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Bosses Seek ‘Critical Thinking,’ but What Is That? secured by

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An Important Skill for Young Workers Has a Variety of Definitions

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Critical thinking may be similar to U. You know it when you see it, says Jerry Houser, associate dean and director of career services at Willamette University in Salem, Ore. When recruiters tell Mr.

His office encourages students to prepare stories to illustrate their critical-thinking prowess, detailing, for example, the steps a club president took to improve attendance at weekly meetings.

For their part, students seem to think they are ready for the office. But their future bosses tend to disagree.

A Harris Interactive survey of 2, U. Linda Elder, an educational psychologist and the president of the Foundation for Critical Thinking, which promotes educational reform, says employers really want well-trained problem solvers and not critical thinkers, especially in the lower ranks. Write to Melissa Korn at melissa. Dow Jones, a News Corp company.

News Corp is a network of leading companies in the worlds of diversified media, news, education, and information services. Running a small business can be a deeply personal endeavor, a way to channel a passion or to live out a dream. But your business won't succeed, unless you regularly take cold, hard looks at the numbers and facts, and then you use this information to make choices consistent with your underlying vision.

Good business decisions don't come exclusively from critical thinking, but critical thinking is a valuable tool, along with intuition. The more effectively you organize your work flow, the more efficiently your work gets done, and the more money your company earns. Critical thinking helps you examine processes, evaluate their efficiency and then make decisions about new systems and technologies. To think critically about operations, identify areas where you can collect and analyze data -- such as the average dollar value of the items your production staff makes in an hour.

Use this information to pinpoint areas that can be improved. Brainstorm about solutions to remedy these inefficiencies. Then, test these solutions, gather new data and begin your critical thinking process again. It can be particularly difficult to use critical thinking when making decisions about personnel, because relationships and interactions can be so complex and charged. An employee may irritate you but that employee might still do excellent work.

Or, you may truly enjoy the company of a coworker who does sloppy, inefficient work. You can use critical thinking to separate your personal likes and dislikes from the needs of your business. Your business will benefit the most from having efficient employees. If your morale is affected by having an employee you truly dislike, you might need to use critical thinking to evaluate whether the value of that person's work is worth your discomfort and frustration, and what legal and moral options you have.

As with personnel decisions, customer service situations often call for critical thinking in the face of an emotional response.

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