Sunday, April 17, 2016

How to Apply Critical Thinking to Ask Good Questions

Critical Thinking becomes more “critical’ in today’s “VUCA” digital new normal.

Critical Thinking is the rational analysis (often with creativity embedded in it) and evaluation of the issues in order to make a fair judgment. There is only a very small fraction of true Critical Thinkers who can always dig through the root causes of problems. How to debunk the myth of Critical Thinking, and how to apply Critical Thinking to ask good questions for either problems-solving or making sound judgment and effective decisions timely?

Critical Thinkers often starts with asking “WHY,” rather than jump into “HOW”:  Critical Thinking needs to combine different thinking processes, to gather a mass of information, break it apart and reconstructed with a level of accuracy, projecting futuristic events, numbers, etc., and it’s complex thought process involving thinking differently, or thinking out of the box. It is about breaking the rules that have been created through experience. So experience is inside the box. Critical Thinkers live out of the box, ask open questions to collect relevant information. Problem solvers who can leverage Critical Thinking are always chasing root cause by asking the big 'WHY' questions without too rushing up into HOW.

Critical Thinkers do not just ask one or two random questions, they ask in a structural way continually: Critical Thinking as an iterative process leads to a series of refinements based on learning and experience. Critical Thinking implies some systematic methodology, employing and applying the criteria deemed appropriate by the thinkers involved, to arrive at the tangible and reproducible truth - the commonly accepted objective, testable or measurable, time-bound reality. So Critical Thinkers continue to learn and make inquiries. Rather than "good" or "bad,” Critical Thinking is ever-improving. In the business world, at least, you can't always wait for the "best" decision to emerge. You have to make the best decision you can, based on a structural way to make inquiries, and a sound process to make a better choice, and have the gut to admit when a mid-course correction is in order.

Critical Thinking requires an ability to be able to not only ask the right questions, but understand the context: The effective critical thinking scenario includes, knowing by observing; what is said or done, how, when, where, why it's said or done, and who said this or did that. Understanding through asking the right questions, and open for varying answers. They not only ask the right questions but rather absorb information forecast potentials; risks/benefits; mitigation and compare and contrast options, facts, ideas against logic and creativity. From a management perspective, the best way to learn critical thinking is simply to listen to your workforce. Ensure that everyone in the company feels valued. Encourage people to raise any issues. If people feel confident to discuss matters within the company, then any problems can be dealt with before they become serious, Also, Everyone will feel like they are contributing to the growth of the company. Getting input from a broad range of personalities and cognitive difference of people on a particular matter. Think both in macro and micro way, and try to tie inter-dependencies into the mix and believe, to your core, you might still miss "something." It's then that any Critical Thinking will be able to help drive improvement, create new ideas or solutions and make them stick successfully.

Critical Thinking becomes more “critical’ in today’s “VUCA” digital new normal. Even the best Critical Thinkers have blind spots. Because we all have a cognitive bias, whether individually or collectively, such truths derived by imperfect people using imperfect processes will necessarily leave a measure of uncertainty. Thus, any question, whether perfect or imperfect, will by definition be imperfectly answered or unanswered. Still, Critical Thinking helps to frame the right problems via ask better questions and solve them more effectively.


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