Critical Thinking

In a series of experiments conducted at the University of Virginia, researchers discovered most people would rather do anything but sit and think—with many subjects preferring electric shocks instead of thinking. If thinking is such a dreaded exercise, what’s the process to teach someone critical thinking?

I teach adults how to do jobs— also entrepreneurs, managers, and business leaders. The biggest challenge I have? How to deal with the problem produced by the industrialized educational system: it teaches kids what to think, not how to think, so the kids can pass standardized tests.

But this isn’t how the real world works. The real world is volatile, uncertain, chaotic, and ambiguous (VUCA) and there are no standardized answers to the challenges encountered. That’s where I come in…

We’ve developed a process that teaches adults critical thinking skills while teaching them how to do a job.

We ask them questions related to the job, but sequenced in a way that leads them through a critical thinking process.

Here’s our process:

  1. What is the job? We ask them to “help” us break down the job into the component parts.
  2. What do you know about the job? We ask them questions about the different parts of the job.
  3. How do these parts work together? These questions drive connections between the part tasks so they can see how each job task impacts the others, and the job as a whole.
  4. What can go wrong? This gets them to think about problems that can appear while performing the job—and they have to think about solutions.
  5. How can you improve how the job is done? This drives them to think about ways to improve their workflow, or even innovate the job.

This process of instruction helps us teach people critical thinking skills while teaching them how to do a job.