Reactive Thinking

Critical thinking is the systematic attempt to avoid errors in reasoning. A critical thinker is someone who learns and uses skills that make for organized, disciplined thinking. It’s not about what you KNOW—it’s about how you THINK.

There’s another kind of thinking that’s the exact opposite of critical thinking. It’s called reactive thinking— the kind of automatic, unexamined thinking we all do at times.

This kind of thinking isn’t always bad. You don’t want to stop and ponder when a train is headed your way. You want to react.

Author Malcolm Gladwell calls this “rapid cognition.” It’s not completely separate from a critical process, but it’s much less conscious. And sometimes that’s what we need, especially when there’s too little time for a full critical process.

BUT…when it comes to deciding how to approach a large project, or whether to make a big investment, or how reason out the obstacles that would keep a key initiative of the company from getting stuck—that’s when you need a systematic process that helps you avoid errors in reasoning. It is how you take the most relevant facts and process through them to make the best recommendation—understanding the best case, worst case and likely scenario of moving ahead. And a workplace filled with people who develop that skillset is going to be more engaged and more productive as a result.

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