What is critical thinking, and why do you need it? Critical thinking, explains Michael Kallet in Think Smarter: Critical Thinking to Improve Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Skills (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2014), explains that critical thinking is thinking — but in a different way.
The process might be described as analytical, thoughtful, probing, innovative, Socratic, logical, not taking things for granted, examining, outside the box or even “headscratching.”
- It is a “purposeful method for enhancing your thoughts beyond your automatic, everyday way of thinking.” This might sound complicated, but critical thinking offers many benefits:
- Critical thinking enables you to look at issues differently and find distinct solutions. For example, if there is a sudden spike in the workload in your department and you think it is a temporary situation, you may simply ask people to deal with the added work or hire a temp to help. On the other hand, if you feel this is a permanent change, you may consider hiring someone or make other adjustments within the department;
- Critical thinking prevents a distorted picture and avoids automatically jumping to conclusions; and,
- Critical thinking gives you a framework in which to think that helps organize and guide your thinking while also leveraging and incorporating others’ input. You aren’t the only person to have good ideas, and listening to others’ thinking fires up your own thought process.
- The framework for critical thinking, Kallet wrote, is simple and involves three concepts:
- Clarity: You become clear on issues, projects, initiatives, decisions, strategies, goals, etc. that are often not clear in the first place;
- Conclusions: These are solutions and a to-do list related to your issue(s); and,
- Decisions: Once you are clear on what issue(s) you must address and have come to a conclusion about what actions to take, you must decide to take the action, whatever it may be. Then, follow through. It is important to separate conclusions and decisions because each process involves different thinking processes.