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Critical Thinking 101 - Your existing superpower in problem-solving and decision-making

Updated: Apr 4


Framework Garage | Critical Thinking isn't difficult to practice and master. Here's a guide.
Critical Thinking isn't difficult to practice. There's a simple path to master it.
 

When your mind is full of assumptions, conclusions, and beliefs, it has no penetration, it just repeats past impressions.” - Sadhguru

 

Critical Thinking. It's a term that often dominates conversations in meetings, where brainstorming, problem-solving, and ideation take center stage. But do we truly understand what Critical Thinking is and how can it benefit us?


In the next 7 minutes, I aim to help you consciously focus and enhance this valuable skill.

Let's take a step back and understand what Critical Thinking means and its practical applications. In this article, we'll explore this technique in simpler terms, how to practice it effectively and be aware of its pitfalls.


Interestingly, despite the term's familiarity, critical thinking remains an enigmatic concept for many. Up until three years ago, I, too, had my version of its definition, and to my surprise, very few people had engaged in detailed discussions about its true essence. In my decade-long experience in the product-led industry, I've never once heard someone say, "Let's think critically here."


Despite the lack of extensive discourse, there's an increasing demand to understand this skill better. Consider the search trend score over the last 22 years for "critical thinking," and you'll witness the growing curiosity surrounding it.



Google search trend score for Critical Thinking since 2000
Google search trend score (01-100) for Critical Thinking | 2000-2022

Observe this visual for 20 seconds and notice the questions that come to your mind.



Framework Garage | Critical thinking question examples

Here are a few that I could think of:

  • What could have happened around 2007 that caused a drop?

  • Why is it steadily increasing?

  • Is the trend for the keyword "critical thinking" evenly distributed across different demographics, or is it more popular among certain groups of people?

  • Is this trend factoring in non-English speaking countries?

  • Does the increasing trend mean people are getting better at critical thinking or simply becoming more aware?


My dear reader, you’ve just practiced thinking critically! The more time you take, I am sure the more questions you’ll have.


So can we call ourselves critical thinkers now?


Framework Garage | Your guide to start using Critical Thinking at work

YES! Absolutely.


Wait, this isn’t new. I’ve always asked questions during problem-solving and decision-making, so does that imply I have been a critical thinker for a while now?


YES! And I want to help you build a focus on that skill toward every opportunity you get. Let’s acquire clarity.


What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to think, analyze information, and make thoughtful decisions based on evidence and logical reasoning. It involves questioning assumptions, evaluating arguments, and considering different perspectives before concluding. Critical thinking enables individuals to solve problems effectively, make informed choices, and approach complex situations with a rational and open-minded mindset.


Simplified explanation

Imagine you have a puzzle with missing pieces. Critical thinking is about closely examining the puzzle and asking questions like: Where could the missing pieces be? What do the other pieces tell me? Is there a clue or pattern that can help me solve it? When you watch a magic trick, critical thinking helps you ask: How did the magician do that? What's the secret behind the trick? In everyday life, critical thinking means not simply believing everything you hear or see. It involves asking questions, lots of them.


For example, if someone tells you a story, critical thinking helps you consider whether it makes sense or if there's more to the story. So, critical thinking is like being a curious detective who asks questions, thinks carefully, and tries to figure things out. It helps you understand events and situations better and make smart decisions.


Remember, critical thinking doesn't stop at asking questions but also involves finding answers.


Don’t stop at curiosity, it’s important to apply from what your curiosity led you to learn.

I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with hundreds of people across the world. I have an observation to share. We think critically more often than we realize, but we haven't made a habit of applying it at work to its potential yet.


Why is Critical Thinking so important today?


Navigating ambiguity and uncertainty

In today's fast-paced and unpredictable business environment, critical thinking helps employees make sense of ambiguous situations. It enables them to analyze information, consider multiple possibilities, and make well-informed decisions even when faced with limited data or uncertain outcomes.


Dynamic environments

With markets constantly evolving, critical thinking is essential for solving complex problems in dynamic industries. It empowers professionals to adapt to changing circumstances, identify root causes, and devise effective strategies to stay competitive. Critical thinkers are more likely to embrace innovation and adapt to change. They can envision alternative approaches, challenge the status quo, and develop creative solutions that drive progress within the organization.


Collaboration

You must have read ‘cross-functional collaboration’ in many job descriptions. Critical thinkers are more open to diverse perspectives and can work collaboratively with colleagues from different backgrounds and expertise. This fosters a culture of inclusivity and promotes teamwork within the organization. That is effective collaboration.


Identify biases and misinformation

Critical thinkers can easily distinguish credible sources from unreliable ones. It empowers them to be discerning consumers of information and make evidence-based decisions. ‘I have a gut feeling’ can be easily supported or rejected with critical thinking.


How to think critically?

Framework Garage | How to think critically? How to get started with practicing Critical Thinking?

Here’s how you can approach Critical Thinking step-by-step when you work on a question or a problem.

  1. Question assumptions: Don’t assume, investigate.

  2. Identify biases: Uncover your own biases and biases in others.

  3. Assess information validity: Validate the source of the information

  4. Challenge conclusions: Take your time, and think it through.

  5. Seek different perspectives: Collaborate with others when possible.

  6. Evaluate implications: Think ahead and consider the consequences.

  7. Reflect and learn: Continuous improvement through critical analysis.

Interestingly, you already follow this guide in your head rapidly each time you critically think. There are just different variations of your sequence and fewer questions when there’s less time.


We all practice Critical Thinking but unconsciously turn it off, and that mostly happens when under pressure.

How can Critical Thinking help you?

Framework Garage | What are the benefits of critical thinking?, How can Critical Thinking help you?

It’s impossible to put a number on the use cases but Critical Thinking is useful everywhere you are required to think. I can broadly classify its importance into two categories:


Decision-Making

Whether it's choosing a company to work with, making investments, or deciding on which campaign is better for long-term ROI, critical thinking plays a pivotal role. By weighing the pros and cons, considering potential outcomes, and evaluating risks, critical thinkers are in a better position to make better decisions with long-term benefits.


Problem-Solving

We are no stranger to problems and challenges. With Critical Thinking, you can approach a problem methodically, breaking it down into manageable components. By dissecting issues, they identify the root causes and devise effective solutions, enabling them to tackle obstacles with confidence. Whether it’s investigating a KPI drop for your department or ideating about solving a problem in your Marketing funnel, Critical Thinking will act as your guiding light.


What are the pitfalls of Critical Thinking?

Framework Garage | What are the pitfalls of Critical Thinking? What should you avoid while practicing Critical Thinking?

A skill that this crucial also comes with pitfalls of its own. It’s not to discourage you from choosing when to think critically and when not to. It's more about what you should be considerate of while practicing Critical Thinking. It's like a supplement to your thinking. An analogy that comes to my mind is while driving a car; you need to be considerate of other aspects that make your driving effective, like road sense, responsible speed, car health from the dashboard indicators, etc.


Here are the top pitfalls that have the potential to hinder your effectiveness in thinking critically.


Biases

Our brains are wired to take mental shortcuts, leading to cognitive biases that can cloud our judgment and decision-making. Examples include confirmation bias (favoring information that supports our existing beliefs), availability bias (relying on readily available information), and anchoring bias (placing too much emphasis on the first piece of information encountered).


Emotional Influence

Emotions can influence our thinking, leading us to make decisions based on our feelings rather than rational analysis. Fear, anger, or attachment to a particular outcome can cloud our judgment and hinder critical thinking. You may resist critical thinking if it challenges your established beliefs or requires you to question your long-held assumptions.


Groupthink

When we conform to the opinions or decisions of a group to avoid conflict or gain acceptance fearing exclusion socially or otherwise, critical thinking may be compromised. Groupthink can stifle diverse viewpoints and lead to poor decision-making.


Overconfidence

When we are too confident in our judgments and abilities, leading to poor decision-making and a lack of consideration for alternative viewpoints.


Bonus pitfall: A trip to the rabbit hole

Curiosity leads to questions, and questions lead to investigations to find answers. Each answer will then need to be vetted like a proficient critical thinker that you are practicing to become. It can take you down a long and ineffective sub-branch a few levels down. Mostly (and thankfully), our biases jump in to help. When we are curious about a topic we are passionate about, a thorough investigation is necessary but only if we are always considerate about the objective, so we avoid derailing.


Have you ever watched a movie that was based on real-life events? After finishing it, you google to determine how much of the movie was real, then you read up about the protagonist, and then other articles about the person. One article leads you to another similar event, then you find yourself reading about a similar topic but it isn’t feeding into your initial curiosity. You are way off from what you were initially curious about.


I'd be up for this rabbit hole as it’s for my knowledge, but at work, I'd rather be focused on not derailing from my initial curiosity. Why? Simply put, I am time-bound to solve a problem or make a decision.


How can I improve my Critical Thinking?

Here are my top 3 recommendations:


Stay curious

Never stop asking questions. Be inquisitive about various topics, explore different perspectives, and seek a deeper understanding of issues.


Reflect on your thinking

Regularly reflect on your thoughts and decisions. Analyze the reasoning behind your choices and consider alternative approaches. This practice helps you recognize patterns, and biases, and refine your critical thinking process. A simple question like “How did I reach this decision?” holds a lot of potential to help you. When you encounter errors in your critical thinking process, identify the reasons behind them and use them as stepping stones for improvement. Intellectual humility is of paramount importance.


Read

Well, you are reading so you are enroute to improve😀. Engage in diverse reading materials, including books, articles, and research papers from various fields. Exposing yourself to different viewpoints will broaden your knowledge and critical thinking capacity.



Wrap-up

Critical thinking is a valuable skill that empowers us to navigate the complexities of life with clarity and rationality. By questioning assumptions, identifying biases, and evaluating information, we can make well-informed decisions and solve problems effectively. However, as with any skill, Critical Thinking comes with potential pitfalls, so be considerate of them before you start practicing.


Embrace Critical Thinking as your ally, as it will guide you through the puzzles of life, and make you a better decision-maker and problem-solver. With continuous practice, reflection, and a curious mind, you can harness the power of Critical Thinking to its full potential.


Critical Thinking is not about having all the answers; it's about asking the right questions and seeking the truth, one thought at a time.


Framework Garage | Critical Thinking gives you a foundation for success in all areas of your life. Get started today!

Remember, it’s a superpower you already have, so just like what Jor-El told Superman when they virtually met for

the first time, “The only way to know how strong you are is to keep testing your limits.”


Happy Critical Thinking!








 

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Misafir
18 Ağu 2023
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Beğen

Misafir
18 Ağu 2023
5 üzerinden 4 yıldız

great read

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