Regardless of your specific job, the ability to use critical thinking is an indicator of being successful. Today, we are going to take a look at this skill and give you some ways to put it into practice more often.
Let’s start with a definition
Critical thinking is the process of carefully evaluating ideas and facts to make decisions about what to believe and do.
I think an important part of the definition is ‘what to believe.” Critical thinking is as much about what you believe as what you actually end up doing.
I also think it is important to recognize that critical thinking is a process. Critical thinking doesn’t mean you instantly know the answer.
Six steps in critical thinking
My goal today s to get you to think about how you naturally approach critical thinking.
Where are the areas that you could improve?
By doing this, you can focus on improving a specific area in the coming weeks and notice how your critical thinking process improves.
The 6 steps of critical thinking are:
You can’t evaluate ideas if you don’t ask a lot of questions. Someone who is not good at critical thinking jumps to conclusions based on their filters or their biases. Jumping to conclusions means you haven’t gone through a process to evaluate ideas.
Depending on the situation, you might gather evidence by:
When gathering evidence, it is important to recognize the types of evidence.
The fact that something is blue is qualitative. It describes something, but how you and I interpret the word blue is going to be different. It gets us both into the same general arenas – blue is definitely different than red – so we both understand that – but your blue and my blue will not be the same.
Quantitative data is a measurement, so it is more precise. The blue thing is also 2 pounds. Two pounds means the same thing to both of us. Now, whether 2 pounds is a lot or not, is part of the context of the situation. A 2 pound hummingbird is huge while a 2 pound elephant must be a stuffed toy.
You can gather evidence from a lot of sources:
What is important to recognize is that evidence doesn’t all have equal weight.
Evaluate the Evidence
Good critical thinkers evaluate the relevance, importance, and accuracy of the evidence when determining how to incorporate it into their decision.
You want to consider:
Knowing how much weight to give each piece of evidence can be a critical part of your decision making process.
When evaluation evidence, it is good to keep in mind the difference between an assumption and an inference.
An assumption is a belief that a person thinks is true without questioning if it is true.
An inference, on the other hand, is a conclusion you make based on the evidence you’ve gathered.
An inference can still be wrong in the end, because you can draw an incorrect conclusion from the evidence gathered.
Test Your Assumptions
If you’ve drawn a conclusion, you’ll want to test it out to see if you’ve properly gathered evidence.
If you think about buying a new car, you go through a process of deciding which car to pursue, but ultimately, until you test drive it, you won’t know if all of your research led you to the right decision.
In a business setting, this might mean putting your decision into practice for a trial period or for a small section of your process. For example, we recently rolled out a change by starting with the immediate team, then including one manager who we knew would be supportive even if we had come to the wrong conclusion, and then eventually to the whole team. Up to the point that we rolled out the change to the whole team, we were open to the idea that we might have made a bad decision that would require us to make changes.
Reach a Conclusion
Once you are ready to draw a conclusion, you will want to go back to your original question, review the evidence that you gathered, consider your values, and then be confident in your conclusion.
The true test that you’ve reached a conclusion using critical thinking is that you can confidently defend your conclusion with others who may have a different point of view.
So, this week, I’d like you to notice yourself going through the critical thinking process.
Becoming a better critical thinking will take some work, butt in the end you’ll find that you are more successful when you make better decisions.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
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