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Critical Thinking Skills: A Guide for Problem-Solving

Feeling challenged by the problems in your business? Looking for creative and strategic ways of solving problems? Your journey can start with critical thinking and problem-solving training. In a business environment, you are always searching for opportunities. Problems are opportunities in disguise. To become a problem-solver, you are on a mission to learn the art of thinking critically and creatively.

You need to find innovative solutions to your problems which will derive from teamwork and collaboration. Let’s explore the key concepts of critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

In this article ....

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking refers to a combination of complex skills for a higher level of thinking. It is a self-directed thinking process that produces new and innovative ideas and solutions to problems. With critical thinking skills, you reflect critically on your learning experiences and working processes. Based on your reflection, you can make effective decisions. Critical thinking is ideally based on intellectual values i.e. clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, consistency, good reasons, reliable evidence, depth, breadth, fairness.

Critical thinking and problem-solving: Why should you have the skills?

With the rapid changes in technology and lifestyle, we face new challenges continuously in our life. Let’s see how critical thinking and problem-solving skills can help us:

How relevant is critical thinking to your job?

Employers would always value someone who thinks critically. Being critical, you bring creative solutions to problems and promote innovation in the organization. Here are some examples of the application of critical thinking for different roles in an organization:
Manager

Managers are role models for their teams. As a manager, your ability to analyse problems critically influence your team members in the long run.

Human Resources Specialist
If you are working in the HR department, your decisions are based on critical thinking. You can’t afford to be opinionated as your decisions have a direct impact on your colleague’s career.
Lawyer
Lawyers work with subtle details, ambiguous facts all the time. Critical thinking is part of their personality as they need to establish the truth by asking questions frequently.
Business Analyst
As a business analyst, you evaluate extensive data and make informed decisions. Critical thinking helps you to make unbiased decisions based on concrete evidence and provide innovative solutions.
Accountant
Although accountants follow specific principles and guidelines in their job, they require critical thinking skills to decode numbers and financial documents. As an accountant, you need to make good judgements to solve problems.
Marketing Associate

Marketing associates gather and analyse a wide range of information regarding the target audience for their organisations. The ability to think critically can influence them to work out different solutions for successful marketing campaigns.

Sales Agent and Customer Service Representative
Customer service representatives and sales agents work directly with the clients. They have to make prompt decisions in critical situations. With critical thinking and problem-solving skills, a customer service representative can visualize themselves in the shoes of the clients and react accordingly.

Creative ways of solving problems: the problem-solving method

A creative problem-solving process is an innovative one that allows you to move from your current undesired position to the desired position. You have to take a structured approach. You have to define the problem at hand, gather information from all the available sources, list possible solutions, analyse them and implement them to attain the desired effect. The core principles of creative problem solving are:
Creating Problem-Solving Process
  • A balance of divergent and convergent thinking

    Divergent and convergent thinking is one of the key factors creative problem-solving. Both processes have their distinct features. You need to make sure that you are using the processes effectively.

  • Rephrase your problems and challenge statements as questions

    Ask open-ended questions rather than closed questions that provoke short answers.

  • Limit your judgemental instincts

    According to Alex Osborn, challenging solutions at the earlier stage impedes the idea generation process. Analyse the solutions at a later stage when all the solutions are on the table after primary brainstorming.

  • Positive language focus

    Language has a big impact on our thinking process. We need to encourage the use of “Yes, and .” rather than “No, but …”. Words like ‘but’ take conversations to an end and bring negative energy in the initial brainstorming process.

Another popular model of creative problem-solving (CPS) is CPS Learner’s Model. The model can be useful for generating innovative solutions.

CPS Learner's Model
1. Clarify

Start identifying your goals, desires or challenges. Don’t make wild assumptions about your problem. Define your objectives clearly for clarity. Gather data about the problem. You can interview people, conduct surveys and collect statistics. Try to understand everyone’s opinions and feelings. Formulate open-ended questions based on your awareness of the problems. Visualise the challenges and opportunities regarding the problem.

2. Ideate

It’s time for brainstorming, brain writing, mind mapping or other forms of idea generating techniques. This is where creativity matters. When you get tired of the continuous process, take a break and return with fresh ideas. Our comprehensive workshop on critical thinking and problem-solving discusses elaborately on the preparation for brainstorming.

3. Develop

Now you are moving to the convergent stage of creative problem-solving. Your focus shifts to the evaluation of all the ideas generated before. Analyse the potential solutions, and think of the rationale behind the implementation of the solution.

4. Implement

You have to plan the course of action for the implementation stage. Identify your resources, communicate with the stakeholders and explain everything to the implementer.

Some ways of generating ideas creatively

Brainwriting: Brainwriting is a complementary technique to brainstorming. It can be considered a graphic version of brainstorming. Horst Geschka and his colleagues gave the idea as part of their research on the innovation management method.

Mind mapping: Mind maps are a visual representation of ideas on a piece of paper. You put the central idea in the middle and the associated ideas surrounding the central concept. Afterwards, you connect the ideas.

Duncker diagram: A comparative flowchart of the present state and desired state side by side with general solutions, functional solutions and specific solutions in three different levels.

Duncker Diagram

How can a course on critical thinking help you to solve problems?

From our course on critical thinking and problem-solving, you will familiarise with the following concepts:

The modules of the course cover topics like problem-solving methods, information-gathering techniques, defining problems for clarity, getting ready for effective brainstorming, generating solutions maintaining a specific sequence, solutions analysis and planning the implementation phase.

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