Are You a Critical Thinker?

Given the uncertainty and, in many cases, stress associated with the current global environment coupled with the rapid pace of change, the value of being a “critical thinker” has never been greater!

If you’re note familiar with the term, consider the following perspective published in a recent Dale Carnegie white paper: “Our world is evolving at a mind-boggling pace. We are confronted with more data, information, and decisions than ever before. Success depends in large part on the ability to evaluate the credibility and accuracy of information, ask good questions about it, and decide what should be done in response to it – and that requires critical thinking.”

The piece goes on to define critical thinking as “self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way.”

What We Have to Gain
If you’re wondering about the potential benefits of being able to think more critically, our research has uncovered that critical thinking will enable you to better express your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs, and it fosters creativity and outside-the-box thinking that can be applied to any area of your life. Those who have developed the skill generally enjoy more rapid career success, improved relationships, greater levels of creativity, and stronger leadership skills.

A Learnable Skill
While many of us might not think of ourselves as critical thinkers, our research also shows that it is a learnable skill if one is willing to make the effort.

Experts say that the method of developing critical thinking skills requires “deliberate practice” and perseverance. This deliberate practice involves going beyond what might be considered ‘mindless repetition’ and instead requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance. Essentially in involves “thinking intentionally about the way we think!”

Ironically, a characteristic that might help us to stay the course in the pursuit of mastering our ability to think critically is one that does NOT involve intelligence! As explained in a short TED Talk by Psychologist and Academic Angela Lee Duckworth, this trait is grit, or the “power of passion and perseverance.”

If you would like to embark on a deliberate practice mission in an effort to hone your critical thinking skills, here are seven steps associated with the process:

  1. Pinpoint the issue at hand (specific)
  2. Collect information
  3. Examine and scrutinize (never accept only one idea!)
  4. Decide what’s relevant
  5. Self-evaluate (fact check, consider alternatives)
  6. Draw conclusions
  7. Explain, present, or publish conclusions and take action to implement them if possible