There’s a stigma to critical thinking training (and even the phrase critical thinking) that it is boring, stuffy, and too academic to be engaging. But it doesn’t have to be mind-numbing.
Once you teach the basics of critical thinking and the Critical Thinking model, you can reinforce and practice those techniques with fun applied exercises. For instance, that is the approach in the book Now You’re Thinking! First, the authors tell the story of how a 2-year old Iraqi girl with a congenital heart defect was saved through the heroic efforts of a Marine battalion, and then they recount all of the steps/challenges involved in that process and how effective critical thinking was utilized at every step.
As a trainer, you can create your own applied activity and guide the conversation with critical thinking questions/lessons. And since I’ve spent a week watching Zombie movies, it seems only appropriate to use the potential Zombie Apocalypse as a fun example of a critical thinking exercise.
If I created this activity, I would first take the “are zombies a real possibility” debate off of the table. It’s not that I don’t think this could be a worthwhile discussion and critical thinking activity, but in corporate training you only have so much time and that debate could last for weeks. Instead, I’d prepare a scenario stating that the Zombie Apocalypse (or Z-day) is upon us. In addition, I would hand out a zombie fact sheet. Here are a few examples:
- A zombie is an animated corpse that is brought back from the dead.
- Zombies have only one mission- to feed on human flesh/brains.
- A person who has been bitten by a zombie will become a zombie.
- Zombies can only be stopped by severing the brain from the rest of the body.
A quick web search will help you uncover a wealth of amusing information about Zombies. Since the Z-day situation is hypothetical, feel free to design the situation as you wish. You could say that Z-day happened during the middle of the work day and HR was the first group infected. The real gold in the activity is to get people talking about strategy, risks, benefits, and problem solving.
Next, I would divide the participants into groups of 8-10 people. Within each team I would designate one person to take notes and another to be the “RED Model Representative.” The Red Model Representative (RMR) should be a skilled critical thinker and able to facilitate the critical thinking discussion. They should be able to pause discussion to ask questions based on the RED Model of Critical Thinking such as “What assumptions are you making when you say the safest place to hide would be the Winchester?” or “Have we fully evaluated the benefit of a machete versus a katana?”
Then, present each group with a specific discussion topic. Here are a few examples:
- In a Zombie apocalypse, where would be the safest place to hide in this building?
- What would be the most strategic weapon of choice for battling a hoard of zombies?
- What would you put in your Z-day emergency kit?
- Which office supplies would be most effective for fighting off zombies in your building?
- Which member of your team would be the most effective post Z-day leader?
- How many days could your team survive in this building without power or outside food/water?
While the point of using Zombies as a topic area is to make the discussion fun, this is really no different than thinking strategically about disaster preparedness or pandemic awareness. Get creative. Keep the discussion going. Question assumptions. Beware of Group Think and be a dutiful Devil’s Advocate. Caution the group against coming to a conclusion prematurely.
What questions would you ask your team during a Z-day critical thinking exercise?
Here’s my question: do the brains of critical thinkers taste better than the ones of those with poor critical thinking skills? ;)
Just for fun, enjoy this short, humorous video about surviving Z-day:
Learn more about the RED Model of Critical Thinking here.