Critical thinking is vital for business and career success, and while most leaders admit they’re good at it, few understand exactly how to explain the difference between critical thinking, strategic thinking, and creating thinking. Learn how to articulate and identify the differences between critical, strategic, and creative thinking.
- Throughout our careers, throughout our lives we learn what to think. Follow these procedures. Apply these models. Use these techniques. Do it like this. Important stuff, what to think. Critical thinking is about how to think. It's not our natural or default way of thinking, but it's something we can all get better at. So how is critical thinking different from creative or strategic thinking? According to Stanford Business School, "Critical thinking is the language of strategy." It's vital to know when you and your team are thinking critically versus thinking strategically or creatively so you don't succumb to selective thinking and jump to faulty conclusions. Let's explore the differences. Critical thinking is the tool for assessing information quality and relevance. It's judging and making rational decisions about what to do or what to believe. A critical thinking question might be, How can we find out if this is really true? When you're validating the accuracy of information, checking whether the evidence supports the argument, looking for biases or busting assumptions, that's critical thinking. Creative thinking is looking at challenges and opportunities from fresh perspectives to conceive of or produce new ideas and solutions. A question might be, How can we rearrange this problem to see if we can discover a new solution? Strategic thinking is generating and applying insights and opportunities to overcome barriers, solve problems, and accomplish goals. Here questions might be, How or why do we do that? When you're deriving insight from information, breaking down facts and ideas into their strengths and weaknesses, or analyzing trends over time, that's strategic thinking. How does this work in the wild? Let me tell you a story about a company I worked with that was evaluating security options for their new building. The director, Louis, presented the best option, a facial recognition technology. His manager, Vivian, asked why that security option was the best. Louis explained that it would give employees access to the building with their faces. Vivian asked why that would be the best option. Louis explained that it would provide the company with the best data. Vivian asked if this new security system prioritized data over security, and why it provided the best data. This was strategic thinking. The second manager, Yolee, asked what information Louis used to reach his conclusion. Louis explained that he had used a security consultant to assess options and they had supported this new facial recognition option. Yolee asked whether the consultant was a credible source and whether their data claims were factually based. This was critical thinking. It turns out Yolee had worked with this technology in the past and had not been impressed. So she was more inclined to look for biases and approach the situation with a critical thinking lens. Yolee's critical thinking was how Louis and his team learned that their security consultant was an investor in the facial recognition technology. And therefor, some of the claims he made were biased and more value claims than factual claims. Yes, there's overlap between these types of thinking, but try teasing out the differences and you'll make sure that you're not missing anything.
- 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