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Critical Thinking – Part II

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Building And Reinforcing Teams (14)

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Akindotun Merino

In Critical Thinking Part I, we examined characteristics of critical thinkers. In Part II, we will continue to look at more characteristics to help us improve our critical thinking capabilities including a). Seeing the big picture, b).Objectivity, c). Using your emotions and d). Being self-aware.

One of the main functions of thinking is to make connections. Our own ideas gain significance when we can relate or connect them to other ideas. We start to gain insight when we see the similarities between ideas. The way we structure our ideas can be based on how they connect in one of two ways: causal or conceptual relationships. Objectivity is defined as “intentness on objects external to the mind.” In critical thinking, we want have a keen sense of objectivity. This is a heuristic or rule/strategy for problem solving.

Objectivity helps us to engage more thoughtfully and deliberately in the critical thinking process. However, we should not completely exclude our emotion or subjective feelings in the decision making or problem-solving process. The most important thing to remember is that evaluating information objectively helps us to be more deliberate or thorough.

Emotions should not be ignored altogether when thinking critically. Emotions play a crucial role in the thinking process. For instance, professionals need empathy when working with others regardless of their occupation in order to vicariously experience what others feel, believe, or wish. The issue with emotions and decision making is to not allow emotions to cloud judgment.

Self-awareness is yet another characteristic of the critical thinker. This characteristic relates to acutely being aware of one’s feelings, opinions, and assumptions. Moreover, it is a starting point for thinking critically. Our assumptions are how the first impressions and strongest emotions are filtered when we evaluate information.

READ ALSO: Critical Thinking – Part I

A big challenge in the process of critical thinking is how to evaluate information. The best critical thinkers are those people who are capable of gleaning through information that may be unclear or conflicting.

Self-awareness is a starting point from which we begin to think critically. We based our decisions on assumptions we make about objects or things. Assumptions are the arguments, but the distinguishing feature of an assumption is that it is a statement in which no proof or evidence is provided. Assumptions can be either verbally stated or mentally held (unstated). In most cases, they are unstated.

Confirmation bias can influence the inferences we draw. Bias is not something that we can completely eliminate. However, when thinking critically, we need to watch out for confirmation bias. We should ensure that we don’t allow our preconceived opinions to influence the way we evaluate data to the degree that we use the data to confirm what we already believe. We can use objectivity to oppose bias.

Asking the right questions is important. Equally important is to ask clarifying questions when making decisions. Clarifying questions are thought-provoking questions and help the thinker acquire more information. Question types can be either generic or specific. With clarifying questions, you can expect other questions to arise out of the answers you receive, so be prepared for those.

SWOT Analysis is also called Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. We use this type of analysis to be more objective thinkers. SWOT allows us to think cleanly and clearly, and from a logical point of view. It is very helpful in most business and marketing situations, Strengths and Weaknesses are regarded as internal factors, while Opportunities and Threats are regarded as external factors.

Persuasiveness is the characteristic of being able to influence others. We normally think of salespersons and politicians when we hear the word persuasiveness. However, all managers or professionals use persuasiveness on a daily basis. Anytime, we want to have others accept our ideas, we do so through the power of persuasion. How will critical thinking make us more persuasive? It is because critical thinking is a deliberate or thoughtful process, and the more deliberate we are, the better we are in expressing our assumptions or ideas and persuading others.

Critical thinking improves communication for some of the same reasons that it improves persuasiveness. Many of the same factors we use to improve our persuasiveness also make us better communicators in general. For instance, the use of analogies and metaphors are a great persuasion and general communication technique. In addition to helping us in using language more persuasively; critical thinking also helps us use language with more clarity.

Critical thinking and problem solving are closely related and are almost intertwined. Sometimes we say that to solve logic problems we must use our critical thinking skills. In fact, logic, critical thinking, and problem-solving use some of the same cognitive processes. Critical thinkers use their problem-solving skills and not just their intuition to make decisions or draw conclusions.

READ ALSO: Kidnappers Release Greenfield University Student

Emotional intelligence is identified as the ability to assess and control the emotions of oneself, others, and even groups. Emotional intelligence is being “heart smart” as opposed to “book smart.” Critical thinking helps increase emotional intelligence because one of the characteristics of a critical thinker is self-awareness. Also, critical thinkers know how and when to use their emotions, such as empathy, in making decisions. The more a person uses his or her critical thinking skills the better adept they should become at identifying, understanding, and managing their emotions.

A major function of critical thinking is it gives us the ability to solve problems. Regardless of our vocation or profession, we are presented daily with a host of decisions and problems to solve. In this module, we will learn some steps for problem solving. Some psychologists define a problem as a gap or barrier between where an individual is and where they wish to be. In other words, a problem is the space between point A and B. Problems then essentially consist of the initial state and a goal state. All possible solution paths leading to the goal state are located in the problem space.

Much of critical thinking is about how to connect the two points in a problem. However, sometimes critical thinkers are presented with inconsistencies or what scientists call cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance can appear through a discrepancy between attitude and beliefs. Inconsistencies can also be called variances or dissimilarities. It is a natural tendency to want to eliminate inconsistencies when solving a problem.

The best way critical thinkers can identify inconsistencies is by using their logic and objectivity to see variances. Identifying inconsistencies would fall under the first stage of problem solving in which we are familiarizing ourselves with the subject.

The importance of inquisitiveness cannot be overemphasized in the process of critical thinking. One contribution to civilization that Socrates made was that he advocated the questioning process during debate. Furthermore, learning is a process sparked by the desire to know more. The inquisitiveness and curiosity of the individual is the foundation of the learning. Questions lead to possible solution paths and ultimately answers. Critical thinkers should never abandon the questioning process.
The best way to improve your critical thinking skills is to practice. Develop ways to remember and organize the techniques from this course. Develop a schema. The way you organize information will affect the way you think. Additionally, try to improve upon critical thinking and creative thinking as these two types of thinking tend to support each other.

Prof. Akindotun Merino is the CEO of Jars Education Group; a Professor of Psychology and a Mental Health Commissioner in California.

Share your successes and challenges:
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Mental Health

Building And Reinforcing Teams (3) (16)

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Building And Reinforcing Teams (14)

By Akindotun Merino
When you find yourself excessively self-oriented, this is a sign that you need to deepen your humility and refocus on serving others. Here are some ways to help you foster a greater sense of humility:

Allow others to be first and foremost. Insisting on being the first in line, the first to raise your hand in a class, the first to get the parking spot, and so on, has a tendency to inflate one’s sense of self-importance. However, when you allow others to have the spotlight or be first, it gives you a better vantage point to appreciate their gifts and what they are able to bring to the table. And when you can do this, you actually find yourself in a better position to lead others because you understand how they can best contribute.

Don’t insist on being right. Nobody likes to be wrong, including other people. When you are wrong it puts you in a vulnerable position, which can be scary. However, vulnerability is often what makes a person beautiful and appreciable. Allowing others the legitimacy of their beliefs without correction from you is a charitable act.

Listen to what other people think more than telling them what you think. Dale Carnegie once said that the sweetest sound to anyone is the sound of their own voice. Really paying attention to what other people have to say without having to correct or undermine them helps you to stay oriented outward rather than being self-absorbed.

READ ALSO: Building And Reinforcing Teams 2 (15)

Try not to judge others. An old saying goes like this, “When you point a finger at someone else, you have three fingers pointing back at you.” While it is tempting to judge another person, to assess what they are doing and how they are doing it, when you do so, you are presuming that you know better. Unfortunately, unless you have lived the experiences of another person, you cannot know what is best for them. Your grasp on another person’s situation will always be incomplete because you don’t have the complete picture.

Finally keep your balance. Throughout the whole process of becoming a more effective leader and a more effective human being, two tools can help smooth the way. The first is developing a greater sense of gratitude. When you wake up in the morning, or while you drink your coffee or eat breakfast, either write down in a notebook or type on your computer a list of five things for which you are grateful. If you keep this gratitude journal every day, it will have a cumulative effect on your keeping a positive outlook.

The second tool’s importance cannot be understated. No matter how much you have on your plate at any given time, it is important that you take the time to play. Whether this is a hobby such as painting or an activity such as playing video games, make a point of scheduling play time for yourself at least two to three times a week. This will help you to balance out all the stress you have in your life.

Dr. Akindotun Merino is a Professor of Psychology, CEO of Jars Group and Mental Health Commissioner in California. Feel free to share your successes and challenges:

Prof. Akindotun Merino
info@akinmerino.com
YouTube.com/akinmerino
Instagram: @drakinmerino 

Twitter: @drakindotun

 

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Mental Health

Building And Reinforcing Teams 2 (15)

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Building And Reinforcing Teams (14)

By Akindotun Merino
Often you may want to give team members a break from working on their normal projects to meet as a team and improve team morale or functioning. Sometimes getting a team together for a meeting or a team building activity can actually be an exercise in futility. In order to use meetings and team building exercises effectively, it is helpful to have specific goals in mind, to identify those goals to your team members, and to follow up. For example, doing a trust building exercise after a time when team members were at each other’s throats is helpful, but if you only do the trust building exercise the one time, after a while team members may forget the point or lose the benefits they gained from engaging in the exercise the one time. When planning a meeting, for instance, identify why the meeting is necessary and plan an agenda to keep the meeting organized. Sometimes the necessity is quite simple. For example, scheduling time for team members to play together can help them to recharge after a particularly grueling project. It can also help them build more of a rapport with each other. Having specific goals for an activity does not preclude having an activity achieve multiple goals.

When planning team-building exercises, make sure that you don’t undermine your attempt to improve your team. Here are some suggestions of what to avoid in team building:

  • Make sure that your team-building goals are relevant to your team’s needs, so that they are worth taking regular time away from other work to improve.
  • Make sure that your team-building activities are not simply one-time affairs; but that they are consistently worked on to reinforce your goal for the exercise.
  • While athletics can be fun for many employees, they can also be destructive towards building team morale, especially if they are focused simply on competition and winning.
  • If you use team-building exercises, try to incorporate them more frequently than once or twice a year. Incorporating these exercises monthly or weekly helps to reinforce your goals.

If you cannot lead yourself effectively than you will never be able to get others to follow you. The most important habit that effective people can have, whether they lead others or not, is to be proactive. Think of proactive as the opposite of reactive. Instead of having the world act upon you, you take action to make yourself into the kind of leader anyone would follow.

If you have been working on your mission statement and identifying your core values, this question is probably not too difficult to answer. If you understand what you value in both yourself and in others, then you can work at shaping yourself into that kind of leader. Keep in mind that developing into the kind of leader that you would follow involves constantly re-assessing where you are at in terms of your values, your goals, and your overall mission. The further you go down the path of leadership, the more necessary it becomes to refine your skills and improve yourself. This requires both detachment and self-honesty. Being detached means that you are able to dispassionately observe where you are strong and where you are weak. Self-honesty is the capacity to identify personal strengths and weaknesses.

READ ALSO: Building And Reinforcing Teams (14)

In order to be an effective employee, an effective leader, and an effective person, you must have the capacity to reflect and be aware of yourself. Being self-aware involves multiple dimensions of the self. Taking care of physical needs through exercise and maintaining a good diet are factors in being aware of your physical self. Disciplining your mind through meditation that allows you to manage your emotions effectively is an example of developing your emotional and psychological awareness. You also want to have a good idea of the big picture. Are you satisfied with where you are and where you are going? Imagine once again that you are at your funeral. How would you imagine the things people have to say about you would square with your life’s goals and your mission statement?

Self-improvement is a long term game, but as you work continuously on improving yourself, it is important to keep certain pitfalls in mind.

  • Navel gazing can occur when you become overly focused on yourself. This means that you become self-absorbed and self-centered.
  • Another pitfall of working to improve yourself constantly is that you can become overly convinced of your own self-importance.
  • Finally, if you are always working to improve yourself, you may find that you have gotten stuck in this sense that you are never good enough. A better way to frame this is to think that where you are is always good, but that there is also always room for improvement.

Dr. Akindotun Merino is a Professor of Psychology, CEO of Jars Group and Mental Health Commissioner in California. Feel free to share your successes and challenges:

Prof. Akindotun Merino
info@akinmerino.com
YouTube.com/akinmerino
Instagram: @drakinmerino 

Twitter: @drakindotun

 

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Mental Health

Building And Reinforcing Teams (14)

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Building And Reinforcing Teams (14)

By Akindotun Merino
Teams don’t immediately come together and experience success overnight. In fact, it takes a good leader to work at turning a group of people into an effective team. This module explores the various aspects of building and improving your team.

One of the most important activities that you will need to engage in as a leader is constantly assessing the state of your team, each individual employee, and yourself. Before you can put employees in positions to succeed, you have to have a good idea of what their strengths and weaknesses are. Here are some guidelines for how to assess team and team member strengths and weaknesses:

Include other team-members in the assessment process. Allow each member of the team a chance to identify both his or her and other team members’ strengths and weaknesses. Ideally, this can be done privately so that no team-member develops resentment towards another for perceived unwarranted criticism. This also allows you to compare your assessment with others.

READ ALSO: Trusting Your Team 2 (12)

When an employee or the entire team experiences a failure or a success, try to identify why this came about, and who was most responsible. In the case of failure, identifying the responsible person is not about casting blame, but it is about identifying what went wrong, so you know where and how to improve. When you are analyzing a success, however, it is good to give credit when someone (other than yourself) was particularly instrumental in that success.

Determine how consistently an employee performs in a given role. If that employee is consistently unsuccessful, try to find another opportunity and role for that employee to be successful. Identify the skills necessary for success in certain roles, and when an employee is consistently successful in a role, note these skills as part of that employee’s skill set. If an employee fails to perform consistently, you may also identify these skills as weaknesses in that particular employee.

Observe employees when they act alone or outside of the team structure in order to determine how their strengths and weaknesses might change in different contexts. Perhaps it is not a lack of a particular skill that is the weakness, but an inability to apply that skill in a team setting, or vice versa.

Dr. Meredith Belbin identifies nine team roles that can help make up a balanced and effective team.

The Plant. The plant is the highly creative and unconventional member of a team. They tend to be strong in thinking outside the box but their primary weakness is a tendency to be forgetful.

The Monitor Evaluator (ME). This person is good at providing a logical and dispassionate view of the range of decisions before a team. They tend to have difficulties with being overly critical and slow-moving.

READ ALSO: Trusting Your Team 3 (13)

The Coordinator (CO). This employee (often it will be you) helps the team to focus on goals and to delegate work effectively. They tend to either over-delegate or under-delegate and end up micromanaging.

The Resource Investigator (RI). This employee will tend to understand how your team’s work can best translate to the rest of the world. They will be good at understanding the competition and developing connections with others outside and inside the team framework, but they can have difficulties with following up on or getting in-depth information.

The Implementer. This role involves someone who is good at taking theory and putting it into practice. They try to find strategies on how to make an idea work in the most efficient manner. Implementers have difficulty considering alternative approaches and may be slow to give up on a favored idea.

Completer-Finishers. These team members excel at the end of a task. They make sure everything is functioning ideally. These employees act as a kind of quality control. Their strength, having high standards, can also be their weakness, in that they tend to be perfectionists.

Team workers (TW). These employees are really good at smoothing over the tensions and difficulties that come up when people are working hard on creative endeavors. They excel at working and playing with others, but they can be indecisive when it comes time to make team decisions about the best course of action.

Shapers. These employees act as a kind of engine for the team. They can effectively get others going and create momentum. Typically shapers are highly driven and enthusiastic individuals. Their weakness tends to be being overly aggressive and temperamental in their desire to get the team’s work done.

The Specialist. The specialist of the group might only know how to do one thing, but she or he is an expert at it. Their focus is narrow and in-depth, which can be both their strength and their weakness.

An ideal team will be balanced with all nine roles being expressed. Since many teams are smaller than nine people, you may find that different team members excel at multiple roles. When you identify a key strength in one of your employees, for example, an employee who is highly energetic, then you can help them fulfill one or more roles on your team. The energetic employee for example might be good at being a shaper as well as being a resource investigator. Someone who is highly critical can be either a completer finisher or a monitor evaluator or both.

Dr. Akindotun Merino is a Professor of Psychology, CEO of Jars Group and Mental Health Commissioner in California. Feel free to share your successes and challenges:

Prof. Akindotun Merino
info@akinmerino.com
YouTube.com/akinmerino
Instagram: @drakinmerino 

Twitter: @drakindotun

 

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