Critical Thinking - 10 Skills To Future Proof Yourself
In this third post of a ten part series on 10 Skills You Need To Future Proof Yourself, we’re focusing on ‘critical thinking’.
What Is Critical Thinking?
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a series of wonderful stories featuring the enigmatic Sherlock Holmes.
What made this character such a good detective was his ability to prioritise the truth. Unlike his sidekick Watson, he had an uncanny ability not to be mislead by false information.
How did he figure out what was true and what wasn’t?
It’s simple; he had learnt to think critically.
Holmes realised that much of our thinking is done below a level of conscious awareness. Most thoughts are automatic and we don’t question our processes.
In other words, we don’t think about what we’re thinking.
This is fine most of the time but it can sometimes lead us to make irrational and impulsive judgements. We might overlook certain facts and twist others to fit our preferred story.
To become better thinkers, we need to be able to structure and guide our own thinking.
We need to think more like Sherlock.
Firstly, we should learn not to trust any single source of information (even if it comes from an authority).
Secondly, we should practice observing, analysing and interpreting all data objectively.
Lastly, we should recognises that some problems are only solved by breaking them down into their constituent parts.
Why is it important?
We don’t want to leave too much of our thinking to machines!
Saves us from making poor decisions, the outcomes of which could be costly.
Prevents us from being exploited or led to believe something which later turns out to be false.
Encourages a healthy skepticism. This is undoubtedly a good thing in the era of ‘fake’ news.
How do I become better at it?
Here are 7 ways to improve your ability to think critically:
1. Don’t take anything at face value.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask the basic questions.
3. Question any general assumptions. Why is this thing always done this way? Could it be approached differently?
4. Be aware of your own cognitive biases.
5. Break the problem down into smaller, more manageable chunks.
6. Evaluate existing evidence carefully and impartially.
7. Read broadly.