The world has moved into a new era in the last 30 years. Instead of the Industrial Age, we are now living and working in the Information Age; the pace of both technological and cultural change is faster than ever before. Successful businesses have always been the ones run by people who create new products and services that would harness the energy inherent in emerging trends, but these skills are more important than ever in a world where the pace of chance is so rapid.
What all of this means is that critical thinking skills are at a premium. The businesses that succeed now will be the ones that can best find or create managers and executives with the ability to “think outside the box” and see new possibilities for the future.
The importance of abandoning assumptions
Creativity and idea generation are key skills in this environment, but both of them rest on the foundation of critical thinking itself. One fundamental cognitive skill that can benefit all employees is developing the ability to recognise and overcome assumptions. It was not possible, for example, for engineers to envision mobile phones until one of them let go of the idea that telephone communication had to take place over physical wires. Oddly enough, it was the science-fiction portrayal of the “communicator” on the 1960s Star Trek television show that first sparked the notion that a mobile phone might be possible.
This demonstrates an essential fact about idea generation: ideas can come from literally anywhere. The human mind is capable of making connections that may seem bizarre until they are made into reality. Some people refer to this as creativity; others call it intuition. Regardless of the term used, overcoming assumptions is necessary for managers and employees alike. We cannot change the world unless we can first foresee ways in which it could be different.
» Read more about Creativity and your team in this article…
Creative ways of thinking can enhance the bottom line
The mobile phone is an example of a new product that has captured a large market share in the past few decades, but overcoming assumptions is just as important when it comes to other facets of a business. The bottom line in any enterprise has two components: revenue and costs. Being able to see new ways to organise a business more efficiently is just as important as being able to derive new product lines, but this also requires managers to “think outside the box”; that is what business innovation is. Strategies such as promoting telecommuting so that less office space is rented each month can lead to large gains in profitability, but they will not occur as long as executives are locked into the model that dominated the workplace during most of the 20th century.
Brainstorming as a business strategy
A critical skill that works in conjunction with abandoning assumptions is the process of brainstorming. This is usually used when businesses are attempting to solve a previously identified problem. Brainstorming consists of sessions during which a group of employees relevant to the problem under study, work cooperatively to suggest possible solutions. What makes brainstorming different from other strategy sessions is that participants have been trained to accept all solutions as valid for the time being. Employees can feel free to offer improbable or even wild suggestions, knowing that they will not be ridiculed or penalised for their ideas.
The purpose of brainstorming is to harness the creative energy that results when people no longer feel constrained to offer only ideas that their manager or co-workers will immediately accept. In a typical brainstorming session, many useless suggestions will be offered, as well as some unusual ones that have merit when looked at more closely.
» Mind Maps® are a great brainstorming and creative thinking tool:
Brainstorming creates synergy among employees
Quite often, the brilliant suggestions that emerge in a session have been created through synergy, which is the fact that people are often more creative and intelligent when taken together, than they would have been while working in isolation on the same project. A seemingly bizarre suggestion on the part of one worker may lead to another employee making an intuitive leap that would not have been possible otherwise. This is another reason why it is essential that employees be trained to allow their creative energies to flow freely in a brainstorming session. The slightest hint of censure or fear of a reprimand can shut down our creative juices, to the detriment of the entire business enterprise.
The importance of critical thinking skills in business organisations cannot be overstated. In the 21st century, the businesses that survive and thrive will be the ones that empower workers and managers to overcome assumptions and use their intuition to maximum effect.
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FREE TOPIC GUIDE: Running Creativity Sessions – This topic guide is for anyone who needs to run creativity sessions. It provides a basic overview of the planning and process that you need to take to make these sessions effective… take a look and download here…
How often have you reacted hurriedly to a given situation at work or made a rushed business decision only to later backtrack because you didn’t sit down and mull it over? This usually happens to everyone at one point, even to the best of the best. This is where critical thinking comes into play.
According to the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking, it is the intellectually disciplined means of aggressively conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing and assessing information collected through experience, observation or reflection, as a guide to taking actions.
Another definition is that critical thinking is the ability to deliberate rationally and clearly concerning what to do or what to believe in. Critical thinking is not all about gathering information. Someone with a good memory and is knowledgeable is not essentially a good critical thinker.
Some of the characteristics of a good critical thinker include:
- Self-confidence in the ability to reason
- The urge to be and remain well-informed
- Flexibility in taking into account alternative opinions
- Honesty, when it comes to one’s own biases
- Discretion in making judgments
- Inquisitive concerning some issues
Critical thinking and reflection can be beneficial in the workplace in the following ways:
Maintaining Effective Leadership
Critical thinking and reflection are crucial in the work environment. Those involved in management should improve their critical thinking skills as these skills will more often than not enable them to comprehend various situations in the workplace in a better manner. This, in turn, helps the leaders make impartial judgments.
Critical thinking enables one to look at situations keenly and weigh all probable solutions before coming up with the ultimate decision. Because critical thinking is a form of in-depth analysis, it involves intellectual criticism thus allowing the decision makers to combine knowledge and research.
To be a successful leader, one must be able to utilize critical thinking skills.
2. Teamwork Advancement
During a critical thinking process, the whole workforce can be involved. The more persons that are involved in the process, the more the solutions that are arrived at. Critical thinking can be of great benefit to a workplace that comprises workers from different backgrounds.
Not only does it give a justification for these people to work collectively to come up with solutions, but it also promotes teamwork and gives each employee a chance to have a say in the progression of the company.
It is also important to note that critical thinking tasks promote tolerance amongst workers within the work environment and can be used as part of diversity training.
3. Time Saving
Not all information is relevant during the decision-making process. Critical thinking can, therefore, teach you how to prioritize your time and resources by systematically analyzing what is useful and what is not.
Ultimately, through critical thinking, a good leader will know that the decisions arrived at are the correct ones, in effect saving time that may be used on other matters.
4. Different Approaches to Problem Solving
In the workplace, critical thinking enables one to be aware of the different approaches to a problem and the ability to evaluate these approaches systematically.
Through critical thinking, instead of relying on regular problem-solving techniques, workers will be able to identify other valuable approaches. This will eventually make the company successful in its day to day activities.
5. Improved Communication
Critical thinking teaches you how to evaluate and come up with evidence for any given idea, thus making you an effective communicator. Consistent and appropriate points to back up your idea are crucial in communicating a proposal effectively.
6. Discovery of Spin-offs
During the critical thinking process, extra information can be uncovered that can be applied to several other situations. For example, a critical thinking task on how to undertake a new business venture may lead to new ideas for pursuing other business endeavors.
7. Resolution of Workplace Conflicts
In a workplace, non-critical thinking can create an atmosphere that can cause anxiety for some workers and a sense of confidence that is false for those who subscribe to it. However, critical thinkers can create a setting where conversation cultivates fresh ideas. It builds understanding and allows for self-reflection.
Whenever you are dealing with a conflict, critical thinking can help you make a decision that is fair to those involved, thus benefiting the whole company or organization.
8. Final Product
Coming up with the best final product requires a keen eye for detail and willingness to search for flaws. These abilities can be provided for by a critical thinker. The capacity to evaluate a product for accuracy and functionality, among other qualities is important in the sustenance of a company’s or organization’s standards.
Mediocrity is bound to arise in the absence of critical thinkers within the workplace. Some human thoughts tend to be biased and full of assumptions. Critical thinking will, therefore, help you to be aware of and rectify your faults.
For example, if you are the one who came up with a product, you may be biased towards it. However, the critical evaluation will enable you to look at the product without prejudice.
Nowadays, it’s been somehow complicated to advance critical thinking at work due to the fact that most people presume that every person in their place of work is busy and has no time.
Clearly, from the above, it is evident that critical thinking is beneficial for everyone in the workplace and can contribute in taking a company to the next level.
There are websites that provide useful information on how to become an effective leader in the workplace. Gaining such knowledge can prove to be a worthwhile venture for you and your colleagues.
Categories:LeadershipTags:Alice Jones, Critical Thinking, Guest Post, Leadership, mastersinleadership.org, thewritingkid.com