Pick an issue you're dealing with. Scope the issue, ask the five why's and seven so what's, generate answers, and consider future implications of your choices
- As you go to apply these critical thinking skills to you daily work, let me offer some suggestions on how you can get started. First, identify a specific problem that you're working on. Then, break that big problem down into smaller, more solvable ones. Once you've done that, define the problem for each of those smaller problems. You should be asking and answering focusing questions, evaluating prior efforts, looking at the problem through new lenses, and understanding causality.
Once you've done that, document all those findings into a clear and compelling problem statement. You should then look for new solutions. Apply the tools of blowing up the business, asking the five why's, and the seven so what's to try and generate some of those creative insights for how you might solve the problem. Once you have some solutions, focus on the meaningful. Apply the 80/20, ask of these opportunities that I can pursue, which on is the biggest? Which one will have the biggest impact on my business? And the rest of them, I'm going to ignore for now.
Then go and do your analysis but think critically about the results. Look at those insights from the low level analytics that come back and take it up to the high road. Ask, what do these insights mean for the broader problem? Are there new opportunities that come up now that I understand this answer? Look for connections, look for clusters, look for patterns how this problem represents other ones you've solved. You should also build these approaches into your and your team's daily life.
Don't just take an issue and run with it. Understand that everybody on the team should stop at that moment when we've defined a problem and really think through, what are the implications of how we're defining it? Challenge yourself to truly understand what's driving the issue. Look for the unusual, the unexpected. Look at the problem through different lenses. Remove constraints to your thinking. If you find yourself saying "well that's the way we've always done it" or "we can't do this because..." those should be flags that you're locked into your current thought processes.
That's when you should step back and challenge that thinking. Also, explore the future implications of your solutions. This is something that should come naturally for you and your team the more you apply these methods. Don't just think about the problem you're solving today, think about the problem you might be creating tomorrow. If you'd like some more information about these critical thinking skills, I encourage you to take a look at a couple of my other courses. One is Solving Business Problems, where I get into more of the tools related to the problem solving approach.
Also, Decision Making Fundamentals, helping you think through how you make decisions and what the implications of those decisions might be. Other resources that are available are my work on critical thinking. I encourage you to take a look at our website where I've got plenty of blog posts and articles on some of these tools and how you can apply them, as well as information about classroom courses that I teach on these methods. I'd like to thank you for your time and I wish you the best of luck as you apply these critical thinking skills.
- 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