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There are times when it pays to think differently to the group. Especially in business when you’re trying to solve a problem or improve outcomes.
Critical thinking is something that is generally thought to be learned at university, but you don’t have to have studied higher level education to be able to take advantage of this skill.
The easiest way to incorporate critical thinking into your life and work is to follow three key guidelines:
It’s easy to let assumptions guide you, but just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s the best approach. There will always be someone who states, “But we’ve always done it this way”.
When you’re working in an organisation with long-standing processes or beliefs it can be hard to challenge the status quo for fear of upsetting your boss or other senior members of the business, but it is incredibly valuable to ask questions in order to ensure you understand what’s being asked, and what may need to be adjusted.
In a world that is constantly changing, it pays to question things such as strategy and process, and then use evidence to support your findings, especially for anyone that is particularly resistant to change. After all, sometimes what people ‘know’ is based on old information or gut feelings, rather than facts and data.
To quote Tommy Lee Jones from Men in Black “1,500 years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was the centre of the universe. 500 years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was flat. And 15 minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow.”
Bias and traditions can, and often do, drive business decisions.
So often anecdotal information informs large pieces of strategy within businesses, because the person responsible for the development has had success (or a negative experience) with something in the past, because sales leads tell the business that they know what customers want, or because someone saw an acquaintance they know create a successful strategy that they want to adopt.
Now, any of these reasons could be valid and probably deserve investigation, but the reasoning behind any major business decision should be backed with logic or data. In a world of big data there is more information on customers than we know what to do with but finding the right information to support your thoughts or to challenge assumptions can make all the difference when influencing your team.
Gaining buy in and showing expected outcomes is crucial when it comes to achieving the support of key business stakeholders, and data allows you a much better chance of influencing a decision.
It’s easy to create and exist in an echo chamber, but only being exposed to information that matches your beliefs can cause confirmation bias to make an appearance.
When businesses have problems with groupthink, or leaders surround themselves with people who never challenge them, the chances of growth and competitive advantage stall.
It takes diverse thinking – be it from people from different departments, educational backgrounds, cultures or generations – to see a situation from multiple angles, and who knows, by implementing diversity within business you might just find a solution that is a little out of the box, or a lot. And that solution might be the game changer your business has been looking for.
It’s worth a shot!
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