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What Does it Take to be a Critical Thinker?

Hi everyone, I’m Mike Staver, this is Mondays with Mike, a weekly video series where I answer questions from people like you. Here’s this week’s question:

Our EVP (Executive Vice President) says we need to start developing a group of people who are better critical thinkers.I did not raise my hand and say “What exactly is a critical thinker?” but I’m asking you. If you were told to develop critical thinking in your team, what would you think that meant?

That’s great! Because you know what, that’s one of those words that you hear a lot around companies, you hear it in schools – “we need to develop critical thinking.” And so what I did, rather than just try to make up the Mike Staver version is I went and did a little research about what critical thinking means. So let me share with you a couple of definitions that I came across, and then I’ll share with you what I think is most important relative to your question.

It says: Critical thinking is simply reasoning out whether a claim is true, partly true, sometimes true, or patently false. Logic is always applied to critical thinking. It helps you understand character, motivation, point of view, and expression. All decisions that you make involve critical thinking from some level or another. I like it, right?

So, I think that what critical thinking is is your ability to look at a set of circumstances and evaluate it clearly. So if I’m walking down the street and a man or a woman in front of me grabs their chest and collapses, a critical thinker would think “Something’s wrong. Should I do something or not? Can I help this person? Do I dial 9-1-1?” and so on and so forth. But not only that, they would also look at the person and evaluate the symptoms. Did they just trip and fall, did something else happen, what exactly went on there? All of this in real-time, really fast, so that they can apply the best solution. That’s critical thinking.

Blind thinking would just be rolling the person over and starting to do CPR. Now, while that may seem like the right thing to do, it’s not really the right thing to do until you’ve done some critical thinking. Evaluating the symptoms, evaluating the circumstances, determining the best course of action. And you can do that very quickly, or you can do that over a period of time.

So, if I were your boss and I said you need to develop a team of critical thinkers, I would say you need to develop a group of people who can look clearly at a circumstance and evaluate it, then put it in context so that they act appropriately.

When you teach kids, it isn’t just about going to school and raising your hand when you ask a question. It’s about evaluating your circumstances then making decisions that seem to provide the best result given those affected.

Hope that’s helpful, this is Mike Staver and this is Mondays with Mike. See you next week, take care.

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