Critical Thinking

Improve Critical Thinking

Use brainstorm methods to clarify and understand the problem or issue and to help all parties think more deeply about the subject.

The purpose of critical thinking is to be able to make better decisions. Use brainstorming critical thinking for increased awareness and searching for deeper and clearer understanding before making decisions.

critical thinking

Painting, Does a Bear Sit in the Woods, by Will Bullas, with permission of the artist.

Critical thinking is best done with someone you trust or a team to bounce ideas back and forth and especially to do brainstorming together.

Yes, you can challenge yourself and you can search for deeper understanding on your own through reading and analyzing what you read and by finding quiet time to just think.

But for most of us, having a buddy or a team to think through and challenge each other will result in more information being brought into the discussion and better decisions in the long run. Brainstorming for critical thinking is more spontaneous and prolific in a group.

Use Mind Mapping for Critical Thinking

Mind maps help you organize a topic into its main components and then use keywords to add all the sub components. You can then see the whole topic as a diagram on a single page. Take a look at the Novamind software as an example or take some time to go through some of the lessons on Novamind to get a feel for the power of mind mapping.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

Р Albert Einstein 1879-1955

Steps for brainstorming when dealing with a problem or situation that requires critical thinking.

1. Understand the problem or question. This is not trivial. More often than not, the first attempt at stating a problem just gets at the surface of the issue. It might only describe the symptoms and not the core problem which could be the causes rather than the symptoms.

2. Brainstorm all the questions that would help you understand the problem better. During this brainstorm session only questions are suggested and written.

Of course, you can just list the questions and then organize them into cluster by topic. A better way is to either list categories of questions and work on each, such as Who questions, what questions, why questions. when, where, how, and how much questions. Those categories usually bring out most of the necessary questions. Remember that only questions are listed during this stage of brainstorming.

Another method is to mind-map either on a large piece of paper, white board, or using one of the many mind-mapping computer programs. This can be done free-form using sub-topics to the central question or the sub-topics can be the who-what-why questions as suggested above.

Limiting this stage of critical thinking to just asking questions allows you to get all the questions out and think more about the problem before starting to think about the solution. Your later thinking about options for solutions will be richer and more creative if you go through this stage first.

3. Get the questions answered that are necessary to know before working on the central problem. Some questions are about information or facts and someone just needs to look those up. Some questions require an opinion either yours, someone in the room, or possibly someone else. If it is someone else, go ask him or her.

4. Once the questions are answered and the problem is clearly understood, it is time to brainstorm options for solutions. This brainstorming session should allow time for many possibilities to surface. If anything were possible, what would you do? If money were not an object, what would we do? If we had enough resources, what would we do? What else?

5. Now add reality without making it feel like cold water being thrown on the group. OK, so we don’t have unlimited funds and resources. Which of the options listed are possible or which ones can we do enough of to make a difference? Pick a few and run them through a pro-con list. Everything has some pros and some cons. Everything we do has side effects. The question can be, which option has pros outweighing cons? Which options have the good out weighing and bad or side effects?

6. The brainstorming critical thinking process described accomplishes:

* better and longer lists of options/possibilities

* better analysis of options without falling into analysis paralysis

* better buy-in from the group who had the opportunity to be part of the critical thinking process.

As you brainstorm more frequently and successfully you will build self-confidence.

A web site dedicated to building self esteem may help you escalate the process of building confidence in your brainstorming ability. Consider visiting To quote the site: “This is your self-esteem, self confidence building website. My goal is to give you as much help as you need to build your self-esteem.”