According to the World Economic Forum, one of the most demanded skills for leaders is critical thinking.
I’ve already written about the VUCA world we’re living in is; and how important it is for a leader to be flexible and able to understand the context and make decisions.
Critical thinking is about being able to make logical connections between ideas, evaluate, debate and make conclusions. And besides that, the ability to adapt and change your mind in front of the evidences, no matter how hard it could be.
Changing our minds is a hard job
Once formed, impressions are extremely perseverant. For example, you might have heard about something called “confirmation bias”: the tendency people have to embrace information that support their beliefs and reject information that contradicts them. So, we tend to confirm our assumptions based on “the information we have”, or at least is what we think. The really is that we actually look for what will confirm what we think and many times, in front of facts, we are simply unable to change or mind just because we unconsciously reject the information.
There are some more bias helping us to stick to our opinions. Take the “myside bias” for example.
We humans are very sharp in spotting someone else’s argument weaknesses while being blind about our own’s.
There is a funny experiment, ran by two European researchers, Mercier and Sperber studying this bias.
Some students were asked to respond a series of simple reasoning problems. They were asked to explain their responses and given the possibility to identify mistakes and change their answer. The majority were satisfied with their first choices.
Thereafter, the students were asked to examine the answers from another participant compared to theirs. The played trick was that the answers given to them as someone else’s were actually their own and vice versa.
Of course, many of them realized about the trick but among the rest, students became a lot more critical. Almost 60% of those rejected the responses that they had been OK with.
Bad news is, leaders are not safe from this.
From a leadership perspective, that’s important since people beliefs affect decisions. They affect who will be hired, what is important in the company, how processes are designed or what values are promoted.
Therefore, our capacity to think over our well-established thoughts will determine how well we can adapt to changes. And, in our world today where the pace of changes is crazy, we need to assess the context, seize opportunities and not take anything for granted.
And, that is the reason why leaders should learn how to develop their critical thinking.
The best way to train your critical thinking is by question your assumptions.
Why do you believe what you believe?
Are you conscious about your bias? Is there something you think it’s true without questioning it?
What information supports your beliefs? What information you can find that contradicts what you believe?
The power of these questions is none unless you’re ready to change your views under the light of new facts, forgetting about what you once established as your opinion. This is the main issue.
And once there, what are the potential of this new perspective? What is it possible from there?