Fortunately, critical thinking skills are not inherent, it is something that can be learnt or improved upon. If you feel your skills need some improvement we have found 6 ways HR professionals can improve critical thinking skills:
1. Question your own thinking
It is natural for all human beings to develop a pattern of thinking that we use to navigate life and work. As a HR leader it is easy to believe something must be correct because it has ‘always been done that way’. Critical thinking helps us to break out of those patterns of passive thinking where little changes. Instead, it asks us to question how we think and look for problems that could be solved to make a situation or process better.
2. Discern relevant data
The digital age means we are often overwhelmed by data. It is important that people managers remember that not all data is useful or relevant. As critical thinking skills improve it should become easier for you to divide information into what to ignore and what to pay attention to.
3. Explore new ideas
It can sometimes be intimidating or threatening when you are faced with new ideas, especially in such a regulated area. In order to grow as a professional, it is important to explore new ideas. Speak to colleagues or people in other departments for input on how things could be done. Take a professional development course in an area of interest or read up on new developments in the industry that your business might be able to employ.
4. Encourage alternative views
Often businesses get stuck in a cycle of short-term thinking. Getting things done to reach immediate goals at the expense of the bigger picture. Developing an organisational culture that is open to alternative views is an important part of facilitating critical thinking. Don’t just wait for colleagues to challenge the status quo, actively encourage it through:
- Informal conversations
When provided with the space to do so, you and your colleagues may come up with many alternative ideas that challenge existing processes and procedures across the organization.
5. Take time to decide
A quick decision is the enemy of critical thinking. If you regularly make decisions on the fly, take time to reflect on whether with the benefit of hindsight they were always the right one. As a people manager it is important to take time to think about important decisions. Particularly those that are going to impact the entire organisation.
If you love a proposal, take some time to think about potential negative implications. Try to look at it from a number of different viewpoints, put yourself in the shoes of someone of a different:
- Level in the organisation
How will your decision impact each of them? If it is a very significant change, it might be worth interviewing a spectrum of people for their opinion before you make a final decision. Take a similar approach to decisions you don’t like, just because you don’t like an idea does not mean it is not the right thing for the wider team or organization as a whole.
6. Avoid assumptions
The old adage making an assumption makes an ass out of you and me is most certainly true when it comes to critical thinking. Before you unintentionally jump to a conclusion ask yourself:
a. What are the facts?
b. Is there a relationship between cause and effect?
c. Is the language used to describe the issue is ambiguous or clear?
These questions will help you avoid falling back on something you believe to be true without any proof.