3 Habits to Improve Critical Thinking (from HBR)

From HBR: 3 Habits to Improve Critical Thinking by Helen Lee Bouygues. A good read for anyone looking to keep their critical thinking muscles sharp as told through stories from Bouygues’ experience as a board member and consultant. They might seem obvious, but I’ll admit that I don’t always consider these.

1. Question Assumptions

  • Question assumptions when the stakes are high
  • What are you assuming – how do you know it to be true?
  • Consider alternatives

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

– Commonly attributed to Mark Twain

I work in an environment where I’m the most inexperienced person in the room, around people with decades of domain knowledge. 5 ‘why’s can come in handy here, along with knowledge of First Principles where applicable (I’m thinking of physics first principles where everything is derived from a few laws). Outside of the technical realm it’s easier to question assumptions as the domains are less understood.

2. Reason Through Logic

  • Is the argument supported by evidence?
  • Do the pieces of evidence combine to produce a sound conclusion?

Bouygues reminds us to listen to Aristotle, who taught how to build a structure around reason and logic and coined the three appeals of Logos, Pathos, and Ethos. As a reminder, here are the components of Logos:

Two Categories of Logos (Logic)

Inductive reasoning – Inductive reasoning involves a piece of specific representative evidence or the case which is drawn towards a conclusion or generalization. However, inductive reasoning requires reliable and convincing evidence that is presented to support the point.

Deductive reasoning – Deductive reasoning involves generalization at the initial stage and then moves on towards the specific case. The starting generalization must be based on reliable evidence to support it at the end.

From Literary Devices.net: https://literarydevices.net/logos/

In other words, Deductive reasoning begins with a hypothesis and then tests it to be true or false based on evidence, while Inductive reasoning starts with the evidence and draws a conclusion based on that evidence. These can be combined – i.e. use induction to come up with a hypothesis and then test that hypothesis using deduction.

3. Diversify Thought

  • Get out of your bubble
  • Solicit opinions outside of the group environment

Here, Bouygues writes on the importance of diverse opinions and backgrounds. I used this section to serve as a reminder to network outside of your core function and industry.

Read the full article: https://hbr.org/2019/05/3-simple-habits-to-improve-your-critical-thinking