Critical thinking: Road to professional growth and personal development
Not falling prey to the first impression, not blindly adopting other people’s opinions, maintaining distance and being able to form your own opinion based on knowledge and experience – these are the abilities necessary for keeping track of the infinite amount of information that rushes in at us from all directions every day. Whether we are talking about personal or professional life, we will simply not be able to do without critical thinking in the future. Can this ability be learned? And what are its practical benefits? We focused on these and other question at our third MeetUp, where we bring young people seminars and workshops focused on trends in the area of the future of work.
And what is critical thinking, exactly? “Standard” thinking is a process where you analyse facts to reach some kind of result. Critical thinking supplements this process with the element of healthy scepticism, which improves the result. Critical thinking is important not only for people as individuals, their careers and personal development, but also for the society as a whole, which can develop more efficiently, more dynamically and better as a result.
Before you start learning how to think critically, you have to realise how you think at all. “The brain is like a hat with two rabbits sitting in it – quick thinking and slow thinking,” is how the foundation of human thinking was described by Senta Čermáková, Deloitte’s Innovation Director, who hosted the project. According to her, we are in the “quick thinking mode” in situations when we are in danger, we are exhausted or even just lazy. At that moment we make decisions intuitively, “on autopilot”. We use slow thinking in situations when we face a long, demanding task or a complicated decision that needs to be thought over at length. We make around 30,000 decisions every day, it is therefore not possible to stop and think about every single one and deal with it in detail.
Deloitte MeetUp workshops
At Deloitte, we hold MettUps for interested parties from the general public where we focus on current topics and trends from various areas, but in particular the future of work. Whether you are a student, a fresh graduate, an assistant or a manager, everyone will find a topic of interest. In various workshops at our previous two MeetUps, we used not just words but also action to address the work trends of tomorrow, decision-making techniques and the art of argumentation. The most recent, third MeetUp focused on critical thinking. If you would like to join our future MeetUps, follow our Facebook.
How to prevent mistakes in decision-making? With a debate!
Everyone, even the most experienced thinker, makes mistakes sometimes. Whether these mistakes are caused by outside influences or our own analytical errors, they can essentially be solved in “just” two steps: recognition and training. First of all, we should be able to realise that we have made a mistake and what mistake we have made, and then work on these deficiencies. One of the best techniques is the so-called Oxford-style debate, which is based on the conflict of strongly polarised opinions. The debate has clear rules, structure and scope. Its goal is to use the aforementioned conflict to bring a critical outlook on a usually controversial topic.
Typology of systematic errors
- Anchoring. We form our opinions based on the first piece of information we learn.
- Availability heuristics. We underestimate the likelihood of an event based on how well we remember similar examples.
- Bandwagon effect. We believe in things that people around us believe in.
- Confirmation bias. We trust information that already confirms our previously held beliefs.
- Sunk-cost fallacy. We invest more and more resources into an activity that is already certain to be loss-making, simply because we feel bad about the resources we have already “sunk” in this activity.
- Hindsight bias. We think that events which happened in the past were far more predictable than they really were.
- Loss aversion. We tend to value things that we own more than things that we do not.
- Not invented here. We tend to prefer our own ideas or products, for example those coming from our company, even though they may be objectively worse than those of the competition.
- Planning fallacy. Our predictions and plans are unrealistically optimistic.
- Status quo bias. We try to keep things the way they are.
- Affect heuristics. Our decisions are ruled by emotions even though they should be controlled rationally.