We’re in an age of social media where it seems everyone skims over the details, lives for 40 character blips, replaces news with memes, and find hacks for everything from making bread to heart surgery (okay, not the latter, but we just wanted to make sure you were paying attention). It’s easy to get lost in the flurry of messages. With tweet-length attention spans, building critical thinking skills in your team and organization are more important now than ever.
And it’s not a matter of “If you hire them, they will think.”
This isn’t a dig at the dumbing down of the workforce. Simply put, critical thinking isn’t an automatic thought process. Our biology and brains are designed to simplify the complicated. And modern-day life is complicated. We’re bombarded with thousands of messages every day. Most decisions we make are a result of personal bias, self-interest, and irrational emotion. Since we’ve got millions of years of evolution pushing our brains to take the easy path, organizations and leaders have to push even harder to develop critical thinking skills.
1. Be a learning organization. Coach managers and collaborators to ask difficult questions, challenge ideas (respectfully), and give people space to change their minds or points of view.
2. Coach your team to strategic thinking. Use simulations. Give collaborators a situation – a challenge – in the organization (past or present). Have them examine evidence, experiences, and break down the problem. Working through these kinds of simulations builds collaborative critical thinking.
3. Analyze similar organizations and how they have worked through problems. Taking apart a successful, and unsuccessful, program (product, service etc.) and identifying what worked and what didn’t work is a great way to build critical thinking skills.
4. Recognize personal biases. Being self aware takes work. It means you’re considering your thought processes, values, morals, ethics, and other beliefs. It helps you understand why you work to solve problems from your own personal perspective.
5. Ask this question: How will this action affect my co-workers, my leaders, my collaborators, and clients? Developing foresight helps you make the right choice.
6. Ask for leadership opportunities. Stretch your skills and ask to be challenged.
7. Use these phrases often: I never thought about it that way before. In light of this new information, I need to change my position. Give me time to digest that information. I was wrong.
Critical thinking is essential to engage in meaningful conversations, make sound decisions, set priorities, and drive your organization’s success. Moreover, developing critical thinking skills gives collaborators more autonomy and sense of accountability, all of which improve employee engagement and your organization’s bottom line.