Let’s face it. It’s relatively easy to teach technical skills or business functions. What’s more difficult to teach are natural strengths. One strength is the most vital of all, and organizations don’t spend enough time nurturing it: critical thinking.
Some may call it strategic intuition and decision-making. Napoleon called it coup d’oeil (literally “stroke of the eye”)—the ability to see the big picture at a glance, synthesize the information, and make an astute recommendation.
There’s a great article by productivity expert Matt Plummer in Harvard Business Review titled “A Short Guide to Building Your Team’s Critical Thinking Skills.” The article proposes that critical thinking is developed in four progressive stages (I’m paraphrasing the descriptions):
- Phase 1: EXECUTE – the ability to correctly execute given tasks, problem-solving as needed and providing timely and accurate results
- Phase 2: SYNTHESIZE – the ability to digest, differentiate, and articulate that which is important from a given set of information
- Phase 3: RECOMMEND – the ability to determine what should be done, having assessed alternatives and risks
- Phase 4: GENERATE – the ability to translate their own vision and that of others into new groundbreaking initiatives that can be feasibly delivered
Each of these phases requires progressive levels of critical thinking, and each can be nurtured. The article offers excellent recommendations for doing so.
When we talk about resource planning and improving productivity, value, and throughput, there is no doubt that critical thinking can bring about a considerable boost in performance, successful results, and employee satisfaction. It’s an investment in your people (or yourself) well worth making.