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How To Broaden Your Critical Thinking Skills?

Critical thinking can be defined as the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned decision. It involves the process of evaluation, research and drawing reasonable conclusions from information and honing in on useful details to solve a particular problem or form a reasoned decision.

Critical thinking has been identified as one of the key skills to stay relevant in the 2020 world. In the World Economic Forum’s report titled ‘The Future of Jobs’ they identified critical thinking, teamwork and collaboration, people management, communication, problem-solving and EQ, among some of the key skills. 

This marks a particular challenge in a Country like India, where the educational system has had a significant focus on building technical competencies with an emphasis on marks or grades, rather than promoting learning or individual development. 

I remember in my first semester of undergraduate college in the US realizing the importance of developing my own critical thinking skills. A professor of mine gave us a book reading assignment as homework and asked my views on the book in class. When I explained what I had understood of the book, she turned to me and said everyone had access to page 128, but what she wanted to really know was my analysis, reasoning, reflection and perspective on the book. 

Critical thinking can be defined as the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned decision. It involves the process of evaluation, research and drawing reasonable conclusions from information and honing in on useful details to solve a particular problem or form a reasoned decision.

It is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.

As a leadership coach and workplace behaviour facilitator who works with millennials on developing critical thinking skills, as well as someone who has actively developed my own skills in this realm my recommendations on how you can broaden your own critical thinking abilities are as follows:

Asking Open-Ended Questions: One of the starting points of developing critical thinking abilities is to ask basic “what” or “how” questions. Don’t accept assumptions and statements as is and make sure you develop the mental ability to question. However, it is also important to manage the fine line between asking effective questions and too many questions or posing too many challenges.

Changing Your Perspective: Broaden your outlook by overcoming your inherent biases and assumptions to look at issues or situations through other perspectives. Be aware of your own mental processes and heuristics (mental shortcuts).

Info Gathering: Use facts, data, theories and do your research thoroughly to ensure that you understand the different viewpoints and compare arguments on the subject matter. Don’t fall prey to unsourced claims and develop the ability to identify them.

Don’t Make It Personal: It is important to self-check to ensure that you take an objective view of the topic at hand. Strong critical thinkers do their best to evaluate information objectively and recognize their own biases.

Draw Conclusions: The ability to make inferences and draw conclusions from the information presented to you is another key skill to mastering the art of critical thinking. Remember, an inference is an educated guess and your ability to make an inference will depend on your ability to gather as much information, understand different perspectives and assess before jumping to any conclusions.

Read Intelligently: In the Forbes August 2018 report, they identified the ability to learn how to learn and read intelligently as key skills to stay relevant. With the volume of information available to us today, it is important to master the art of “reading smart” to hone in on the relevant information.

Be Curious: Curiosity, humility and the ability to receive feedback and critique on our viewpoints are equally important. When presenting our analyses, it is also important to give equal weightage to alternative opinions or recommendations. They could help in making our argument stronger.

Remember, you don’t have to think critically all the time but instead, use it as an effective tool for you to deploy when solving important problems or making key decisions.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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