Critical thinking: It’s the thought (process) that counts
The ability to think critically is necessary in order to come up with strategies for your business, and is a key component of business leadership.
Knowledge and intelligence are not necessarily prerequisites for thinking critically, although this obviously helps. Here are some tips for developing this important leadership quality.
Author Greg Haskins (‘A Practical Guide to Critical Thinking’ August 2006) outlines the following traits of a critical thinker:
- Healthy skepticism
- Free thinking
- High motivation
The first two points relate to one another. In a business context, open mindedness involves keeping a healthy skepticism but at the same time listening and investigating ideas and suggestions from your management team and employees.
The third point relates to challenging your own thinking and being capable of self-assessment. You aren’t the mortgage holder of knowledge and allowing others in, and you showing yourself to be corrected, demonstrates what Jim Collins describes as Level 5 Leadership (‘From Good to Great’ – Jim Collins).
This also demonstrates to your employees that their view is valued and appreciated. In my experience from years involved with helping businesses in trouble, often the best ideas in business turnarounds come from employees.
In order to think freely you must question whether your opinions are being tainted by conforming to popular opinion. Questioning what you truly believe rather than what the majority conforms to will help set you aside from mainstream beliefs/opinions.
The final trait of a critical thinker is someone who has the energy and curiosity to explore an idea, even if this involves further education on a subject matter, in order to make an informed decision. Having a high level of motivation is necessary in order to evaluate the issues at hand.
Critical thinking is a skill set of those involved in corporate turnarounds whether they be an internal CFO/CEO or an external turnaround professional.
I will, in my next blog, cover in further detail business strategy tips and hints. If you have your own tips that have worked for your business, please share them with us.
Kevin Higgins is a senior executive at Vantage Performance, one of Australia’s leading turnaround management and profit improvement firms – solving complex problems for businesses experiencing major change.