Is it possible to teach people how to think? I have a lot of smart people on my team that seem to make the dumbest decisions.
Everyone thinks, the real problem is that much of our thinking is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed or down-right myopic and thus tragically flawed. Yet the quality of our life, from the decisions we make to the actions we take depends precisely on the quality of our thought. Sloppy thinking is costly, both in money and in quality of life. Excellence in thought, however, must and can be nurtured. The question is, How?
Critical thinking can best be taught in real-time, when we challenge our current viewpoints, interpretations, understandings and assumptions with big, bold questions such as:
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- What am I missing?
- What might be the consequences of this action or decision?
- What might be the unintended consequences of this action or decision?
- How will we know this is the right decision, both in the short-term and long-term?
- How might an expert from another discipline approach this problem/opportunity?
Asking higher-level questions can also help us see both sides of an issue, be open to new evidence, reason dispassionately, supply evidence for claims, solve problems, make inferences and ultimately be wiser in our word choice and actions. Critical thinkers raise vital questions, expand their perspective and think open-mindedly as they communicate effectively with others. Start with preparing a few bold questions for your next meeting’s agenda. Preparing an agenda of questions will help trigger and sustain higher-quality dialogue. Phrase your questions positively, keep them forward focused…and watch the thought level rise.