Thinking Critically About Critical Thinking


Assumptions, routines, and apathy. These are three conditions that, if left unchecked, can turn into terminal diseases in your organization. They are potentially terminal because unchecked assumptions, routines, and apathy hinder growth and innovation.

Assumptions have to be made sometimes. It’s not possible to have 100% of the data all the time. However, if those assumptions are not checked we become closed to unknown potentialities that might otherwise spur growth and innovation.

Routines are important for many kinds of work and systems. They enable consistency and quality, and facilitate predictability. However, routines must also be examined for their validity and the assumptions upon which they are built. As conditions change, new routines must be developed to facilitate growth and innovation.

Apathy is different. There isn’t a welcome side to apathy. Apathy is laziness of the mind and uncaring of the heart. It is the enemy of growth and innovation.

What is the antidote to unchecked assumptions, routines, and apathy?

Critical thinking.

The dictionary definition of critical thinking is, “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.” That is a helpful definition, but I want to pose a series of questions that will help you think critically about critical thinking. By exploring these questions with your leadership team you will do two things. First, you will develop a better understanding of what critical thinking is. Second, you will be practicing critical thinking.

Here are the questions.

  • What is the difference between criticism and critical thinking?
  • Are there situations in which critical thinking is bad?
  • Should people at all levels in the organization be encouraged to engage in critical thinking? (If the answer is Yes, what happens when they do? Are they really encouraged to engage in critical thinking?)
  • Does critical thinking exist only in the mind? Is it also a verbal activity? Is it written? What does critical thinking look like?
  • Does critical thinking make a difference in decision making? How do you know?
  • When a senior leader engages in and expresses critical thinking, how do others respond? How about mid-level leaders? Front-line workers?
  • Should we engage in critical thinking with people external to our organization? What does that look like?
  • Can critical thinking be perceived as threatening? Why?
  • What are the risks of critical thinking? What are the risks of not critically thinking?

And perhaps the most important question regarding critical thinking:
How do we develop a culture of critical thinking?

I would very much like to hear your insights from thinking critically about critical thinking.

Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at] with your questions.

Photo by author.

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