Within organizations a lack of critical thinking can be severely damaging. Critical thinking is needed for problem solving, and for generating innovative ideas and solutions. Without creative thinking new paths and avenues of direction fail to be fully explored and forged.
When organizations lack creative thinkers, they tend to see that their working environments are made up of employees who: blindly repeat the destructive or negative reactions they have learned over previous histories of time and events, automatically accept at face value all justifications given by organizational superiors or peers, 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, and mechanically accept, believe and say that if the organization does it or promotes it, it must be right or appropriate.
Unfortunately many organizations do create or allow critical thinking limitations within themselves. At times this is unconsciously done by not openly challenging, debating or discussing important issues or topics with all involved employees. At others, ignoring the importance of critical thinking may be intentional in order 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.
Critical Thinking Organizations Look and Operate Quite Differently
Within organizational environments that encourage and promote critical thinkers from within, workplaces 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, where they are able to walk in the other person’s shoes so as to see the world the way the other person views and perceives things.
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, which inspires further debate and assessment.
Master the Characteristics of Being an Effective Critical Thinker
There is another major reason why it is important to have critical thinkers within organizations. These individuals become the “movers and shakers” that 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 upon obtaining it 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 monitor themselves for possible existing biases, partiality or preconceptions. They are analytical, insisting on reason and evidence, and are constantly alert to problematic situations since they are inclined to anticipate consequences.
Critical thinkers are systematic and value organization, while adhering to purposeful focus and diligence in order to approach problems at all various levels of complexity. They have high self-confidence and trust their own reasoning skills and see themselves as being a good thinker.
Critical thinkers are inquisitive and constantly curious and eager to acquire knowledge and learn explanations, even when the applications of the knowledge they glean is not immediately apparent. They possess cognitive maturity and excel at maintaining a sense of wisdom in making, suspending, or revising judgment. This is because of their awareness that multiple solutions can be acceptable. In addition they possess an appreciation of the need to reach closure even in the absence of complete knowledge.
Critical Thinkers Need to Incorporate Good 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 inductive and deductive reasoning 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 assumptions, conclusions and solutions.
Critical thinkers need to 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 that are stated within the premise of an issue, argument, topic or subject, rely on certainty that is based on a connection between and argument’s premises and the conclusion drawn from them, determine a “valid argument” as compared to a “sound argument,” and ascertain if the premises (reasons, facts, evidence, etc.) prove with absolute certainty that the conclusion is true, assuming the premises are true.
â€¨Critical thinkers use inductive reasoning to: derive a probable conclusion from the observation of diverse facts, learn from experience, generate an argument by using analogies, create hypothetical arguments, conclusions or solutions, and also ascertain a sense of certainty or uncertainty as to a conclusion, which is based on the given evidence, where they cannot establish any likelihood of realistic probability.
Critical Thinkers Must Become Masters of Language
Organizations depend upon 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 needs to 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 impacts, while they swiftly discern abnormalities, manipulation or erroneous persuasions in the arguments of others.
Critical Thinkers Must Pay Careful Attention to “Language Forms”
As one of their abilities, critical thinkers need to 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 need to 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 and thoughts, and words and phrases that generate a highly emotional appeal for acceptance.
Excerpt: Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)