What happened in the news today? Are your employees talking about some new current event as they gather together before meetings or grab a cup of coffee?
You may see these conversations as unnecessary, unimportant, or even distracting, but when approached correctly, they can serve as perfect opportunities for reinforcement of critical thinking concepts.
In the Critical Thinking University (CTU), Community Managers Anne Pauker Kreitzberg and Dr. Charles Kreitzberg open a weekly discussion forum called the Topic of the Week. Each week, they take an issue (sometimes a current event or hot workplace topic) and approach it from a critical thinking perspective. For example, when Marissa Mayer took over as CEO for Yahoo, she eliminated the virtual workforce option. This was a hot topic in many offices where working from home on occasion has become significantly more popular. As these discussions heated up, it seemed as though everyone had an opinion. But how were those opinions formed? Were they based on credible, formally-evaluated evidence or were they based on feelings and personal preferences?
This was a perfect set-up for a critical thinking discussion. In the CTU, Anne and Charlie Kreitzberg laid out the evidence for both sides of the argument, asked some critical thinking questions, and then opened the floor for discussion. This provided CTU participants the opportunity to explore their own beliefs, challenge their own assumptions (and the assumptions of others), evaluate the evidence, and draw a conclusion all while having access to a critical thinking coach who could ask some deeper questions and further the critical thinking experience.
The key to improving critical thinking skills is to help your brain move from clunky and slow to automatic. Instead of using a job aid to help remind yourself of the critical thinking questions you should consider, you want your brain to automatically (and quickly) be able to evaluate that information. The more you practice asking those questions, the more automatic that process becomes.
So, take some time to listen to those water cooler conversations happening in the office and seek out opportunities to coach critical thinking in your employees outside of the training room. The results may surprise you!
What topic could you turn into a critical thinking discussion today?
Editor’s Note: Breanne Harris is the Solutions Architect for Pearson TalentLens. She works with customers to design selection and development plans that incorporate critical thinking assessments and training. She has a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and has experience in recruiting, training, and HR consulting. She is the chief blogger for Critical Thinkers and occasionally posts at ThinkWatson. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter for more of her thoughts.