TalentFocus Blog

  • Critical Thinking Skills and the Workplace: Is Corporate Culture a Barrier?

    by Wyn Davies, Global Product Manager, Pearson TalentLens

    While numerous research studies show that the ability to think critically is a vital skill required in many job roles across all industries, a recent article in Human Resources Online outlines some examples of critical thinking being stifled or prevented due to organizational culture and climate.

    What is critical thinking?

    There are a number of definitions of what constitutes critical thinking but there is a general consensus that the key elements are:

    • Logical reasoning and evaluation of arguments to solve problems and draw logical conclusions

    • The ability to question and recognize facts from assumptions and hunches

    • Creative thinking

    Pearson TalentLens defines critical thinking as the ability to look at a situation and clearly understand it from multiple perspectives whilst separating facts from opinions and assumptions.

    The Human Resources Online article identifies proficiency in critical thinking, complex problem solving, innovation, collaborating, and effective communication, as entry-level job requirements. These findings are reinforced in a 2016 World Economic Forum report, The Future of Jobs, that looks at employment, skills, and workforce strategy for the future.

    Despite the wide-spread recognition of the importance critical thinking and decision making play in the workplace, there are many examples of those skills being stifled. Questioning the policies or procedures set forth by those in upper management is frowned upon, which goes against the core principles of critical thinking, which has questioning at its heart.

    In some organizations, anyone questioning or challenging the assumptions of management or offering something that goes against the status quo is seen as “not on board” or a “trouble maker”. There are also numerous examples of organizations that have suffered as a result of decisions that were made without the benefit of critical thinking.

    Have you ever heard any of these comments?

    • “If you’re not on board then get off the bus.”
    • “Anyone who disagrees with ‘X’ does not last long here.”
    • “We tried that before and it did not work.”
    • “I always agree with what my boss says.”

    All of these indicate a work culture where critical thinking is stifled.

    What can be done to overcome this?

    Before any change can take place, there needs to be realization — usually from upper management — that critical thinking is vital, yet not being encouraged. Once this happens there are a number of practical interventions that support the shift to thinking more critically:

    1. Assess or measure the current levels of critical thinking in the workplace.

    Pearson TalentLens publishes the globally renowned Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal.

    The online test is linked to a profile, interview, and development report, which can be a useful tool in management development and coaching interventions. The test measures an individual’s levels of ability in three key areas:

    • Recognition of assumptions
    • Evaluation of arguments
    • Ability to draw logical conclusions

    Ready to test your own critical thinking ability? Email talentlens@pearson.com, mention this blog, and ask to take the Watson Glaser test.

    2. Pearson also offers a number of highly interactive and practical training interventions aimed at developing the skills and behaviors involved in critical thinking. Interventions include the popular Critical Thinking Bootcamp and Critical Thinking University.  

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  • Relationship Between Feeling Personality and Critical Thinking

    Personality type fans will probably not like this post, but statistics aren’t swayed by popularity.

    As someone who has been a fan of personality type for years and is a certified practitioner for both the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and Golden Personality Type Profiler, I am well-acquainted with the general message about personality type. As you should learn in any personality type debrief, no personality type is good or bad. In addition, no personality type is better than another.

    However, based on studies conducted for the Watson-Glaser assessment, there is a very important difference between the critical thinking results for someone with a Thinking preference versus a Feeling preference.

    As you can see in the Technical Manual for the Watson-Glaser, the study shows that individuals who report a Feeling preference on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator showed a statistically significant negative correlation with the key critical thinking ability Evaluating Arguments (r= -.27).

    In addition, individuals who reported a Feeling preference on the Golden Personality Type Profiler showed a statistically significant negative correlation Drawing Conclusions (r= -.21) while the Thinking preference showed a statistically significant positive relationship with Drawing Conclusions (r= .26).

    In other words, all personality types are not created equal when it comes to critical thinking ability.

    So, what should you do to improve the critical thinking skills of your employees (both Thinking and Feeling types). Some people believe “practice makes perfect,” but I believe what Vince Lombardi once said, “Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

    Without expert coaching, and consistent training and follow-up, one cannot improve their critical thinking skills. For more information on improving your critical thinking skills, click here.

    Breanne Harris is the Solutions Architect for Pearson TalentLens. She works with customers to design selection and development plans that incorporate critical thinking assessments and training. She has a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and has experience in recruiting, training, and HR consulting. 

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