3 Ways Critical Thinking Differs From Strategic Thinking

I’ve spent the last three days talking about critical thinking with training & learning and development folks at this year’s American Society for Training & Development conference in Chicago.  In all my conversations, I have to admit that there is a ton of buzz around critical thinking. Specifically around how to measure someone’s capabilities and improve their skill set. But there’s also a lot of confusion around how to differentiate critical thinking from strategic thinking.

How is critical thinking different from strategic thinking? Perhaps this is such a common question because the answer isn’t black and white. The concepts have a lot of overlap but after careful consideration I have some light to shed on the subject.

Strategic thinking is future oriented.  Critical thinking can be current and/or future oriented.

You could argue that strategic thinking has a larger impact, perhaps, because it has so many moving parts. Critical thinking, however, is the foundation that should be applied to those moving parts. Great strategic thinkers are also great critical thinkers because they apply critical thinking to every aspect of strategic thinking and strategy planning.

Strategic thinking is often associated with specific job titles, projects, initiatives, etc. where as critical thinking is all encompassing. I have yet to find a job or project where critical thinking wouldn’t be beneficial or even necessary.

This is by no means a concrete, extensive answer for how the two concepts are different. This does, however, draw some lines to distinguish them as separate concepts. I encourage you to help out & weigh in: what differences do you see between critical thinking & strategic thinking?

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Elizabeth Pauker-Silva

2 responses to “3 Ways Critical Thinking Differs From Strategic Thinking”

  1. Julie Gillis Lanclos

    I’ll share this with my English classes.


    It can be said that Strategic Thinking is focuses on movement toward a desired goal or end state, while Critical Thinking is used to inspect and evaluate each component and stage of movement. Strategic thinking establishes the end in mind, while critical thinking evaluates the accuracy of the map designed to lead to the end state.

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