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Critical Thinking Will Be Necessary When Using AI

Justin Reinert Talent24
Justin Reinert, SHRM-SCP, a corporate trainer and principal of Performance Accelerated Learning, speaking April 15 at the SHRM Talent Conference & Expo 2024.

Artificial intelligence is gaining widespread adoption in the workplace, and critical thinking skills will be key to successfully using the technology to improve work and limit negative consequences.

AI is a powerful tool, but the results need to be questioned and verified by humans in your organization, said Justin Reinert, SHRM-SCP, a corporate trainer and principal of Performance Accelerated Learning, speaking April 15 at the SHRM Talent Conference & Expo 2024 (Talent 2024).  

“AI offers an opportunity and an imperative for enhanced critical thinking skills in the workplace as responsibilities for some will change from producers to verifiers,” he said.

Critical thinking is the practice of analysis to understand a problem or topic thoroughly. Critical thinking typically includes steps such as collecting information and data, asking thoughtful questions, and analyzing possible solutions.

This important skill is even more necessary in the age of AI, because the technology is still prone to negative outcomes, such as the potential for making up or “hallucinating” information, generating biased results and demonstrating gaps in reasoning.

Some recent noteworthy misses include:

“The use of AI in the workplace is fast growing and quickly evolving—an individual’s ability to discern fact from AI hallucination is increasingly challenging,” Reinert said. “Without deep critical thinking skills, we face a danger where falsehoods are being incorporated into our workplaces and consumer interactions. The educators in the corporate world will have the responsibility to develop this in your people.”

He added that there are two paths forward: a path of automation and a path of new capabilities for humans.

“Typically, as technology advances, we use technology to automate processes, make things faster and more efficient,” he said. “But as we appropriate AI into our work, there is another path to be mindful of. Identify the things that are uniquely human, and make sure you develop those skills in people, and then automate what can be automated. Ensure that humans stay front of mind.”

Of course, to effectively use, train and improve AI, those involved must have strong critical thinking skills themselves.

5 Critical Thinking Skills and How to Develop Them

Reinert listed the following critical thinking skills and what employers can do to help build these capabilities in their workforce:

1. Observation, or the ability to notice and predict opportunities, problems, and solutions. Organizations can practice scenario and risk planning, engaging teams with various possibilities, mindfulness training to improve concentration and focus, and competitive intelligence exercises.  

2. Analysis, or the gathering, understanding, and interpreting of data and other information. This can be practiced through data analysis training, data interpretation workshops and data reviews.

3. Inference, or drawing conclusions based on relevant data, information, and personal knowledge and experience. This skill can be developed through case study analyses related to specific work functions, critical reading and discussion assignments, and mind mapping exercises to identify connections in disparate information.

4. Communication, or the sharing and receiving of information with others verbally, nonverbally, and in writing. Organizations can practice this skill with role-playing scenarios, through public speaking opportunities, and by holding feedback sessions and peer reviews.

5. Problem-solving, or choosing and executing a solution after identifying and analyzing a problem. Problem-solving can be developed through root cause analysis drills to find the underlying causes of a problem; working through a decision-making matrix to evaluate potential solutions based on feasibility, impact and cost; and via simulation exercises that mimic real-world challenges.


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.