Critical thinking and its value in business

William Woods Business

We all think. In fact, many of us would struggle not to think for a few minutes. However, critical thinking, a phrase we often hear but seldom think about, is not necessarily something that comes naturally to all people.

The Foundation for Critical Thinking — a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting critical thinking in education — defines critical thinking as “a mode of thinking…in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it.”

Steve Siebold, business consultant and expert in the field of critical thinking, defines the term as an ability to remove all emotion from an issue and observe the facts objectively to make a logical decision.

An important distinction between critical thinking and say, just thinking, is that thinking critically involves assessment of multiple sides of a particular point. It involves one’s ability to move beyond self-biases and rationally consider the soundness of an option we are not instinctively inclined towards.

In business, critical thinking is essential and is often used as a method of risk reduction associated with business decision-making. A marketing executive tasked with introducing a new product will have to look outside of himself and understand the customer’s point of view, prior to launching a successful campaign. A finance manager must assess all relevant financial information about a company, weighing financial implications of each option before making a recommendation.

The apparent importance of critical thinking in business has motivated much discussion among the business community and academia. According to a survey conducted by American Association of Colleges and Universities more than 75 percent of national business leaders, many of who hire college graduates, say they want to see more emphasis on critical thinking in higher education. Similarly, prominent business publications such as Wall Street Journal and Harvard Business Review, have discussed the importance of business schools teaching critical thinking to better prepare their students for the job market.

While business schools continue to zero in on critical thinking, much of practical advice exists online. For example, an Entrepreneur article recommends following these three steps to improve critical thinking:

  1. Identify purpose
  2. Examine biases
  3. Consider the implications of options.

The MBA in Entrepreneurial Leadership at William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri, goes beyond surface advice as its curriculum is designed to develop student’s critical thinking skills. With a special emphasis placed on developing decision-making skills, entrepreneurial mindset, and emotional & social intelligence, the MBA program students are not only trained to become critical thinkers but also apply those skills to real business problems.

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