, and diversifying your thought process.

Key episode topics include: strategy, strategy formulation, decision making and problem solving, managing yourself, critical thinking, managing emotions, strategic decisions.

HBR On Strategy curates the best case studies and conversations with the world’s top business and management experts, to help you unlock new ways of doing business. New episodes every week.

  • Listen to the full HBR IdeaCast episode: Improve Your Critical Thinking at Work (2019)
  • Find more episodes of HBR IdeaCast.
  • Discover 100 years of Harvard Business Review articles, case studies, podcasts, and more at .

HANNAH BATES: Welcome to HBR On Strategy , case studies and conversations with the world’s top business and management experts, hand-selected to help you unlock new ways of doing business. When was the last time you practiced your critical thinking skills in your business? Helen Lee Bouygues says many business problems are really about simple errors in critical thinking. Bouygues is an expert in business transformation and she’s been an interim CEO, CFO, or COO at more than a dozen companies. In this episode you’ll learn how to improve your critical thinking skills for business – through (you guessed it) practice. Bouygues outlines 3 key components of critical thinking: questioning your assumptions, reasoning through logic, and diversifying your thought process to avoid selective thinking. You’ll learn how to practice each and why building in time to think without distractions can also help you make better decisions.  This episode originally aired on HBR IdeaCast in July 2019. Here it is.

CURT NICKISCH: Welcome to the HBR IdeaCast from Harvard Business Review. I’m Curt Nickisch. You know the story. Maybe it’s even a nightmare of yours. One day, the company is flying high. No reason to change anything. Customers and contracts will always be there. And then one day – the money stops flowing in, and the business is suddenly in real trouble. Our guest today knows this all too well. She has been an interim CEO, CFO, or COO at more than one dozen companies. Sometimes they needed her because they were mismanaged. Some failed to stay in front of changing technologies. In a few cases, members of the senior team were simply negligent. But in her experience, all these organizational problems shared one root cause: A lack of critical thinking. Our guest is Helen Lee Bouygues. She’s the founder of the Reboot Foundation. Based in Paris, the nonprofit helps parents, teachers and employers think more critically about their problems. She’s also the author of the article “3 Simple Habits to Improve Your Critical Thinking.” Helen, thanks for being here.

HELEN LEE BOUYGUES: Thank you for having me, Curt.

CURT NICKISCH: Helen, you worked in transitional periods for a bunch of big companies. And, you say that many people’s business problems really come down to simple errors in critical thinking. That just sounds a little surprising to me and I wanted to hear why you say that.

HELEN LEE BOUYGUES: Yeah, I think at first glance people believe that critical thinking is something that we do every day and it comes very natural. But in reality, critical thinking is not only extremely important for success in life, but it’s also something that needs to be learned and practiced. Critical thinking skills are very much predictive of making positive financial decisions, even more so than raw intelligence, but people kind of forget what that actually means in terms of tools and practices that they need to exercise in order to make the right decisions, or at least the better decisions. Based on my 20 years of different turnaround and transformation experience, I have noticed that very often when things go sideways or create problems and companies find themselves in a situation of a need for turnaround, it’s typically been because I would argue that the leadership perhaps lacked some elements of critical thinking.

CURT NICKISCH: Why do you think we lack critical thinking skills, or why do you think we think we’re better at it than we actually are?

HELEN LEE BOUYGUES: That’s a great question Curt and actually we did a survey at the Reboot Foundation about a year ago, where we asked people questions of everything from ranging from how often do they practice critical thinking to how important they think critical thinking is, and how often they teach their children critical thinking? I think one of the reasons why it’s more difficult in today’s day and age is that we live in a world of incessant distraction and technology is often to blame as well. We live in a period when we have a question, we want that instant gratification getting the information, just typing the question on Google, having the answer quickly and so, we don’t actually have as much time to stop and think. And part of the necessity of critical thinking is having that ability to take a step back and actually think about your own thinking. And yet, it’s actually becoming more and more critical because as businesses evolve and there’s more urgency to make decisions, that’s exactly when we need to do more critical thinking than perhaps we used to, because of evolving technology and rapidly changing competitive environments in business.

CURT NICKISCH: You say that getting better at critical thinking is something we can learn and cultivate?

HELEN LEE BOUYGUES: Yes. The opposite of critical thinking could be selective thinking. And naturally selective thinking is something that you can actually do relatively quickly because it’s just a reinforcement of your own opinion. People in business can get better at critical thinking if they just do three things. One, question assumptions. Two, reason through logic. And three, diversify thought.

CURT NICKISCH: How do you actually do that?

HELEN LEE BOUYGUES: So, the taking a break, and that doesn’t mean doing meditation or yoga, but actually taking the time. It could be going for a run, or a walk around the block. That alone creates that opportunity for an individual to take the time to stop and think. So, that’s one dimension I think that people need to put in their normal practice. The second element that you wouldn’t necessarily think about in terms of an attribute necessary for critical thinking is management of emotions. So, the number of times that you can imagine, especially in a boardroom for a company that’s going through a difficulty, heated discussions, insults across the room. In that type of environment, it’s very difficult to engage in rational thinking. As much emotions are important, when it comes to true important decisions, we need to put aside the feelings and emotions that go awry in a meeting setting. In addition to that, I think the other element of what we need to make sure that we conduct is making sure that we have other points of views.

CURT NICKISCH: When you talk about looking at things from opposing viewpoints, sometimes that’s helpful when you have somebody who plays that role, or when you have a diverse team that you can share ideas with and explore. I don’t know that all of us are as good of just thinking from other perspectives when we’re kind of just in our own thoughts.

HELEN LEE BOUYGUES: Yeah, but it’s again, that’s why I think I started off this conversation Curt, in saying that critical thinking is something that you actually need to practice and you need to learn. Because indeed, it’s natural and it’s very human to stay in your own personal bubble because it’s comfortable. But you can actually do this from a small scale to a larger scale, and what I mean by that specifically is if you’re starting small, if you work in for example, in accounting. Go have lunch with people in marketing in your organization. I have a good friend, Mathilde Thomas, she’s actually the founder of Caudalie which is a very successful line of skincare products made from grapes. Mathilde grew up spending her time in her family vineyards, so her family originally was in the wine business. And the idea of the skincare product came about because one day a friend of the family, this physician, came to visit the vineyard and he was looking at the vat of grape skins that were about to be discarded and he said, well that’s a pot of treasure, so why are you just discarding that away? And that’s effectively how the business of Caudalie actually began. So, that’s a positive story where people who are not necessarily in the same field can get together and actually come up with innovation or here it wasn’t even intended to be an innovation. It just was an idea that sprung from two people from different walks of life getting together and coming up with the business idea. So, that’s a positive example in terms of diversity.

CURT NICKISCH: Where have you seen this failure in some of the companies that you worked with? Where have you seen the inability to diversify thought and opinions and host costly that can be?

HELEN LEE BOUYGUES: I think in terms of negative, I’ve seen a specific example for a pharmaceutical company where the founder brought in a CFO who actually had very little experience in accounting. He had experience in mergers and acquisitions, in elements of financing, but not pure accounting. But his true qualification of becoming the CFO was the fact that he was a very, very good friend of the CEO’s and you see that example over and over again, including in boards. The number of times you see the board of a company being surrounded, the CEO being surrounded by his or her friends, which is why often I think from time to time, you have companies, publicly listed companies where sometimes the board may not see certain indications. Be it the case of a Steinhoff or an Enron, which is an extreme case of fraud, but even in terms of general decisions, strategic decisions, that if you have a board composed of just a group of friends of the CEO’s, you don’t have diversity of thought in that type of environment.

CURT NICKISCH: So, we’ve talked some about questioning assumptions and the power of diversifying thought. But another point you make is that people need to get better about reasoning through logic. And I think this is going to surprise people too because logical is just such a household word. We think that we think logically, so why is logic a deficit and kind of a prerequisite for the critical thinking you think we need to see more of in management?

HELEN LEE BOUYGUES: So, one of the stories that I like to bring up is a specific company that I encountered a couple of years ago. It’s one of the world’s largest producers of aluminum tubes and they have clients ranging from L’Oréal to Proctor and Gamble, all over the world.

And the CEO of this company was blindsided by his own fervor and probably unreasonable optimism about the outlook for the revenue profile of this company. In reality, the company was in relatively dire financial straits, but again he was blinded with his hope that his clients would never leave because the switching costs of his clients would be too high, or that at least was his hypothesis. And for some business leaders I think some optimism is obviously a good thing. There wouldn’t be Ubers or EBays if we didn’t have entrepreneurs who have that charisma and exuberance. But what I often find in companies is CEOss with something I call simply WTF. Now Curt, that’s not what you think that we commonly use in text messages, but it’s for me it’s “wishful thinking forever’. And I think that blinded optimism can often mask the capability and the ability to reason through logic and actually re-question your approach and saying, “well, can my customers decide to change vendors? Is the competitive environment actually shifting? Are there low-cost companies that could actually take over my business even if that hurdle rate is high?” So, it’s again coming back to being able to ask the right questions and looking at your business and saying, “is there a different way of doing things?” And that’s when you avoid the pitfalls of actually reasoning through logic. And it comes back to the argument of having different views from your original views and your original sentiments. And obviously in order to do that, we need to really pay close attention to our own chain of logic.

CURT NICKISCH: Which I like by the way, wishful thinking forever. I’m going to read text messages that way now. Probably make them a little more optimistic. Yeah. A lot of companies pay consultants to do this kind of critical thinking for them and they come in with tools and concept mapping, and all of the sorts of things that maybe they’re a little more deliberate about and also, removed from the emotion of working in the culture of a company. Do you see consultants as essentially paid critical thinkers?

HELEN LEE BOUYGUES: I think many consultants are good at critical thinking. I don’t believe that the industry of management consulting is a sector that is there to enforce critical thinking for companies. And let me explain why I believe that. A lot of, in a lot of situations CEOs seek validation and look for evidence that supports their preconceived notions. And consultants are often trained to agree with their client’s theories. So, I would almost counter argue and say, for CEOs to effectively use consultants, they almost need to be very precise and be very upfront in their scope of work with the consultants, demand and ask that the consulting firm give a different point of view, or an opposing point of view than the original thesis of a leader. Now that is sometimes hard to do. It goes back to the original part of our discussion. It’s less comfortable for leaders and in a lot of situations why CEO’s are hiring consultants are to justify and explain with more detail to their boards of why they’re doing certain strategic activities. So, that’s where we have to be careful about relying on consultants as quote, “a mechanism to do better critical thinking in business”.

CURT NICKISCH: Have you actually seen companies turn around when they change the way they approach problems and instituted critical thinking across the organization in a more deliberate way?

HELEN LEE BOUYGUES: Yes. I worked with a telecom company in Africa, not so long ago. And they had probably the lowest customer satisfaction rate across the board, amongst the different countries in Africa. And the CEO was somebody who was a very open minded, wanted to challenge – now you could argue Curt, they were on the low, they couldn’t get lower in terms of customer satisfaction, so they only had room to go up. But if you put that aside, what he instituted was to have a sub group of his team to go visit another South African country that had very high customer satisfaction rates. So, it was, I would call creating an environment for its employees to have a bit of a diversity of thought, but also to actually be exposed to give the capacity for its employees to question the assumptions about what they were doing wrong. So, very good CEOs not only are capable of trying to conduct metacognition for him or herself, meaning questioning his or her own way of thinking, but he’ll challenge his team and help them to challenge their own way of thinking by showing different examples of for example, success stories in the same type of work where in a case of this telecom company in Africa, where they could see and visit customer services centers in other African countries where they had high customer satisfaction rate. So, it’s giving the exposure to its team to seek out diversity of thought, but also promoting that, and encouraging that its employees think differently than being focused on their own silos of work and being, trying to be efficient in their own capacity, in their existing dimension.

CURT NICKISCH: Yeah. So, if that was a good critical thinker, as a CEO, what do most leaders do in that situation? What does the “uncritical thinker” do?

HELEN LEE BOUYGUES: The uncritical thinker would be to try to gain more efficiency out of its existing employees and continue to do more of the same thing. But probably putting in more KPI’s. That’s a popular thing that leaders do. And try to put more pressure in the system so that companies are more productive. Rather than thinking out of the box and trying to say, should we be doing something differently than the way we’re doing it today?

CURT NICKISCH: And for individuals? Because whether or not you have a CEO who’s good at this, you can still affect your own team and you can still affect your own work with your own critical thinking. What should they do to get better at critical thinking?

HELEN LEE BOUYGUES: Be curious. Ask the questions. “ What if” questions are great. It’s important to constantly challenge yourself saying, what if I did something differently than the way I’m doing it now? What if I approached my client differently than the way I’m doing it now? What if I changed the processes? Would there be improvement? That’s the type of individual who can improve by actually questioning the assumptions of what he or she is doing on a daily basis. And then the second element again, is trying to be very factual and be rigid about gathering facts and proof and accumulating data in order to truly justify why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s going back to paying close attention to the chain of your own logic. And then the third is expanding your horizon by interacting with people that are not in your existing silo. So, I go back to the example, very simple example, go have lunch, go have a drink with somebody that’s not in your same department, but go reach out to somebody who’s in a totally different building, or even different division within your group.

CURT NICKISCH: Helen, thanks for coming on the show and talking about thinking through how to be a better critical thinker.

HELEN LEE BOUYGUES: Thank you so much. It was a real pleasure to be on your show.

HANNAH BATES: That was Helen Lee Bouygues in conversation with Curt Nickisch on the HBR IdeaCast . Bouygues is an experienced business leader and founder of the Reboot Foundation – for improving critical thinking. We’ll be back next Wednesday with another hand-picked conversation about business strategy from the Harvard Business Review. If you found this episode helpful, share it with your friends and colleagues, and follow our show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. While you’re there, be sure to leave us a review. We’re a production of the Harvard Business Review – if you want more articles, case studies, books, and videos like this, find it all at This episode was produced by Mary Dooe, Anne Saini, and me, Hannah Bates. Ian Fox is our editor. Special thanks to Rob Eckhardt, Adam Buchholz, Maureen Hoch, Adi Ignatius, Karen Player, Ramsey Khabbaz, Nicole Smith, Anne Bartholomew, and you – our listener. See you next week.

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How Board Games Can Help Improve Your Child's Critical Thinking Skills

B oard games provide an environment for developing critical thinking, spatial awareness, and fine motor skills. They also improve memory and concentration.

Children can improve their reading comprehension by playing games that require participants to recall numerous pieces of information at once and then determine what to do. Likewise, games that involve a certain amount of luck can help develop cognitive flexibility.

Many toys help improve cognitive skills, but  board games for families  also have the added benefit of promoting social and emotional skills. They are an excellent way for children to interact with one another, which can be challenging in the age of screen time.

Kids learn to take turns, follow the rules, and manage their emotions when playing board games. The fine motor skills in moving pieces around the board also help develop hand-eye coordination and dexterity. They also practice identifying colors, counting spaces, and learning to plan their moves, all vital pre-reading skills.

In addition, some games require them to think strategically and logically, which helps develop literacy skills such as forming chunks, noticing patterns, and visualizing.

Depending on the game, board games can also help build numeracy skills. Many involve keeping track of money , making calculations, and predicting the outcome of different scenarios. Moreover, some games incorporate a lot of random letters, which can be used to create words – helping develop literacy skills such as spelling and decoding. Others teach players to use deductive reasoning.

Other board games can encourage competition and teamwork, which teaches the importance of collaborating with other players to win the game. This is especially beneficial for children who are quiet or have a difficult time interacting with their peers.

Board games can be used to teach children about a variety of different subjects and skills. Some board games address almost any topic or skill, and many are accessible to players of all ages. Families can maximize the educational benefits of playing board games by finding games that address specific skills or topics they want their kids to learn about.

For example, Clue is a great way to help kids improve their deductive reasoning skills. To find out who committed the murder, what room it took place in, and what weapon was used, they must examine the available evidence. This is a crucial step in recognizing and comprehending various viewpoints, which is necessary for critical thinking.

Another great way to build critical-thinking skills is through playing a game. This is a fun way for children to predict their friends’ preferences while developing social skills and a broader vocabulary. The game also encourages creative thinking, which is a good thing!

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Moreover, games are excellent for improving memory as well. When children have to remember rules, their role in the game, and what other players are doing, they will have to pay attention and be able to recall these details quickly. This will allow them to make better decisions in the future and improve their overall performance.

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Some board games, like chess, require a lot of thought and focus. They can help develop executive functioning skills. These skills are required to be able to plan and execute tasks. They also help with memory and concentration. This is because kids have to remember the rules, their role in the game, and the other players. They also need to think about the consequences of their actions.

Board games encourage creativity as well. Creative thinking is an essential part of critical thinking. They also encourage lateral thinking, which is necessary for problem-solving.

While some children may dislike the idea of playing board games, there are many benefits to these screen-free educational toys. They help improve social and cognitive skills and are fun for the whole family. In addition, they can help increase concentration and spatial awareness. They can also improve dexterity and fine motor skills. They can even encourage the development of coding skills, as most games emphasize loops, conditions, and data manipulation.

Furthermore, families can make their board games to create unique learning opportunities based on family values, interests, or everyday subjects.

Using strategy in board games helps children develop thinking skills. Whether figuring out the best way to move a piece or analyzing how another player made their choice requires quick and systematic thinking that will help them as they age.

The ability to focus and concentrate is also a critical skill that can be improved by playing board games. The time commitment required to play a game and the strategies involved in winning encourages kids to stick with something and see it through. This will be important when solving problems at school or work as adults.

Some board games teach kids to use their fine and gross motor skills. They improve agility, reaction time, and hand-eye coordination, which are necessary for typing, sewing, and science experiments. Other games, such as crocodile teeth, encourage players to think strategically and improve their problem-solving skills. By making the right choices, players learn to assess a situation, identify all elements and find an acceptable solution.

Finally, some board games give kids meta-messages about life, such as how luck can change in a moment (or that there’s no such thing as a sure win). They may also learn how to work well with people of different ages or how to adapt to changing circumstances.

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How Board Games Can Help Improve Your Child's Critical Thinking Skills


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