Recently, I read an article by Olivia Spokoiny entitled “A Concern for Critical Thinking.” It got me thinking about all the mundane facts and bits of data I had to memorize in high school and college. Because, let’s face it that is the way we are taught. We are given dates and events to memorize so that we can pass an exam. Unfortunately, in the case of history, memorizing dates did little to inspire a love for history. In fact, the information I retained brought little value to my life other than the general knowledge that the American Revolution came before the Civil War and the Civil War came before the great World Wars. The richness of the events and the inspiration to find truth certainly didn’t come until much later in life.
Ms. Spokoiny pointed out that because of the way our educational system teaches “a staggering amount of well-educated individuals lack essential critical thinking skills.” We are only taught to regurgitate facts. And, unfortunately, we are not encouraged to analyze the facts we are given.
So what is critical thinking? Critical thinking is clear, reasoned thinking involving critique. According to Beyer (1995), critical thinking means making clear, reasoned judgments. During the process of critical thinking, ideas should be reasoned and well thought out/judged. Ms. Spokoiny adds, “It is a mental process necessary in almost every aspect of life, whether it be in a personal or professional context. It helps us communicate more effectively, make more informed decisions, and become stronger negotiators, writers, activists, and leaders.”
One must wonder. Is it more important to answer test questions correctly to get good grades, or is it better to question, think through the facts and arrive at a decision? Is it better to provide all the answers or allow students to creatively problem solve?
Olivia Spokoiny believes “When educational systems teach students what to think, the student fails to grasp the concept of thinking for themselves. They are less likely to become creative problem-solvers and convincing initiators of change, which is what our society truly needs these days.
How does this apply to business? What I’m hearing is organizations desperately need creative problem-solvers, those who see a problem, think through it and provide a new solution. These unusual people become valuable assets bringing creativity and innovation to their firm.