Critical Thinking is a vital skill to cultivate during uncertain times

There is no doubt that within a few short years we have lived through world events that have forced us to change and adapt to new and untried circumstances.   The effects of climate change, volatile world economies due to the Covid 19 Pandemic, the escalation of war between Russia and the Ukraine and the recent Israeli/Gaza crisis have changed our world and forced us all to adapt to new paradigms and new ways of working living.  In the wake of a changing world, now more than ever, we need to hone our skills and devise effective strategies to help us cope better both personally and professionally.  This is where Critical Thinking enters the stage.

Focus your energy not on fighting the old but building the new

How is Critical Thinking defined?

Critical Thinking is a skill that enables us to analyse, evaluate and utilise information in an objective and logical manner.  Critical Thinking helps when identifying problems, generating effective solutions and making decisions when under pressure.  Hence, it is an essential skill to have under one’s belt  during times of crisis.  Yet, it is a skill that does require consistent practise, reliable feedback and is made that much more effective when used in a supportive environment where teams are given the opportunity to effectively collaborate.  

Steps in the Critical Thinking Process

Defining the problem

In any critical thinking process the first step involves clearly and precisely defining what the problem actually entails.  Since, if one cannot accurately pinpoint what the problem actually is, such can lead to hesitation and confusion.  When a problem is clearly-defined this helps the team to concentrate on the pertinent facts and assumptions, focus on the relevant goals and avoid using information that is inappropriate or unrelated to the problem.  Therefore, so as to paint a clear picture of the problem, the team should ask questions like: 

What is the actual situation? 

What are the likely causes and resultant effects?

What criteria are involved? 

What constraints are evident? 

What outcomes need to be achieved?

Gathering and evaluating relevant information

The next step in the critical thinking process involves gathering and evaluating pertinent information from a number of different sources such as experts, relevant stakeholders, available data, the media and related reports.   Sufficient relevant and trustworthy information that can help to understand the problem within the relevant context should be gathered.  Yet, one must be aware of any errors, gaps and biases and critically evaluate the accuracy, validity and credibility of any information at hand whilst at the same time comparing and assessing different interpretations and perspectives.

The team should seek to collect reliable, relevant, and sufficient information that can help them to understand the problem and its context. However, the team should also be aware of the potential biases, errors, and gaps in the information they gather. They should critically assess the credibility, accuracy, and validity of the information, and compare and contrast different perspectives and interpretations.

Generating and testing possible solutions

Generating and testing possible solutions is the next step in the critical thinking process and involves using logic as well as creativity to brainstorm as many ideas and suggestions as possible.  The first rule of brainstorming is to take into account all ideas and suggestions presented without judging or rejecting them even if at first, they appear to be unrelated or inappropriate.  Criteria such as effectiveness, feasibility and achievability of possible solutions should be thoroughly analysed so as to hone in on the most viable options.  Testing possible solutions involves evaluating and predicted potential results or outcomes as well as assessing any risks or other potential consequences.

Making and communicating appropriate decisions

To conclude the critical thinking process the final task is to make and communicate appropriate decisions based on the most viable solutions at hand.  The pros and cons of each option should be assessed against the problem criteria and desired goals and objectives.  Nevertheless, one needs to also take into account any questions posed, or concerns and objections that may arise in terms of the decision made.  However, the ultimate decision should be clearly communicated using relevant facts and applicable examples.  The evidence, rationale and intended process to be followed in respect of the decision made should also be clearly articulated.

Enhancing a critical thinking culture

On a final note, one should bear in mind the importance of creating and enhancing a critical thinking culture in the workplace.  Teams should be encouraged to use available tools such as models, frameworks and checklists to guide them through the critical thinking process and also make use of simulations, actual scenarios and exercises that test their skills.

Reference sources: LinkedIn

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