Thinking about Thinking

Posted by Kristin Arnold on May 13, 2013

About six months ago, I asked a client, “What is the most vexing issue you have with your executive team?” After a reflective moment, this CEO said, “I wish my direct reports would think through their ideas and recommendations individually and as a team.”

Upon further questioning, there were various symptoms that pointed to a gap in critical thinking skills, e.g., false assumptions, unverified claims, lack of data, half-baked ideas and confirmation bias toward a specific answer. The refrain she kept repeating was “What were they thinking?”

What she didn’t say was that her people had a lack of critical thinking skills – that is, until I pointed it out. “Oh, yes!” she exclaimed. “That’s what we need!”  And then, sweet music to my ears, she asked if I could help her team develop a robust set of critical thinking skills.

These things do happen for a reason. About a year ago, as I was leaving the board of the National Speakers Association as Immediate Past President, we ended the meeting with each board member sharing something about me or my year as President.  Surprisingly enough, most of the comments were about my ability to think critically and strategically. That night, I was sitting next to Scott Halford, an expert in emotional intelligence who also speaks about critical thinking from the perspective of neuroscience.  Scott loves to ask brilliant, thought provoking questions, and so he asked, “Kristin, have you thought about teaching others about critical thinking?”

That set of interactions got me thinking about critical thinking and realizing how aligned this set of of skills are to my core facilitation and team training business as well as my personal passion about helping people make better decisions collaboratively.

At the moment, I have immersed myself into the literature (which is duller than dirt – with the exception of a few books, notably the Heath Brothers’ newest book Decisive, Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow and J. Edward Russo and Paul Schoemaker’s Winning Decisions). I have developed my own critical thinking model with some easy-to-use tools and techniques to guide your team through the critical thinking process.

I intend to pilot the first training program in Scottsdale, AZ in September or October of this year – so let me know if you would like to attend this one-day workshop.

Stay tuned for more details as I continue to develop this exciting body of work!

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