Critical Thinking Part 4: Identify the Best Solution

iStock_000000407018XSmallThe end product of critical thinking should be a well-reasoned, well-informed decision. Even when we have all the information we need, and have accurately analyzed and evaluated it, we still might come to wrong conclusions.

One of the inhibitors to innovative/creative thinking is the tendency to take the “first right answer” when there may be better options out there. If time allows, don’t make a decision too quickly without considering other options. Sometimes it is good to “sleep on it,” and let time pass between your initial ideas and your final decision. Impulsive decisions under pressure do not always give the best results.

Other mistakes people tend to make include:

  • “Jumping on the Bandwagon”:  Companies tend to copy what they see other companies doing. This conformity may feel safe, but it is not a product of critical thinking. The best companies seem to create their own path, challenging “conventional wisdom.”
  • Trying to Please Others:  Making a decision just to make others happy is not usually a product of critical thinking. A lot of times a decision is made simply to please the boss or client. Just as you should challenge conventional wisdom, it is often good to challenge authority.
  • Trying to Please Themselves:  Decisions can be influenced by how you want to appear to yourself or others. People forget that making the best decision possible is also the best way to improve one’s image.
  • Applying Incorrect Logic:  What sometimes sounds logical isn’t always so. For example, if you know that all battleships are painted grey, and you see a grey ship in the distance, you might initially think it must be a battleship. That would only be a logical conclusion if you knew that “only” battleships were painted grey. The term “common sense” is often used to describe logical thinking. Unfortunately, “common sense” often only becomes “common” in hindsight. The phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder” sounds like common sense, until you consider another common-sense phrase “out of sight, out of mind.”

Critical thinking not only requires accurate assessment and evaluation of information, but the assessment and evaluation of any decisions made using that information. Every choice has consequences, and you can improve your decisions by considering what those might be. How will your choices impact other people or processes? Does solving one problem cause other problems? Before making a move, the best chess players have already analyzed how that move will impact future moves. Critical thinkers need that chess player mentality.

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