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Critical Thinking or Just Being Critical?

By Jillian Broaddus and Chuck Cusumano


As we discussed in our last blog, the ability to think critically – to think clearly and rationally, to use logic to predict the outcome of events, and to foresee the projected consequences of our actions – has benefits for our careers, our finances, and our entire well-beings.

However, as we also mentioned, very few young adults are trained to think critically. Instead, we’re trained to memorize information in order to pass exams. In fact, only 5% of K-12 education systems in the US claim to teach critical thinking, and over half of companies claim that their new hires are not trained to effectively think critically.

So, for those in the minority that do think critically, the rewards are plentiful. Critical thinkers who can look at systems and processes, identify the “glitch”, and fix that “glitch” can quickly rise in the ranks with promotions, raises, and accolades. This creates a cycle in which we are rewarded for frequently and efficiently identifying problems and thinking critically to fix these problems.

Inevitably, then, we grow to spend a large portion of our time seeking problems. Just as police dogs are rewarded for picking up certain scents, they start out every job with their noses to the ground! Like these trained canines, why would we spend time analyzing things that are going well, when our worth is defined by identifying areas that need solutions?

What we must remember is this: there is a big difference between being a critical thinker and just being critical. Thinking critically is about making the organization or system perform at a higher level. Being critical, on the other hand, is about finding faults in order to make yourself look better. Being critical is about bringing attention to a deficiency, without regard to improving the outcome.

In today’s current world, it is imperative to possess critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. However, this can – and should – be in tandem with being positive with your team, their efforts, their accomplishments, and recognizing what IS working and what IS succeeding. As much as you look for areas to better your team or organization, look for the people, systems, and processes that can be rewarded and replicated. When you successfully do both, you are behaving as a leader!

The world has enough critics already. Be in the few that can offer solutions, programs, encouragement, and a way forward!

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