Talking to business leaders of all types is one of my life’s greatest blessings. I hear so many wonderful things that are happening in businesses both large and small.
Yet there are things I hear sometimes that give me pause. One of those key topics is the weakness or absence of critical thinking. It seems we have created a generation of graduates from our schools that do not know how to be critical thinkers.
First the Definition
For anyone who might be reading that and wondering what the heck I mean, let me explain. To quote The Foundation for Critical Thinking (Yes, it exists. Visit them here):
Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.The Foundation for Critical Thinking
In business, critical thinking helps us solve problems both large and small. Typically, managers get selected and promoted based on historic data that says this person has done well in their prior role, plus they have some upside potential, so we advance them up the ladder. Part of the logic that gets you recognized this way is the proven ability to problem solve or, think critically.
Normally that ability comes with either a natural tendency or a learned ability to think critically about the situation, asking things like:
- What do I already know about this situation?
- What is missing?
- Who else should be involved?
- What risks am I considering?
- Etc., etc.
It’s these questions that add the ‘critical’ to critical thinking. It doesn’t mean you are being nasty to someone or something, but rather you are being thorough and inclusive in the scope of considerations you add to the decision-making process. Or think of it as being extra rational in your approach.