This article introduces us to what critical thinking is, a brief history of critical thinking and then offers steps to become a crtical thinker.
According to Harvard Business School’s Stever Robbins in his article The Path to Critical Thinking only one in seven of us ever reaches the top 10 percent of quality thinkers. Critical thinking starts with logic and unfortunately the natural decision process is not one where decisions are made logically, they are made emotionally, and then we apply logic to our emotional decisions. To compound this even further we incorrectly assume if two things happen together then one causes the other. For instance, early studies suggested that increased light levels in a factory would increase productivity and therefore, more light meant higher productivity. Unfortunately, the Hawthorne effect took over, the workers were aware of the fact a study was being done and any change would have increased production. There was an assumption made and this assumption was wrong and wrong assumptions can cripple us. For instance, if we let people work less hours, then we need to pay them less. This assumption may be true of assembly line jobs but not knowledge based jobs as research has shown it is not the amount of hours you work, but the quality of the work time that drives results. Work hours do not count as much as results. Using statistics can help you with your decisions to go against the grain. Some of our ‘absolute truths’ can be found to be absolutely wrong if we try and back them up with solid statistical data. When we do prove some of these truths to be myths, this is when, not only others will think we are crazy, but more importantly, real fortunes can be made. The way we frame or look at a problem will lead to the way we look at the outcome. When we look at problems from one perspective without question we usually end up with the same solution without question. When a manager is presented some data “This course of action has a 20 percent failure rate” most managers will avoid it, instead of re-framing it as having an 80 percent success rate and giving it further consideration. We should always look at problems from as many ‘frames’ as we can and explore each one. In a nutshell, understand the logic behind your decisions, identify assumptions, analyze data, look at all angles of a situation, bring in other people’s viewpoints and think about short and long term ramifications of your decisions (Robbins, 2005).