You may have read our blog a few weeks ago about three modes of thinking and getting creative. This week we will be focusing on the important skill of critical or convergent thinking.
What is critical thinking? Critical thinking is taking a logical approach to working things through and can be defined as the analysis and evaluation of facts to make a judgement. In work we are often encouraged to think things through methodically and doing so can have really good benefits such as in problem solving. This skill when well-honed allows us to be better able to separate fact from fiction.
What are the benefits of critical thinking? When faced with a problem or dilemma, critical thinking can offer a process or framework to start thinking things through methodically and without prejudice. It helps us avoid drawing the wrong conclusions or acting on misinterpretations. Leaders, for example, need the ability to assess the validity of information they are using to make decisions if they are to be successful. Teams can benefit from developing this skill too as it helps them identify problems and develop solutions that go beyond the obvious. This is especially important in challenging times, like the unprecedented situation the world is facing now.
The RED Model was introduced in Pearson’s Watson-Glaser II Critical Thinking Appraisal as an effective approach that anyone can learn to use. RED stands for Recognise, Evaluate and Draw Conclusions.
Recognise assumptions Being able to recognize assumptions is important because it allows you to observe the difference between fact and opinion. Are there facts and evidence to support what you’re hearing or reading about? Is the information really true or an opinion persuasively expressed? Look out for what’s missing – the gaps in information can be very revealing.
Evaluate information Being able to evaluate the arguments others are using in making a proposal is a critical skill. You should analyse them as objectively as possible. We all experience unconscious biases and one of them – confirmation bias – is the tendency for us to look for and agree with anything that confirms what we already believe. Look at each assumption from different perspectives – especially those that are most different from the one you currently hold.
Draw conclusions The key here is to make sure quality decisions are made based upon evidence. Avoid the temptation to generalise. It’s all too easy to fall at the final hurdle and move away from the evidence.
Critical thinking helps us to make the best decisions even in difficult or pressured situations. It’s an essential skill to develop especially in challenging times where changes need to be made swiftly.