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    Build Business 2019 - Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making for Thought Leaders

    Aug. 29, 2019

    This thought-provoking session was presented by Kisha Allen, a Corporate Trainer and Transformational Speaker with Beyond Motivation in Forney, Texas. She began the talk explaining that she seeks to be a life-long learner.

    The goals for the session were to outline a 3-step critical thinking process that strategically solves problems and helps generate a myriad of effective solutions that will show:

    • How to be a critical thinker

    • How to identify the true root cause of a problem

    • How to effectively use a SWOT analysis when making huge decisions

    So, what is critical thinking?

    It’s self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking that skillfully analyzes, assesses, and reconstructs the quality of active thought. It means using effective communication, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities. It also means being OK with not having the answer, with messing up or making mistakes. Understand that you will not always be “right”.

    Simply: critical thinking is the process of solving problems and making decisions through careful evaluation of evidence. We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.

    “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.”
    – Albert Einstein

    Why is critical thinking necessary to make better decisions? It engages all logical reasoning because you are actively seeking all sides of an argument. It avoids bias or inaccurate assumptions by performing detailed research and testing soundness of any claims made along with the evidence presented. By systematically working through all your options you can identify the most relevant and reasonable solution. Then implement a strategy for action.

    We are all biased, and we are all conditioned every moment of every day. Everything that has happened to you impacts the way you think and react to what happens around you. To start up critical thinking, start questioning your reactions to situations. Keep asking why until the answer ends at verifiable facts – then it’s no longer opinion. Look and listen for the unexpected answer.

    As a thinker, the most important thing in this is to engage with others, listen, and understand that you don’t have to provide all the answers. Be patient and don’t interrupt as they express themselves and let them be heard. There is always a reason behind the emotion. Thinking critically can help separate the emotion and look for the problem behind it.

    So how does the process work?

    1. Identify and define the problem by asking why

    2. Conduct research for insight and revelation (verify facts vs. opinions)

    3. Draw a conclusion/make a decision

    4. Implement a strategy/plan of action

    5. Evaluate and gather feedback

    Identify the Problem

    How do you identify the problem? Get clarity first. Look way beyond the surface of what is being said and work to perceive/discern the why at the core. What is the question, problem, or situation that is demanding an answer, decision, or conclusion? Is this a fundamental issue, or already a conclusion, or side issue? The best way to do this is to question using the 5 Ws + H: who, what, where, when, why, and how. Keep asking why until you get to the end of the story, not just what’s on the surface level.

    Conduct Research

    When conducting research it’s necessary to do your homework. Use direct observation, personal experience, intuition, examples, statistics, industry research, and expert testimony from someone you know the depth/breadth of their expertise. Your goal is to uncover assumptions and biases. Assumptions are unstated beliefs related to values, priorities, and preferences that shape how we view the issue. Seek out alternative viewpoints and diversity in thinking. Recognize when assumptions are being made i.e., “how do I/we know that?”

    Draw a Conclusion

    After completing the first two steps, then it’s time to draw conclusions and assess explanations or solutions. Are there any erroneous assumptions? Are there fallacies in reasoning? How good is this information? Can it be tested? What are the sources? Has any information been omitted?

    Now’s the time to pull out the SWOT analysis. What are the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of each option that makes up your decision/conclusion? Examine this SWOT for any other biases or assumptions that you may have missed during your analysis. Is your reasoning sound? Have you followed each thread down to the core thought?

    Putting it All Together

    Critical thinkers are important for firms because they can remove themselves from the problem. Critical thinkers are also able to see the big picture and help solve big problems. Although some may have a more natural tendency to be able to think critically, for others, it is a process that must be learned and honed and going through each step of the critical thinking process will help carve the path of rational, unbiased thought, becoming more valuable to your firm.  

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