If you get in the habit of thinking critically, you will handle every situation more professionally, interact more effectively with people, make better decisions, and be able to resolve, at least provisionally, almost any problem. Such results make critical thinking the ultimate transferable skill. And unlike today’s hot technical skills, it will never become obsolete.
- SUSPEND JUDGMENT
When you are presented with information—whether it’s in the form of a question or an answer, a problem or a solution, raw data or artistic interpretation—simply pause and look at the information. Don’t leap to conclusions. Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t believe in the content of that information, and don’t doubt it, either. Just pause for a moment and see what you’re dealing with.
- QUESTION ASSUMPTIONS
Once you have looked at the information, start asking yourself the hard questions: Do I have a clear picture in my head of the situation I am facing? What parts of the picture seem the clearest? Are those clear parts actually untested assumptions? How can I test those assumptions?The point of such interrogation is to figure out what you definitely don’t know so you can be clear on what facts you need to uncover.
- UNCOVER THE FACTS
The best guide to use is still the old standard:Who? What? When? Where? How? Why?
But remember, the key to successfully uncovering the facts of any situation is Step 2 above. Before you can uncover the facts, you have to know which facts need to be uncovered.
- ANALYZE YOUR INFORMATION
Any sound analysis begins with a clear goal—an optimal outcome. You cannot analyze in a vacuum; you must analyze in terms of the particular results you are trying to achieve, whether you’re focusing on a question, an answer, a problem, or a solution. It’s also important to keep in mind the full range of results that constitute your goal: an answer may be very good in terms of one particular result, but very bad in terms of another.
- DECIDE ON YOUR NEXT STEP
The key to making a decision is to link the decision to the next step it requires. Are you prepared to take that step? You haven’t really decided anything unless you’re ready to take concrete action.