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Critical Thinking and Problem Analysis: A Guide for Business Professionals

Step One

Prepare to Think Critically

In this first step, you will prepare to respond to your boss’s request for an analysis of a problem in your organization. You realize that this will require careful thinking. So, you take time to review the process and to engage in critical thinking and analysis.

When you have completed the critical thinking exercises, you will move on to the next step: identifying the problem.

First, let’s consider what it means to engage in critical thinking. While the application of critical thinking may vary across disciplines, the steps are universal. Adapted from the writings of Bassham, Irwin, Nardone, and Wallace (2011), Lau (2011), and Lau and Chan (2015), critical thinking involves thinking clearly and systematically, and includes:

formulating ideas succinctly and precisely

identifying the relevance and importance of ideas

understanding the logical connections between ideas

identifying, constructing, and evaluating arguments, claims, and evidence

recognizing explicit and implicit assumptions, arguments, and biases

detecting inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning

formulating clear defensible ideas and conclusions

evaluating the pros and cons of decisions

reflecting on one’s own beliefs and values

applying ethical decision making

Identify the Problem

Now that you’re prepared to think critically, it’s time to analyze the situation. Remember the direction from your CEO is to analyze the situation and advise on the two lawsuits. Review the video or transcript in Start Here as needed.

A suggested area of focus is to determine if a conflict of interest would exist in handling the two cases that might be related, and advise how to proceed.

Outline the points that you want to make in the first two sections of your paper (introduction, explanation) and draft those sections.

Next, it’s time to analyze the information.

Step 3: Analyze the Information

Now that you have some understanding of the nature of the breach and the parties involved, it’s time to gather and analyze information. The problem analysis resources will further aid your analysis and development of the third section of the paper.

Outline the points that you want to make in Section 3: Analysis of the Information of your paper, and draft that section.

In the following step, you will consider other viewpoints, conclusions, and solutions.

Problem Analysis

Problem analysis involves framing the issue by defining its boundaries, establishing criteria with which to select from alternatives, and developing conclusions based on available information. Analyzing a problem may not result in a decision, although the results are an important ingredient in all decision making.

Critical Thinking and Analysis

Another way to consider problem analysis is a process that includes identifying and defining the problem, gathering information about the problem, and deciding if one or a group will begin work to solve the problem. A decision to solve the problem leads to analysis of the problem, in this model, asking the what, why, how, and other basic questions. From this point, the group can revisit the decision to solve and refine any issues (risk, cost, feasibility, for example.)

Step 4: Consider and Analyze Other Viewpoints, Conclusions, and Solutions

Once you have completed your analysis of the incident, the next step is to analyze alternative viewpoints, conclusions, and solutions. To do this, you will need to apply ethical decision-making and reasoning. Also, read the highly recommended  Randolph Pherson's "The Five Habits of the Master Thinker," a paper written for intelligence analysts, but applicable to all analytical thinking and reasoning.

Outline the points that you want to make in Section 4: Analysis of Alternative Viewpoints, Conclusions, or Solutions of your paper, and draft that section.

When you are finished, move to the next step, which involves developing conclusions.

Learning Topic


Ethical Decision-Making and Reasoning

What are the different viewpoints? There are often different interpretations of the facts. This may be one of the more challenging aspects of critical thinking. You will also employ ethical reasoning and decision-making, carefully considering all points of view and recommendations to maintain a critical thinking mindset.

Ethical Decision-Making and Reasoning Ethical Decision-Making

Ethical Decision Making

Ethical decision making is the process of assessing the moral implications of a course of action.

Identify the elements of decision making that are directly affected by ethical considerations and social expectations

All business decisions have an ethical or moral dimension because they have an effect on stakeholders.

Ethical decisions cannot be made solely through objective analysis or consideration of data and information, but must rely on judgment and interpretation.

Making ethical decisions also involves choice about who should be involved in the process and how the decision should be made.

Check Your Evaluation Criteria

Before you submit your assignment, review the competencies below, which your instructor will use to evaluate your work. A good practice would be to use each competency as a self-check to confirm you have incorporated all of them. To view the complete grading rubric, click My Tools, select Assignments from the drop-down menu, and then click the project title.

1. Organize document or presentation clearly in a manner that promotes understanding and meets the requirements of the assignment.

2. Develop coherent paragraphs or points so that each is internally unified and so that each functions as part of the whole document or presentation.

3. Tailor communications to the audience.

4. Use sentence structure appropriate to the task, message and audience.

5. Follow conventions of Standard Written English.

6. Identify and clearly explain the issue, question, or problem under critical consideration.

7. Locate and access sufficient information to investigate the issue or problem.

8. Consider and analyze information in context to the issue or problem.

9. Develop well-reasoned ideas, conclusions or decisions, checking them against relevant criteria and benchmarks.

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