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Critical Thinking
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Asking about Critical Thinking is a bit like discussing Active Listening or Controlled Breathing. Don’t we all do these things automatically? The answer of course is yes and no. Yes, we all breathe and listen and think. However we don’t all breathe with control like a professional singer, listen actively like a good counselor, nor think critically as we must to be successful in business and life.

First let’s be clear about what Critical Thinking is not. As odd as this seems at first, it’s not about being critical: not in the sense of critiquing a play, or piece of art, or even a politician. Here the word “critical” is to be understood as “important, serious, significant, crucial,” and even “analytical.” In contrast to the stream of conscious and unconscious thoughts that flow through our brain every waking and sleeping moment, Critical Thinking is focused, concentrated, and decisive. Critical Thinking is focused upon solving a problem, directing a course of action, organizing a project, developing a plan, fulfilling a purpose, succeeding in life, both personally and professionally. Critical Thinking may be done alone, in pairs, or in groups.

Critical Thinking usually includes, but is not limited to, developing a vision, clarifying mission, setting goals, identifying tasks, and surveying existing resources. Critical Thinking also often plans for future evaluation of progress, a means to adjust the plan, and a clear understanding of what success will look like.

All this sounds very serious. However, Critical Thinking can be very creative and even playful. Take for example the process of Brain Storming. Brain Storming was developed by NASA in the early days of the space program. It has become a vital part of many Critical Thinking sessions. The idea is to spit out as many ideas as possible without criticism! They can be wild and fanciful, even seemingly ridiculous. However, once the ideas flow to exhaustion Critical Thinking can really take off.

The obviously impossible, the morally unacceptable, and the otherwise undesirable options are set aside. Then what is left might just be the out of the box new idea that Critical Thinking can put to good use. Brain Storming can be applied at almost any point of the Critical Thinking process.

Sometimes Critical Thinking is not so playful. It may involve the time consuming and tedious work of gathering, quantifying, analyzing, and evaluating data. For example when developing a long range plan for traffic and roadways in a metropolitan area it might be important to know the specific data of current use. It would be important to be logical and thorough in determining where, when and how to get this information. It would also be important to consider availability of related resources and all levels of political influence.

While we have discussed Critical Thinking mostly in terms of business and government, it can also be important for individuals. When a young person is preparing for the future it is important that guidance counselors help them do some Critical Thinking about career choices, educational opportunities, finances etc.

There are a multitude of situations that call for Critical Thinking. We have only mentioned a few. Others might include sports, military maneuvers, wedding planning, and church planting. So the next time you breathe or listen remember to take time for Critical Thinking.

Dr. Geoffrey Schmitt has been a Critical Thinker for many years. He is particularly interested in Personality Type Theory.. His academic dissertation is Personality Type as a Road Map to Spirituality, and he has written an eBook, "How to Understand People" Check out his main website "The PeopleSmith.com" He is available to churches and businesses for workshops and consultation.


Street Talk

Great article on critical thinking. Makes you think :)

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  about 1 decade ago
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