Although no successful leader would discredit the idea of critical thinking, there are common barriers to critical thinking that must be identified and minimized. Learn to spot and minimize these top critical thinking killers in your organization.
- Would you say that your organization is slow-paced? If so, you're in rare company. Your fast pace probably means that sometimes you feel too busy to think. It's about getting stuff done. Fast-paced business can be a critical thinking killer, but it's not one of the top five. Here are the top five and ways to avoid them. The first one is over reliance on authority. We see this in hierarchical organizations where the boss is the source of beliefs and knowledge. Critical thinking requires questioning, but it doesn't work if you can't question the boss. As an expert, you're a legitimate source of opinion, but critical thinking values evidence over authority. Empower your team to weigh evidence, challenge assumptions and propose different conclusions, even if they're at odds with your own. Number two, black-and-white thinking. The tendency to place things in absolute either, or categories. You're with us or against us. This ignores complexity and nuance. Not good for critical thinking. Recognize the difference between negatives, hot, not hot, and opposites, hot, cold. With negatives it's either, or. With opposites, the truth of one, hot, doesn't necessarily disprove the other, cold. Both could be true, both could be false. Thinking about negatives versus opposites helped our client Rachel move her team away from black-and-white thinking toward critical thinking. This was instrumental in the decision to proceed with a merger. Rachel's team recognize the difference between merge now, not now versus merge now, later. New and better options like to stage the merger became clearer. Number three, hasty moral judgments. Quick evaluations of someone or something as good or bad. Ever heard something like, "Just met her, doesn't look the part." Yep. Hasty moral judgment. Now it's okay to have moral beliefs. It's the hasty part that's the problem. Hastiness is a reaction from cultural conditioning that blocks critical thinking. Relegate moral judgments to after thoughtful deliberation. This reduces their negative influence on critical thinking. Four, labels. We can't communicate without them. She's a doctor, he's a politician, but an over reliance on labels can kill critical thinking. Labels cause us to lump things together, miss differences and justify our assessments when we should use more relevant evidence. Nathan's label was millennial. His boss, Wendy, ignored Nathan's research suggesting that working from home reduces attrition. Instead of challenging the label and using critical thinking to assess the evidence, Wendy said, "Nathan would say that working from home is better "because he's a millennial." Challenge labels. Question there meaning. Establish new labels. Resist altering evidence to fit the label. Sure, Nathan was a millennial. He was also an accomplished data scientist. Number five, resistance to change. Reacting immediately and negatively to ideas, beliefs and attitudes that challenge our own. This reflects resistance to change. The ability to change your mind is a requirement for critical thinking. Set aside immediate reactions and emotional responses. Show your team that with robust, relevant evidence, you won't resist change. Look out for these critical thinking killers and use these strategies to avoid them. That's the first step toward improving your judgments and decisions.
- Comparing critical and strategic thinking
- Minimizing bad judgements
- Recognizing cognitive bias
- Using counterfactual thinking
- Overcoming loss aversion
- Avoiding logical fallacies
- Creating a culture of critical thinking