First mentioned back in the time of early Greek philosophers, critical thinking has become an inseparable part of the modern education system. How has it come to that?
As I concisely and simply define it, critical thinking is the ability to think rationally, analyse the necessary data and draw logical conclusions. However, the more comprehensible definition is more complex and impacts almost all aspects of our lives, which I find particularly interesting. Sometimes, we even rely on it unconsciously when we question the things and people around us.
I became aware of critical thinking and its importance when I was still a student. I have been reading and learning about it ever since, and in this blog, I would like to show how it can be beneficial for an entrepreneur.
What is critical thinking?
Searching for the most precise definition, I looked at a number of different sources, and each of them provided its own unique definition of the term.
In my words, I would say that critical thinking is our ability to systematically analyse a subject, gather the necessary information about it, then assess it and eventually draw logical conclusions or find a solution, depending on what the subject requires.
I notice myself practising it even in basic everyday situations such as – reading books, making decisions, watching or reading the news, solving problems, and even communicating with people around me. It helps me understand not only others’ choices and intentions but also my own; I know my emotions, triggers, and reactions.
I practice it by constantly asking the main question – ‘Why?’, and all the follow-up questions that come after that will lead me to consider the issue from multiple perspectives.
What skills does critical thinking require?
There are so many skills that could be linked to critical thinking that it would be next to impossible trying even to list all of them. So instead, I have decided to mention a few of them I find particularly useful in working on my critical thinking.
- Curiosity and imagination
I have had a few people disagree with me when it comes to defining curiosity as a skill rather than a trait people are born with, but I stick with my decision to call it a skill because it can be practised and improved. Therefore, it’s a skill and a very important one for critical thinking because we need to be curious about everything, want to find out and know, and imagine different points of view.
Researching information properly and recognising reliable sources is a necessary skill in all fields, not just when it comes to critical thinking. But, when we talk of critical thinking as such, research helps us gather as much information as possible needed to form a clear and objective picture of the issue at hand. Therefore, it’s important to check a wide range of sources and steer clear of, often irresistible, cognitive bias.
- Analysis and assessment
These two skills refer to checking the gathered information. When analysing the data, we need to stay as emotionally detached as possible in order to be able to come to a valid conclusion. In my case, it has often proved more difficult than it sounds, but the good thing is that it’s possible to practice and master this skill with time.
Again, the same thing I said about curiosity – some people consider creativity an innate personality trait, and that is fine. I agree with that to a certain extent. But, I think that we can work on it as well. Through reading and writing mainly, I have managed to develop my creativity to the point where it’s a constant flow of creative thoughts. In critical thinking, creativity helps me a lot when it comes to exploring the steps following data analysis—thinking of all the possible directions in which I can further bring my mind.
I think open-mindedness goes hand in hand with constructive communication, problem-solving, and curiosity. To explore all the options and viewpoints, we must approach the issue completely open-minded because any sort of prejudice, bias, or subjective thinking would distort the picture we create.
Focusing on different issues, trying to solve problems, or asking questions all require a certain level of communication skill. We find ourselves in situations where our wish to communicate our ideas and points of view consequently pushes us to improve teamwork, collaboration, active listening, explanation, and presentation ability. It’s important to pick each other’s brains and simply accept the idea that our perspective will not always be unconditionally right. When we allow someone to change our minds, we are open to learning and don’t just stay within our limits.
This category additionally covers a couple of skills, such as decision-making and drawing logical conclusions. I put them all in the same category because they mark an endpoint of the critical thinking process, depending on the subject at hand and whether it requires solving, concluding, or deciding. These skills help us think outside the box and separate facts from our personal opinions, often influenced by emotional biases. Moreover, being objective often helps us make better judgements, especially on ethical questions.
How can critical thinking benefit an entrepreneurial mindset?
Doing research and learning, asking thoughtful questions, communicating with people, considering things from different angles, and being open-minded and curious are just skills an entrepreneur needs on their journey.
Curiosity is one of the main things that make an entrepreneurial mindset. When we are curious to explore, accept diversity and different opinions, curious to learn and understand, we can work better with others, be empathetic, and in the end, create value in the world.
Critical thinking requires us to be dynamic. It’s a lifelong learning process and re-learning the things we once knew because sometimes, old knowledge will not work with the new experience.
How to encourage critical thinking?
I’m sure there are many ways, but in my experience, what worked best was – learning. What I mean by that is – I kept reading books on miscellaneous topics, I stopped judging others before I tried to understand their perspective and circumstance, I questioned everything around me and looked for answers whenever possible, I often spoke with people with a unique view on life, and so on. All of these experiences required me to learn and grow my mindset.
I have still not perfected my critical thinking, but as I previously mentioned, it’s a process, and I genuinely enjoy it. Each experience is a lesson and a chance to grow and change the way I think.
So, how do you practice critical thinking? Do you think it’s necessary to develop an entrepreneurial mindset?