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Critical Thinking Strategies: Personal vs Professional Applications

Posted by Jimmy Hovey on Fri, Jun 21, 2013 @ 08:53 AM

Can Critical Thinking Be Applied Equally Between Personal and Professional Endeavors?

Teach to Test

In the past half-century, educational institutions have been moving more and more toward a ‘teach to the test’ model in order for students (and schools) to be able to pass state and federally mandated evaluations.

While the philosophy of testing students on acquired practical knowledge in subjects such as math, science, and English may have some tactical value in life, these tests can’t evaluate a person’s ability to exercise the most fundamental of personal skills: Critical thinking.

Definition of Critical Thinkingcritical-thinking-strategies-for-small-business-owners

University of Illinois professor Robert H. Ennis defines critical thinking as “reasonable, reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do.

Taken a step further from a business perspective, it’s about being able to assess multiple (and sometimes conflicting) inputs from diverse sources, and then making the most reasonable determination possible based on the available information. 

The "Why" of Critical Thinking

For instance, the tactical, technically-oriented capability of adding 2 + 2 to arrive at a solution is easy for most people to understand. 

The strategic, critical thinking ability to evaluate (and acknowledge) why “4” is the correct answer is no small task.

Decision Making Hampered by Internal Beliefs and Prejudices

It’s no small task because every person enters the decision making process with internal beliefs and prejudices.  These filters get in the way of the ability to objectively evaluate all of the available facts and data – in other words – the critical thinking process. 

So, how can you improve your skills in this area?

I’ve found that the most daunting aspect of getting past the internal filters is simply in the acknowledgment that these filters exist.  When I’m faced with an important decision, the first thing I do is reflect on how my prior experience might influence my decisions in the current situation. 

My past experience might be so powerful that it prevents me from searching for another way to more efficiently approach a task, or serve as a blinder so I can’t even see that there’s a better way, when it’s right in front of me.

How I View Critical Thinking

Here’s a short summary of what the critical thinking process looks like to me:

  • Acknowledge that my past experiences might prejudice me in my being able to even see a new solution.

  • Define the task, problem, or opportunity, even if just in my head.

  • Collect all available data and information that I need to make an informed assessment of the current situation.

  • Develop a proposed solution based on my analysis.

  • Seek objective, unbiased feedback from others.

  • Settle on a path forward.

Just Try It!

There’s an old saying the construction industry: Measure twice, cut once.  In a nutshell, that’s the true definition of critical thinking

Try it.  You might find that it works as well in your personal life as it can in your professional endeavors.

An Example of a Critical Thinking Strategy

I was faced with a challenge about 1.5 years ago.  I had to find a way to market a new business concept without spending any money.  Impossible, right? I chose online marketing, but I didn't know a thing about it.  I applied critical thinking strategies to take a website from 0 visits in 2009 to over 8000 in 2010. 

I just released a new e-book titled: How To Implement Online Marketing Strategies To Crush Your Competition.  This is an example of working through how to generate leads with a small budget.  I chose online marketing. 

In order to do online marketing right, I had to go through a year long learning process.  Download the FREE e-book below to find out how this process works.  This is the process of what we did to increase our visitors by over 8000 in 12 months.

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