Your employee tells you about a coworker who is failing on the job. You follow up with that coworker, but she gives you a completely different point of view. As a manager, how do you maintain objectivity and fairness to all sides in the disagreement?
Our capacity to properly evaluate and break down a problem to choose a solution is crucial to our success. The ability to formulate profound, precise, and practical questions lies at the foundation of critical thinking. These are a few strategies for improving your ability to probe even the most challenging subjects.
Maintain a loose grip on your hypotheses.
Hypothesis-driven thinking helps teams rapidly solve problems. It is coming up with a quick solution to an issue and then digging into the data to improve and perfect it. The key to this strategy is to keep your theory loose. You may refuse to let go of your first response if you are too connected to it, regardless of where the data leads you. But if you treat your answer as a strawman and keep your assumptions loose, you’ll be willing to ditch it entirely if the situation demands it.
In critical thinking activities, we frequently fall into a reflexive and shared “answer” — especially in groups — and ask questions to prove rather than disprove our beliefs. Critical questioning, on the other hand, may drive us to rethink our prior assumptions, and we must be willing to do so without being defensive.
You should listen more than you speak.
Active listening is the key to excellent questions. Active listening is the process of comprehending — both explicitly and implicitly — what another person is saying while demonstrating that you are engaged and interested in what they are saying. Active listening done well allows you to comprehend an argument, making it easier to examine its logic.
Active listening can also help you ask better questions by overriding your brain’s prediction engine. Our brains produce quick, intuitive responses, but this might limit your perspective. Deep listening is a way to bypass that function and open yourself to a wider range of possibilities. It also allows you to show your colleague that you are interested in what they have to say and that you value their viewpoint, keeping them involved in the dialogue and more open to your viewpoint.
Make your questions as open-ended as possible.
Asking yes-or-no questions at the beginning of your analysis is a bad idea. Instead, use questions compelling the respondent to open up and talk for an extended period. Rather than asking, “Is this business stable?” inquire, “How would this business be unstable?” Ask instead, “What do you appreciate about your job and what could be better?” rather than “Are you pleased in your employment?” or “Tell me about a period when you were happy with your work and a time when you were unmotivated.” Then ask further questions in response to the lesson that unfolds. Open-ended questions foster collaborative critical thinking, allow individuals to expound on their viewpoints, and allow people to problem-solve.
Take a look at the irrational.
When it comes to problem-solving, we frequently fall prey to groupthink: the group converges on a road too quickly, and instead of occasionally ensuring they’re on the right track, they keep going — even if it’s the wrong way. Be the one who asks the counterintuitive question, the one who pushes the group’s conventional thinking and influences them to reexamine fundamentals. Your question may be off the mark, but the group is on the right track. Yes, there’s a potential that your coworkers who prefer to fast will be irritated. However, every organization has a responsibility to consider the paradoxical. Be the person who isn’t afraid to bring it up if you need to shift direction.
Marinade a problem
We strive to make judgments too rapidly in today’s fast-paced world. The best questions are frequently crafted after careful thought and a good night’s sleep. Sleep can aid in the assimilation of a problem and help you see it more clearly. And a systematic approach frequently yields more significant results. According to research, even if our decisions are correct, we often regret them when we make them in a hurry.
A meaningful conclusion or question, like a good stew, may require some time to simmer. Refrain from feeling rushed. Create a flowchart that will help you solve a problem for several days. Investigate it first, then consider what you learned and what questions you should have asked. Thoughtful questions are more impactful than those posed in the heat of the moment.
Pose the challenging follow-up questions.
It’s too easy to put our brains on autopilot, accept simple answers, or succumb to societal pressures to avoid questioning others. Deep questions that encourage critical thinking are frequently offered in a series of deeper and deeper follow-up inquiries. Every parent is familiar with how children will ask “why” dozens of times. At the end of this line of questioning, we parents frequently find ourselves stuck or doubting our answers.
We don’t need to ask a string of “whys” to get to the essence of critical thinking; instead, we should ask serious, tough follow-up questions. Listening intently and crafting follow-ups takes effort, but it’s sometimes the only way to gain a more profound knowledge of a topic.
Critical thinking is at the heart of finding new and creative approaches to solve challenging challenges. Building this vital talent will assist you in navigating new responsibilities, establishing yourself in your organization, or just dealing with a dilemma. Instead of simply answering questions, learn to formulate and ask them.