Making decisions is something we all do every day. Some decisions have little or no impact on others and the ramifications of a poor decision are negligible. On the other hand, many decisions we make either in our personal lives or working lives can have a great impact on others and considerable consequences. How we go about making decisions is worth considering.
Working in the employment sector I often take job briefs from panic stricken clients wanting to clone the person who just resigned. “I want another Jenny”. Often there is little or no thought given to what they really want in context of the current and future state of the work environment and the skills required to thrive both in the here and now and into the future. Instead the immediate reaction is to clone the skills that worked well in the past. Recruitment is not an inexpensive exercise, so getting it right is important for any hiring manager and requires deliberate thought.
I’ve recently been reading several papers, blogs and articles on Critical Thinking which I find genuinely interesting because it has made me stop and consider my own bias, the way I define situations and the emotions I feel that are driven from my thinking.
According to Beyer (1995) Critical Thinking means making clear, reasoned judgements. While in the process of critical thinking, your thoughts should be reasoned and well thought out and judged. The University of Canberra states it this way, “When you are thinking critically, you are not just thinking passively and accepting everything you see and hear. You are thinking actively. You are asking questions about what you see and hear, evaluating, categorising, and finding relationships”.
What’s the benefit?
Developing skills in critical thinking has a range of benefits and ultimately may lead to consistently higher performance because you seek relevant and up to date information to help you look beyond conventional solutions and look for new ideas to address problems. Rather than making rash, heat of the moment decisions that may have detrimental unintended consequences, critical thinking techniques provide you with the tools to identify opportunities and threats that may result following various courses of action. As such, detrimental consequences are considered and remedies can be applied to address them quickly.
Applying critical thinking skills allows you to identify and evaluate other people’s points of view; see beyond the surface; draw conclusions based on sound evidence and reasonable assumptions; and communicate your decision with clarity in a way that convinces others that this is the correct course of action.
Why I bought a horse
Last year I joined in with some mates and bought a small share in a racehorse. What was I thinking? Was my decision reasoned and well thought out? Not really. However I’m going to draw a very long bow and suggest that I did, in fact, engage a critical thinking strategy. The Foundation for Critical Thinking highlights nine strategies to improve your critical thinking and I believe (although this could be my own bias kicking in right now), that I deployed strategy number nine. That is, “analyse group influences on your life”. When presented with the opportunity by my mates to buy a share of a racehorse, I analysed the group influence and chose to accept it and go with it. And after three race wins and several fun days at the track with good mates, I’m pretty happy with my decision!
Saying no to a client
Many years ago when the employment market was booming and Australia’s unemployment rate was at a record low, the services of our recruitment division were in extremely high demand. My team was working at capacity with our consultant productivity at an all-time high. The market was going crazy and it seemed like job orders were flying in the door.
This was something I hadn’t experienced before and the idea of saying no to a client who wanted to give me a new job order went against the grain of my training and past experiences. However, it was clear to me that the taking on this new order at a time where we were bursting at the seams was not the right thing to do.
Although it went against my instincts, I decided to redefine the way I viewed the situation. Instead of an automatic response of accepting any new assignment, I reviewed our team workload and determined that taking another order at that time would led to a poor outcome for both the client and us.
Following reasoned thought, I thanked the client for the opportunity but politely declined the offer to work on that assignment.
Improving your critical thinking
Of the nine strategies from The Foundation for Critical Thinking that I came across, the one that resonated with me the most was:
Use ‘wasted’ time – ask yourself:
“Did I do anything today to further my long-term goals?”
“If I repeated today what would I do differently and why?”
Critical thinking in the workplace is a great skill to have, but it doesn’t come easily for many people. Some prefer to make decisions based on emotion, or make decisions to appease others and maintain the status quo and I have no doubt there are occasions when this may well be the best way to go. However having the tools to stop, think, analyse and make rational, well considered decisions is a great asset for anyone. How do you make decisions?
Ben Walsh – General Manager; Recruitment