The element of Critical Thinking in decision making

“Critical thinking is the language of strategy” – Stanford Business school”

I recently came across this very important topic of learning on Linkedin by Becki Saltzman

and upon listening to it I felt much enlightened and asked myself how much of it do I apply to my daily life. For your benefit, sharing keys insights from the learning on the topic of ‘Critical Thinking’

What is ‘Critical Thinking’ in the first place and why use it?

We live in an extremely challenging era where ‘decision making’ abilities on any aspect of life has become more important than ever. A wrong decision can have catastrophic results and sometimes are not reversable. But why should you be more attentive towards your decision-making skills? That’s because the volume of unauthenticated but instant information available today through the various mediums in our daily lives and the way we internalise it, cannot be trusted. Add to this the fast-paced lives we lead. These factors most definitely have an impact on the way we think and in return the decisions we make. Let’s look at what are the things to do, to not do and to watch out for in the ‘Critical Thinking’ process.

Winning Ways to Promote Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking is not a natural way of thinking hence it requires a conscious effort. Through out life you are told what to do and hence subconsciously follow a pattern of thinking. Critical Thinking questions that accepted thought and teaches you ‘How to Think’. Critical Thinking validates accuracy, it checks if the evidence supports the argument, it looks for biases and busts assumptions.

  • Irrational Thinking: Start by accepting that ‘irrational thinking’ is a huge possibility and the reason to shift towards ‘Critical thinking’ evaluation methods. Ask these questions
  • Is a claim strong enough and factually correct or is it just a statement?
  • How relevant is the reasoning being given or is it just fallacies?
  • Are there inconsistencies in the line of reasoning?
  • Is the source credible, from where the information was got?
  • Have you taken assumptions and biases into account?
  • Ask the most relevant question related to the argument
  • Is there a purpose why you are doing what you are doing?
  • What can you safely assume without proof or analysis on it on the situation?
  • Are you using insights and perspective from the smartest point of view possible? 
  • How strongly is you reasoning supported by the relevant information in hand to make an informed decision?
  • Is everyone agreeing to a human made concept or definition of a term associated with the problem or situation. eg what is ‘business success’? 
  • What is the best way to interpretate the information or data gathered on the situation at hand to reach a proper and correct conclusion?

A Nobel Prize proved way of ‘thinking’: Psychologist Daniel Kahneman states there are 2 systems to the way we think.

  • System 1: This is fast, automatic and often unconscious thinking so it’s easy to make judgment errors and have biases. eg Having an ‘Intuition’. But intuition is thinking you know something – without relying on conscious reasoning, so not always can it be trusted.
  • System 2: This is a slow, effortful and controlled way of thinking as you are attentive of the process. Different situations require different systems of thinking so, match the situation to the system thinking required eg you can’t make important decisions like a business deal on an intuition (System 1 thinking) you have, when you are driving home from work. It requires System 2 Thinking. Which is
  • Stop multitasking so your attention is undivided
  • Turn of notifications on phones etc so your attention is focused
  • Here are 2 important ones – “Get enough Sleep” & “Eat well”

‘Counterfactual Thinking’: It suggests how important insights can be revealed to improve the decision quality and outcome of a situation, by cross questioning the expected outcome. It looks at challenges and opportunities of the situation from a fresh perspective to lead you to new solutions. This can be a past situation so that you don’t repeat a mistake or in fact improve what you did the last time. One way of doing it can be to break a decision into available options of potential answers to reach an informed conclusion. This kind of thinking enhances the ability to change your mind from an already formed conclusion to the problem that had not taken into consideration all available options.

Other common errors to spot while making an informed decision

  • Framing: How a question is framed will also affect the quality and sometimes the authenticity of the answer. Leading to a bad decision. The same way how information is presented, will also influence the decision being made.
  • Emotion: Making a decision when you are too happy or too sad or too angry won’t always be a right thing as you are not in the right state of mind to make one.
  • Personality: Being resistant to change in general or because you have higher authority to disagree in general, will not help foster an environment to cultivate Critical Thinking.
  • Ego: You tend to ignore or even dismiss a thought or argument even if it has factual details to support it- just because it comes from someone you dislike
  • Biases: Labelling and hasty moral judgments will make you overlook the facts of a situation and justify its assessments. Eg “Millenniums will always want to WFH” 

Also, you spot biases easily in others but the same in you go undetected. That’s ego.

  • Fallacies: Believing that ‘A’ happened as a direct result of “B’ & “C” happening. No actual supporting available to this conclusion.

‘Behavioural Economics’ claims that your thinking is not as rational as you think it is. Thus ‘Critical thinking’ where objective and rational analysis is used to arrive to a conclusion, is the zone to be in. Advancing towards critical thinking will help you always be a step ahead by foreseeing and being better prepared for a situation. You stand to gain respect as your arguments hold value. Mostly importantly better decisions mean achieving positive and desired results. In the long run, consciously using critical thinking everyday will become a natural thing like a habit to do, as the brain forms a pattern. That’s a win- win situation!

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Flovie Martins
Flovie Martins is Head, Corporate Communications and CSR at Future Generali India Life Insurance Company Limited.
Flovie strongly believes that everyday is a new day for course correction in life and an opportunity to learn something new..

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