10 Ways to Improve Your Critical Thinking

By Dennis McCafferty  |  Posted 05-23-2014 Email Print this article Print

CIOs are generally considered bright people. But are they critical thinkers? Not necessarily. Yet, the latter defines a major difference between CIOs who spend all of their time putting out various fires in the workplace and those who emerge as top contributors to organizational strategies. In the new book, Think Smarter: Critical Thinking to Improve Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Skills (Wiley), author Michael Kallet provides a comprehensive guide to help you train your brain to do more for you. He does so with a wide assortment of real-world examples, takeaways and practice exercises. All of this amounts to far more than an intriguing but relatively impractical use of your time as there are many day-to-day situations which merit critical thinking, such as when help desk calls rapidly increase but no one can figure out why. Or when two of your business-intelligence analysts reach different conclusions from the same set of data. Or when a root-cause assessment of a tech issue comes up with an unexpected result. Kallet is cofounder of HeadScratchers, a consultancy which trains business professionals and leaders in critical thinking, problem solving, decision-making and creativity. For more about the book, click here.

  • Slow Down

    You can never engage in critical thinking if you're in a rush. Wait until moments when you can really invest time into mental processes and make measured decisions.
    Slow Down
  • Don't Judge

    All ideas have merit. Dismissing an outlook narrows your world view.
    Don't Judge
  • Play Dumb

    To abandon preconceived biases, go into any critical-thinking opportunity by clearing your mind and pretending you know nothing.
    Play Dumb
  • Convey Neutrality

    Even if you have come to a conclusion on a tech topic, don't ask leading questions which betray your perspective in discussing it. In the process, you'll open the door to different views which could challenge—or confirm—yours.
    Convey Neutrality
  • Be Patient

    Don't interrupt anyone in a critical-thinking exchange. Use the power of silence to encourage colleagues to share the entire range of their insights.
    Be Patient
  • Understand the Source of Facts

    Don't just accept statements such as "best practices dictate …" and "the facts are clear …." Ask and learn where the best practices and facts came from, and if those sources are credible.
    Understand the Source of Facts
  • Always Ask "Why?" and "How?"

    As in "Why have we set these objectives?" and "How do we know this solution is proven?"
    Always Ask
  • Drive to the Root Cause of Mistakes

    It's only when you understand the entire background of an error that you can begin to correct it and incorporate processes so it doesn't occur again.
    Drive to the Root Cause of Mistakes
  • Build a Powerful Premise

    The stronger your premise—as supported by authoritative, carefully vetted facts, observations, metrics, etc.—the more confident you can be about the conclusion and the resulting outcomes.
    Build a Powerful Premise
  • Determine the Essence of Goals

    When employees say they want to improve an aspect of their performance (like productivity), ask them to define it. This way, the employee will need to fully explore what this improvement really means.
    Determine the Essence of Goals
Dennis McCafferty is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.


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