Mastering isolated critical thinking skills is important for thinking through problems and making better decisions, but these skills work best when they hang from a mental model framework. Organize a critical thinking workshop using three important mental models.
- You know what you're thinking. But do you know how you're thinking? Your critical thinking workshop will provide the time and training to help your team do exactly this, think about how they think! And, get better at it. A week before your workshop, give these assignments to each participant. One, ask them to bring a song to serve as their critical thinking trigger, and earbuds or something to listen to it. Play the song, boom! Fast, intuitive thinking stops, and slow, deliberate critical thinking starts. Two, have them prepare answers to the following competency questions. A, what do I already know about critical thinking? B, how closely does critical thinking relate to something I already know? C, what questions should I have about critical thinking? And D, what does the opposite of critical thinking look like? There are hundreds of mental models to help you think about how you think. But the three we'll cover are particularly useful for jump-starting critical thinking. The circles of competence mental model creates an honest assessment of what we know and what we don't know. Don't be alarmed. It looks something like this for all of us. Warren Buffet uses these circles to focus investors on only operating in areas they know best. He explained, "You don't have to be an expert on every company. You only have to be able to evaluate companies within your circle of competence. The size of that circle isn't important. Knowing its boundaries, however, is vital." Use answers to the competency questions to help create circles of competence for critical thinking. Later, you can use circles of competency to assess your knowledge about other things. So how do I know what I know about critical thinking becomes how do I know what I know about design trends, for example. The next two mental models are inductive and deductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning starts with an observation, supports it with trends or patterns, and generalizes to arrive at a theory. Examples, someone challenges my boss, he gets angry, anger is a sign of stress, my boss is stressed out. My team seems less engaged in meetings before lunch, I'm switching meetings to later in the day, they'll be more engaged. From specific to general. Deductive reasoning begins with a theory or set of facts, supports it with an observation or a second set of facts, and then arrives at an inference, like A = B and B = C, therefore, A = C! From general to specific. Note how these examples relate to the inductive reasoning examples. All anger is a form of stress, my boss is angry, my boss has stress. Studies show we can't concentrate in meetings when we're hungry, my team is hungry before lunch, they can't concentrate in meetings before lunch. Create examples for your team to match both types of reasoning. Your reasoning improves when you understand both types. Use inductive reasoning to come up with a theory, and then deductive reasoning to determine if it's actually true. Setting aside time and training for critical thinking will be incredibly valuable! Let me know how your first workshop goes, and what trigger songs you pick.
- 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