In Analytical Business Problem class, an article titled “Learning the art of critical thinking” was recommended for reading. The article was by by Richard Paul and Linda Elder. In it was detailed explanation of the art of critical thinking. Also were recommendations on how to exercise the mind to thinking skilfully.
As an MBA student who analyses cases regularly, learning how to clarify my thinking is essential. Eliminating all biases were tips I learnt from that article, which I will share in this post.
What is Critical Thinking?
As a manager, leader or friend, good thinking paves the way forward, while poor thinking eventually results in problems, waste of time and energy, frustration and pain.
According to the author of that article, critical thinking is the disciplined art of ensuring that we use the best thinking we are capable of in any set of circumstances or situations. It entails asking ourselves questions like:
- What is really going on in this situation?
- Am I deceiving myself when I believe that…?
- What are the likely consequences of failing to…?
- If I want to do X, what is the best way to prepare for it?
- How can I be more successful in doing Y?
- Is this really my biggest problem, or do I need to focus my attention somewhere else?
Being able to respond to these questions excellently is the daily work of thinking. However, in order to maximise the quality of our thinking, it is essential that we make learning about thinking a priority.
Why learn about thinking?
The first step to learning about thinking is to analyse our way of thinking or, better still, our personal thinking process. To do this, we need to ask ourselves the following questions:
- What do you know about how the mind processes information?
- What do you really know about how to analyze, evaluate, or reconstruct your thinking?
- Where does your thinking come from?
- How much of it is of good quality, and how much of it is vague, muddled, inconsistent, inaccurate, or illogical?
- Are you, in any real sense, in control of your thinking?
It is essential we take a step back to think about this because, like it or not, everything we do, we want to feel, is influenced by our thinking. To think critically, we must be willing to practise special “acts” of thinking that are, initially at least, uncomfortable and sometimes challenging.
Ways to aid the mind in practicing skilled thinking
As found in the article, are four possible ways in which the mind can work to discipline itself, think at a higher level of quality and function better in the world. However, I will share just one. In another post, I will share the other three.
1. Clarify your thinking
Our own thinking usually seems clear to us, even when it is not. Vague, ambiguous, deceptive, or misleading thinking is a significant problem in life. If we are to develop as thinkers, we must learn the art of clarifying our thinking, of pinning it down, spelling it out, and giving it a specific meaning.
There are various ways to do this: try to figure out the real meaning of important news stories or explain your understanding of an issue to someone to help clarify it in your own mind. Here’s what you can do to begin: When people explain things to you, try to summarize, in your own words, what you think they just said. When you cannot do this to their satisfaction, you haven’t really understood what they said. Likewise, when they cannot summarise what you have said to your satisfaction, they don’t really understand what you said. The fact is, you should neither agree nor disagree with anyone until you clearly understand them.