Everyone has an inherent ability to think but only a few engage in critical thinking. So then, what is critical thinking in particular and how is it important in our lives. Scholars describe critical thinking as ‘thinking within thinking’ to seek for clarity, accuracy, consistency, good reasons for or against, depth, relevance, and fairness among other elements.
A critical thinker is one with the ability to solve a problem intellectually and skillfully by identifying the problem, conceptualizing on the same, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information gathered and to exercise their best judgment to draw conclusions.
Critical thinking is a valuable tool in every area of management whether in office or lifestyle management. A good manager should keep on learning by attending seminars and workshops and being open minded to stay ahead of the competition. An effective team is necessary for the process of critical thinking.
The team should coordinate and focus on a common goal. There should be competition among the members and who should be always motivated on top of possessing all the necessary cognitive skills including interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference. However, one major hindrance to critical thinking is emotional biasness. One should be able to fight the subjective barriers and be as objective as possible. Use of logics and basing ones judgment on good evidence can overcome this barrier.
For one to think critically in business, differentiation between facts and fiction is necessary. Verification of the source would “help distinguish between the facts and fiction” (Hindery, 2001, p.53). Close relationship with the source should not influence ones judgment. Accuracy is also vital as facts and fictions can be hectic to distinguish.
Asking of questions is an integral part of critical thinking. Critical thinking is rather a process than an instant activity. It requires a good thinker, clear, logic, thoughtful, attentive to all facts, and open to alternatives. It entails five main steps all of which are very important and critical.
The first step in critical thinking is identifying the problem, defining it and then seeking clarity to the same. A problem can be from any part of the organization. For example, a customer may complain of one of the company’s products.
A manager with critical thinking abilities would not just change the product; s/he should embark on a mission to establish the authenticity of such claims. The product could be bad or the consumer could be having ill tastes probably stimulated by a sickness or even overuse of the product. In any case, that is ones opinion and opinions might be different given that no one is a replica of the other.
However, the manager should not ignore the comment, as it might be a factual one. The second step is gathering information on the particular subject. Evidence from communication, experience, note taking, reasoning, reflection or even observations can act as some of the sources of information. In our case, the manager could involve the sales and marketing team to do a market survey and come up with viable information. The third step is evaluating the information gathered.
The managerial body defines evaluation as the “act of assessing the credibility of statements or other representations, which are other people’s opinions” (Langdon, 2001, p.49). In other words, the managerial body should asses the validity of the information gathered. In our case, the company should analyze the information gathered by the sales and marketing team. Additionally, the body should consider biasness of the staff, as this would influence the kind of decision taken.
Choosing the best alternative is the fourth step. This stage requires thinking, both creatively and critically. Powerful decision makers are of help at this stage. Experts consider two to three alternatives as being viable at this stage. Facts and opinions should support any option to forgo an alternative.
In the case above, alternatives at stage, four could entail including a certain ingredient to the product, to change the whole formulation or to come up with an additive that covers the effect of a certain ingredient. Lastly, the implementation of the solution sets in. Implementation of a new idea may take time but the results are worthwhile.
In my previous job as a production supervisor in a certain dairy company, things went wrong; the man in charge of yoghurt production messed up, by adding a black flavor and a strawberry color to a huge amount of yoghurt. As the production supervisor, I was expected to be responsible for such an ‘accident’, which called my critical thinking ability to action.
We held a meeting with the quality control supervisors to resolve the issue. We came up with different ideas on how to solve the same. Some of the ideas brought forward were to add the black color with greater concentrations to counteract the effect of the strawberry color. The second one was to pack as it was since such occurrence is a rare case. The third option was to drain all the yoghurt.
We evaluated the different options critically. The first idea did not work with the different concentrations tried hence out ruled. The second option was also put aside on the basis that a certain group of consumers owns black currant and they know the product inside out, so slight changes would cause lose of customers.
Allowing the workers to drink would encourage such careless mistakes in future and our workers are part of our customers hence they should also enjoy quality products. The last option was the best and hence adopted. Despite the incurred losses, our customer would receive a quality product, which would uphold our name. Implementation involved draining the whole product in the presence of security guards to ensure no drop found its way out of the production unit.
In conclusion, critical thinking is a central part in any business. Managers should make decisions based on facts so this calls for continuous learning for all the workers at large.
Hindery, R. (2001). Indoctrination and Self-Deception or Free and Critical Thought? Lewiston, N.Y.: E. Mellen Press. Print.
Langdon, K. (2001). Smart things to know about decision-making. Oxford: Capstone Publishing Ltd.