In a time where limitless information is just a click away, how can you know what’s real and what’s not?
We asked 22 experts “Why is critical thinking important?”
Below are their noteworthy remarks.
Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Sweet Briar College | Editor |Author
If it is important for thought to be capable of changing both thinker and world, then critical thinking is important; for in its critical vocation, thought calls into question our assumptions about what is possible (with respect to the world, ourselves, our relations with others, etc.) and thereby opens the space for creative transformation.
Critical thinking is a precondition for a transformative agency.
In other words, critique is that which makes reflected, intentional change possible; and this is true in whatever domain critical thinking takes place, from art and science to ethics and politics.
Critical thinking thus introduces the spark of freedom and the promise of progress into the world of human action.
Director of Training and Development
As you can imagine in the world of interviewing, critical thinking is essential.
However, as attention spans shorten, and the need for immediate gratification increases, some of the skills essential to eliciting the greatest quality and quantity of information are waning.
What are those skills?
Well, ability to sit and have a conversation, quality questioning, active listening, ability to adjust and adapt, are just some, and each has a connection to critical thinking.
So many want to receive interview training that says if you complete these steps, you will have all that you need. However, the process is so much more complex and unique to the parties that are present.
Critical thinking is essential to analyze the intersection between the asker and answerer of questions. Their personal dynamics, their bias, their experience. We must seek to understand all of those.
Often we look for confirmation of our own beliefs, the easiest and fastest way out; this is not critical thinking.
Employing the Socratic Method takes time, effort, understanding, and reason. Critical thinking is the only application to maximize obtaining “the truth” from an interview.
Well, that is fine for interviewing, and its application in that sphere, but the reality is, it applies across the board in all of our life.
It ultimately leads us to the best decisions and actions.
I just completed an article on adversity and resistance. I address more and more people that are frustrated with their precarious presence in our lives and are outraged by their toll on them, but the reality is adversity and resistance will always be with us.
The question is how we handle them and critical thinking allows us to maximize our response, and ultimately builds lasting character.
Director, Manitou School
Critical thinking is one of the most important skills our children should be learning and practicing in school.
As information becomes more prolific and available, it is crucial for individuals to learn how to parse through the information available to form reasoned, well-thought-out conclusions and judgments.
Traditionally, schools have focused on teaching children how to retain facts and figures – today we have all the facts we can ever need literally at our fingertips.
What is vital now, not only for individual success, but for our collective growth, is the ability to take those facts and figures and analyze, create, and innovate.
We also need the ability to discern which information is pertinent and which is not, and which comes from reliable sources, and which does not. This can only happen with critical thinkers who have developed and practiced the skills and tools to use information effectively to develop insights.
The ability to ask questions and probe deeply into any area of study – whether in sciences, humanities, the arts, or business – is key to expanding our knowledge as individuals and as a society.
We cannot predict the kind of environment our children will be living and working in decades from now, so as we prepare them to face a future that can look very different from our present, it is imperative that they have solid critical thinking skills.
For example – how can we integrate science, math, and engineering to solve the problems of pollution and food security?
How do we use what we know from neuroscience and sociology to create healthier, happier communities?
As technology advances and takes over much of our current work, how can we make sure technology is used in an ethical, fair, and safe way?
These are the kinds of questions our children will face. Finding the answers to these questions requires thorough, methodical gathering and review of information, an ability to think creatively, and the communication skills to present conclusions effectively.
Finally, critical thinking will help our children not just with academics and future employment but making important life decisions.
Having a framework to look at which factors are important and why, and being able to examine and prioritize different elements, will ultimately allow them to come to wise decisions.
Psychotherapist | Author
Critical thinking is crucial to success in most areas of life.
If you’re not able to question and reflect on your own ideas or other data presented to you, then you’re going to have a tough time in life.
People who have the ability to use logic and reasoning are far less likely to make mistakes and are more likely to be able to solve problems effectively.
Critical thinking is relevant to succeeding in work, studies and relationships.
But, more than that, it allows us to make reasoned decisions about everything around us, from what we see in the media to politics to ethics. Instead of blindly following our own or others’ dogma, we are able to see more clearly when we think critically.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of critical thinking is that it allows you to reflect on yourself, your individual values and beliefs, and make decisions accordingly. People who are able to do this have the most meaningful and fulfilling lives.
Critical thinkers are also people who are most likely to change the world or community around them for the better.
People with the ability to think critically can mix empathy and logic, without either dominating, meaning they can come up with effective solutions to social issues that really matter.
PhD Student | Board Member | Researcher | Educator
Critical thinking is important because, apart from promoting analysis, evaluation, and inferences, it allows us to move past assumptions and self-perspective.
Without critical thinking, problems in our society such as the academic achievement gap or mental health issues would go unaddressed because people would not question them; they would not consider the underlining causes of such issues.
Questions capture curiosity and curiosity birth research whether formal or informal.
We have the innovative and life-saving technology now because of someone’s ability to think critically. It also allows us to question our own biases and behaviors through self-reflection.
We are not egocentric and can understand the perspectives of diverse populations because we can, again, analyze and evaluate different experiences, ideas, and etc.
Critical thinking is important as we are in the information age.
Some folks will view data points with emotions and interpretations. The problem is, their interpretations are based on what they know and understand to be true or their interpretations are based on their limited value and belief system.
However, in the information age, the game changers are what you didn’t know you didn’t know or being told something you thought you knew but didn’t know what you didn’t know.
This is why disruption is the future.
So if people interpret things based on what they know they know, the interpretations are limited in scope as we human beings mostly live in fear and anxiety or some form of programmed confusion and compliance.
However, as we are in the information age:
- People need to Update their levels of consciousness.
- People need to increase their levels of awareness.
- People need to live in the Palace of Possibility.
- The meaning of life is some form of self-actualization.
- The quickest route to self-actualization is transformation to an information, processing and self actualization being.
- To take data, process it and monetize it for health, wealth or happiness.
Founder and CEO of The Innovare Group, Inc. | Executive Consultant | Keynote Speaker
As a former business executive and now the owner of a boutique organizational strategy consultancy, I see a lack of critical thinking as one of the major issues affecting business communication and results.
And it drives me crazy.
At the root of the problem are people taking direction, moving too fast and not asking enough clarifying questions. The outcome is misalignment that impacts not only for the organization internally but the customers it serves.
I counsel teams on the importance of exercising this critical thinking muscle on a regular basis as part of their decision-making workflow.
I’ve summarized the following steps I take them through:
Step 1: Pause (literally) and sit back.
Step 2: Assess Impact. Ask “Have we gained perspective from everyone that this action will affect?”
This isn’t about taking more time to make a decision. This is about saving time later and engaging those that might be implementing what roles out.
Taking a moment to include their critical point of view also strengthens the relationship and helps them to be “seen”.
So if the answer is “no”, then that’s the next step.
Step 3: Create a high-level communication brief that explains what the topic was under review, a summary of the perspectives that were considered, and a solution that is inclusive of the final outcome.
Thomas Sobczak, Jr.
Vice President, NYC/DHC, Inc | Independent Consultant
Critical thinking (not to be confused with criticism) is a skill that teaches us to question or reflect on information and our own knowledge in order to see, build and evaluate arguments or points-of-view, judge the relevance and importance of ideas and to solve problems with reason and logic.
Such a skill is vital to one’s performance in all facets of life from work to relationships.
Critical thinking helps us to logically define our belief systems (religious, political, social, etc.) by noting inconsistencies and flaws in thinking as well as logically examining the evidence that supports those beliefs.
Critical thinking is probably the most important skill to have today in a world of “fake” news, made-up “facts”, and technological sleight-of-hand.
Founder, Study Page LLC
Critical thinking is important because it allows students to make logical deductions.
When a student truly wants to learn something they must understand the material, and in order to understand such material, alternative solutions and problem-solving is a must.
For example, in preparing for the SAT exam it is important to think outside the box and not let routine formulas get in the way of solving the problem the fastest.
In fact, I have found that doing the problem the traditional way sometimes can take 5 times as long to solve versus thinking logical and finding patterns.
This test forces a student to challenge the traditional way of learning and critically think of what answer choices make no sense as a reasonable answer. This skill can only be honed by careful analysis of the evidence presented.
By building critical thinking, students can allow for the correct answer to be more widely noticed and detour them for choosing answer choices that make no logical sense aside from fitting into a formula that they might have computed incorrectly.
Students need critical thinking skills in order to stop blindly being led into believing the information presented to them.
This skill is incredibly necessary today since so much information available on the web comes from so many unreliable sources.
Teacher | Writer
Critical thinking is important because it teaches us to think about information separate from people’s motivations and agendas.
In the age of fake news, it is important for people to think about the information they are receiving and where it comes from.
When people think critically, they are able to make decisions based on information they can see and prove rather than just the opinions of people. This promotes informed decisions instead of an emotional one.
As a teacher, I especially believe teaching middle schoolers critical thinking skills is empowering. When students are able to take a step back and objectively analyze a situation, they are able to make better decisions both in and out of the classroom.
Through evaluating readings in classes, brainstorming solutions to complex real-world problems, and thinking on their feet, students use their critical thinking skills to better themselves and their community.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to ask adolescents to look at situations objectively, the challenge ultimately allows them to grow.
Partner, Strategy Director | Director of the Board, Mentorship Chair
I don’t know about you but I have felt at times that the universe wasn’t playing nice with me and nothing in my logical decisions made it any better.
But why is that?
I contend that it is because we are in a constant state of confusion and what we take for rational, critical thoughts, are a vain attempt to make sense of the world.
When true critical thinking happens, it feels like a crisp and clear fall morning, a magic moment of crystalline clarity where there is no option but a single path forward, and positive results are over delivered.
We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything and then believe there are the truth. We have readily accepted the beliefs and meanings that our parents, teachers, etc., told us, accepting our operating system.
The system is inherently flawed! As Einstein said, “If I had 60 minutes to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes defining it, and 5 minutes solving it”.
Critical thinking i.e. the objective evaluation and analysis of a problem in order to solve it is the crucial key to removing the unnecessary confusion and realize our true potential on both personal and professional levels.
Founder of SKI Charities | Finance Professional
The skill of thinking critically is key to entrepreneurship.
Balancing the short-term with the long-term while keeping employees engaged and motivated will make or break any structure.
As a social entrepreneur, I have learned to manage and empower staff and beneficiaries through the constant thought of what drives them and our mission forward.
While a founder or CEO may enjoy early momentum or start-up energy, I have found sustainable success to be far more inclusive and deliberate.
Encouraging critical thinking throughout the organization is vital as local level ownership and buy-in will determine the success of any project or enterprise. Autonomy in thought and decision-making must be shared from the entrepreneur to the field.
SEO Content Writer |Affiliate Marketer
Here are 3 reasons why critical thinking is important.
#1 Able to see beyond the norm, ability to find another way to solve a problem (often simpler, more efficient).
Critical thinking is not a widespread skill.
Whenever you have one person that is truly able to reflect about a particular problem, you have fifty around him that have pre-set, commonly accepted “solution” about that problem.
That one person, though outnumbered 50 to 1, is actually an advantage.
Since he isn’t swayed by the herd mentality, he can think clearly and is often able to find a better resolution to the problem; or form an opinion that is closer to the truth that the norm.
Bottom line, critical thinking protects from the fallacy that “Fifty brains are smarter than one” Not true!
#2 Improved decision making and confidence that stems from it.
People for whom critical thinking is the norm are way more confident about their decisions.
Namely, they realize that no amount of thinking can prevent mistakes and that whenever there is an element of the unknown (always); there’s a chance for a mistake, and nothing can help that.
But they also know that; by analyzing the problem from all angles, by being driven to find the best answer and by not insisting that their answer is the best – they bring that chance of error to be as low as it can go, and that brings peace because there is some kind of deep, humane, joy in knowing that you did everything you could and that the rest is not your concern.
Come what may- I’m ready as I’ll ever be.
#3 An appreciation of differing worldviews and enhanced communication as the result.
I touched upon this a bit in the previous point.
Critical thinking allows a person to appreciate others and their opinions.
If they see that someone has a more grounded opinion and that they’ve stumbled upon the truth (even if by accident), they will give up their opinion in a flash, even if they spent a lot of time trying to justify it with reason’s best arguments.
Oh, creativity- bow down to the truth.
So critical thinking puts THE TRUTH before MY OWN TRUTH, and it teaches humility. Which is insanely important for good relations (No one likes a know-it-all).
- Critical thinking makes you a thoroughly better person.
- You’ll be able to make better decisions.
- You’ll be able to get along with others (better).
- You’ll understand the world better.
- You’ll be happier.
CEO & Co-Founder, Upgrow
Critical thinking can be the difference between complete rote tasks inefficiently without ever thinking about why or how you’re doing it, and looking at the task, internalizing the purpose and process, then creating an optimized method for completing it.
Critical thinkers don’t accept the status quo and instead understand things as a deeper level to develop a more ideal approach.
For example, if two workers take on the same task, one a critical thinker and one not, the results will be very different.
If they are making a report, the less critical thinker will require a step-by-step process to collect and format each piece of data in the report. They would struggle to build insights from the report when it was done.
A more critical thinker would not only create the report but would seek ways to automate it, specifically, they make suggest using a 3rd party reporting solution or connecting to data from an API without manual effort. This would give them more time to review the report and highlight insights from the data.
COO /Co-Founder, ClutchPrep.com
We are always tempted to go with our gut feeling, make the decision “on the fly,” or simply not spend enough time analyzing the situation.
But every significant decision making, in my opinion, needs to go through a thorough critical-thinking phase.
If you need to make a big purchase, you always want to make you make the right decision, you need to weight out “pros” and “cons“, implication it might have on other people or the business, etc. That is not achievable without proper critical thinking process.
I like asking “Why?” questions.
Oftentimes, after few “why’s” you will find yourself either realizing that you have compelling enough argument that got vetted through the why-phase, or you will find yourself realizing that there are not enough reasons for why you should be doing x or y.
Again – this is critical thinking, asking critical questions, and being self-critical. Only with that approach, you will be able to look back and realize that you made the right call.
Founder, Growth Marketing
Critical thinking is more important than the ability to memorize facts or numbers, even though schools seem to emphasize memorization overthinking.
During your school years you’ll be rewarded for your ability to memorize, but after you graduate, you’ll realize critical thinking is much more important for your everyday life.
As long as you can take stock of a situation, and be able to critically evaluate all the factors involved, you’ll be able to see opportunities, create businesses, find solutions, and impact the reality around you.
If you only know how to memorize, you won’t be able to find solutions, create your own reality or impact the world around you, you’ll just be a cog in a reality that someone else created.
Jazz Musician | Writer
Critical thinking isn’t important. It’s essential.
Where it used to be a luxury, now it’s a survival skill.
Within ten years it may be impossible for anyone to know whether a video they see of a politician is real or an animated fake. Impossible, not just difficult.
Anyone growing up in this time will most certainly consider anything and everything they see, hear and read as a suspect for the rest of their lives.
That leaves nothing but critical thinking.
If a politician seems to have said something outrageous, the only way the viewer will know if it’s legitimate is by determining through some kind of reasoning process whether it’s likely.
In fact, the people of the near future will have to trust themselves much more than we “Google” addicts do.
They will not only need critical thinking to assess the information they’re getting. They will need it to address solutions. The problems they’ve been born into aren’t going away.
Because it is likely that humans will be able to interface much more directly with computers / artificial intelligence than they have prior, thinking ability and computing power will no longer be an issue.
People will be able to compete much more evenly on that front. The difference between the winners and the losers will be those who know what to do with their computing power.
Critical thinking will be one of the important dividers. Those who can leverage that astounding intellectual force will be able to move mountains. Those who can’t be swept away in the current.
We see critical thinking as some kind of good. In fact, it’s very neutral, as the results can be used for benign or destructive purposes.
What is irrefutable is that critical thinking will be a plateau below which anyone that wants to survive in the world will not be able to live without.
Founder, Halo Homebuyers LLC, Halo Redevelopment
Critical thinking skills seem to be even more important in today’s times because of the availability of free information that is at everyone’s disposal via the internet.
Individuals can literally search for anything via the search engines like Google or Youtube to find information on things they don’t know and to learn about anything they desire.
However, along with this readily available and abundantly free-flowing information, we can find the truth buried deep beneath the surface.
Curiosity and the desire to learn are certainly good character traits in the pursuit of higher education and self-improvement, but without the ability to critically think, discerning fact from fiction can seem like an impossible task in today’s world.
The problem many young people face today is that without putting in the effort to learn how to be critical thinkers, they run the risk at taking answers at face value without discovering the credibility and reliability of the source.
Without practice and being trained in the ability to critically think, the pursuit of actual truth becomes secondary to finding the “quick” answer or solution.
All wise decisions in life and business stem from critical thinking, and only practice will make one better at it.
Director, IBcreative | Director, ImprovBoston National Touring Company
In a world of smartphones where we all have every fact in history in our pocket, what we know is not as important as how we apply it.
Critical thinking allows students to think beyond the problem, all the way to solutions that go beyond test answers.
It isn’t enough to regurgitate information, we need to be able to use it.
HR Consultant, Anglo Liners
Critical thinking is an excellent skill to learn and is important in both the workplace and as a student at school or university.
In every workplace, employers want you to get involved, discuss ideas and pick out strengths and weaknesses of a task, campaign or idea, all of which critical thinking allows you to do by teaching you to approach new information with new theories.
CEO | Women’s Leadership Expert
Critical thinking allows you to solve problems that you may not ordinarily be able to solve or to solve them in the best possible way.
You achieve these results by rearranging the pieces and information you have, and by creating new solutions and alternatives.
Critical thinking is also a great way to make sure you are not blinded by compliance, and “Doing things this way because it’s the way we’ve always done it.”
Instead of following instructions and getting average results, you can blaze a new path and get extraordinary results.
Critical thinking is increasingly important to the survival of humanity.
Here’s what I mean — there are several “big issues” that could threaten us to extinction or near extinction in the next few hundred years. These issues include global warming, population growth and similar.
There is a range of valid data for each of these problems, and in some cases, we have smart, motivated people working on solutions.
However there is also misinformation, on both sides, that can confuse the general public and their support for these solutions. In this way, teaching critical thinking and giving people opportunities to improve these skills is not only an important life lesson but also essential to making sure we make it to the year 3000 and beyond.