The Death Of Critical Thinking In The Workplace And How To Avoid It

Critical thinking – I instantly think of yawning when someone mentions this to me, it’s hardly an attractive proposition because you must consciously step into that zone. Even less attractive when you look at the definition:

the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.”

But we form judgments all day long, we analyse and evaluate different options and have to make decisions. Informed, or not.

Critical Thinking is the opposite of our everyday thinking.

If you think about the most basic form of judgments we make, they are biased by past experiences, for example choosing your route home. If you were stuck in traffic or multiple trains were cancelled, your brain automatically goes into problem solve and solution seeking mode.

Clever isn’t it?

But to force that mode, we must apply a process of evaluation

  • Analyse, Conceptualise and Evaluate

This is formed from information gathering:

  • Observation, Communication, Experience, Reflection, and Reasoning.

When we are trying to think of complex situations, be innovative or reach overstretching goals, we don’t remove ourselves from the day to day distractions (this kills your ability to critical think) and yet we still expect optimal performance from our brain.

It is nigh on impossible to ‘critically think’ in high pressure situations when your mind & body are in a stress state.

I once endured a six hour critical analysis exam. It was torture. It was one of my finals in Psych. Ridiculously nervous. One of the examiners had to visit me in the loo. Not cheating….chundering.

I wish I had learnt a way to stay in control. We rarely acknowledge that taking time to think, and process can and will drastically impact everything that follows.

In taking a step back from a dilemma, a difficult conversation, a problem, that requires thought (critical thinking time), reflection, taking a different perspective, and communicating that effectively, can and does yield a wholly different outcome.

Recently, I was discussing a heated meeting that my client had. Had he paused, even taken one minute out of the room, he could have completely changed the dynamic of the relationship and the outcome. So, we built a process that suits him, one which will equip him for future instances. Keeping him calmer, less reactive and much more in control.

Thinking time….how on earth can you fit it in?

For many clients that I work with in leadership roles who tend to have a lot of direct reports, their days are taken up with answering on the spot questions, battling emails and meetings a plenty. Everyday! So, where do they find the time to be innovative, to critically think through problems, analyse and create a vision for their team?

  • They don’t unless they structure time in their day
  • Unless they delegate.
  • Unless they coach their direct reports to be accountable for themselves
  • Learn new ways of working and to problem solve.

It’s worth sitting back and seeing whether you can leverage your direct reports, help build their skills and take ownership.

That only happens if you allow it.

So, where can you save yourself a bit of time?

Start leading, stop firefighting!

Critical Thinking Time during your working day, easier said than done? Well, yes it is:

If you don’t allow yourself the time

If you are in constant flux

If you’re working through a never ending inbox, everyday

If you’re supporting everyone around you with no boundaries in place

If you’re in back to back meetings….

There is no time to claw your way back to the end game, see the bigger picture and construct how on earth you’re going to get there.

BECAUSE you’re lost in the minutae of your day.

In order to critically think we need to be able:

  • to hear others’ input and use it effectively
  • to analyse the now and predict the future
  • to communicate the end game and purpose
  • to be open minded
  • to make decisions

All of this takes reflection and TIME.

If you’re lost in the doing, your brain simply doesn’t have the capacity to reflect, observe, and interpret what needs to happen. You’re constantly distracted.

What to do?

  • schedule time in your calendar daily or weekly
  • get off the desk, change your environment
  • shutdown outlook, turn off notifications
  • go for a walk.

Think about your own performance and what it is you would like to adjust and improve upon.

If you can’t possibly imagine what this could look like, drop me a message and we can schedule a chat. Happy leading!

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