The Art of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking refers to the ability to think through with clarity and sound rationale and being able to establish logical connections between the subject under consideration with different topics and ideas for arriving at an optimal conclusion.

How to think critically?

For starters, referring to the above definition, one can use the following tips as guidelines to start thinking critically for a topic of importance:

1. Break a Topic to Small Bits

A topic is but an amalgamation of critical points. The one important prerequisite for thinking about something critically is to understand it with extreme clarity. To do that, one of the best way is to break the entire topics into bits and pieces and focus on understanding each bit prior to tackling with the entire topic at one go. 

To give some perspective on the same, let me let us consider the example of one of my law professors who had to deal with long, complex yet highly critical documents almost on a daily basis. He adopted the following two steps:

a) Before being handed any document, he asks his assistant to black out any names and other critical information which may give out the identity of the parties. This he did to maintain a neutral and objective mindset while dealing with the entire case.

b) He took time and read each line in groups of 3 words only. He found that reading long, complex sentences in such small groups helps him understand the entire context with high degree of clarity.

So, the crux is to break down everything into its smaller constituents and focus on the latter in the beginning.

2. Think 360 Degree Around Each Point

Once a topic is broken down into its constituent points, think AROUND each point thoroughly. 360 degree thinking, in simple terms, refers to:

a) Thinking about what impact the preceding action had on the point

b) What are the probable actions that can be taken on the point

c) What are the future consequences that can occur on the point owing to its current state and action taken

This approach to thinking helps in gaining a holistic perspective around each point which in turn helps in understanding the wider picture for the whole subject and the various factors that has an or will impact the subject under consideration.

3. Thinking Through

This point has strong correlation to the above point. It refers to thinking deeply, clearly and carefully of the impact of the various actions on the subject, taking into consideration all the factors that can possibly have an impact upon it.

The crux of this sort of thinking is to think of the impact of each action on the subject from the point of initiation of the action till closure of its impact or till the extent of visibility of the consequence-no stopping the thinking mid-way on grounds of the consequence being a series of action over a long duration of time.

In short, thinking through is basically thinking from start till the very end of the action and its impact on a subject.

4. Logic Is King (most of the time)

Critical thinking should be based on pure logical deductions (until and unless it is something to do with a humanitarian subject where empathy is critical). The path to arriving at a decision should be one based on rationale and metrics that can be defined clearly (these metrics does not necessarily have to be some industry standard. They can be totally ingenious but they have to be something that the thinker can define with EXTREME CLARITY and HIGH CORRELATION to the subject at hand).

Any stakeholder, emotions or other factors not bearing any logical relevance for the subject should not be considered while working on the path to arrive at an optimal conclusion. This is because, along with critical thinking, the ability to communicate the criticality that has gone into the thought process to the relevant stakeholders is equally important for acceptance of the conclusion arrived and this communication is perceived as credible if backed by proper logic over anything else.

So it is important to prioritize logic over any other factors while formulating the premise for arriving at a credible conclusion.

Thank you for your time.

See you tomorrow !!!


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