Ask any leader if they value the skill of critical thinking and you’ll see them immediately morph into a bobble-head-like caricature of themselves, vigorously nodding up and down as if their neck was a well-oiled spring attached to their shoulders. “Oh, yeah,” they’ll say, “it’s valued, a lot.”
Then ask if they can describe what critical thinking is, and instantly, their heads stop bobbling. Further, ask them to describe how they practice critical thinking. You’ll see their heads sharply slope down and lifelessly droop as if they’ve become suddenly unhinged. I witness this reaction all the time. I see it across the senior directors, VPs, managing partners and C-suite executives I meet with.
Critical thinking is a key element of business and career success. Everyone admits they’re good at it, but no one seems to immediately understand how to explain exactly what critical thinking is, how to articulate their practice of it or how they develop that acumen in others.
Furthermore, when I ask the same question across multiple people within a company, large or small, private or enterprise, and across all positions and levels, if they can articulate a response, I have never found it to align with any other responses I get.
You’d think that companies that value organized thinking would have an organized process or method everyone can turn to when problem-solving individually or collectively. But most don’t. I have yet to work with a company that has a clearly defined critical thinking application or process. It bobbles my neck and mind!
Real leaders understand that leading profitable initiatives alone is not enough, nor is it enough to merely lead people to execute upon those initiatives. Real leaders lead those around them into their potential, and that potential includes developing critical-thinking ability.