Better Decision Making Through Critical Thinking

By Canadian Management Centre

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Have you ever had that nagging feeling about a decision you made? Maybe doubting if it was, indeed, the right decision? Perhaps, you’ve lost sleep over it? We can't change the past, but next time you're faced with a workplace challenge, apply these critical thinking principles to your thought process and make decisions with greater confidence. 

Critical thinking involves the ability to view a situation from different perspectives to formulate the best possible course of action. It looks at how facts are proven, arguments are formed, and conclusions are reached, not just at what the facts, argument or conclusion may be.

8 Behaviours of a Critical Thinker:

  • Questions things
  • Doesn’t draw conclusions too quickly
  • Examines arguments for and against an issue
  • Distinguishes fact from opinion
  • Recognizes other people’s agendas
  • Explores multiple perspectives
  • Adjusts assumptions in light of facts
  • Is aware of their own thought processes

Steps you take to become a better critical thinker:

  1. Recognize Assumptions: We all make assumptions, often without knowing it. Try to distinguish what is fact from what is opinion, consider what assumptions are relevant to your situation, and seek alternative viewpoints. Example: If we raise our price, our best customers will stop buying from us (opinion). If we raise our price by $5, market research conducted earlier project sales to decrease by 10% (fact).
  2. Evaluate Arguments: Look critically at assertions and evaluate them objectively and accurately. People will present you with arguments to convince you to believe or act in a particular way. Watch out for persuasion tactics and for your own tendency to favor something because of your own personal bias. And keep an eye out for strong emotions—these can get in the way of seeing an argument accurately.  Strongly stated, authoritative statements can be misinterpreted as fact rather than opinion. Ask
    • What is the basis for your opinion?
    • What evidence do you have to support it?
    • Why do you believe the information is accurate?
    • Why do you think this would apply to this problem?

    Assess the situation: Critically evaluate the information available to you and decide on a course of action. Ask:

    • How urgent is this situation?
    • How much time do I have to come up with a solution?
    • Who is affected by this situation and what are their concerns or agendas? 
    • What resources do I have to work with?
  3. Draw Conclusions:  Conclusions are positions that are derived based on information or belief.  Use all available evidence to arrive at logical conclusions. Ask:
    • What assumptions am I (and others) making?
    • How much can I trust these assumptions?
    • What arguments are people making that they want me to accept? How valid are these arguments?
    • What conclusions can I draw from the information I’ve evaluated?
    • What is the best course of action?
  4. Take Action: Plan your course of action, implement it, and make mid-course corrections as needed. Ask:
    • What is my action plan?
    • How will I introduce the plan to others?
    • How well is the plan working?
    • What adjustments do I need to make?

This article first appeared on and adapted for CMC. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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