Remarks on Critical Thinking

Do you have critical thinking skills?  Do you need them?

You’ve probably come across numerous references about the value of critical thinking skills.  Often, they are presented as part of a broader set of abilities (along with leadership, communication, the ability to “work in teams,” etc.) that are said to be in high demand within most businesses and organizations.

Perhaps.

(Of course, one wonders why they are often called “soft skills” if they are so highly valued.  Most likely it’s an inadvertent misnomer. But let me not digress.)

Critical thinking skills are important – perhaps more so now than ever before.  I’ll have more to say about this topic in the future, but here are a few points to consider.

  1. What do we mean by critical thinking skills?  Think of this as your ability to understand another person’s line of reasoning, the strengths of their argument, the weaknesses, and its validity.
  2. Is this just an exercise in logic or does it have some practical benefit?  First, I would tell you that logic has practical benefit.  But, let’s be more specific.  Critical reasoning skills can be valuable in a number of ways.  They will help you discover errors in reasoning, whether your own or those of others, and, related to that, will help you make better decisions in instances where you are presented with misinformation in order to confound or mislead you.

I say all this because I often see students and clients show interest in improving their leadership, communication, and teaming skills, but I rarely see much enthusiasm about improving their critical thinking skills.

Maybe it’s the terminology.  Maybe the phrase carries the burden of a sort of heavy, negative, not-very-much-fun connotation.  Maybe “critical thinking” has a branding issue.  It probably needs a new name.

But it’s a great skill to develop.