To be or not to be, to do or not to do, to blog or not to blog; It’s been a dilemma for more than three years to write about this topic and post it as a blog. The matter may not be serious as Hamlet’s dilemma, whether to exist or not, but equally significant and sensitive, and hence the predicament. It is a critical skill, a subject studied and deliberated from 450 BC till today and has the power to change the entire world. Writer and poet Javed Akhtar, in the year 2020, received the Richard Dawkins International award for being a practitioner and subject matter expert on this topic. I reckon you got it. Yes, I am talking about Critical Thinking, a skill to help us reason out and establish what to believe and what not to. 

Imagination and Communication

The evolution of language has helped sapiens to communicate and share their feelings with fellow beings. The unique ability to imagine, along with the capability to communicate, has given man the power to influence other men. Since humans are the only creatures who can speak about things they have not seen, heard or experienced, they can make stories, spread lies, be sarcastic, cheat, complain and blame. They can also love, empathize, be compassionate, be kind and polite. So all of us need to acquire skills to understand intentions, analyze information and opinions to make the right decisions and make these choices a part of our beliefs. This process of filtering information, differentiating facts from opinion, validating data, and believing only when there is evidence is called Critical Thinking. 

Critical thinking is the best defence against superstitions, rituals, traditions and beliefs followed by many groups, cults and religions. Do we blindly believe in these superstitions, rituals and traditions, just because it was followed by our earlier generations? A critical thinker would always question, test and confirm these superstitions or rituals on their truthfulness before making them a part of their belief system. Hence critical thinking plays a vital role in establishing the right set of belief systems in all of us. 

Critical Thinking in Institutions and Organizations

The American Management Association (AMA), in the year 2010, surveyed employees of organizations to find out critical skills required for the success of the workforce of the next generation. They reported Critical Thinking as one of the essential skills in addition to Communication, Collaboration and Creativity. Only a handful of Institutions and Organizations have started to include Critical Thinking skills in their learning catalogue to make their students and employees future-ready. Since critical thinking helps us identify the right problem to solve and make effective decisions by questioning our existing belief system, this skill becomes imperative in all businesses.

Successful leaders make good decisions. Critical thinking is the most needed skill to arrive at impartial and informed decisions. Hence critical thinking becomes one of the core ingredients in leadership development. So, the onus is on educators in institutions and leaders in organizations across departments to make Critical Thinking one of their core competencies in student and employee development. 

A peek into Leaders and Managers behaviour

In organizations, leaders usually rely on their existing knowledge to solve problems. They get conditioned in using a particular process or methodology that has given results in the past. One may notice leaders sometimes discounting a new approach or an idea when they strongly believe in a method or process. However, innovative leaders appreciate new thoughts and ideas that come from any level of employees. 

Have you observed the following in your organization?

Do leaders discourage differences in opinions and disagreements voiced by employees in meetings?

Have you witnessed managers supporting only employees who align with them and being a ‘Yes Boss’ person?

Do you see leaders ostracising employees who question their ideas and concepts during meetings?

Do team members keep quiet during meetings and worry about consequences if they voice disagreements and differences of opinion. 

If you have witnessed the above scenarios in your organization, it is evident that the leaders, managers and team members need training on Critical Thinking.

Beliefs in Organizations

Private and proprietary Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and few large organizations may bring their founder’s religious faith and rituals into their day to day operations of the company. Employees belonging to these faiths may be happy, but others would feel uncomfortable and feel left out. Consider the following questions;

  • Should religious rituals and traditions be a part of the business operations and employee engagement initiatives? 
  • Is it a good practice by organizations to give gifts, bonuses, or performance-linked pays to employees during religious festivals promoting a particular belief? 

 I have worked in large organizations that do not allow religious festivals or rituals to be part of employee engagement activities. It may be a good idea if organizations can give gifts, bonuses, or variable pays during non-religious events like founder’s day, independence day or republic day. Critical thinking can help in questioning traditions, rituals and removing all unconscious biases we possess, promoting collaboration and growth. I believe that engagement activities must be secular, inclusive and help promote a collaborative culture across the organization. 

Institutions focus on Developing Critical Thinking Skills

There are many schools and colleges built on the foundation of religious beliefs. There is no doubt that these schools teach good values through their religious-based teachings, but would it help build a critical thinking society? Should students be counselled using religious views or purely on psychological and barefoot counselling techniques when going through emotional turmoils? I firmly believe that religion is personal, and it should not become a part of any institution as it creates bias and discrimination in children. 

Critical Thinking in our Society

The presence and application of critical thinking skills in citizens can build better societies. The varied beliefs based on caste, region and religion across individuals promote discord and disharmony, and politicians take advantage of this. Social media bombards us with information from all quarters. Do we take measures in ascertaining the authenticity of this information before forwarding it to friends, groups and families? It is the responsibility of every citizen to share information that is non-divisive, non-prejudicial, and truthful. Critical thinking helps remove biases towards an individual or a group and propagates sharing truthful information.

We will have a hopeful and progressive society if schools and colleges focus on developing critical thinking in students. A skill that can unite people where all individuals are citizens of the world, transcending all barriers with no discrimination helping countries and societies flourish and be successful.

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Samuel · October 9, 2021 at 11:03 am

I really appreciate your work George. Critical thinking should necessarily be included in the syllabus throughout the academic learning time. It’s true that team members, or laymen in the case of religious organizations, keep quiet during meetings and worry about consequences if they voice disagreements and differences of opinion. 
Let us be the change we want to see in the world. Blind faith in belief-system, ideologies, doctrine or dogma can never set us free. Only the knowledge of truth can liberate us.

DR.A.BARADESWARAN · October 9, 2021 at 8:42 pm


Deepa Prabhakaran · October 10, 2021 at 10:27 pm

Bang on. Critical thinking and learnability also in my view. Only skills to keep you relevant and reliable going forward. Good one George.

Hari · October 18, 2021 at 2:09 am

Good Article George.

Here’s a question. Should there be a limit to the extent of Critical Thinking?

The reason why I ask you that is simple. For example, let’s take the below example.

If we apply Critical Thinking to human life and it’s impact on Earth – then don’t we come to the objective conclusion that due to human activity- we have exterminated many species (some scientist argue the count is millions – if we include plants, insects). So human population should be culled or even exterminated, to prevent future damage to the planets biodiversity.

Would you agree that the above is a valid output of Critical Thinking?

    George Koshi · October 18, 2021 at 9:30 am

    Thank you for your feedback. It’s no doubt that human beings are the only creature who has destroyed our planet to this extent. But who can take that judgement call of exterminating all human beings to keep this planet safe? Critical thinking is about good thinking. I believe that Human beings evolved much faster after we started communicating in words and letters. Earlier to that we were just like animals hunting and gathering. The selection was based on the agility and physical strength of humans but now it is based on skill (mostly knowledge) and status. All the destruction happened because of our greed and selfishness. Exterminating humans may not be a valid output of critical thinking because we have to generate a belief system to cohabitate and not to make a creature extinct. But if all other animals evolve to become critical thinkers then we never know for them exterminating all of us would be a valid output of their critical thinking process.

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