I recently had a wonderful conversation with a colleague who was asked to create a training program for our organization that would teach and foster “Critical Thinking”. The request makes perfect sense. We want to nurture the minds of our workforce so they are able to think critically.
Or do we? Do we need more Critical Thinkers? Or, do we need something else? I’m being critical. Honestly, I am tired of people trying to prove how smart they are just because they can criticize someone else’s thoughts. Good for you, bro, but do you have any better ideas?
Leaf Group did a great job describing a Critical Thinker:
If you are a critical thinker you examine the situation and facts and think in a linear and rational way. The critical thinker gathers information, analyzes it and evaluates it. If you think critically you are able to separate fact from opinion. You like details and clear-cut information.
It is suggested that typical thought is biased. As a result in the business world, much of our thoughts can waste time and money. We often continue moving towards the status quo, supporting ideas because of who created them, and go along to get along.
So, what does a Critical Thinker do?
- Organize the info
- Structure their thoughts
- Consider Evidence
- Identify Assumptions
- Evaluate Arguments
All good stuff, right? Yes, when used correctly, critical thinking can be wonderful. Here is where it gets hairy – we’ve been taught how to think critically since Middle School English class. Do we really need more Critical Thinkers?
Sometimes Critical Thinkers are the “No” before “Yes” folks. The arguers. The stalemate creators. The analysis-paralysis-rabbit-hole-chasers.
So, in a fast paced work environment where companies are trying to outpace the other, should you really be bringing in even more Critical Thinkers? I believe some of us will look around our organization and wonder why the hell we have so many. Perhaps there is another type of talent we should be recruiting and fostering.
What about Creative Thinkers?
Leaf Group states that Creative Thinkers:
Tend to be imaginative and like to brainstorm. A creative thinker looks at things from various perspectives, coming up with ideas and making novel and uncharacteristic connections. The creative thinker often goes against standard views and is apt to take risks. A creative person is curious. He likes a challenge, seeks out problems to solve and is imaginative.
In order to stay ahead, organizations need to get creative, so perhaps they should recruit talent that is able to do so. This may mean changing some of your stale interview questions. Inc. has done a fantastic job assisting business leaders in their effort to hire creativity. I encourage you to read the article, but for those of you who like to skim, here were my takeaways on how to attract Creative Thinkers:
- Determine how creative you actually want your creative folks to get. You need focused creativity. You want innovators, not someone who wants to count stars all night.
- Creative people are attracted to creative people. Get creative with your careers website and your job descriptions. Hey corporate CEOs, maybe even stop using Times New Roman. (gasp!)
- Look for folks with adaptability. It might not typically attract you, but maybe those world-travelling hostel-sleepers are better candidates than you think.
In the end, I think there is a need to balance the talent of the organization. Attract a mix of Critical and Creative thinkers and set them loose. So while critical thinking assesses and judges assumptions about ideas, creative thinking develops unique solutions. Oh-oh! Perhaps you could create a little brain army of folks who can do both! Tim Hurson calls these Productive Thinkers.
In Conclusion, if you want to be innovative then hire more Creative Thinkers and let them get to work. Want to find out how viable those divergent ideas are? Then set the Critical Thinkers loose to poke holes. Want to keep spinning your wheels? Well then keep hiring Critical Thinkers and let the Creative Thinkers find a place they will be happy counting the stars.
Kylie Quetell is an Organizational Development professional, focusing on people, strategy, and process (notice that “people” is listed first). She is a Chief Operating Officer and a phenomenal public speaker, coach, and leader. She holds a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership and certifications in Leadership Development and Change Management.
Kylie was formally a national champion rugby player, and has coached high school and women’s club sports. She has also volunteered her time working with Veterans and for environmental causes.
A Maine native, Kylie brings a love for salty language to her current home in Metro Detroit where she lives with her wife, dog, and cat.