As professionals in the workplace, we are educated, experienced, and successful. So the notion that we might benefit from training in thinking seems superfluous at best. More likely, we are offended at the suggestion.
Why, then, do so many people who undergo such training rave about the gains? Because they learn that despite our accumulated wisdom, we are still very human, with inherent cognitive shortcomings.
Truth is, our marvelous minds are made to rapidly arrive at judgements from only a sampling of the world around us. It serves us well in many, many cases. Most of the time it is truly a life enabler. Unfortunately, another way to describe this skill is “jumping to conclusions”. And from there, it is a short slip to trial-and-error, which is in fact humans’ most natural mode of making decisions.
Fortunately, these shortcomings occur in rather predictable ways. We can arm ourselves against those cognitive potholes with two elements:
- Structured approach
- Outside perspective
Structured Thinking Vs Outside Perspective
The structured approach includes many tools with which we are already familiar: problem definition, pros and cons, decision trees, etc. Likely, though, we do not employ them often enough. A good example is identifying assumptions. In a group discussion, we all bring our own, unstated, version of what is being taken for granted. If we care to understand other people’s view, we are stuck evaluating their assertions to infer their assumptions. The result: in group decision making, we often talk past each other.
A good book that exposes our natural shortcomings and offers structured approaches is “The Thinkers Toolkit” by Morgan D. Jones.
For the remedy of an outside perspective, the lion of this line of thought is Daniel Kahneman. He won a Nobel Prize for his work about how cognitive biases prevent us from seeing our own blind spots.
Their research shows that our track record of making good decisions is not exactly sterling, as reported in his article titled “Delusions of Success”. Turns out that our own blind spots about our own abilities plus organizational pressures for rapid results drive us to advance and adopt recommendations that are the riskiest! His advice about averting such risk is to actively seek and consider other perspectives: historical outcomes of similar endeavors and the assessment of people external to the team.
Our minds that are phenomenal in so many ways can be trained and harnessed to avoid natural pitfalls. Better insight and better decisions are the rewards of taking the overt, willful, intentional action to employ techniques for critical thinking.
Click here to read more about how RPS can help your teams build critical thinking skills.