Innovation through Critical Thinking

How to fine tune your ability for thinking clearly

Sometimes I can find wonderful material from other fields to use in my space of business coaching, management training and personal development. When I find a gem that can be applicable, I like to modify the thinking a bit to fit my clients’ needs.

Einstein on Critical Thinking

There is one chapter inside Kathleen Panula Hockey’s book, “Raising Depression Free Children” devoted to describe five specific critical thinking skills that we can teach our children. Thankfully my children are depression free, but I love the chapter anyway.

She focuses totally on teaching kids with these five critical thinking skills:

  1. Recognizing the difference between a thought, a feeling, and a situation.
  2. Recognizing the difference between a fact, a possibility, and an unanswerable question.
  3. Recognizing the difference between fantasy and reality.
  4. Understanding that one choice eliminates another choice.
  5. Developing the ability to look at potential future consequences of choices.

OK, I am sure by now you have them all down cold. If not, let me discuss them again from a business management perspective.

  1. Recognizing the difference between a thought, a feeling, and a situation. “This is how I see it” is a thought; “I‘m so angry” is a feeling; and, “I’m sitting here” is a situation. Think of how many mix these up. A feeling of frustration, for example, does not mean the situation is out of hand. Yet, I feel a lot of energy consumed by people dealing with a situation they feel is real. Worse yet, a situation they have zero control over. You may know the definition of the word: FEAR.—false expectations appearing real.
  2. Recognizing the difference between a fact, a possibility, and an unanswerable question. “The economy is growing” is a fact; “the economy could be growing more” is a possibility; “what would Barack Obama really do” is an unanswerable question. Wow, what a fuzzy line exists here. In reality there is vast differences between them. Critical thinking is vital to determine action. Taking massive action on a possibility is a terrible waste of resources and yet I see that all to often by business owners and managers.
  3. Recognizing the difference between fantasy and reality. Your expectations and dreams are fantasies; the action that you or someone else actually takes is reality. There is a place for both, but knowing the difference is crucial—particularly with feelings, which is an internal phenomenon. Feelings, particularly intuition can be a fantastic guide, but it is not real. I love to focus on what I see as “conversion”. A Vision for your company or your career is a fantasy or a dream. It is not a reality. It can however, become a reality. How? Developing a strategy, converting it to a tactical plan, then setting goals and then taking actions that produce results—reality.
  4. Understanding that one choice eliminates another choice. You cannot be in two places at once—an application of the law of non-contradiction. I have coached many you can not ride two horses for long.
  5. Developing the ability to look at potential future consequences of choices. The most vital of all the critical thinking skills. While you can not predict the future, you can simulate your choices before you make a decision.

How to take Critical Thinking to the next level

Teach these thinking skills to your team (and your children). As an added bonus, if you’re making a point of teaching these skills, you will also be practicing them yourself. You soon be on your way to creative and innovation thinking.

Forbes has a great article, “How to Develop 5 Critical Thinking Types” that will give you some additional insights.

 

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