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Succeeding in postgraduate study
Succeeding in postgraduate study

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4.2 Applying critical and reflective thinking in academic and professional contexts: business and management perspective


Employers from both public and private sector organisations require from their employees an ability to think critically and reflectively, and to apply critical understanding to common everyday work problems and issues (Arum and Roksa, 2011). There are two aspects to this. First, critical thinking is directed externally at some idea, theory, model, concept or framework – you will be introduced to many of these as a postgraduate student and be expected to develop your ability to apply your critical and reflective qualities over the course of your studies. What this means in practice is that you do not just accept an idea unquestioningly, but that you think around it, consider what assumptions underpin it, what agendas are being advanced, and crucially, what is not there that weakens or limits its strength.

As well as thinking critically about ‘external’ issues, you will also be required to develop a greater awareness and understanding of how you think, and why you think in the way that you do – we refer to this as ‘reflective thinking’ and this is the second aspect covered. Why is this important? Well, to be an effective manager you need to exercise judgement, and judgement is always linked to who you are and how you think. Mintzberg (2004) describes management as a craft rather than a science, and managers as craft-workers. Craft-workers are intimately connected to the products they craft, and this suggests that managers are closely connected to the managerial judgements they make. Developing an ability to reflect upon yourself and how you approach management problems and issues is a vital skill that you will need to develop.