The Need for Critical Thinking

J. Keith Hughey

Founder

Volume XXII, Number 5 (Issue 1061) January 29, 2024

The Need for Critical Thinking

I spent the past week in eighteen meetings – a noticeable deviation from my semi-retirement plan. C’est la vie. Of those sessions the first seventeen were one-on-one coaching conversations while the final meeting was a two-day planning event for one of our clients. As I have reflected on all those sessions, a topic that surfaced time and again for me was the role critical thinking plays in strategy development and problem solving. For instance, in virtually every planning event we facilitate it isn’t long before we can spot the strategic thinkers in the room, the tactical thinkers, those who get bogged down in the “how,” and those who want to consider different ways of doing things. 

I should not be surprised at this line of thought considering last week’s Musing – specifically the need for a strong partnership between visionaries and doers. That’s because both talents leave something to be desired whenever they attempt to stand alone. Fortunately for both, those who are endowed with and adept at critical thinking also play a pivotal role in the development and execution of strategy. That is because such people possess the ability to refine the dreamer’s vision so that it becomes a viable set of actionable initiatives. Combining insight and a willingness to ask questions, even challenge the premises on which a vision is based, is what they bring to the party. Put another way, that ability to search for and arrive at the robust “how” (i.e., think outside the box) is crucial to bridging the gap between the current state with its growing set of problems and a much-desired future state. 

It goes to the heart of why so many organizations highly value the ability to innovate. They want people who not only embrace change but foster and lead change. 

I recall a questionnaire we developed that was sent to a group of organizations actively recruiting at the business school of a major university. What we were hoping to learn were the qualities those businesses prized the most when hiring new college graduates. Apart from grades and extracurricular activities, it turned out there were three items at the top of their list: communication skills, critical thinking skills, and drive. None of that should come as a surprise to most since those are the same sorts of qualities that employers favor when it comes to promotability. 

As further proof of the role that critical thinking plays there is a series of “Boston Box” models (2×2 matrices) that portray various employee attributes. One of those 

models depicts the intersection of technical skills and soft skills (aka power skills). A second matrix reflects the relationship between potential and commitment. Those individuals who score high on both axes of the first 2×2 matrix (i.e., they possess strong technical and strong interpersonal skills are considered to have tremendous upside potential). If they likewise score high on the commitment axis of the second 2×2 model (since it measures commitment on one axis and potential on the other), then they should be placed on the company’s fast track. In doing so, one not only leverages those qualities, they also improve their chances of retaining them for the future. 

In summary, visionaries, critical thinkers, and doers all play a vital role in creating progress. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:19a 

J. Keith Hughey

Mobile: (210)260-0955 

E-mail: keith@jkeithhughey.com 

Website: www.jkeithhughey.com 

Transforming Potential into Unmatched Performance

Copyright 2024 by J. Keith Hughey. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for reproduction and redistribution of this essay as provided under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Recent issues of Musings may be found at www.jkeithhughey.com. Your comments are always welcome.

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