Critical thinking and why you need it
Fundamental to your success at work is the ability to solve problems…no matter how trivial or complex. We are inundated with problems continuously throughout our day/day work lives.
Wait a minute though...what is critical thinking?
Critical thinking is defined as - “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.”
A recent article pointed out that one of the top 3 skills recruiters want from fresh grads out of post-secondary education is critical thinking. Top 3! Yet so few actually know how to apply the skill!
Having the ability to simplify a problem or situation to its basic form, get to its root cause, identify solutions (weighing in on a variety of factors) and actually making a conscious decision is HUGE! Using logic and reason to come to a conclusion. ENORMOUS! GAME CHANGING!
Here are some keys to success for critical thinking:
· Remain calm. Be patient.
· Get to the root cause of the problem. Break down the issue into parts. Isolate what is important and what’s not. Here you want to ensure you’re asking smart questions and listening intently.
· Anticipate. As you’re progressing through root cause analysis, try to think about your next two or three questions and tasks. Based on information you receive will help direct you.
· Identify solutions. Depending on situation, conduct risk analysis…e.g. - “what happens if we eat the red pill v. the blue pill?”
· Pick a solution and go with it. Do not go into analysis paralysis. You need to review what’s available and go with a solution. Prepare yourself as much as possible. Fail fast. If it works - awesome. If not - regroup and go back to step 1.
· Lastly, having experience in that particular realm of work will be of tremendous help in your critical thinking. Experiencing is the best form of education and quickly adds to your brain’s memory bank for future problems to solve.
Critical thinking is easy when it’s all rainbows and unicorns…it’s when things go sideways and your ability to use critical thinking practices on-the-fly that makes you world-class.
How do I improve on my critical thinking?
· Do the work. Experience the good and bad. Nothing beats experiential learning. Guaranteed, you’ll learn the most when you fail or make a bad decision. Get back up and go at it again. Persevere!
· Play games - chess, strategy board games, and video games are all great examples. I am thankful for my countless hours of video games, RISK and many other games that have been amazing for thinking and problem solving.
· Martial Arts - Training in martial arts is constant learning and critical thinking. Risk/reward for execution of a move (or series of moves), defensive strategies based on opponent, rules, how do you get out of the uncomfortable situation you might find yourself in and mindfulness of your surroundings while fighting/sparring.
· Campfire circle storytelling…anywhere you can tell stories of your experiences with others. Make it welcoming and inclusive. Also, make sure it’s outside of the office. Does anyone really like meeting rooms?
· Meditate. DEEP BREATHS…everything is going to be fine. Bigger problems may require more meditation, however problems generally have solutions after some analysis. Meditation, calm demeanour and the utmost patience are practices to master.
The next time your eyeballs deep in a problem…remember to pause for a moment and apply these practices. You and those around you will see be a noticeable improvement!
Do you have suggestions on how you approach problem solving and critical thinking? Let’s here from you!
Thanks for reading.