Creating a Corporate Critical Thinking Culture

by Anne Pauker Kreitzberg on Mar 15, 2012

Creating a Corporate Critical Thinking Culture

Creating a a critical thinking corporate culture can pay off big.

Every day, in every business, people make decisions and each one is an opportunity for a mistake. Some are good decisions that move the business forward and increase profit. Others are poor decisions that hurt the business and reduce profit.

Everyone knows that if we could teach people to think more deeply, solve problems better, communicate, collaborate and innovate more effectively, our companies would run a lot better. But while we acknowledge the importance of critical thinking on the big problems, we often overlook the reality that critical thinking is equally needed for the everyday decisions like:

  • Is there a policy or precedent for handling this situation?
  • If I don’t know an answer, who would- or how could I find out?
  • What's the best course of action if existing policy is incomplete, vague, not up to date – or just doesn’t make sense in this situation?

Here are three things you need to do to jumpstart a critical thinking corporate culture:

  1. Clearly articulate the vision: Describe what a robust critical thinking organization looks like and what critical thinkers do. We gave you some very general ideas, but you will want to make these very concrete and specific to your company.
  2. Clearly state the benefits:   Make sure everyone knows what’s in it for them and why it’s a “burning platform” for your organization’s survival. If you can’t think of a compelling reason for boosting your critical thinking capability, it will be very difficult to get the support and commitment you need to make it reality.
  3. Give people the tools they need to be successful: Teach critical thinking skills and techniques and reinforce them with “mentoring moments”. Critical thinkers like to think. They know they don’t know everything and always want to know more.  Critical thinking can’t be taught in a day or even in a course; it’s an applied skill. You get better at it by making a commitment to apply the techniques you learn in the situations you face every day.  A good mentor -  a manager or coworkers – can really help.

Start by getting a very clear picture of why critically thinking is of mission-critical importance to your company.  Look for specifics relevant to your organization rather than general statements that would apply to any company. You can uncover some of this with questions like these:

  • What’s not happening that you think would be happening if people were better critical thinkers?
  • Why is that important to the survival of your company?
  • What would happen if nothing changed?
  • What does a good “critical thinker” do? (How do you know when someone does this well?)
  • Is there someone everyone knows who does this pretty well now?  Is there something about the individual or the situation that enables this person to be able to do this well that can be replicated?

Creating and supporting a critical thinking culture can transform your organization, making it far more competitive and effective.


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