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Timothy F. Bednarz

Quality Insider

Critical-Thinking Companies Look and Operate Differently

Organizational shortsightedness holds everyone back

Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - 10:41

Alack of critical thinking within organizations can be severely damaging. Critical thinking is needed for problem solving and for generating innovative ideas and solutions. Without it, new paths and avenues fail to be fully explored and forged.

When organizations lack creative thinkers, their working environments tend to be made up of employees who:
• Blindly repeat the destructive or negative reactions they have learned
• Don’t question existing workplace norms and boundaries, whether they are written or unspoken, beneficial, or detrimental
• Robotically trust internal organizational goals, plans, and initiatives
• Routinely accept and say that if “higher ups” within the organization say it, it must be so
• Mechanically accept, believe, and say that if the organization does it or promotes it, it must be right or appropriate

Unfortunately, many organizations create or allow critical-thinking limitations within their cultures. At times this is unconsciously done by not openly challenging, debating, or discussing important issues or topics with all involved employees. At other times, ignoring the importance of critical thinking may be intentional to maintain or sustain rigid organizational control and compliance. Both are evidence of organizational shortsightedness, which creates severe limitations for the companies themselves, as well as for all who work within them.

It is far more effective to allow and encourage employees to use and apply their own work-related knowledge and experience to help create changes that work to benefit everyone. The organizations that encourage and promote critical thinkers from within are full of employees who apply:

Contextual sensitivity. Employees are sensitive to stereotypes and try to unconditionally accept others at face value.

Perspective thinking. Employees attempt to get into the “heads and minds” of others, so as to see the world the way the other person does.

Tolerance for ambiguity. Employees demonstrate the ability to accept multiple interpretations of the same situation.

Alertness to premature ultimatums. Employees are able and willing to invoke a powerful idea or concept that inspires further debate and assessment.

Master the characteristics of an effective critical thinker

There is another important reason for promoting critical thinkers within organizations. These individuals become the movers and shakers who act as the driving force for advancing things forward to obtain positive results.

As a critical thinker, it is important to seek out the truth and possess a spirited desire for the best knowledge, even if this knowledge, once obtained, fails to support or ends up undermining their preconceptions, beliefs, or self-interests.

Critical thinkers are open-minded and possess a tolerance for divergent views while at the same time actively monitoring themselves for possible biases, partiality, or preconceptions. They are analytical, insisting on reason and evidence, and are constantly alert to problematic situations because they are inclined to anticipate consequences.

Critical thinkers are systematic and value organization while adhering to purposeful focus and diligence to approach problems at all levels of complexity. They have high self-confidence, trust their own reasoning skills, and see themselves as being good thinkers.

Critical thinkers are inquisitive and constantly curious and eager to acquire knowledge, even when they aren’t immediately sure how they might apply the knowledge. They possess cognitive maturity and excel at maintaining a sense of wisdom in making, suspending, or revising judgment. This is because they are aware that that multiple solutions can be acceptable. In addition, they appreciate the need to reach closure even in the absence of complete knowledge.

Critical thinkers must incorporate inductive and deductive reasoning

Critical thinkers are able to help their organization move ahead for one very important reason: They are good at inductive and deductive reasoning. Those who fail to invest time and effort in developing themselves to become more effective at this skill will have a much more difficult time analyzing, evaluating, and extracting facts and information in a more sophisticated manner. This is what is necessary to reach appropriate and accurate conclusions and solutions.

Critical thinkers must use deductive reasoning to:
• Reach a level of likely certainty about issues, arguments, and topics
• Define or identify one critical argument from a variety of diverse facts
• Draw a conclusion that follows known facts stated within the premise of an issue, argument, topic, or subject
• Rely on certainty that is based on a connection between an argument’s premises and the conclusion drawn from them
• Determine a “valid argument” as compared to a “sound argument”
• Ascertain if the premises (e.g., reasons, facts, evidence) prove with absolute certainty that the conclusion is true, assuming the premises are true

Critical thinkers use inductive reasoning to:
• Derive a probable conclusion from observing diverse facts
• Learn from experience
• Generate an argument by using analogies
• Create hypothetical arguments, conclusions, or solutions
• Ascertain a sense of certainty or uncertainty about a conclusion, which is based on the given evidence, when they can’t establish a realistic probability

Critical thinkers must become masters of language

Organizations depend on active and open communication to achieve results as well as to maintain a sense of momentum, direction, and synergy. Thinking without being able to transfer thoughts and reasoning into language and speech makes the whole process of critical thinking ineffective. This is why critical thinkers are so valuable: They take the communication process seriously and learn to use it effectively.

For critical thinkers, language must have three major functions, which must be applied effectively to describe, inform, and persuade. Persuasion is the manner by which individuals attempt to convince others to their way of thinking about a topic, idea, concept, or method, where all logic, misleading or erroneous reasoning, and problem solving become involved.

Critical thinkers must go about obtaining or promoting the facts in persuasive arguments to get closer to the truth and to set the record straight. For critical thinkers, their language and words must be able to project factual but logical implications, and practical yet accurate effects, while they swiftly discern abnormalities, manipulation, or erroneous persuasions in others’ arguments.

Critical thinkers must pay attention to “language forms”

As one of their abilities, critical thinkers must be quick to pick up on emotionally charged language, as well as emotional meanings and implications, even though they themselves must tend to refrain from applying them unless they have a sound factual argument.

They must also refrain from using, but be quick and alert to pick up on, manipulative language like cons, double-talk, and jargon. They also must refrain from applying, but be quick to pick up on, rhetorical devices, which include: slanting viewpoints or opinions, applying sly or misleading words, inserting implied or assumed verbal disclaimers, generating complicated or unclear thoughts, and using words and phrases that generate a highly emotional appeal for acceptance.

This article is an excerpt from Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011).

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About The Author

Timothy F. Bednarz’s picture

Timothy F. Bednarz

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D., is an accomplished author, researcher, consultant, entrepreneur, and innovator. He has founded three successful companies and has more than 26 years consulting experience in business development. As a critical thinker and transformational agent of change, he has the ability to view complex issues, identifying specific causes to develop meaningful solutions in simple terms. He has authored more than 125 books as well as a wide variety of high quality learning content. His latest book is Great! What Makes Leaders Great (Majorium Business Press, 2012). He is the author of more than 85 books in the Pinpoint Skill Development Training Series.