If you are a human being with a brain, then you are thinking all the time. You’re thinking right now. So, what exactly is critical thinking? Dr. Linda Elder and Dr. Richard Paul are prominent authorities on the subject. In their writings, they describe critical thinking as “the discipline of ensuring that you use the best thinking you are capable of in any set of circumstances.” This discipline is nothing new. More than 2,000 years ago in ancient Greece, Socrates practiced one of the earliest forms of critical thinking, appropriately named “The Socratic Method.” Socrates and his fellow thinkers engaged in an exchange of questions and answers about various beliefs to eliminate contradictions and to illuminate logic. Since then, thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Rene Descartes among many others, passionately challenged thoughts and beliefs using their intellects toward the goal of finding truth and logic in a world of assertions and beliefs.
How we experienced critical thinking today is due in part to the centuries of thinkers who paved the way and opened up the minds of leaders, politicians, students, and citizens. Many contemporary experts on critical thinking have called attention to a general lack of learning associated with thinking. In schools, businesses, and other organizations people may be taught subjects such as math, sales, or software skills, but they’re not necessarily taught the tools to gather and analyze information in a systematic way to arrive at the best decision or solution to a problem.
Self-disciplined reasoned thinking can truly be a differentiator in an organization. Managers and employees in every business have decisions to make and problems to solve. The complexities of working in a global information age, where data is king and the stakes are high, makes critical thinkers even more valuable. In a world where we can rely on software, analytics, and technology to give us fast answers and conclusions, we still need critical thinking. Most of us are faced with having to justify our business ideas and decisions. Funding a project, investing in a new product, hiring employees, or even changing the date of a sales meeting. These are just a few of the types of situations that beg for critical thinking. Using critical thinking just makes good business sense. Although it takes time to learn and to practice, critical thinking can actually save time in the long run by preventing poor decision-making and you’ll stand out as someone who uses sound, systematic thinking rather than relying on habits or lazy thinking.