Critical Thinking is essential in all spheres of life. It has a role to play in HR as well.
To define ‘critical thinking’, let us first disjoin the two words, ‘critical’ and ‘thinking’. The former stands for a detailed analysis and assessment of a situation or product, while the latter is simply the action of producing ideas, decisions and memories. Simply put, critical thinking implies correctly understanding any information, situation or problem.
The intellectual roots of critical thinking date back to 2,500 years ago, when Socrates had made discoveries related to the subject through probing and questioning—what we today refer to as Socratic Questioning.
In those days, Socrates highlighted the importance of clarity and logical consistency in thinking.
Critical thinking is something we need to practise frequently in daily life.
I have been an avid weight trainer for many years and I had a gym buddy who regularly travelled to the US. One day, when we met at the fitness centre, he showed me his new pair of shoes, belonging to one of the famous brands which claimed that that their shoes help in toning muscles.
I was curious about the technology behind it and wanted to know how the ergonomics of this toning shoe worked. After thorough research I concluded that it was no better than any other pair of normal sneakers. I communicated this to my friend who brushed aside my claims as baseless and empty.
When I changed my fitness routine, we rarely met. Months passed by before we bumped into each other again. During a discussion on our fitness routines, I happened to show him my new barefoot sports shoes, from Vibram. He asked me whether I had researched before buying them too, and of course I answered in the affirmative.
He said “I regret laughing at you when you told me about my shoes. I fell prey to the deceptive advertisement”. A research on the so-called muscle toning shoes, revealing that they were no better than regular sneakers, had opened his eyes.
While I realised that the need for critical thinking among consumers is important, I was also convinced that there was a need for critical thinking on the part of the sellers as well. I later discovered that the brand was sued by another customer. It is quite possible that smart marketers are exploiting the consumers’ weakness. Therefore, it is high time the consumers get smarter and think critically.
As HR professionals, we have noticed that many candidates are unable to explain their particular skills and experiences, in a manner that could convince the hiring manager. Generally, candidates who are critical thinkers, come prepared in these aspects. A critical thinker will keep in mind the perspective of value addition to the organisation, and analyse the situation to come up with appropriate answers.
I know of a senior professional who used to be regularly late for meetings and often ended up defaulting when it came to payments of creditors. Since I knew him personally, I spoke to him and cautioned him of the consequences. Even then, he continued his casual approach.
When his company’s HR team ran a critical thinking assessment for its existing employees, it was not at all surprising that he scored low on the critical thinking ability. That is when I could clearly observe the relationship between critical thinking and its real-world outcomes.
This has made me believe that critical thinking can predict real-world outcomes as well as workplace performance. I have come across many situations which have strengthened my belief that critical thinking is very important for success.
A famous quote says, ‘Experience teaches slowly, and at the cost of mistakes’. I have shifted my career from the glamorous IT field to the super glamorous HR domain. If only I had thought critically when I had passed my SSC exams; if only I had analysed my strengths, I would probably have landed in HR earlier.
I am a firm believer of ‘whatever happens, happens for good’. The cross-domain experience helps me immensely today. However, the reason for highlighting the same is to emphasise the importance of critical thinking in a student’s life.
(The author works for Kanakia Group- Mumbai as senior manager- Human Resources & Learning. Follow him on twitter @ameyakarambe)