As a small-business owner, you have to make decisions on a multitude of issues that affect your business, from marketing strategies to who to hire to maintain and grow your business. The quality of thinking that goes into these crucial decisions can have a major impact on the future of your company.

shows that critical thinking is crucial for growing a business and achieving success in the 21st century. Critical thinking skills include making decisions, solving problems and taking appropriate action. Three out of four major industry players surveyed rated the pace of change in business as the leading reason why such skills are necessary, followed by global competitiveness and the nature of how work is accomplished today.

We all know we have to take a disciplined approach when problem solving and making decisions. But the reality is, we often make knee-jerk decisions or decisions based on our gut feelings. To avoid that, it could help to stop for a moment and consider your thinking skills. Do you use formal problem-solving or critical-thinking tools in your daily business activities? Has your approach to analyzing business problems and finding solutions always been successful? If not, you might need to iron out some defects in your approach.

While everyone thinks, not everyone thinks systematically. “Intelligence is something we are born with,” says Edward de Bono

an expert in the fields of creativity, innovation and thinking. “Thinking is a skill that must be learned.”

Learning how to use some of the proven thinking methodologies or tools will make you a more effective leader. Try adding any of the following three powerful thinking tools to your business toolkit, and you’re likely to see your business grow.

Making Better Decisions

In today’s complex and fast-paced business environment, decisions are made rapidly, often with insufficient information. This can lead to bad decisions—unless you follow a structured methodology for making decisions. One popular process to maximize your critical thinking skills is the Kepner-Tregoe (KT) Decision Analysis

named after Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe, the researchers who developed the method. In its simplest form, the KT Decision Analysis can be summarized in the following step-by-step activities:

  • State the decision and develop objectives. Write a clear statement about the decision to be resolved, and state the specific results and benefits the decision is to achieve.
  • Classify objectives into musts and wants. The “must” objectives are essential to guarantee a successful decision; the “want” objectives provide a sense of how the alternatives generated perform relative to each other.
  • Weigh the wants objectives. Assign a rating of one to 10 based on their relative importance.
  • Generate a list of alternatives. Disregard alternatives that don’t meet the musts.
  • Compare alternatives against the wants. Assign a relative score for each alternative based on how the alternative satisfies the want objectives.
  • Calculate the weighted score of each alternative.
  • Identify potential downsides for each alternative.
  • Make the best balanced choice. Having clearly identified the value and the risks each alternative poses, you’re now better prepared to weigh the potential gains against the potential risks.
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