Don't Overlook Importance of Critical Thinking Skills

Article excerpt

Byline: Doyle Young

I was in a fast-food restaurant early one morning and stood waiting in line while the employee behind the counter stood frozen, unable to process a customer's order because it was slightly different than expected. People in line were growing impatient and angry.

Finally, someone suggested a simple solution. The employee was grateful, punched in the order and the line began moving again.

It's not a very important example, but it's indicative of a problem that is pervasive throughout the business world - employees who are unable to apply critical thinking skills to unexpected problems; to creatively resolve problems that can bring operations to a grinding halt or damage customer relations.

How many times have you entered a business and encountered a bureaucrat who can only do business "by the book," and doesn't have the ability or inclination to creatively solve customer problems so that the customer is happy?

The problem can affect any organization - retail stores, government agencies, manufacturers - any firm that employs people is at risk. It can even include managers who have been promoted beyond their abilities to solve problems creatively. I've even known business owners who couldn't tolerate new and creative solutions to problems if those solutions didn't fit their "old school" paradigm.

Critical thinking is not taught in most public schools, not even in most trade schools or most college courses. Sometimes graduates are well-versed in the technical aspects of a job but lack the critical thinking skills needed to apply what they've learned to real-life situations.

All graduates, and all employees, need to know that people who can make sound, fast, creative decisions are valuable to their employers.

Critical thinkers are results-oriented, open to new ideas, flexible, willing to change, analytical, observant, unafraid to take risks, creative and assertive. …