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The Talent Development Centre includes advice for independent contractors in IT from one of Canada’s top staffing and recruitment agencies. See all posts about critical thinking.

IT Managers Want to Hire Critical Thinkers. Here’s How You Can Improve.

Critical thinking is a person’s ability to carefully and objectively think through a subject and eliminate personal feelings or opinions to arrive at a final decision. A great critical thinker not only systematically processes information to make rational, logical decisions, but they also fully understand a situation. It is an art of making logical connections between ideas and approaching a situation to get the best possible conclusion.

Many studies have been done about critical thinkers to determine what kind of people are most likely to excel in the area and there are a number of characteristics some argue which are shared among the best. We would argue that anybody can take their critical thinking to the next level and, for IT contractors, it is an absolute must if you want to remain competitive and best serve your clients.

Why Critical Thinking is Important for IT Contractors

Obviously, the ability to make tough decisions based on fact is a valuable skill for any leader. If you don’t plan on leading and are happy working as a team member, you still can’t overlook developing this ability. Critical thinking will help you evaluate situations, get your point across during a discussion (or argument), and develop the most effective solutions for clients. A strong critical thinker is also less likely to get manipulated, whether it be by a colleague, client or unethical recruiter (unfortunately, they are out there).

Most importantly, leading organizations are continually re-evaluating their job requirements and many soft skills — including critical thinking — are topping the list. In Deloitte’s 2019 Industry 4.0 readiness report, they surveyed 612 Technology, Media and Telecom (TMT) organizations, with a close look at a subset of the respondents who were considered “high innovators”. Those companies said that the number one skill they’re trying to develop isn’t technical skills, but instead Critical Thinking skills. They believe that human skills like judgement and critical thinking are unique to humans, can’t be replaced by robots, and are essential for interpretation and final decision making.

IT Managers Want to Hire Critical Thinkers. Here's How You Can Improve.

How You Can Improve Your Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a hot topic that has been flooding the internet for years. We’d be absolutely shocked if this is the first post you’ve read about it and can guarantee it will not be your last. When looking for resources to improve, start with the low-hanging fruit. Explore the thousands of online articles, TED Talks, and books that  already exist to find something that works for you.

Here are just a few simple tips to get you started today:

  • Ask yourself the basic questions you may not have specifically answered yet. What are you trying to accomplish? What do you already know? Why is this an issue? In other words, make sure you truly understand the situation.
  • Know yourself and, more importantly, your cognitive biases that will affect your decisions (this is much more difficult than it sounds)
  • Understand any assumptions that are being made, and then question them. Are they still true or relevant?
  • Approach situations from different angles and with different mediums. For example, if you’ve only been discussing it, try writing it down or drawing a diagram.
  • Get other people’s point of view. Whether it’s talking to somebody you know or reading up on the topic (amateurs on online forums or published authors will all do).

As an IT contractor, improving your critical thinking will go beyond just serving your clients. It will also help you formalize your entire contracting plan and know which technology contracts to go after and staffing agencies to work with. You are also more likely to excel at tough job interview questions and impress recruiters. How are you improving your critical thinking?

How Does Language Shape the Way We Think?

It’s a fact that everybody thinks differently, approaches a problem differently, and overall interprets the world differently. It’s also a fact that remembering and understanding this will help you be a better team member and work more effectively with others.

We shared a video last year discussing how bilingual brains perceive time differently. This video from TED Talks explains further about why people think differently based on their language (the one they speak, not the code). With thousands of different languages around the world, it’s fascinating and eye-opening to realize why some cultures approach problems completely differently from others. If you have a 15 minute break, take some time to check out this video. It might change the way you interact with others on your team.

Are You Prepared with this One “Critical” Skill?

Some will say our post secondary institutions do a good job at preparing students for the world; however, there are critics including Freedom in Thought who believe some specific skills are not being taught, including critical thinking.

According to Freedom for Thought’s video, there are two types of thinkers — Critical Thinkers and Passive Thinkers — and it’s the critical thinkers who are most able to think rationally and succeed as a leader or teammate. Furthermore, the video argues that these thinkers are more creative and able to learn better.

IT contractors are constantly working in teams, leading others, and solving multiple problems, so critical thinking would naturally be a valuable skill in this field. Do you think you can improve yours?

5 Tips to Improve Your Critical Thinking (Video)

When clients engage an independent contractor for their tech projects, they’re often seeking an IT professional who can think outside of the box and move in a direction that hadn’t yet been considered. That could be innovating a brand new solution, but more often, it means troubleshooting small problems and solving them in new, efficient ways. In the end, they want somebody who can think critically on their team.

How are your critical thinking skills? Have you put much work into improving them, or at least testing yourself to see how much improvement they need? Because we can all use some improvement in this area, and critical thinking is a huge differentiator between alright IT contractors and exceptional IT contractors, here’s a video from TED-Ed with five tips to improve your critical thinking.