Soft Skills Insights

We unpack behavior science, habit research, and academic research to provide practical insight into how to upgrade your people's critical thinking, communication, people management, and time management skills

Why Critical Thinking is Important in 2020

critical thinking Nov 27, 2019
Why Critical Thinking is Important in 2020

The modern professional must be very intentional about their own development. In today’s rapidly evolving economy, the “half-life of many professional skills” is just 2.5 to five years. At the same time, you must be very selective about how you spend time developing yourself. Bersin by Deloitte describes today’s employees as “overwhelmed, distracted, and impatient. They can only spend 1% of their time on training and development.” This equates to 28 minutes per week for the average American who spends 47 hours a week at work.

In the same report, Deloitte suggests that 80% of workforce learning “happens via on-the-job interactions with peers, teammates, and managers.” This data is consistent with the well-known 70-20-10 leadership model, which similarly asserts that 70% of leadership development happens on-the-job. After deducting this time for on-the-job learning, the modern professional is left with just 5.6 minutes per week to engage in outside learning.

Professionals today have thousands of ways to fill those brief minutes outside of what is offered by their company. LinkedIn Learning offers over 9,000 digital courses and online course platform, Udemy, offers 32,000 – to name just two options. How could you even make such a decision?

You would need to develop a robust answer to this question. That is precisely how we define critical thinking. While obvious, you’d also need to make a decision, which is one of 16 key critical thinking skills. To effectively and efficiently develop professionally, you need critical thinking skills. That makes critical thinking an enabler. Enablers are always good first investments because they raise the water-level and a “rising tide lifts all boats.” Exceptional critical thinking skills make everything else you do easier and better, producing a wide range of benefits:

9 Critical Thinking Benefits

  1. Improves career prospects: Those with higher critical thinking skills are a third less likely to be working in an unskilled occupation two years post-graduation.
  2. Increases job retention: Those with higher critical thinking skills are half as likely to have lost their job in the last year.
  3. Boosts compensation: A 2015 report by the Foundation for Young Australians showed that employers would pay A$7,745 more for candidates with “evidence of problem-solving and critical thinking skills.”
  4. Leads to a better life: People with higher critical thinking skills experience fewer negative life events (e.g., large amounts of credit card debt) than their peers. Critical thinking skills had a greater impact on the number of negative life events that IQ.
  5. Employers want it: Demand for critical thinking skills has risen 158% in the last three years.
  6. Employers value it more than degrees: A survey of 318 employers by the Association of C and C++ Users revealed that 93% of employers value critical thinking over the candidate’s undergraduate degree.
  7. Many new professionals are lacking it: 60% of managers say critical thinking skills is the #1 skill recent graduates are lacking, making it a great way to stand out during a competitive labor market
  8. Leaders link critical thinking skills to profit: 84% of senior managers believe their organization suffered a loss due to an absence of critical thinking in their workforce.
  9. Top skill for future: In its “The Future of Jobs Report,” the World Economic Forum says that human skills such as critical thinking will “retain or increase their value.” It also ranks critical thinking as one of 10 trending skills for 2022.

How To Develop Critical Thinking Skills

When trying to decide where you’re going to spend your limited time on professional development, you want to invest in skills that will:

  • Maintain their value over time
  • Have broad applicability across careers and roles (since you’ll likely change jobs/careers several times)
  • Catalyze and accelerate your development in other ways
  • Benefit your life, not just your career

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