Every day we need to make decisions as leaders. But this is often not easy. How can we improve our chances to make good decisions? There are many techniques for this, one of which is critical thinking. This technique is particularly effective, and it allows us to deconstruct the situation removing undesired bias and revealing hidden issues.
When you use critical thinking, rather than making a decision just because it feels right, you will scrutinise every available option and apply scepticism. Using the tools described below you will eliminate everything but the most useful and reliable information.
Here is one way of approaching critical thinking based on 5 steps, as created by Samantha Agoos.
Formulate the question appropriately: find out what you are really looking for. This is not always straightforward, as the real enquiry can be obscured by other factors. If the underlying question is not clear, you can try the 5 whys technique to identify the root of the problem at hand (ask why 5 times in a row to explore reasons deeper than the obvious and immediate ones).
Gather information: having a clear idea of your question will help you determine what is relevant. You might ask an expert for their advise or seek other people’s testimonies. This will help you weigh different options.
Apply the information: consider what concepts apply, be aware of what assumptions you are making and ask yourself if your interpretation of the situation is logically sound. By asking critical questions to yourself, challenging what you know about the problem, you will narrow down your alternatives.
Consider the implications: evaluate the consequences of choosing each option. Frequently, we tend to see only the short-term implications of our decisions, but it is important to consider the long-term impact as well.
Explore other points of view: think about why other people prefer an alternative that is different from your preferred one at this point. Even if you disagree completely, this will help you understand why the rest of the options might appeal to others. This way you will explore alternatives, reconsider your own choices and ultimately make more informed decisions.
This is just one technique, and it will not remove the difficulty of making a decision. But it can help you increase the number of positive choices you make. Critical thinking can definitely help you navigate through a sea of alternatives and find what you are looking for.