Jumping to answers too quickly, being unwilling to expand the problem space, focusing on things that are small/don't matter, and not thinking through the future consequences of an answer are major pitfalls
- During your critical thinking processes, there are several pitfalls you might fall into. But you can avoid them. The most common pitfall is jumping to answers too quickly. You think you know what the problem is, and you rush off to solve it. Some of the tools you can use to avoid that pitfall are first: defining your problem well, having that clear problem statement. You can also ask and understand the question behind the question. Why is your stakeholder asking you to solve this problem? And then you can ask and answer focusing questions, evaluate prior efforts, look at the problem through new lenses, and understand causality.
By looking at all of those, it will prevent you from jumping ahead to answers before you've really understood what the problem is. The second pitfall is being unwilling to expand the problem space. Why would I wanna make the problem any worse than it is? Here's the problem. I can solve this. But that might be a symptom. You need to think through what's really causing that issue. So tools like Blowing-up the business and asking the 5 Why's can help you really define what the core issue is that you're trying to solve.
Sometimes you're going to focus on things that don't matter. You'll come up with a recommendation, and even though it's insightful, it won't really change the performance of your organization. The technique there is using the 80/20 Principle, and asking yourself, "If I solve this will it have a disproportionate impact on my organization?" "Or, am I solving for that 80% that drives 20% of the results that don't really matter?" The 80/20 rule will help you focus on results that do.
Another pitfall is taking the analytical results at face value and just accepting. Well, the answer from the analysis was seven. Well, what does seven mean? What are the implications of that? Techniques to use are getting to that High Road, getting out of the analysis and asking yourself, "What does this mean?" And, then, looking for relationships between the answer from your analysis and other problems you're trying to solve. Are there clusters, are there similarities to problems you've faced in the past? And the last pitfall you're going to face in your critical thinking processes is not thinking through the future consequences of your answer.
If you implement this, what's going to happen? What are the knock-on effects of the recommendation? What will your competitors do? What will happen in the organization? What are the new problems you're going to cause? This is where the 7 So what's can be a very powerful tool to help you understand and appreciate the consequences for the recommendation you're making. So understand that these are the common pitfalls, but the critical thinking tools and techniques I've given you will help you avoid those pitfalls and come to better answers.
- Breaking big problems into small ones
- Defining the problem statement
- Asking focusing questions
- Finding root causes
- Using critical thinking tools
- Teaching others to think critically