Briefing Notes: Are You Thinking? Critically?

Published: March 8, 2020

“Think about your thinking, while your thinking, in order to improve your thinking.” — Linda Elder


HERE’S THE THING

Critical thinking. You know, it’s that skill listed in every one of those Top-Skills-You-Need-for-the-Future articles. The Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum listed it at #2. You’ll see it as a required or desired skill on job descriptions and postings.

The reason critical thinking IS a skill is because it is not an automatic thought process.

Most people naturally think “uncritically,” making decisions based on personal biases, self-interest, or irrational emotions. Everyone is vulnerable to this type of simplistic thinking—it’s human nature.

Oof.

Why this matters:
Employers want critical thinkers but are often hard-pressed to define what it is exactly they want. Critical thinking is a phrase as vague as problem-solver. It’s thrown around like the words organic or results-oriented. We hear people use it all the time but no one seems to understand exactly what it means. How are we supposed to know if we have it or get better at it if no one can agree on what it is!

The Washington Journal spoke with social science professionals, hiring managers, and job-seekers to find the real definition of the term. Unfortunately, it’s behind a paywall, so only subscribers can read it. Ugh. Fortunately, Fast Company summarized the traits that most critical thinkers demonstrate:

  • They read between the lines. Critical thinking involves the ability to cross-examine evidence and logical argument.
  • They dig deeper. “Thinking about your thinking, while you’re thinking, in order to improve your thinking.”
  • They’re skeptical. Critical thinkers know not to jump on the first good idea they find.
  • They come prepared. Critical thinkers don’t rest on their memorization and regurgitation skills.

Bottom line:
In our world – where nothing’s a given, where things change so fast we get whiplash, where it’s getting harder and harder to catch the fake from the real — critical thinking is… well, critical. 😊 It may just be the skill that separates us from the robots (which are of course coming for our jobs). #eyeroll


SPEAKING OF SKILLS

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INTERESTINGLY
  • Video: How to Optimise Your Life, New York Times. Gently ironic guide to filling every minute of your waking and sleeping life with time-saving hacks… until you have no time left for living. Whatever you do, don’t miss step 5. “Right?”
  • Audio: Gretchen Rubin on Ten Percent Happier. Discussing how outer order leads to inner calm. She makes a good case about tidying up our workspaces, physical and digital. Or how clearing one’s closet can lead to a career change decision.

MULL IT OVER

“The problem isn’t passion. It’s never passion. It’s priorities.” — Mark Manson


FUTURE TENSE

While scanning my IG feed the other day, an ad for Ovation caught my attention. A virtual-reality public-speaking training program, Ovation simulates a variety of public speaking scenarios. For a small subscription fee, you can rehearse as long as you want until you feel you can step into the spotlight and own that TED stage. When I looked into it though, it appears the product’s been around since 2018. So this really is more present than future tense. Regardless, it’s still pretty cool for the future of training.


REMEMBER THE TIME

… when you would forward a joke to every person you know who has an email address? Nowadays, that’s a fast track to the spam folder  🤣
Speaking of emails…  ⬇️


SECOND BREAKS UPDATE

You know what it’s like when you never hear any feedback about the work you’re doing, right?
So, I’m working very hard to deliver a worth-reading, opposite-of-boring, non-hype weekly newsletter. And I’d love to hear your thoughts about how I’m doing so far. Send me a line or two?


LAST WORD

Critical thinking isn’t just something we need at work. With all the misinformation and conspiracy theories going on about COVID-19, we need to be thinking critically for sure!

Stay safe and best wishes for a productive week. Send over comments, critical thoughts, jokes, and pictures of your COVID preparedness kit.

Cool beans,
Lou Blaser


ABOUT LOU BLASER

A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Briefing Notes and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on helping experienced professionals navigate an evolving work landscape so they can continue their impact and relevance in a changing world.

The world of work is changing.

Stay smart about it.

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