Brainstorm to innovate
Brainstorm to innovate

5 Strategies to Grow Critical Thinking Skills

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Critical thinking skills are often mentioned as a key trait employers seek in potential hires. But what exactly is critical thinking? Conversations with other professionals show that not everyone is certain about the definition.

Critical thinking can be described as disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence. While that seems to describe the ability of many accounting professionals, some leaders in organizations today have a strong feeling that this ability is fading. Here are strategies that will help you and your team grow critical thinking skills:

Strategy 1: Be a continuous learner. Learners have a natural sense of curiosity about the world and their profession. They read and talk to people. Basically, they educate themselves without being told to. This can come from reading, talking to subject matter experts, listening to lectures online, or attending conferences. The more workers know, the more evidence they have to consider when making a decision.

Strategy 2: Make the right decision for the majority. Critical thinkers put their egos aside and think about what is best for the overall organization, even if that is not the best solution for the individual. Their goal is seeking to understand and then making a clear and rational decision that is best for the majority.

Strategy 3: Listen and consider unconventional opinions. Critical thinkers have a tendency to seek out new solutions to old problems. They don’t like the phrase “that is the way we have always done it.” They also see that collaboration with their team, their profession, and sometimes their competitors will bring about the best solutions, and they are OK with that.

Strategy 4: Avoid analysis paralysis. Critical thinkers will avoid the trap of too much information and getting stuck in the decision-making process by looking at the big picture and the details. They recognize they will never have 100 percent of the information they might be able to gather, but they also know they can move forward and adjust a decision later if necessary.

Strategy 5: Analyze yourself. Critical thinkers develop a skill for explaining to others why they came to a specific conclusion. Others can follow their reasoning and can understand their thinking. They are willing to change their views when they are provided with more information that allows greater understanding.

While the skills associated with these strategies come naturally to some, the skills can also be developed. This development won’t happen quickly, but practicing the strategies can improve critical thinking and everyday decision making.

Sandra Wiley
Sandra Wiley

Written by Sandra Wiley

Sandra Wiley, president of Boomer Consulting, Inc., is a leader in the accounting profession with a passion for helping firms grow, adapt, and thrive. For 10 years running, Accounting Today has recognized her as a Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting due to her expertise in leadership, management, collaboration, culture building, talent, and training. Sandra’s years of experience and influence as a management and strategic planning consultant make her a sought-after resource among the best and brightest firms in the country. She is regularly invited to speak at national conferences, where she empowers audiences with new ideas and a sense of humor. Find Sandra on Twitter @sandrawiley. More from Sandra Wiley

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