The importance of critical thinking & creativity for leaders & new hires

Professional skills

Posted 18 October 2023

Written by Karl Thomas

While we’re often presented with absolutes on the future of work landscape through various research outlets, social media platforms, influencers and thought leaders; the only real absolute is change.

With the advent of AI, and its recent and increasing iterations, the growing presence of Gen Z and the looming Gen Alpha in the workplace, many of the past studies predicting the landscape will require revision.

This ever new normal means we, as trainers, employers and employees, and most importantly, leaders, will have to adapt, and stay adaptable to stay productive and relevant.

Change is the Only Constant: Heraclitus


As a leader, bringing new members into your team calls for a range of skills not required in the past.

We might have enjoyed a leader with high EQ (emotional quotient) in the past, but today it’s necessary. We may have appreciated a leader with the 4 I’s of Transformational Leadership in play, but with today’s evolving workplace, and more pronounced differences across generational characteristics, it’s fundamental to the success and growth of any organisation.

A leader who lacks the capacity for Critical Thinking to recognise the challenge and inform their EQ will struggle to retain staff. A leader who lacks the Critical Thinking and Creativity to face shifting challenges will struggle to support an evolving staff challenged by increasingly complex settings.

A skill set based in Critical Thinking, creative and innovative engagement, and problem solving, will greatly offset the risks inherent in an ever-changing workplace.

New Entrants

The challenge for new entrants into the workplace is different, but no less formidable.

Deconstructing the cultural landscape, defining their own challenges, both work related and interpersonal, and creating their own range of solutions before selecting the right one requires a range of skills unfortunately not as overtly addressed at university as might benefit an organisation.

Google is a great resource, but for many digital natives it leads to a default of finding an answer rather than – defining a problem, thinking, then generating a solution. This model of behaviour is replicated in the workplace, which stymies the individual’s progress, and the organisation’s capacity to be creative and innovative.

Critical Thinking & Creativity

Key Critical Thinking behaviours, like seeking clarity, accuracy and precision, analysing and evaluating information, engaging with intellectual humility, noting the impact of bias or a limited capacity to attend to problem variables beyond the frame of interest, all serve to impact our strength as decision makers, solutioneers, and productive members of a teams. 

Simply put, Critical Thinking helps us to define the problem; Creativity helps us to generate the solution.

Unfortunately the approach taken by many is to retrieve a solution based on past success. This is perfectly reasonable if the problem and its context is identical. For those more critically engaged, there is an opportunity to deconstruct the problem and the context in which the problem has arisen. This gives us the scope to see beyond the symptoms of the problem.

Once we have established the problem to be solved, recognising how our own bias can create a very skewed lens we leverage our skills as creative solutioneers. We start with creative fluency, then select from the abundance of solutions the one that best addresses the problem within the well-defined context in which the problem has arisen. Simple, right?

It’s because this process is seen as complex, or slow, in a space where delivery is often more readily rewarded, that we default to pattern oriented complacency. We dig into our bag of ready-made solutions, apply the band aid, and move on. This approach applies to both the technical and person-centred challenges we face in the workplace. This is why Critical Thinking is fundamental to our ongoing ability to respond to new challenges, in increasing complex contexts with new staff bringing new needs, and new skills. This is why Critical Thinking is fundamental to our goal of increasing competitive advantage, it’s not a default mental setting, so most overlook the advantages in favour of quick solutions. 

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