Successful businesses have perpetually been run by people who can conceptualize and create new products and services that proactively identify and capitalize on both nascent and emerging market trends. These skills are more important than ever before in a world where the pace of technological and cultural change occurs in leaps and bounds. The world has evolved into a new era in the last 30 years – the Information Age. This implies that critical thinking skills are not merely desirable but non-negotiable. The businesses that succeed now will be the ones that can best find or create managers and executives with the incisive ability to “think outside the box” and envision possibilities for an enriching future.
Why we must abandon assumptions?
Creativity and idea generation are key skills, which rest on the cornerstone of Critical Thinking. One fundamental cognitive skill that can benefit all employees is developing the ability to recognize and overcome assumptions. It wasn’t possible for engineers to envision mobile phones until one of them finally abandoned the idea that telephone communication must take place via physical wires. It was the science-fiction portrayal of the “Communicator” on the 1960s Star Trek TV show that first sparked the idea that cordless telecommunication just might be a possibility.
This demonstrates a hard fact about idea generation: Ideas can come literally from anywhere! The human mind is capable of making connections that may seem inexplicable until they are translated into reality. Call it creativity or intuition if you may. Regardless of the term you choose, overcoming assumptions is essential for managers and employees alike. We cannot change the world unless we can first foresee likely ways in which things could be different from how they are today.
Enhancing bottom-line through Critical Thinking
The bottom line in any enterprise has two components: Revenue and costs. Being able to see new ways to organize a business more efficiently is just as important as being able to derive new product lines. This too requires managers to “think beyond the obvious” on what business innovation is all about! For example, strategies such as promoting telecommuting/flexi work options can optimize fixed costs like office rent. This can lead to large gains in profitability over the longer run. However, they will not occur as long as executives operate within their traditional periphery of tried-and-tested business approaches.
Brainstorming: A Key Business Strategy
A critical skill that works well in conjunction with letting go of assumptions is brainstorming. Brainstorming is useful when businesses are attempting to solve a previously identified problem. It consists of sessions during which a group of employees (relevant to the problem), work cooperatively to suggest likely solutions. What makes brainstorming unique is that participants are receptive to accept all solutions as valid for the time being by keeping their biases at bay. Employees can feel free to offer improbable or even wild suggestions, knowing that they will not be laughed at, looked-down upon or ridiculed for simply putting forth their ideas.
The purpose of brainstorming is to explore and leverage on the creative potential that surfaces when people no longer feel compelled to offer only ideas that their Manager or co-workers will like or accept. In a typical brainstorming session, many impractical suggestions will emerge, as well as some unusual ones that will prove to have merit, once scrutinized.
One of the benefits of critical thinking is that your organization can develop multiple viable solutions to the same issue. This allows your company to offer a range of solutions to clients, and it also assists in workplace innovation. Several solutions to the same problem can allow your company to develop solutions that use the resources that are already available as opposed to purchasing new materials. Customers also benefit from having multiple options to choose from; in solving their problems.
Critical thinking does not make any assumptions, and using the process of critical thinking in the workplace removes the temptation to immediately classify every issue under something that has happened in the past. It forces employees and managers to look beyond conventional solutions and look for new ideas that can help to efficiently address problems. Once you get started on asking questions in a critical thinking exercise for one topic, you automatically begin to address other interrelated, unresolved topics.
The importance of Critical Thinking skills in organizations cannot be overstated. In the 21st century, the businesses that garner competitive advantage, survive the rigmaroles of competition and thrive will be the ones that empower employees and managers to overcome assumptions and use their intuition to maximum effect. They are the organizations which foster and take pride in their Critical Thinkers.