What is critical thinking and 4 ways to develop it

What is critical thinking and 4 ways to develop it

Published On: 7th February 2023 | Updated On: 10th February 2023

How did critical thinking “save the world”

You know how important it is to make a well-informed and calculated decision in crucial situations. A single wrong decision can throw your life off track. But in this dynamic world, how do we manage to take the right decisions at the right time?

We use critical thinking skills to make deliberate decisions. High critical thinking skills help you solve problems and make decisions more effectively. But what is it, and how can you develop it?

What is Critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the process of carefully and systematically analyzing problems to figure out solutions.

The process includes

  1. Identifying several potential solutions
  2. Logically assessing each one of them
  3. Comparing them on the basis of merit
  4. Finally, select the one that is the most promising

Critical thinking is a soft skill. At the School of Meaningful Experiences (SoME), we associate it as a human skill with our ‘Six C’s’ philosophy.

In today’s fast-paced world, there just isn’t enough time to make a well-informed decision. We are pressured to take a decision within seconds. Think about the countdown that begins when you are buying a product online or when your loved one's life is in danger, and you are made to make a decision urgently. Your brain freezes and you cannot think clearly. In those situations, you wish to be more competent and bullish while making decisions. This is why critical thinking is an essential skill for everyone.

Why is critical thinking important?

1. Become independent

Critical thinking helps you become independent. Once you start taking your own decisions, you don’t need to rely on anyone else. You take responsibility for your actions. Taking your own decisions is a boost to your confidence.

2. Effective communication and presentation skills

Critical thinking enhances effective communication and presentation skills. You are articulate while communicating your thoughts. You can withstand any stressful situation. Analyzing data rationally helps in effectively expressing your opinion. This relates to the communication notion of the ‘Six C’s’.

3. Higher creativity and innovation

Critical thinking pushes you to be creative and innovative. You come up with new ideas and creative solutions by thinking ‘Out of the box’. As opposed to restricted thinking, critical thinking frees your mind to explore and understand alternative solutions.

4. Scientific discoveries and theories

Critical thinking aids scientific discoveries and theories. Experimentation and reason are required to confirm scientific beliefs. So critical thinking is one of science’s major foundations.

You are now assured that critical thinking is indeed important. To see it in action, let’s look at renowned thinker who used his critical thinking skills to “save the world”.

How was critical thinking used to “Save the world”

Colonel Stanislav Petrov was a lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Air Defense Forces. Petrov was assigned the task of identifying inbound missiles aimed at the Soviet Union in 1983. His computer console gave him the signal that five nuclear missiles were on their way. Yet he convinced his higher commanders that his computer was giving false alarms despite the lack of evidence.

Petrov’s state of mind in this situation is commendable. He had to make a life-or-death decision under a fierce amount of pressure. How did he make this decision? What did he contemplate that led him to the conclusion that the incoming missiles were just a false alarm?

The answer is Critical thinking. He kept calm under the adversity and asked logical questions like:

If the Americans were going to launch a preemptive strike on the Soviet Union, they wouldn’t merely send five missiles.

Was there a problem with the computer?

Was it just a false alarm?

He was responsible to pass the information of the “attack” to his superiors without questions. Yet the colonel took a death-or-glory approach. He came to the conclusion that it was a false alarm and passed on the same information to his superiors.

His decision to disobey orders was in violation of the Soviet military protocol. This decision is credited with avoiding a retaliatory nuclear attack on the USA and its NATO allies. If this nuclear war had happened, half of the population of the countries involved would have been wiped out. The Soviet satellite had certainly malfunctioned, according to an examination. Petrov is credited with having “Saved the world” for his decision.

Instances like this show us the worth of critical thinking skills. Aristotle, Maya Angelou, Albert Einstein, and John Dewey were a few of the many great critical thinkers.

But you don’t need to be a prodigy to develop high critical thinking skills.

Ways to develop high critical thinking skills

1. Be detailed and concise

When you convey an idea, try to be detailed and concise. Think about your idea until you have a clear understanding of every aspect of your idea. A high information level makes you a better thinker and in turn a better decision-maker.

2. Undertake research

Don’t accept everything you are told. Research information to determine what is true.

3. Know facts

When you share your thoughts on a situation, link related facts and statistics. This solidifies your opinion in your and others’ minds.

4. Listen to different viewpoints

The most important quality of a great thinker is the ability to listen and analyze different points of view. This broadens your knowledge. But don’t believe everything you are told. Evaluate and make your own informed decisions.

If you want to be a good critical thinker, you need to be a quick learner, a strong problem solver, and a creative thinker. Once you become a critical thinker, your success will be unstoppable.

Useful Resources:    The Last Lecture BookWhat is grapevine communicationHow to succeed as a multipotentialite

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