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Critical Thinking to Kickstart 2011

Bill Jarrard's picture

Happy New Year and all the very best for a successful year ahead. As mentioned in my last blog, in divergent-convergent Creative Problem Solving (CPS) we begin with a challenge to be worked on, and I recommended you develop a 'To Think About List' or Red Car List of things you want to focus on in 2011.

The aim is to have things that stand out for critical thinking and creative thinking, and I suggested you create a list of 15-20 'challenges'.  If you haven't done that yet be sure to take the time to do it.  It is amazing how simply writing something down can start the journey to achieving it. 

In fact one of the key things to think about in 2011 might be to 'Develop Critical Thinking and Creative Thinking Skills'

There is a lot of talk these days about critical thinking, and even some comparisons on the differences between critical thinking and creative thinking.  Of course for us these have always been inexorably bound together in what we have called for the last fifteen years - Deliberate Creative Thinking.

The Critical Thinking Community defines Critical Thinking as that mode of thinking - about any subject, content, or problem - in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them.

Anyone that knows Mindwerx will understand that is is exactly what we have been promoted for many years, through the use of deliberate and creative thinking tools, and this is what is embodied in our programs on Creative Problem Solving and Facilitating Team Creativity, as well as our team facilitations and other programs.

But for now, let's get started by focussing on your 2011 Challenges, and really refining them as the first step to great critical and creative thinking.

Defining the Challenge

Creative Problem SolvingOnce a challenge has been identified many people want to jump straight in and fix the problem.  And if it can be fixed that way, by all means go ahead and do so. 

But if a problem was that easy to solve, it likely wouldn't still be a problem.  So instead try critical thinking embodied in the divergent-convergent approach to open up the creative thinking process. 

Follow these simple steps...

  • Write the problem down as you perceive it now - don't try to edit it, just write it as you see it.
  • Now work quickly to write the problem down in a number of other different ways - how else might it be viewed.  Work fast, don't edit and aim for as many different ways of seeing the problem as possible.  Try to get 10-15 or more new problem statements.
  • Then review these new ways of seeing the problem.  What you will likely see is a number of different 'themes' emerging that can be 'word-smithed' into perhaps 3-6 distinctly different ways of phrasing the problem.

    Work on this for a while until you have done this.  If you find that all your problem statements seem exactly the same, you may want to involve some other people in this to get their different views.  Critical thinking is greatly enhanced when done collaboratively in a team.
  • Once you have a number of distinctly different 'possible' definitions of challenge, you can develop your Focus Statements by simply turning the problem into a thinking action. 

    For example if one problem definition was 'cross-functional team members are not working together to make key project decisions in a timely manner', one Focus Statement might be to 'develop ideas to make project decision making more collaborative and timely'

    You can, if needed, develop more than one focus statement - in fact I recommend you do.
  • Once you have a set of clear Focus Statements to direct your critical thinking, you want to now consider the other two vital ingredients to critical and creative thinking - that is People and Time

    The aim here is to select the most useful Focus Statement(s) for the People you have available, in the Time you have to work on this focus.  If you are doing the thinking yourself select a focus statement you believe will be most valuable for you to spend time on and then allocate sufficient time to do that thinking. 

    If you have a small group of people to work on the problem, and they are available for 1 hour, then select a focus statement they can effectively work on in that time.  The key is to balance the Focus, People and Time elements to get the most from your efforts.

This one step can make or break a successful Problem Solving or Critical Thinking activity, and if you get the balance of these ingredients right your team and you will have significantly improved your chance of solving your problems quickly, creatively and permanently

Defining the Challenge is just step one in the Mindwerx' approach to Creative Problem Solving, and you can learn more about this and how to become a more critical thinking creative problem solver yourself by attending our Open Programs, or undertaking some of the Online Academy eModules we will soon have available.    

In the meantime feel free to Download the Mindwerx Applied Creativity & Innovation model poster now to guide your next project, team meeting or Creative Problem Solving process.  All the very best in 2011.