About Thinking Blog 1

A blog is about thinking, analysis and decision-making

Content

This is a series of mini-modules on thinking and is intended as a self-help series. It could also be used as in an early morning 5 minute team session. The modules are intentionally short because you should use the rest of the day to think about the exercise(s).

Each post should take between 5 and 10 minutes to complete. It could take longer if you have a curious disposition and do extra research, or if you are part of a discussion group.

The course revolves around the idea that the better the quality of your thinking, the better the quality of your analysis and decision-making.

Some of the mini-modules will be supplemented by longer blog covering various aspects of leading a team,

Clarity

Initially, we will explore  what critical thinking is not. Once that is out of the way, we will look at critical thinking as a process and a discipline. The blog is not intended for philosophy majors but is rather as an aide to those in business, or elsewhere, who regularly need to decide on issues based on a variety of different sources of data and information, or must manage or lead people.

Although I refer to critical thinking, analysis and decision making as though they are three separate concepts, they are in fact all part of the same thing – critical thinking.

Start at the beginning

Often people confuse criticism with critical thinking. They are not the same thing and I personally advise avoiding the one and embracing the other. Too often criticism is simply a negative reaction and put-down, and involves little or no thinking.

Many terms include the word ‘thinking’. Examples: deep thinking, structured thinking, creative thinking, critical thinking, independent thinking,  deep dive thinking, systems thinking, or design thinking and these can all be highly constructive and useful. They all have in common thinking that adds value to a debate or issue and they all use the same basic tools. How well or effectively we use the tools affects the quality of our analysis and decision making.

Most people work on experience and gut feel, but often these are not enough or even unreliable. The exception is when gut feel is actually the subconscious result of a rigorous thinking process.

Prepare for the future

You are probably good at what you do but, especially in the highly competitive world in which we live and work, would it not be useful to be better? This is especially so for the new world of work.

As far back as 1991, Deborah Gough and several of her colleagues felt that critical thinking was a crucial skill for young children if they were to succeed as workers and citizens. The young children are now adults, and critical thinking skills are even more important today.

“Perhaps most importantly in today’s information age, thinking skills are viewed as crucial for educated persons to cope with a rapidly changing world. Many educators believe that specific knowledge will not be as important to tomorrow’s workers and citizens as the ability to learn and make sense of new information.” Gough, D. THINKING ABOUT THINKING. Alexandria, VA: National Assoc. of Elementary School Principals, 1991. (ED 327 980)

Twenty-five years plus later, tomorrow is now today, and still the teaching of critical thinking is not common-place. Most people avoid deliberate critical thinking. They simply rearrange existing information differently without exploring the depth, breadth and logic and soundness of their ideas. Most importantly, they often also avoid asking difficult questions that challenge accepted  ideas.   Those individuals who are critical thinkers stand out amongst a sea of sheep and yes-men/women.

When we talk about the types of thinking and the elements of thinking, analysis and decision-making, there are several tools that can help improve the quality of your thinking. Maybe  you won’t be quite the superman or wonderwoman of thinking but the quality of your thinking will improve.

In this series of blogs, I will share tools that enable all of us to think critically, analyse independently and make informed decisions.  All this without excluding creativity. What more can you ask for?  Okay, lots, but let’s start somewhere! That place is criticism. In the workplace and in one’s home, this is the source of great unhappiness and strife and often serves only to make the unacceptable behaviour worse.

Exercise

What do you think is the difference between critical thinking and criticism?