How to Develop Critical Thinking Skills

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These days developing critical thinking skills can mean the difference between making solid decisions that take your business in the right direction and downright failure.



In business we spend a lot of time and effort on problem-solving, but not enough time on critical thinking. I ran into this wonderful explanation of the difference between problem-solving and critical thinking from John Lombard, Founder of “The Language of Culture” 

Problem-solving requires an understanding of the situation; critical thinking requires an understanding of yourself, how you think, etc.  Problem-solving requires you to look at an external event, and figure out how to change it; critical thinking requires you to look inward, to challenge your own presuppositions.  Problem-solving is a periodic event, to be dealt with occasionally as problems arise; critical thinking is a continuous process, applied to all areas of your life.

In this episode of #BizapaloozaChat, I spoke with keynote speaker and critical thinking expert, Lucia Harper (@YEPBusiness) who shared her simple 3-step process to developing and building your critical thinking skills.

3 Steps to Developing Critical Thinking Skills

  1. Practice healthy detachment: “Begin your day with the understanding that other people’s crap is not about you or your ego,” says Harper.  As human beings, out default way of thinking is that everything is about us and it’s NOT ABOUT YOU! There are a couple examples that bring this to the forefront.  If someone you’re interacting with such as a customer service person is snippy or rude – it’s not about you.  You don’t know what’s happened to them that day or what their boss said to them just minutes before you showed up.  Or what about this one — you’re applying for a new job and they haven’t called you in a week.  You think they have rejected you when, in fact, everyone has been on vacation.  The way to practice healthy detachment is to continuously ask yourself “Is this really about me?” or “Is it possible that something has happened to this person to cause them stress and strain?”
  2. Be open to new ideas: Professional psychologists call this “cognitive flexibility”. Harper says “Just because you’re listening to a new idea doesn’t mean that you have to believe it or agree with it.”  Our feelings and beliefs are often running the show and having the ability to step away from those opens our thinking to new possibilities.  This is insanely important for small business owners and entrepreneurs.  All you have to do is look at some of the new products and services and innovations to see this critical thinking skill at work.  Another way to look at being open to new ideas is to question your assumptions.
  3. Practice patience in your decision making.  Harper notes that people living in developed countries have very few life-threatening situations to deal with. “Unless your child has fallen or your foot is on fire,” you have the time to ponder and contemplate and you should take it.
  4. Get out of your echo chamber.  These days it’s easier than ever to only see and hear things that are consistent with our feelings, attitudes, and beliefs.  Technology and algorithms continue to show us MORE of what we are interested in.  That means that it takes a little more effort to step out of that echo chamber. But, again, stepping away from things that are familiar can generate new possibilities and opportunities.


Tips on how to develop your critical thinking skills

Our #BizapaloozaChat also had some great tips on ways to develop your critical thinking skills:


Now it’s your turn to jump into the conversation:  Here are the questions we asked – jump into the conversation and tag a few more of your friends so we can keep the conversation going.

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