Critical Thinking: Overcoming Bias

American executives have identified a lack of critical thinking skills as one of the most worrying deficits in the American workplace.

But what is critical thinking? If we’re going to fix it, it has to be more than a vague buzzword. Most people think that critical thinking just means being smart or knowing a lot. But that’s not true. Critical thinking is not about what you KNOW, but how you THINK. It’s the systematic attempt to avoid errors in reasoning, especially errors that creep in because of our own biases and preferences. Everybody has those biases, but a critical thinker knows how to counter them well.

Start by identifying your preferences. You would prefer to be one of the best performers in your company, right? But it’s important not to fool yourself into thinking you are already among the best if you’re not. That’s how we get crazy results like a Businessweek survey that found between 84 and 97% of employees think they perform in the top 10% in their companies!

Instead of trying to wish away the biases that get in the way of critical thinking, bring in the perspective of people who don’t share your bias. They’ll still be biased about THEMSELVES, of course. But they can provide a valuable point of view outside of your own bias.

Performance reviews, both formal and informal, are one way of doing this. Ask people you trust to tell you the truth: Do you think my work is solid? Do you think I’m a good candidate for promotion? If not, what can I improve?

Done right, critical thinking can be the secret weapon that allows for massive effectiveness and powerful results and returns in your organization.

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