If you want to succeed in 21st century business you need to become a critical thinker.
The good news is that critical thinking much like golfing or videography is a skill that can be taught. Everyone can learn to recognize and use critical thinking skills and get better with time. The challenge today is not to abandon what has been learnt in the past, but to build upon traditional competencies with a whole new and more complex set of skills, tools and sensitivities.
Leaders today need to learn how to be discerning, how to think clearly and wisely, and how to be accountable for their impact on the business. The process of developing Critical Thinking can be more challenging than improving a behavioral skill. Success is demonstrated only through results.
As with any skill, intellectual or otherwise, the key to building critical thinking — and achieving successful results — is practice. People learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process and are engaged in the behaviors they want to learn. What’s vital is a job-related context.
Acquiring critical thinking skills requires participating in learning experiences that compel you to consider new ways of thinking and acting within complex situations that are directly related to the work that you do. You need the opportunity to respond to issues, reflect on and reframe your experiences, develop new thinking, and in turn, engage in new behaviors and actions that are relevant to your job role.
Developing your Critical Thinking Skills
Here’s how leaders can take charge of their own critical thinking development by taking these actions:
- Get some feedback about your critical thinking skills from a trusted boss, colleague or coach
Are you jumping to conclusions or using a reasoned, logical and analytic process as you work towards a goal? Are you able to put aside biases and assumptions during analysis and decision-making? What kind of "thinker" are you perceived to be and why?
- Challenge yourself to develop a deeper understanding of your company's business, especially its financial and strategic drivers
Are you clear about what drives the organization’s decisions, how financial success is achieved and how you impact both strategy and the bottom line? Is your knowledge of the business strong enough to engage teams and employees? Ae your decisions aligned to these strategic parameters?
- Use multiple sources of data to form an "information web" before making a decision or forming a conclusion
Are you asking a lot of questions? Are you asking the ‘right’ questions? Have you identified stakeholders and their issues/opinions? Do you separate facts from assumptions? Are you using the Internet as one of your main sources of information rather than "the" source? Can you analyze information from different perspectives and viewpoints?
- Take time to think
Are you rising above the fray when it is important to make a decision, take action or form an opinion? Are you aware of the distractions getting in the way of your thinking and taking action to minimize these distractions? Are you finding time and space to let your mind focus and reflect on important issues?
- Ask for input, critique and opinions from others as you analyze alternatives
Are you checking tentative conclusions with others? Do you use your peers, coaches or mentors to play the devil’s advocate? Are you willing to open your mind to other ideas or alternatives?
In a world of growing uncertainty one thing is certain; we will need sharp critical thinkers who can size up the situation, identify potential where others may not, and mindfully seize opportunities for organizational success.