For managers and team leaders, one major challenge is how to transform their team members or subordinates from rote followers to critical thinkers. That is, for everyone to learn how to assess a situation and come up with solutions without having to consult with their superiors every single instance.
We asked Luigi Mapa, a professional organizational development consultant, for some tips on how to encourage and promote critical thinking in teamwork situations. Here are his thoughts and insights:
Earn the right to critique
In meetings and brainstorming discussions, we often hear people criticizing ideas without providing an alternative. This is counterproductive and can lead to hesitation on idea sharing. The sad truth is while it’s easy to shoot holes in someone else’s ideas, it takes effort to come up with a better idea. If you’re going to critique someone else’s idea, earn the right to do so by putting in the mental effort to come up with an alternative. As Henry Ford put it: “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”
Challenge the idea, not the person
Once you’ve earned the right to critique by developing an alternative, keep in mind that this does not make you the smartest person in the room. So when challenging an idea, focus on the issue, not on the person. It’s very important to remain objective, and keep personal feelings and egos outside of the discussion. Intelligence and patience should go hand in hand, along with humility.
Avoid thinking in extremes or dichotomies
Black or white. Yes or No. This or That. There are times when these simplistic choices are helpful and needed. But in a complex world with multiple stakeholder interests and many possible outcomes, thinking in extremes boxes you in and reduces your analysis to a coin toss. Keep in mind that dichotomies are false choices. A smarter approach is to look for win-win solutions and third alternatives that seek to integrate the strengths of different perspectives.
Move from thinking to action: Speed vs. accuracy
Some situations require a deliberate approach, while others need a fast decision or speedy resolution. Ultimately though, all thinking must result in action. It’s important not to fall into analysis-paralysis. By applying critical thinking, you must discern when to prioritize speed and when to prioritize accuracy.
Read situations better— inquire and ask the right questions
A key skill you must develop is to learn to ask the right questions in order to move the discussion forward. It takes both experience and creativity, as well as an attitude of curiosity to formulate the right questions. The end goal is to find out and understand the underlying causes. Note that looking for a root cause leads to mistaken notions of one single event or circumstance being at the core of a problem. This same thinking leads to a belief in a single miraculous cure, when in reality, problems are caused by multiple factors, each requiring their own intervention. An effective critical thinker will be able to see the patterns and connections between these interventions, and implement them in the simplest manner possible.
Mapa will facilitate a workshop titled “Critical Thinking and Decision Making: Analyze and Implement Effective Solutions” on Sept. 15, 2017 at the Inquirer Academy. The workshop will allow participants to learn critical thinking tools to analyze root cause of problems and find better solutions in the workplace through a simplified problem solving process.