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Archive for critical thinking

In Search of Deeper Learning

Deep Learning

A new book by Mehta and Fine about remaking U.S. high schools says their research shows it is the extra curricular work in teams to accomplish a big task, such as putting on a theater production, where they learned and enjoyed the most.
The authors, credit these type of projects with instilling critical thinking, collaboration, and effective communication, all I suggest essential in the business world. The authors also included content mastery though I would say given the ease of using technology to look things up, is not as important as having enough knowledge to recognize what you do and don’t know.
Instilling the the skills that make up critical thinking can improve collaboration and effective communication because it requires bringing in various viewpoints, asking good questions, listening effectively to each other, and working through more than one logical position or argument.

Yes, everyone can draw using stick figures

Drawing or diagraming information you want to explain helps everyone understand it better, including you. When you sketch using stick figures, or flow diagrams, or a mind maps, or any way to help visualization, you will be able to show as well as verbally explain. The process of doing the diagram helps you simplify the ideas in your own mind. The process of explaining using a diagram helps others understand, and later remember, what you showed them.

Your Mental Shortcuts

Mental shortcuts, we all make them throughout the day. In a sense, they are necessary coping mechanisms your brain has been developing your whole life. Because there is no way to pay equal attention to everything within eyesight, earshot, and close enough to touch, our brain has developed filters to let in what it believes you need to know and leave out a large majority of what is going on around you.
Consider for a moment how you function during your daily drive or ride, or even walk, to work.
Most of what you pass by is a blur. Most of what you pass you take little or no interest. So much so that when you arrive at your destination you will not remember seeing or hearing most of what was actually there.
Your cognitive bias made those decisions for you. The filters you have built up to protect yourself from over stimulation and clutter worked.
But, and that is a big but, did you miss something that in the past wasn’t important but now is? Did you assume you knew what happened but really didn’t?
We can’t function in a busy world without our filters and we can’t take for granted that we didn’t miss anything important.
So what can you do? Ask others what they saw and heard. Ask for other viewpoints, other experiences, to add to your own. Be open minded about what you might have missed or added into a scene because of your filters, your own cognitive biases. They, too, have biases. Together you may both get a more complete picture.
Ask open questions and listen openly to the answers.

Multitasking means Asking for a ‘do over’

When you multitask you do a mediocre job of each, or worse. Think of the times you were doing email while on a conference call. No one could see you so you thought no one would notice; until, the boss calls out your name with, “what do think of that?”
Oh, oh! Now you have to admit you weren’t paying attention. Now you need to ask your boss for a ‘do over.’

To keep your focus on the meeting you might try listening so hard you are paying attention to the meaning, not just the words.
Or you can mind map the subjects during the meeting.

For sure, you don’t want to be thinking about what you will say when it is your turn. That, too, will mean you won’t be able to answer the boss’s question.

Are You a Thought Leader?

Thought leader
Is this a compliment or an insult?
If you are truly one of the knowledgeable ones in a particular field, others may be looking up to you, expecting you to know more than they do. They may come to you with questions and take what you say as truth.

We can learn from what we know about Socrates (470 – 399 BC), after all these years, not to jump in with a solution, an answer. First ask many questions so that you both are thinking more deeply about the problem. In many cases the person with the problem will discover the answer.

One of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “seek first to understand before seeking to be understood,” is a more current reminder to listen, ask questions, learn, before offering your thoughts, even if you are considered a thought leader.

Which is More Important? Creativity or the Ability to Inspire

We can find research to support which ever side of an argument you need. Is that hard to believe? Here is an example.
I do seminars on creativity and powerbrainstorming (™) so this research supports its importance: “according to the Adobe® (Nasdaq:ADBE) State of Create global benchmark study. The research shows 8 in 10 people feel that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth and nearly two-thirds of respondents feel creativity is valuable to society, yet a striking minority – only 1 in 4 people – believe they are living up to their own creative potential.”

80% say creativity is most important.

But another study by IBM of 1700 CEOs by AMA of 50,000 leaders proved’ 80% say the ability to inspire (which I also teach and do seminars about) is the most important trait for leaders and teams.

So here is a take-away, both are important and you will get different statistics depending on how you ask the questions.

What if Someone Asks for Your Help With a Problem They are Having?

When an employee, family member, or friend brings you problem they are facing, how can you tell if they want solutions from you or for you to just listen?

Ask them.

Also if they are looking for a solution, ask first what they have tried or thought they could try. Get them thinking first.

Then if it does come down to offering your ideas, offer options, plural, so they can choose, and make it clear that these are ideas that if they choose something different you won’t be hurt. The choice is still their own.

When you are feeling defensive

Tell me more about that…

When you are feeling defensive the last thing you might want is to hear more negative comments. But if you show openness to hear what the other person is saying it can change the mood and tone of the ‘conversation.’

It also gives you time to reflect. What is prompting the comments? Why are you feeling defensive? Is there some truth you would want to know? Is there something you want to acknowledge? Rather than deny, perhaps you want to say, ‘there might be some truth in what you are saying.’ I didn’t realize, or I didn’t mean what it sounded like.

The power of sincere questions

Questions are a sign of intelligence, of interest, of curiosity, of caring about the other person and the topic, and of being a critical thinker. Can you think of anything else you can say that is this powerful?

Questions, to be able to drink in that power, must be paired with power listening.

Once you ask that question, it is essential that you become silent, wait for and pay attention to the answer.

Some people try to answer their own questions. Some think that the other person pausing to think before answering means they don’t know what to answer.

Just like asking the question is a sign of interest in the other person, waiting and paying attention to the answer is a sign of respect.

The power of sincere questions

Questions are a sign of intelligence, of interest, of curiosity, of caring about the other person and the topic, and of being a critical thinker. Can you think of anything else you can say that is this powerful?

Questions, to be able to drink in that power, must be paired with power listening.

Once you ask that question, it is essential that you become silent, wait for and pay attention to the answer.

Some people try to answer their own questions. Some think that the other person pausing to think before answering means they don’t know what to answer.

Just like asking the question is a sign of interest in the other person, waiting and paying attention to the answer is a sign of respect.