How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills at Work

Businesses around the world rely on their teams to make calculated and effective decisions every day. From coordinating among employees to directing projects or solving challenges, critical thinking skills are essential to the success of organizations and their team members.

Critical thinking — the process of evaluating a situation, collecting information, and making an informed decision — is a valuable professional skill. On a day-to-day basis, learning how to improve critical thinking skills at work can be a key component to career advancement, allowing employees to take on more responsibility and show that they’re capable of working effectively, independently, or as leaders in their companies.

A person in an office concentrates on a monitor.

Building critical thinking skills takes time and dedicated practice. Pursuing higher education through an online degree program allows future professionals to gain valuable experience using critical thinking, challenging them to approach school projects with the same focus and consideration that they’ll need to succeed in the workplace.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Behind every decision are many contributing factors, possible outcomes, and available options to consider. Critical thinking is the process of weighing all the elements and aiming to make the best possible choice. In the workplace, critical thinking can play a critical role, influencing not only the direction of projects and the bottom line but also the daily atmosphere and workplace environment created by leaders.

A lifelong skill, the ability to think critically about a situation is valuable inside and outside the workplace. Throughout our lives, we make myriad decisions large and small that shape our future, habits, and lifestyles. Learning how to make those decisions effectively, however, can be challenging, requiring individuals to be self-reflective and ask themselves if they have any biases or assumptions clouding their judgment or influencing their direction.

With practice and a well-rounded education, learning how to improve critical thinking skills at work and in daily life can be incredibly fulfilling, allowing people to collaborate with others effectively and approach problem-solving with confidence.

What Are Critical Thinking Skills?

Critical thinking comprises an array of skills. Pursuing higher education can be a fantastic opportunity to cultivate these skills, and with more students attending college, taking the time to build hard and soft skills through critical thinking can set them apart when they enter the workplace.

From the ability to make an informed decision to understanding the behaviors or contributing factors behind those decisions, critical thinking teaches graduates to view the world from multiple angles.

Observation and Analysis

Learning how to improve critical thinking skills at work begins with observation and analysis. Observing a situation involves noting details and recognizing all contributing elements. By slowing down to fully evaluate a situation, professionals can pinpoint issues and collect information. This process of analysis allows graduates to better understand where and why a problem is occurring and take stock of the available solutions.

This process of compiling information before making a decision is essential to careers including those in the medical field, such as nursing. Making a proper diagnosis or providing care and counseling to patients requires a full understanding of symptoms and a patient’s history. Taking the time to analyze every available piece of the puzzle can allow medical professionals to provide comprehensive care, improving patient outcomes.

Metacognitive Skills

No two people have the exact same experiences or learn in exactly the same way. Metacognitive skills are self-reflective strategies that allow individuals to better understand how they learn or process and retain information. As a critical thinking skill set, metacognitive skills allow individuals to choose the methods and strategies that suit them the best, allowing them to set achievable goals and manage their time effectively.

In the workforce, using self-recognition and reflection to overcome learning barriers is a particularly useful area of knowledge for teachers and psychologists. Building off their own self-evaluations, teachers and psychologists are able to provide others with the tools they need to examine their personal strengths and weaknesses, allowing students and patients to capitalize on their strengths, build healthy habits, and find success.


In many situations, critical thinking and problem-solving go hand in hand. By learning to improve critical thinking skills at work, graduates are able to improve their problem-solving skills as well. Most problems have more than one solution. Using critical thinking, individuals are better able to examine and evaluate their options, allowing them to make the optimal choice.

This careful consideration is essential to problem-solving in senior-level roles in fields such as higher education leadership or business administration. While a perfect solution may never exist, the expertise that graduates gain through critical thinking can allow them to work toward the best available outcome and steer the future of their organizations.

Reasoning and Decision-Making

By combining observations with past experiences, reasoning uses logic, identifying patterns, and considering viewpoints to make informed decisions. An essential component of leadership, the ability to make a calculated, knowledgeable decision is valuable for the business itself, and it also inspires confidence in team members and their supervisor’s ability to prepare them for the future.

Reasoning and decision-making are essential skills in disciplines such as cybersecurity and software development. In technological fields, professionals may be required to make quick, calculated decisions to solve software issues or protect an organization’s data security. Using critical thinking, they can evaluate their options and employ reasoning to predict current and future issues or trends, allowing them to prepare effectively.

How to Improve Critical Thinking

Learning how to improve critical thinking skills at work and at home can be beneficial. When making life decisions, from choosing a career to changing companies, moving, buying a home or even choosing a life partner, learning how to think critically is simply the act of evaluating available options and selecting the most favorable one.

Working toward improving critical thinking skills can involve various methods, techniques, and strategies, including the following:

  • Self-awareness or reflection. Critical thinking involves drawing from prior knowledge and experience to evaluate a situation. By recognizing that they may be approaching a problem with preconceived opinions or biases, professionals can work to remove themselves from the aspects that would otherwise preclude them from making an impartial decision.
  • Active listening. Many issues requiring critical thinking may involve other parties in different capacities. Whether working to resolve a conflict between individuals or working in a career such as healthcare that involves providing solutions and strategies for others, active listening allows professionals to gain a clear picture of a situation and for people to feel heard.
  • Industry knowledge. Depending on the industry, critical thinking may involve an in-depth knowledge of precedence or common successful strategies and techniques.
  • Learning how to improve critical thinking skills at work begins with acknowledging that there’s always something new to learn and that every individual has valuable knowledge to pass along. With humility, leaders can take advantage of their team members’ expertise, recognizing when to ask for help and using the knowledge they collect to build a solution.

In the workplace, critical thinking can not only allow graduates to become effective and independent leaders but also be an essential component in decision-making across industries. In industries ranging from business and finance to healthcare, technology, and education, critical thinking allows professionals to be levelheaded and trusted team members, able to reassure others that any decision they make has been considered and chosen to the best of their ability.

Prepare for the Challenges of the Future

Building a business, preparing for the future, and reaching personal and professional goals require hard work, dedication, and the ability to make informed decisions. Taking the time to learn how to improve critical thinking skills at work and in your personal life can be the key to removing some of the guesswork from big decisions and letting you move forward with confidence.

Across industries and professions, future leaders looking to gain a wealth of knowledge and develop key critical thinking skills should consider higher education to build a foundation. For those looking to take the next step in their careers, earning a degree or certification through the many online programs offered by Maryville University can be a great way to develop the critical thinking skills and practical experience they need to enter the workforce. Discover how you can start a new chapter and prepare yourself for success with a degree from Maryville University.

Recommended Reading

Making a Career Change at 30

Self-Improvement Month: How College Can Help with Personal Growth

Types of Non-Linear Career Paths


Business News Daily, “Why Critical Thinking Matters in Your Business”

Houston Chronicle, “What Are the Benefits of Critical Thinking in the Workplace?”

Indeed, “Decision-Making Skills: Definition and Examples”

Indeed, “How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills at Work in 6 Steps”

Indeed, Metacognitive Skills: Definition and Examples

Indeed, “10 Top Critical Thinking Skills (And How to Improve Them)”

Indeed, Why Critical Thinking Is Important in the Workplace

MasterClass, Guide to Critical Thinking: Learn to Use Critical Thinking Skills

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