Critical thinking is an important capability we want for all of our team members. How do we help to cultivate it?
According to criticalthinking.org, critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.
How often to you give your team members time to conceptualize the solution to a challenge? How frequently do they get to apply information recently gained from a new experience? How often do we stop for reflection?
The normal day to day doesn’t always allow for these moments. We’re often on to the next situation as soon as one is complete. As great leaders, we have to carve out time for reflection. We must take the time to discuss new information. Add it to your one on one time or to an agenda item for your meeting.
We also have to recognize these opportunities as they are happening. Let’s say one of your team members makes a great observation about a situation. That’s an excellent time to thank them for the observation, but also to ask clarifying questions to further analyze the idea. This is a chance to help them clearly articulate the thought and create clarity. Ask about the impact the idea may have. How it would work? That conversation can happen fairly quickly and then you both can designate time later to expand.
Another idea is to think of scenarios your team commonly faces. Ask your team members for what they would do in those situations. This exercise is also great for looking at client complaints. Ask them to describe the root of the problem. How can they prevent it from happening again? What can we do to make it right with the client?
Both of these exercises generate thought through reflection. They also prepare the participant for the times they may be faced with those scenarios.
Critical thinking inspires innovation. When we are skillful at evaluating our experiences and then applying our learnings toward action then we generate even more impactful ideas than before.