Article • March 9, 2021

Invest an Hour to Boost Your Critical Thinking Skills

A woman pointing to her head.

By Karen Foster and Krista Gerhard

These days, you probably hear a lot about critical thinking and how the world needs more of it. It’s true.  Critical thinking skills are in great demand, but they are, on average, not really where they need to be. So, on March 17, we’ll be conducting a virtual session with the Philadelphia chapter of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA): Using critical thinking to improve strategies and drive performance. We hope you’ll invest an hour and join us for the session. Our goals are to help you boost your own critical thinking skills and to provide some guidance on how to boost the skills of others.

Why are Critical Thinking Skills Important?

Critical thinking skills are growing increasingly important across a wide range of industries. However, the demand for them is especially great in biopharmaceuticals and healthcare. This is because of our industry’s high level of complexity, rapid advancement and the sheer amount of data that gets generated.

Overall, there are three primary reasons that strong critical thinking skills are needed now more than ever:

  1. Cognitive overload
  2. High-volume, high-speed decision-making
  3. Human cognitive biases

Cognitive overload is a very real issue for both field- and office-based personnel in life science companies. The working environment involves sophisticated customer groups, substantial and ever-changing regulations, rapid market development, complex science and complicated business models. There is a lot of information to process on any given day. It can be a challenge to keep up with all of it and separate the useful stuff from the noise. Critical thinking is like a lifeboat that keeps us from drowning in a sea of information.

In our industry, we don’t just process information for the sake of processing information. We’re expected to do something with it. Life science professionals have to make a lot of decisions, often under serious time constraints. We need strong critical thinking skills to derive insights from information and make good decisions. 

Human cognitive biases also come into play. These biases, such as confirmation bias, overconfidence bias and “the curse of knowledge” can help us in some ways, acting as shortcuts to help us more quickly process information and make decisions. However, they can also hurt us, and we need to be aware of them. In times of cognitive overload, we tend to more easily fall prey to them, which can negatively affect decision-making. Critical thinking is the antidote to cognitive biases.

When it comes to developing critical thinking skills, it’s important to do so within the domain. In our industry, with all of its complexities, it’s much better to build critical thinking skills by leveraging real-world information from the domain, rather than simply learning critical thinking theory in a general sense.

What the Session Will Cover

As we mentioned above, the goals of our upcoming session are to help you boost your own critical thinking skills—within the healthcare domain—and to help you become a more effective “critical thinking coach” for others.  The session will cover these key things:

  1. What is Critical Thinking? —We’ll define “critical thinking” so everyone will have a common understanding of what that term really means.
  2. Why Critical Thinking Is Important—We’ll expand on what we’ve written here.
  3. Critical Thinking Behaviors—There are clear behaviors and processes that people use when they engage in critical thinking. We’ll outline what those are and even dive into the “language” of critical thinking.
  4. Strengthening Critical Thinking—Finally, we will share some exercises, tips and techniques that you can use to develop and strengthen critical thinking skills.

Be sure to join us online on Wednesday, March 17 at 12:00 noon EST. You can register here.

We hope to (virtually) see you then!