Saturday, November 20, 2010

Your Career and You: "Thinking Critically is Critical"

I just wrapped up the penultimate (always wanted to use that sounds so cool!) class for this semester's "Conflict Management and Resolution" graduate course at Regis College, and I came home jazzed. has been an insane week...but today left me enthusiastic and re-energized!


Because we (the members of the class and I) spent a good portion of the time firing ideas and concepts around as we dealt with various conflict situations and were brainstorming ways in which to address them.

Same happened yesterday, I should add, in my undergraduate public relations classes at Curry we discussed consumer relations.

And what does all this blithering have to do with "critical thinking," you ask?

"Elementary, my dear Watson," quoth Sherlock Holmes.

According to Robert H. Ennis, author of The Cornell Critical Thinking Tests, "Critical thinking is reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe and do."

How did it apply in the situations above?

We took information at hand, analyzed it, compared it with our own experiences, beliefs and prejudices, and made a decision.

Why does that get me all excited, you ask?

Because critical thinking is life. Critical thinking is business. Critical thinking is, or should be, part and parcel of everything that we do as human beings.

How does that apply to your current or future career?

Because rarely are you going to be brought the solution to a problem, challenge, or opportunity on the proverbial silver platter. You're going to have to take a boatload of raw data, sift through it, find the key benefits (or risks), and draw a conclusion...

...without the benefit of a textbook's clearly laying out the steps in the procedure.

The training wheels are off the bike, and you're heading for the tree. What do you do?

The one thing I do that drives many of my Communication students nuts at Curry is ask a ton of open-ended "what do you think?" questions. I see them feverishly leafing through their textbooks trying to find the answer.

Then the inevitable question comes from the anguished crowd..."What page is the answer on?"

To which I respond, "It's not. You have to take the information I gave you and draw your own conclusion...find your own solution."

Comes the muttered response: "That's so not fair."

Yep! :-)

Welcome to grownup-hood where the roads are unmarked, and the streets have no names. You make your way, lantern in hand, searching for the elusive answer.

But, my friends, if you do this often enough, and you accept the fact that you are a living, breathing creature with a marvelous thing called a "brain," you will develop critical thinking skills.

You will learn how...maybe not easily or quickly...but you will learn how to gather the data about you, sift through it and categorize the various facts, and draw a conclusion based on your own experience, your own knowledge, and your own human instincts.

You will add critical thinking as a necessary weapon in your arsenal of skills, and you will be ready to take your own place in the world as a professional.

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Sign of Four" [1890]

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