5 Stages to Thinking Critically
Bertrand Russell said: “To be able to concentrate for a considerable time is essential to difficult achievement”. In both our personal life and career there are many situations that demand of us to thinking critically. This includes situations such as dealing with a crisis, a complaint from a customer, deciding who to promote and purchasing expensive equipment. The list is certainly not exhaustive.
Unlike creative thinking which expects you to think out of the box literally and sometimes come up with the most ludicrous ideas critical thinking on the other hand involve a measured process of analysis of facts, data and assumptions in order to come to a rational conclusion. This gives the suggestion that critical thinking is relatively more boring than creative thinking that does not discount for coming up with wild flamboyant concepts and ideas. However critical thinking does not have to be boring and in fact it might be as interesting if not more than creative thinking if you master the fine art of being able to apply the process of critical thinking.
Fundamentally critical thinking involves the conscientious application of the five stage process. By apply this five stage process you will notice that you become excellent and solving those problems that may have far reaching consequences as well as making effective decisions that leaves no room for regret later.
Here are the five stages:
Stage One: Identify the key issue that needs to be resolved
It is a fact that during meetings and discussions there is a tendency that people get distracted on the key aspects of what they want to resolve. To be an effective critical thinker you should first start by identifying the key issue in the problem or situation that you need to address and resolve. It would be great if you could write this down and look at it from time to time so that you are aware that you are not being sidetracked and going on a wild goose chase.
Stage Two: Gather relevant facts and data
Critical thinking is useful in situations like dealing with customer complaints, or conducting an inquiry into something that has happened and also in situation like planning a large function or conference when nothing can be left to chance. In these situations it is crucial that you gather all the relevant facts and data so that you can work towards a suitable outcome.
Stage Three: Clarify possible assumptions, theories and concepts
It is possible that you may not have all the relevant facts and data. This is especially so if you are engaging is a new project and there is no past experiences to work with. Here you need to look at possible assumptions, theories and concepts pertaining to your situation. This would involve on postulating a worst case and best case scenario and thinking through the process that might be put in place if any of these where to happen. Sometimes this is called deliberate thinking which is very much a sub-category of critical thinking.
Stage Four: Look for Evidence to support your cause of action
Critical thinking most certainly will involve you having to make an informed decision. This then would attract the attention of would be detractors who might have their own hidden agenda to attack or criticize your decision. What you need to do is to have hard evidences that support your cause of action and be able to present a strong case in your favour.
Stage Five: Check and keep in view any inconsistencies
There is no such thing as a perfect decision or a perfect solution to a critical problem. What you may have achieved is to come up with an effective solution that may or may not solve a major portion of the problem or a pragmatic decision that deals with the situation at hand. It is therefore important to verify and keep in view any inconsistencies that might arise under these circumstances. Inconsistencies here refer to those issues that may have more than one possible answer or does not necessarily apply to all. It may not be possible for you to resolve these inconsistencies at the current time but it would be prudent to keep this in mind so that you may work on it at a later time to try to resolve it if this would be possible at all.
Applying these five stage process will pave the way for you to become an effective critical thinker and thus making you an asset in your organization as well as allowing you to develop an unbiased view of life.
Article contributed by:
Daniel Theyagu is a humorous keynote seminar speaker and principal training consultant of Lateral Solutions Consultancy. He conducts training, seminars and interactive workshops for many other organizations including Nanyang Technological University – Centre for Continuing Education and MDIS. To engage his services visit his webpage: www.thinklaterally.com or email: [email protected]