Healthy Beginnings

Think Smarter: Critical Thinking to Improve Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Skills

What is critical thinking? Everyone talks about it. Maybe it’s something different for each person. And maybe there are qualities to it that are the same for everyone. However, when one is told to “think outside the box” or “let’s do some critical thinking now” they’re mostly confused, embarrassed and frankly, stumped. Most of us have a set of beliefs that drive our thinking on everything. In school we’re mostly taught WHAT to think and never HOW to think. Some of us think in sentences. Some think in pictures. Some think in phrases or just single words. Some follow a sequence in order to “walk back” the problem and see where it originated.

According to Michael Kallet – who has spent most of his life thinking about thinking, and founded HeadScratchers in 2004 to train business professionals and leaders in critical thinking, problem solving, decision-making and creativity – our schools are not the place where we learn to think critically. Through workshops, webinars and keynote speeches, he teaches people to apply critical thinking techniques to real world business challenges. The author has held leadership positions in business environments ranging from 10-person startups to a $500 million public company. Regarding what he calls critical thinking – the main thing to start with is CLARITY. Know what you want to find out, what you want to determine. We’ve all heard the story of spending your whole life climbing the ladder, only to find out, when you get to the top, that you’ve been climbing the wrong ladder. Michael Kallet believes that is what conventional, non-critical thinking looks like. He believes that the five parts to critical thinking are: manual thinking (not automatic), purposeful thinking, being aware of the partiality of your thinking, thinking involving a process and engaging in thinking that uses a tool.

We must ask the right questions. We must decide what our goals really are. Those decisions determine next steps. After you determine what your goal really is then you must decide what to do about it. If you think your goal is to sell 100,000 widgets in the next year, the focus cannot really just be on the widgets. Maybe some additional testing should be done. Maybe some additional market research. These are conclusions, a list of actions designed to deal with what to do next, not just whipping the sales people up into an emotional frenzy so they’ll sell more of the product in its present state. Another key to success in a manufacturing setting… if your clarity issue was “we need to improve our quality so we can sell more,” that isn’t nearly as specific as, “we need to reduce our defect rate to less than 10 units per 100,000.” That’s specific. Then figure out how to do that through critical thinking.

The benefits of critical thinking can significantly enhance your problem-solving and decision-making skills. You make better-quality decisions, come up with more innovative solutions and enjoy faster outcomes. Kallet thinks some benefits of critical thinking include:

  • A clear understanding of problems or situations
  • Faster and accurate conclusions and quality decisions
  • Richer variety of explanations and solutions
  • Opportunity recognition
  • Mistake avoidance
  • Thought-out strategies and early elimination of dead ends

Chapters in this book include:

  • “When to Use Critical Thinking”
  • “The Framework and Tools”
  • “The Ingredients”
  • “The Vision”
  • “Impossible Thinking”
  • “Risk”

Plus, 17 additional creative chapters explaining processes to jump-start a whole new way of thinking for you and/or your organization. This is a fascinating book and should be available at your local bookstore or online.

For more information, call June Milligan at 775-786-9111 or visit