On the evening of July 7, 2020 Dr. Jim White introduced viewers to Part 9 of his Critical Thinking series. Before introducing this week’s topic – problem solving, White reviewed the topics of his previous episode. Last week, in an effort to give viewers the tools they need to improve their personal and professional lives, Dr. White detailed changing your perspective, limitations of your point of view, considering other’s point of view, influences on bias, and receiving new information. White, who has a PhD. in Psychology and Organizational Behavior, utilizes his live webinar series to weave his knowledge of business and psychology for the benefit of his viewers.
Critical Thinking, Part IX.
This week, Dr. White drilled down on problem solving, expanding on a five-step process to sharpen problem solving and critical thinking skills. White noted that we solve problems every day, and today we face opportunities to solve problems in the United States, in our businesses, and in our careers. Problem solving is a major function of critical thinking, and regardless of our professions, we are presented with problems to solve daily. The five steps in the problem solving process are as follows:
1. Define the problem
2. Identifying inconsistencies
3. Trust your instincts
4. Asking why
5. Evaluate the solution
A problem is a gap or barrier between where an individual is and where they want to be. The problem is the initial state from Point A to the goal. All possible solutions are passed leading to the goal and are in the problem space. White warns that many people accidentally work on the symptom of the problem, rather than the problem itself.
Like attorneys in a courtroom drama, it is imperative to identify inconsistencies in the story when problem solving. Before allocating resources to solve a problem, make sure the story is consistent. Critical thinkers are often presented with inconsistencies, or what scientists would refer to as cognitive dissonances.
Cognitive dissonances can appear between a discrepancy between attitudes and beliefs. Inconsistencies can also be called variances. It is a natural tendency to eliminate inconsistencies, and the best way a critical thinker can identify inconsistencies is by using logic and being objective.
Trusting your instincts is an important part of the critical thinking process, and falls under the second stage of problem solving. At this point, you should now be able to see a solution path. Instincts are defined as natural intuitive power, and are the key to problem solving. White recommends going with your gut.
When coupled with trial and error, informed guesses with intuition and brainstorming can lead to a very creative process.
White recommends problem solvers be cautious when asking why. Ask why in a manner that isn’t offensive or suggests that you are second-guessing someone. Consider what is the why behind the question, and be able to ask the right question in the first place. Critical thinkers must be willing to dig deeper and explore various possibilities.
Once a possible solution has been derived and you can start putting together action steps, don’t look past the step of evaluating all possible solutions. Evaluation is also called judgment, which is the third stage of problem solving. A critical thinker should evaluate each alternative and then decide which is best. Critical thinkers must make a decision, as no decision is a decision.
Dr. White ended his lecture with a reminder that problem solving is absolutely critical. If you have any questions, or would like more information or data, Dr. White encourages viewers to reach out to him personally.
Next week, White looks to put together all of the information from previous sessions. Topics will include how to retain new skills you’ve learned in the critical thinking process, how to reflect and learn from past mistakes, asking the right questions, and how to practice critical thinking. To register click here.