Critical ThinkingQuestions, information, concepts, implications, assumptions, interpretations, conclusions…all parts of everyday thinking. In business, our thinking style can make a big difference in how our businesses perform. Our beliefs and actions stem from how we think so it makes sense to stop and take a look at our thinking.

Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAge), co-host and founder of the #kaizenblog chat, and I were chatting via email about various topics when we got curious about how do people really think about their businesses and areas of expertise. How many are willing to do the hard work of thinking? How far are they willing to go to build thoughtful and effective business strategies? It’s too easy to fault the accelerated pace of business and say it prevents you from taking the time to think. If you don’t take the time to ask the questions, what will happen to your business?

Just a quick note-since there are only 140 characters per tweet in Twitter, you will see abbreviations, text speak, and mispellings in many of the quotes. It can be challenging to express a complicated thought w/ proper grammar and spelling with Twitter’s restrictions as well as keep up with a fast-moving discussion.

How do you describe a critical thinker?

To start this week’s #kaizenblog chat on Twitter, it made sense to start with knowing what a critical thinker might look, sound, or be like. (You can find the full transcript here-Transcript for #kaizenblog-Critical Thinking) Often with the word, critical, in front on thinking, we can caught up in the nuance that critical means negative or complaining. In this case, critical is more like discerning or containing careful evaluation and judgement.

Joe Sanchez (@sanchezjb) seemed to anticipate this question with his response, “Always b continuously 1) learning about ur mkt, 2)question ur biz strategy, & 3) validating ur strategy assumptions.”

Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI) noted, “Sometimes you can learn an enormous amount being a fly on the wall.”

 Tom Asacker (@tomasacker) responded, “Someone who is always trying to determine the meaning or significance of what she observes or experiences.”

Stephen Denny (@Note_To_CMO) explained, “Critical thinking is avoiding the knee jerk preconception. Asking questions before hurling conclusions.”

Leigh Duncan-Durst (@livepath) fleshed the definition out with this tweet, “Critical thinking is internally and externally facing. Essential: confidence, humility, & honesty with applied rational thought.”

For some participants, they wanted to get really clear on what critical thinking actually looked like:

  • Lizzie Pauker (@lizziepauker)- “-the question is what assumption is being made? is there evidence to support? is it relevant?”
  • Mr. Sanchez- “Critical thinking also means applying context to context. Is there alignment? If not, why? What does this mean?”
  • Heidi Cool- “When thinking critically, we have to be ready to challenge our own assumptions and maybe change our minds.”

Amidst these interesting points, a few people noted that there may be some obstacles to critical thinking such as its very nature is challening and not being able to communicate in an inviting way to examine an alternative point. Laura L. Crum (@LauraLCrum) wondered if our prejudices actually interfere with our ability to be fair.

What value is placed on ability to synthesize/analyze in business strategy?

As usual there were a couple of side conversations but one seem to center on speed and ability to analyze data. On one hand, there is a high value placed on the ability to analyze but the perception that “everything is urgent” may preclude from really using the information productively. There was also the theme that the ability to analyze and synthesize in service of business strategy had to include all levels of the organization.

  • Ms. Crum tweeted that the ability to synthesize and analyze “only seems appreciated at the higher levels, while it should be encouraged all the way down.” This was seconded by Joe Sanchez and Nathan Blair (@nathanburrblair)
  • Ms. Di Diego responded “A lot of value is placed ~ however the speed factor of analysis etc…maybe has more value today.”
  • Mr. Asacker picked up the theme of speed but added a twist, “Speed critical today. Spend less time analyzing, and more time modeling (trying to reproduce results)
  • Nick (@marketwire) suggested, “Get people involved from diff parts of the org to gather insights and to build teamwork. Collaboration is a beautiful thing.”
  • Mr. Denny tweeted, “Many speed culture CEO’s I’ve interviewed say collect all evidence from everyone, heated debate, rapid alignment (CEO job), go.”

There were so many tweets looking at cross training and figuring out how to combine analysis and action to reproduce results that we moved onto the last question of the chat.

When do you take the time to examine problems and raise important questions in business?

This where we had some great points that ran the gamut of actual tools to how organizations engage with critical thinking. Lizzie Pauker captured how globally critical thinking can fit into the whole organization with “Critical Thinking needs to be embraced by an org in order to become part of corp culture. Illustrate value of CT & it’ll happen.”

It seems the “how” and “when” have a variety of ways that businesses apply critical thinking:

  • MaryAnn Halford (@MaryAnnHalford)- “Good companies focus on having periodic offsites to examine problems & raise questions.”
  • Mr. Denny- “honestly, this should be a realtime exercise. Sometimes uncomfortable and inconvenient, but needed.”
  • Ms. Cool- “examining problems and asking Q’s should be ongoing, but perhaps more critical and points of change.”
  • Media Collective (@MediaCollective)- “Asking a questions should not be knee jerk, remove emotions from problem Biz need 1. open door policy 2. scheduled think tanks.”
  • Lois Martin (@LoisMarketing)- “As independent advisors we have opportunity to ID problems and pose the hard questions. Must carefully consider how we ask.”

The time we had for this chat was too short despite being an hour long. I encourage you to take a look at the transcript as there is great stuff that I didn’t have room to include. I also urge you to follow any of the contributors involved with #kaizenblog as they are all fascinating and willing to connect.

How do you use critical thinking in your organization?

What positives and negatives do you find in using critical thinking when planning your business strategy?