Ask if it's been considered before, what's changed since last time, what challenges were encountered, what assumptions we're making, and who was involved last time
- Another element of the critical thinking that goes into defining your problem is considering past efforts. We shouldn't reinvent the wheel. Ask yourself, has this problem been considered in the past? What did we learn? What's different now versus the last time we looked at it? Were there challenges or issues last time this was addressed that we need to think about as we try to solve it this time around? What are the ingoing assumptions that are limiting our thinking? Who was involved in the problem solving last time? By learning from experience it's going to prevent you from wasted effort.
You can identify and avoid prior pitfalls and you can also involve some of the veterans to help push your thinking. Let me show you how this showed up in a problem that I was solving. When we were trying to solve that collections issue and improve our agency performance we had looked at commissions before. What's different this time around was we didn't have the measurement data the last time and last time we were working with a different set of agencies on a very different technology platform.
This time around new agencies, new data, new platform. The last time we looked at it it was also in a different business unit that was much later stage of collections than this time around. And that was going to impact the liquidation rates and the commission rates we were going to pay these agencies. Some of the assumptions we had were that we couldn't measure everything we wanted. And we also had some new data, but we didn't have all the data we would like.
In terms of who was involved last time, well it was the recoveries team from the last time and the people who were involved in that effort most of them were still around and could help us think through the problem this time. By looking at prior efforts we were able to understand what our limitations were the last time and it helped us gain institutional knowledge that we could apply this time around. As you're going through your critical thinking efforts to define your problem ask these questions about the past efforts and see how they can inform your problem solving this time around.
- 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