16 May 2013

Maximise Organisational Performance With Critical Thinking

Article on - Maximise Organisational Performance With Critical Thinking

Research conducted on senior HR professionals shows that critical thinking will be ranked beyond innovation or the application of IT as the most important skill for their employees. With the increase of complex flow of information and evolving roles and responsibilities, employees need to be less dependent on others to make fast, accurate and reliable key decisions.
Good decisions require focusing on the most relevant information, asking the right questions, and separating reliable facts from false assumptions – all elements of critical thinking.
What can be done? Organisations need leaders who can work with business information to answer questions, determine strategies, obtain solutions, reduce risk, and maximize organisational performance.
Let’s look at four critical thinking skills crucial to enhancing organisational performance:
1. Make Useful Inferences
Effective inferences can be made by racticing acute observation of the context and people around us, making comparison of various realities, understanding motives of others and making predictions for future outcomes. Understand the workings of the ‘Ladder of Inference’ so that we can learn to get back to the facts and use our beliefs and experiences to positive effect, rather than letting them narrow our field of judgment.
2. Recognise Assumptions
To develop strong and accurate explanations, we must recognise biases and unspoken assumptions that might cloud our reasoning. We are constantly using assumptions to help us make decisions but a balance is needed.
Separate fact from opinion. Be aware of the assumptions operating and evaluate them to sieve out biases or erroneous beliefs that might mar the quality of our decision.
3. Interpret Information
Ask: are there any information gaps? Any misplaced logic? What are the multiple viewpoints to be considered to render a richer perspective of the situation?
4. Evaluate Arguments
Examine arguments with objectivity and accuracy. Look at the quality of supporting evidence and the impact of emotions. Overcome barriers to effective evaluation such as confirmation bias. In interpreting information and evaluating arguments, certain standards can be applied. These standards: Depth, Breadth, Logic, Fairness, Relevance, Precision, Accuracy, Clarity and Significance; are achieved through assertive questioning such as the following:
• What are some of the complexities of this issue? (Depth)
• What other perspectives are there? (Breadth)
• Does what is said follow from the evidence? (Logic)
• Who has a vested interest in this issue? (Fairness)
• How does that relate to the problem? (Relevance)
• Could you be more specific? (Precision)
• How could we check on that? (Accuracy)
• Could you elaborate with an example? (Clarity)
• Is this the most important aspect to focus on? (Significance)
In order to overcome sub-optimal outcomes, we need to constantly explore the quality of our thinking. Some of these approaches are difficult to accomplish and requires a significant shift of our own mental and emotional paradigms. However, if we seek to make the best possible decisions, we need to learn and relearn the process of avoiding mental biases so that we can ultimately make effective decisions.
Benefits of Critical Thinking beyond Decision-making
Other than evaluating a situation or problem and presenting a path of investigation that leads to finding the best possible answers, critical thinking also has other benefits.
One organisation that explored critical thinking process to boost sales and retention and empower people reaped the following benefits:
• Birth of New Ideas
When an issue comes up in the workplace, critical thinking helps remove the temptation to immediately classify every issue under something that has occurred. It encourages looking beyond conventional solutions and finding new ideas that address problems more efficiently.
• Fostering Teamwork
A diverse workplace can benefit from critical thinking with its emphasis on objectivity and thereby promoting workplace tolerance and acceptance of diversity.
• Developing Win-win Options
Critical thinking has the benefit of enabling the company to develop multiple viable solutions to the same issue, resulting in a wider range of solutions for clients and encouraging workplace innovation. Several solutions to the same problem allow an organisation to develop solutions that use existing resources as opposed to acquiring new materials.

By Raymond Thomas & Yvonne Seah
Raymond Thomas and Yvonne Seah are facilitators, trainers and performance enhancement coaches with The Learning Paradigm. Raymond has more than 21-years of experience, collaborating with both local and multinational organisations. His areas of expertise are in the fields of leadership, operations, sales and marketing. Yvonne has 15 years of working experience in the commercial sector, with expertise in the fields of travel and tourism and specialises in marketing, product development and contracting.

Contributed by Marketing Institute of Singapore