If the past year has taught us anything, it is that applying critical evaluation to the processes we may have once taken for granted has proven invaluable in weathering the COVID-19 storm. In the last 12 months, organisations have been forced to entirely reimagine the way they conduct business with a dramatic shift towards digitalised working environments and e-commerce. As a result, finding the most effective way to sustainably maintain business continuity has required the constant reappraisal and refinement of existing systems and approaches. Critical thinking has played a major role in these refinements.
The concept of critical thinking might seem as simple as pausing, recalibrating and using a smart thinking process rather than reacting instinctively to challenges. However, this approach is not necessarily inherent in most individuals. Critical thinking skills can and should be taught in the working environment so that they become second nature.
Critical thinking can add value to any business. It ensures you consider all perspectives, find the best possible solution to a problem with maximum buy-in from all stakeholders involved – an outcome which can ultimately save time, money and resources.
When we talk about business problems that require solutions, it can be tempting to view achieving the desired outcome through performing a series of tasks with a ‘box ticking’ mentality. Whilst this might seem like a logical, pragmatic approach, it gives rise to an uninspired mindset that is not necessarily conducive to understanding the purpose of a project, or the source of a problem. In fact, this approach mirrors machine automation, one that has been programmed specifically to achieve a set desire of outcomes with no regard as to why these outcomes need to be met in the first place.
Naturally, we may choose to assess challenges in their most simplistic forms, using almost mechanical reactions, such as looking under the bonnet of a car that is not working or simply rebooting when poor internet affects our Zoom calls. However, it is by applying intentional, critical thinking that we can delve deeper into the problems that affect us the most. By using critical thinking, we can challenge the way we do things but make the formation of solutions far easier. Applying this effectively requires courage, resilience and conviction.
One of the most positive learnings to draw on from the global pandemic is that it has forced us to reimagine a different approach in everything we do – from operational continuity, to the simple facilitation of virtual team meetings.
Now is the time to reject the notion that critical thinking is either an innate characteristic that cannot be developed, or simply a skill learnt only through years of experience. Business leaders in the middle market understand this almost instinctively. By endorsing a systematic approach and leading our teams through the critical thinking process to solve problems, we can all find new ways of overcoming challenges, to reimagine an exciting future. By doing so, we can all help everyone within our organisations to develop one of today’s most in-demand business skills.