Practising Critical Thinking in Finance

Practising Critical Thinking in Finance

Jeff Thomson, President and CEO of IMA (Institute of Management Accountants) strongly emphasizes that today’s accountants, financial managers and auditors must have strong critical thinking skills. He explains, “CFO teams have expanded their influence and accountability beyond value stewardship to include value creation, with increasing responsibility for strategy, operations and technology. To step up to this challenge, all members of the CFO team must think critically about strategy and operations to effect smart decisions.”

Critical thinking generally implies making clear, reasoned judgments. Employers justifiably expect entry-level accounting, finance, and audit professionals to demonstrate strong critical thinking skills. University professors can help their students meet their expectation by challenging them to think critically in subjects offered to them. One way to do this is to assign practical activities such as real world case studies that promote curiosity, creativity and scepticism and compel the students to analyse evidence and formulate logical conclusions.

“Invest a few moments in thinking. It will pay good interest”. As interest earned is an important concept in finance, I want from my students to know more than how to calculate the correct answers to problems. Hence, to develop particular building blocks, students are trained through classroom activity and assignments to think critically about interpreting problems, designing solutions and analyzing and evaluating solutions.

There are eight elements of critical thinking:

  • Purpose
  • Question at issue
  • Information
  • Interpretation and inferences
  • Concepts
  • Assumptions
  • Implications
  • Point of view

I try to incorporate and integrate these eight elements into a variety of quizzes, tests and assignments in the introductory finance course on Business Finance for BBA students. These components are used for real-world case studies in the areas of finance and accounting to make students better thinkers. In classroom discussions, these assignments are critically evaluated by peer students on various parameters like clarity, relevance, accuracy, depth and breadth. I remember response of graduation students to an assignment on successful and failure IPO’s in India and overseas, where each one delivered a presentation on exclusive companies like Reliance Power, NTPC, Facebook, DLF, CCD, D-mart, ICICI Prudential etc. and tried to comply with critical thinking component, eventually coming up with the conclusion with relevant fact and figure.

Most finance instructors do significant implicit teaching of critical thinking skills. They assume that students know how to use the tools, which is often not the case. Adhering to the commitment of academic excellence, the key goal of a finance class at JK Lakshmipat University is explicit instruction.

Critical thinking is a must for everyone looking to succeed in today’s business market. As the markets are changing and complexity is growing, the need of critical thinkers is higher. The speed of business, intertwined as it is with global factors and complex supply chain, dictate that managers never know all the variables. Therefore, managers have come out from a comfortable role to a well cultivated critical thinker who will raise vital questions and problems, gather and assess relevant information to come to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, thinking open-mindedly and communicating effectively with others to find solutions to complex problems.

In a world of growing uncertainty, one thing is certain- we will need sharp critical thinkers who can size up the situation, realize the potential where others may not, and seize opportunities through prompt decision making. The finance related courses in MBA and BBA programme of JK Lakshmipat University focus on developing and nurturing critical thinking, so that they become better decision makers and begin to master the processes taught in finance that lead to a strong foundation in decision making. Today’s students will be future’s workforce, thus future-ready courses, will lead to an increase in both efficiency and productivity.


Sarita Gupta,  Institute of Management, JKLU


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