develop your critical thinking muscle

If you would be a real seeker after truth,
it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt,
as far as possible, all things.
~Rene Descartes

the value of critical thinking

What is the value of gaining insight into your critical thinking skills? First, knowing if critical thinking is a strength helps you to determine how to approach a problem or situation and who to add to your team in order to supplement your strengths. If you are not strong in critical thinking, find someone who is and ask them to join the team. Be for warned, however. Critical thinking can be risky business if all you want is someone to agree with you on a decision and not challenge you or your information. If you want to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason, critical thinking is a valuable skill and a necessary one.

what is critical thinking?

It is the process of applying reasoned and disciplined thinking to a subject. It is challenging assumptions. it is the ability to correctly understand information, a situation or problem from different perspectives in order to take or suggest the best possible action.

do I have critical thinking skills?

  • Do you first ask questions and gather information to understand the current situation?
  • Do you first try to completely understand the situation before forming an opinion?
  • Do you recognize when you have a bias toward a solution or perspective?
  • Do you check the facts of the current situation for accuracy?
  • Do you challenge assumptions that the information may include?
  • Do you challenge assumptions of those who gathered or are presenting the data?
  • Do you try to look at the data in different formats to challenge the presentation method?
  • Do you recognize and challenge your own assumptions in the situation?
  • Do you ask others involved in the situation to provide their perspectives?
  • Do you verify and validate the information?
  • Do you gather evidence to support the information?
  • Do you recognize patterns and correlations of the data?
  • Do you look for reasonableness in the data?

develop critical thinking skills with practice

If you want to strengthen your critical thinking skills, the best way is with practice. When you are faced with a situation or problem to be solved, consider these steps:

  1. process: take in, gather information
  2. understand: what are the key points, assumptions, arguments and evidence presented with respect to your topic?
  3. analysis: how do these components fit together, are patterns or correlations evident?
  4. compare: explore the similarities, differences between the ideas / solutions you are considering.
  5. synthesize: bring together different sources of information to serve the argument you are constructing. Make logical connections between the different sources that help you shape and support your ideas.
  6. evaluate: assess the worth of each idea in terms of its relevance to your needs, the evidence on which it is based and how it relates to other pertinent ideas.
  7. apply: transfer the understanding you have gained from your critical evaluation and use it in response to questions posed by team members as the group provides various perspectives.
  8. justify: use critical thinking (a culmination of all previous steps) to develop arguments, draw conclusions, make inferences and identify implications. This is your decision making step – where the choice is made.

The process can take a great deal of time for complex situations and decisions, but critical thinking can be applied to many decisions large and small. Consider the decisions you make daily in your life of business:  selecting a software tool to support an in house business process; choosing a social media strategy; or proposing a Leadership Development program to your clients. Do you jump to conclusions before applying critical thinking skills? Do you select a solution before truly knowing the problem? Are you choosing to do the right thing at the right time for the right reasons? Begin to strengthen your critical thinking skills now. Practice, practice, practice.