Taking the time to think may seem like a simple thing to do. Depending on what you are thinking about, it certainly could be. However, if you are doing what is referred to as critical thinking, this type of thinking can be more difficult to do. Why? Because it will require you to factor in a number of different variables related to the topic you are contemplating.
Critical thinking is also usually associated with topics which may have multiple outcome possibilities. Some of which will be in your favor with the more experience you have either personally or professionally. Although this doesn’t mean you are incapable of exercising critical thinking if you do not have much life or professional experience.
Having just taken a vacation, I spent a fair amount of time on my vacation exercising critical thinking on a number of different topics. One of the topics was about mindset. In fact, I experimented with testing out the concept of having a positive mindset most of the time I was on vacation. During the few times that my mindset was not positive, it generally had to do with the fact I was tired, or had not been getting enough exercise or the right type of healthy food.
The other topic I spent a fair amount of time critically thinking about, was leadership, and what impact leaders have on those they lead. Since I have been conducting research for the past year on aspects of leadership associated with sports coaches and the teams they lead, my thinking about this topic has significantly expanded, and in a very constructive manner. It has been expanded due to having new insight into the different methods sports’ coaches have leveraged to lead their teams.
When I compare and contrast the difference between sports and workplace/business leaders, the most surprising aspect difference between the two types of leaders, isn’t one you might expect. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by how sports coaches are much more willing to “test drive” multiple leadership methods than business leaders are. When I first started thinking about why this might be occurring, I first thought about how sports leaders have an enormous advantage over business leaders. What is this advantage? It’s quite simple, and it is that the sports team leaders’ teams all are singularly focused on one thing. Winning.
Of course, the business leaders’ teams also want to “win”, but their success is measured differently, and they are also motivated differently than sports teams are. From a critical thinking perspective, the sports coach leaders have a great advantage over the business leaders because the business teams may say they all share a common goal, but in reality, many of them don’t. I can credibly tell you this from having spent over twenty-five years in the business world, and I have both seen and experienced this for decades. I’ll refer to as a phenomenon.
The business leaders who were able to get their teams to at least appear to be on the “same page” from a goal perspective, and who were able to achieve what were classified as their success measurements or KPI’s (key performance metrics), achieved this with a different set of challenges than the sports coach leaders did. Yes, both types of leaders had equally challenging experiences with achieving their goals, but I can tell you that if the business leaders took a page out of the proverbial “playbook” of the sports coach leaders, it would make their jobs both more fulfilling, and less frustrating.
The “playbook” aspect I am referring to has to do with assigning more value to understanding team dynamics, and the top sports coaches in the US and outside of the US that I spoke to, understand this innately. They also assign and allocate both time, resources, and money to making sure that they get their team dynamics right. The results from the sports coaches who have “cracked the code” on understanding and applying methods to making their team dynamics work in their favor, are not only impressive, but should be better understood and applied outside of the sports team industry.
Since having spent the last year doing research on sports teams and team dynamics, I have had to do an enormous amount of critical thinking. Especially during the time I have been analyzing the results of my work. Here are some of the aspects of critical thinking I can share with you if you are interested in both understanding the importance of critical thinking, and why you should be taking more time to do so on a regular basis.
- Critical thinking is more than having an opinion about something.
- To be a critical thinker, you need to reserve the time to do so, be reflective and factor in multiple variables about the topic you are considering.
- Patience is also required when you are attempting to spend time on critically thinking about the topic you are focusing on. Yes, this can be frustrating, as we live and work in a culture that demands an immediate sense of gratification, and critically thinking about a topic doesn’t always permit you to have an immediate answer or response.
- Exercising and getting in shape can be compared to critical thinking, as it is the type of thinking which requires discipline, persistence and considering doing a number of different methods to get to the result you are seeking, or want to have options to consider.
- You don’t always have to critically think alone. Although most of the time people do this type of thinking as a solo practice. Involving other people in your critical thinking discussion, is best suited when you have someone moderating the discussion.
- When you regularly exercise your ability to critically think things through, you become much more skilled at making better decisions versus rash or impulsive ones. Decisions that will cause you to regret not having thought through the situation you were in.
If you don’t currently pride yourself in being a critical thinker yet, give yourself credit for contemplating what it will take to master this skill. Especially if you are looking to either lead others, or if you want to improve upon your current leadership skills.
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