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How To Improve Your Critical Thinking

By Chuck Cusumano and Jillian Broaddus

We all know someone incredibly smart with terrible decision-making skills. We hear news stories about high-intellect CEOs, PhDs, and renown thought leaders who fall from grace due to their sheer lack of judgment. We read about the talented that go bankrupt, and the brilliant who end up penniless.

So, why the discrepancy within these people? Why do smart people do foolish things? It all comes down to critical thinking!

In our fast-paced, ever-evolving world, it is a crucial life skill to be a critical thinker – but what does that exactly mean? To think critically? Having the ability to think clearly and rationally, to use logic to predict the outcome of events, and to foresee the projected consequences of our actions are all the hallmarks of a critical thinker’s mind.

According to a series of studies from California State University, critical thinking skills are far more predictive of positive life events than raw intelligence. And even better news from the outcome of these studies?: you are in control! You CAN become a more critical thinker. Improving your IQ – which has been found to be largely determined by genetics alone – may be difficult, but the ability to think critically can be improved with training, and the benefits have been shown to persist over time.

Unfortunately, according to Forbes, only 5% of K-12 education systems in our country teach critical thinking. This then carries over into the workplace. In fact, according to one survey, more than 50% of corporations agree that new employees “aren’t sufficiently trained in effective forms of critical thinking.”

So, what are a few simple habits you can incorporate to take the power into your own hands, gain a competitive advantage, and set yourself up to succeed at life? Here are three of the best tips, offered by Harvard Business Review:

  1. Question Assumptions: It all starts with being curious! Have an open mind, be receptive to new ways of thinking about things, and try to question what you see, read, and believe – always.

  2. Reason Through Logic: Along with questioning assumptions, ask yourself: “Are the arguments in place supported by evidence?” Oftentimes, beliefs become ingrained without much investigation. Instead, test your assumptions and re-examine the evidence that leads to your conclusion.

  3. Diversify Thought: It’s natural to seek company with people who think and act like you. We do it when hiring, we fall into it when developing our groups of friends, and we even experience it done for us through social media algorithms. However, getting outside of your personal bubble will be crucial to escaping your typical trains of thought and developing new insights!

There you have it – three simple ways to improve your critical thinking ability. On next week’s blog, we will cover how to avoid the downside that can arise from a world that rewards critical thinking. Stay tuned!

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