Strategic thinking, logical thinking, and critical thinking are necessary terms to understand for developing strong problem-solving skills. What do these terms mean, and why are they important skills to develop in a professional workplace?
For problems that require future-oriented thinking with a specific objective in mind, strategic thinking is the answer. Strategic thinking (as one might guess) requires developing a strategy in order to achieve a future goal. Organizing a charity fundraiser, for example, would require strategic thinking to hit a specific fundraising goal. Knowing that you have a target to meet, you can use strategic thinking to figure out how to spread awareness about the cause generally and for the fundraiser specifically; without this careful planning, your actions might be haphazard, resulting in unpredictability and wasted effort.
Logical thinking is the skill set we use to work through problems in the here and now. It requires assessing a problem and determining an appropriate course of action to solve it. For example, if you don’t know how to replace an ink cartridge in your printer, you’d use logical thinking to search on Google to find an explainer video or download a user manual. Similarly, if you’re deciding whether to repair or replace an old computer, you’d logically think through the costs and benefits of each option to arrive at the optimal answer.
Some problems are too complex to solve using either strategic or logical thinking alone; these problems require critical thinking, a skill set that requires both strategic and logical thinking in addition to an appreciation of historical or contextual issues. Imagine that a bank has struggled in the past with issues of data security and that resulted in losing customers. Using critical thinking, the bank can find faults in their security based on past experiences and anticipated future threats. Then they can hire a specialist cybersecurity team to test for weaknesses in their current security protocol and implement procedures to fortify it. As a result of going the extra mile and ensuring data security, the bank can advertise its best-in-class system, which, in turn, might help it maintain or even grow its customer base. The multi-step process the bank deployed is an example of using critical thinking.
It is only with critical thinking that the world benefits from new innovations, academic insights, paradigms. While strategic and logical thinking are useful, critical thinking is the secret sauce. The best way to develop a critical thinking mindset is by studying a range of subjects so that you have a framework to anchor ideas.
Xavier Talwatte contributed to this article.