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Why thinking is critical in business


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How many times do you hear friends, family or colleagues bemoaning the fact that they haven't 'got time to think'? Yet we all inherently know that we have to think in order to make decisions and take actions, even if it's only for the briefest of moments.

However, the quality of our thinking can determine how successful the outcomes of our actions are and no more so than in our businesses.

So what exactly is this critical thinking?

The definition that makes most sense to me is the following: Critical thinking is a process, the goal of which is to make reasonable deductions about what to believe and what to do. Of course success hinges around the word 'reasonable'. In many situations the information you have to hand makes it quite straight forward to make a rational decision.

However, there are times when decisions are borderline - we could choose to go in one of several possible directions. It is at this moment, that the situation forces us to make important distinctions. It confronts us and demands a decision: Yes or No! And just not that, but why!

Often in business we have to be able to carry people along with the decisions we make. Therefore, we really need to understand why we have chosen a course of action and more importantly, be able to explain it to others in a way that they will inderstand.

When making difficult decisions, we may find it almost impossible to separate our feelings from the facts. Satisfactory solutions can be found by applying certain techniques and adopting a demeanour appropriate for the situation.

The essence of critical thinking centers not on answering questions but on questioning answers, so it involves:

  • questioning
  • probing
  • analysing
  • evaluating

Don't be afraid to examine and challenge the evidence before you. Does it make sense? Think about what is not there. For example when invited to respond to a report most people will confine their comments or their thinking to what they can see or hear. Sometimes what is not there is just as important and should be considered.

The practicalities of critical thinking can be divided into two main areas: the six core skills and the seven dispositions.
Why thinking is critical in business

The six core critical thinking skills

  1. Interpretation
    Understanding and expressing the meaning and significance of the information you have
  2. Analysis
    The identification of the intended and actual relationships between pieces of information. For example the identification of similarities and differences between two approaches to the solution of a given problem
  3. Evaluation
    Assessing the credibility of the information
  4. Inference
    The process of deriving logical conclusions from premises known or assumed to be true
  5. Explanation
    The ability to state the outcomes of the reasoning that has taken place and indicate the basis of a particular result/s
  6. Self regulation
    To be aware of ones own predjudices that may influence a decision. To recheck any figure work or carry out additional work to challenge your own thinking.
Why thinking is critical in business

The seven dispositions

These dispositions indicate the habits or attitudes critical thinkers have in common (see fig 2).

Improving your critical thinking

Like most skills, critical thinking is best developed and improved though regular practice. Here are some approaches to that will open you up to critical thinking opportunities:

  • Become inquisitive with regard to a wide range of issues
  • Commit to becoming and remaining well-informed
  • Be alert to opportunities to use critical thinking
  • Trust in the processes of reasoned inquiry
  • Gain self-confidence in your ability to reason
  • Keep an open-mind regarding the divergent world views
  • Maintain flexibility in considering alternatives and opinions
  • Seek to understand the opinions of other people
  • Be fair-minded in appraising others reasoning
  • Be honest with yourself in facing your own biases, prejudices, stereotyping or egocentric tendencies
  • Be prudent in suspending, making or altering judgements
  • Be willing to reconsider and revise views where honest reflection suggests that a change is warranted

If all this sounds like hard work, think of the benefits such as better relationships, more balanced decisions and a different perspective on the business world you inhabit.

In the words of the British politician Barbara Castle "Think, think, think. It will hurt like hell at first, but you'll get used to it".

Finally, remember that 'thinking critically' ends in 'why?' The word 'why?' is the most powerful tool in your mental toolbox. Keep asking - 'why?'

About the Author

Written by Sue Wright of  WrightPlace Consulting, a consulting company specializing in helping you develop your business.. You can reach WrightPlace Consulting by emailing or online at

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2006-05-30 22:45:30 in Business Articles

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