As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, newer technologies and even newer frameworks of industry are coming up. One of the most talked-about skills lately which is also doing rounds among the corporate machinery is that of critical thinking. A lot of job posters are adding ‘Critical Thinking and Analysis’ as an important skill when creating their job descriptions. Let us take a look at what it is and why is it important for engineers and engineering students to possess critical thinking ability.

What is Critical Thinking?

The first and foremost question one can ask is, “What is this critical thinking, that everyone is talking about?” To answer is simply, the ability to look at a given thing, project, result, etc. in a fair and unbiased manner and thinking about the pros and cons without inhibition is what is called critical thinking by many experts. A critical thinker doesn’t accept something at its face value, but rather indulges in questioning the very ideas and assumptions that the premise holds.

 E.g. The Sun rises in the East and sets in the West. This is a well-accepted fact. However, the other questions that revolve around this can be, “Why do we call East, the East? Why not by any other name?” Now, the answer to this is that East is a name given to the direction the Sun rises, not the other way round. The Sun will still rise from the same direction whether you call it East or even North.

Questioning the nomenclature of directions, in this case, became redundant. However, the ability to ask such questions and then coming to answers on your own is an important part of critical thinking.

How to Think Critically?

Thinking critically doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Some may be able to think easily, while some may not. However, to develop your critical thinking ability, you can take these 5 steps:

  1. Identify the Real Problem
    Let us understand this with an example. A mobile phone helps you make calls from anywhere there is a signal. The actual problem before cell phones came into being was the presence of wires. The cell phone solved that problem.
    You can now think of the problems your day-to-day objects solve for you.
  2. Think of Creative Solutions
    The company that invented the cell phone had to get rid of wires. So they thought of transmitting electricity in a wireless manner. That was a creative solution. However, it had its own set of engineering problems. Installing a rechargeable battery thus became an excellent solution for the mobile handheld telephonic device.
  3. Logic Analysis
    Once you get a possible solution, you need to think of the logic behind it. Coming to wireless electricity transmission, this technology was and still is essentially not replicable on a large scale globally. The cost of such a project was also huge. Also, this solution did not address the problem of what would happen if someone went out of the wireless power field. The logical analysis thus debunks this as a pliable solution.
  4. Decision Making
    Once all your parameters have been addressed, make a decision. Once again, in the case of our cell phone’s example, all the logic was explored, the team came to the conclusion that a battery-powered device is the most pragmatic solution to the mobility problem. 
  5. Implementation of the Solution
    After a decision is made, we may work upon it and implement the observed results/solution that attempts to solve a problem in the best possible way. Thus they decided to go with the same and then on September 21, 1983, Motorola launched the DynaTAC 8000X commercial cell phone.

Summary

Critical thinking has been a part of the human life and development of civilisation for a very long time. In fact, it is critical thinking and the ability to channel it that has paved the way for a lot of discoveries and inventions. Remember, very few inventions are accidents. Most inventions are a result of meticulous and tedious research, analysis, decisions, and implementation of those decisions. At the core of it all lies the ability to critically think over a problem and either finding a solution to it or improving the existing one.

Remember, one cannot become an expert in critical thinking overnight. It is a skill that can be mastered only through rigorous training of the mind. If you are a student, you can start training yourself right away. Read some good articles, follow experts and their advice on social media.

How MLRIT Can Help You

MLRIT is a pioneer institute in Dundigal, Telangana which offers engineering courses in 10+ fields for both graduate and undergraduate students. An autonomous institute affiliated to the JNTUH, MLR Institute of Technology features as one of the top 10 engineering institutes in Hyderabad. As a part of the curriculum, the college imbues the values of critical thinking so that the students become excellent engineers when they pass out. Admissions are currently open. You may visit the college website or download the brochure for more information on the courses taught and the placement records.

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