Albert Einstein once said, “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”  How far is this true for our education curricula in India today? Even a cursory look would convince us that critical thinking is not a skill we encourage in our children through education.  Critical thinking ensures that we form sound beliefs and judgments and thus provides us with a basis for a rational emotional life.  It is a skill that allows us to acquire a means of assessing and upgrading our ability to judge well.

However, the way our education material is structured we don’t really need to think much for ourselves and figure out solutions. All we do is test our kids to check how much information they have memorized! And curiosity is one trait we learn to subdue very early as children.  As the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat; however, we don’t realize until much later that one of the most important skills for a leader is curiosity. This translates into the ability to listen to new ideas and be willing to look at a problem from every angle.

Critical thinking enables us to:

  • Think clearly and systematically to improve the way we express our ideas. In learning how to analyse the logical structure of texts, critical thinking also improves comprehension abilities. Thus, critical thinking enhances our language and presentation skills.
  • Evaluate new and innovative ideas and selecting the best ones and modifying them if necessary. New ideas are the life blood of a growing business, but the ability to evaluate whether these ideas can be productized and modifying them to be useful requires critical thinking.
  • Ensure the proper functioning of liberal democracy and foster scientific thought. Critical thinkers can confirm theories through repeated experimentations thus leading to scientific breakthroughs and citizens who can think critically about social issues and overcome biases and prejudice enables proper governance.

The global knowledge economy is driven by information and technology.  As an employee, one is required to deal with changes quickly and effectively. The new economy places increasing demands on flexible intellectual skills and the ability to analyse information and integrate diverse sources of knowledge in solving problems.  Critical thinking promotes these skills and becomes vital in a fast-changing and competitive workplace.

If you are a manager or a team leader, then the ability to think critically is well – critical!  If as a manager, you are smarter than the employees who work with you, what does it say about your ability to hire talented people? Therefore, a smart manager will hire employees who are smarter and have critical thinking skills to develop not only bench strength but have new and innovative ideas to work with too.

Imagine how much easier it would be to recruit employees with the requisite critical thinking skills if that ability was fostered right from the time we were children! One way to do this according to Mathew Ventura, Director of Knowledge and Skills at Pearson, is “Innovative digital platforms which provide a trifecta of benefits:  They teach effectively. They lead to one-on-one feedback for students. And they’re scalable.”

Charles Darwin’s ability to see new connections in mundane situations led him to map out a new theory of evolution that changed the way we saw the world.  Edwin Hubble discovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way and proved they were expanding simply by gathering and analysing more data than anyone else.  Marie Curie paved the way for x-rays and cancer treatment trusting her sense that pitchblende must include unknown radioactive elements leading to the discovery of polonium and radium.  So, let’s start by encouraging our children to think logically and objectively using assumptions and judgment; thereby ensuring we have strategic problem solvers and planners when we want employees who can think out-of-the-box.