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Leadership tip – improve your critical thinking skills

Critical thinking is an approach to decision-making that enables you to come up with the best possible solution with the resources you have available. Some consider critical thinking to be essential only during emergency situations, but that is not the case. Good leaders use this skill daily.

Why is critical thinking so important in today’s workplace?
Most organizations have a dynamic, high-volume environment. In any given day, a variety of problems will arise. It’s important to be able to identify which of these problems are critical and which are less important to ensure that you are using your time (and company money) most efficiently.
They key is to make quick but thoughtful decisions. When you make snap decisions without proper analysis, you may encounter one or more of the following scenarios:
  • A seemingly small problem could snowball into a major disaster
  • If you do not look beyond the immediate issue and identify the source of the problem, you are doomed to face the same problem again and again.
  • Most organizations have divisions and departments that are interrelated in some way. If you implement solutions to problems without considering these relationships, you may make the original situation worse and increase the cost of doing business.
Ask yourself the following questions to uncover shortcomings in your own decision-making process:
  • Do you collect a lot of technical facts without considering the effect on people?
  • Do you use your past experience exclusively to make decisions?
  • Do you consider only the first information you receive in order to move quickly into action?
The four main characteristics of critical thinking:
  1. It is purposeful and goal-directed thinking.
  2. It allows you to make informed decisions based on facts rather than guesswork.
  3. It is based on principles of logic.
  4. It requires approaches that compensate for problems caused by human nature.
Key questions for critical thinking
These critical thinking questions will give you a more balanced approach and round out your style!
  1. What results do you want to achieve? Identify your goal so you can be more focused and choose appropriate methods.
  2. What are the circumstances? Understand the situation and influencing factors.
  3. What knowledge is required? Discipline-specific knowledge is essential to being able to think critically.
  4. How much room is there for error? When there is less room for error, you must carefully assess the situation, examine possible solutions, and make prudent decisions.
  5. How much time do you have? If you have time, think independently and use your resources. If your time is limited, solicit the assistance of a subject matter expert.
  6. What resources can help you? Become familiar with documentation, manuals, knowledge repositories, and experts who can help.
  7. Whose perspective must be considered? Consider the perspectives of key players and be aware of potential conflicts.
  8. What is influencing your thinking? Recognition of influencing factors such as beliefs, biases, bad experiences and stress helps us to gain objectivity and find ways to compensate for them in our thinking.

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”
– Paul J. Meyer

Eric Shannon


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