How to develop critical thinking skills for geometric business growth
Critical thinking is like any other skill; if you don’t use it, you lose it. That’s why critical thinking exercises are so useful for both beginner and experienced critical thinkers alike. In fact, the secret to critical thinking comes from knowing the right questions to ask, both of yourself and others.
Here we’ll cover three concepts to further hone your critical thinking skills.
Put your critical thinking skills to use to grow your business today.Learn More
Critical thinking element #1: Know how to ask the right questions
Plato tells us that Socrates used disciplined questions to get his students to examine their ideas more thoroughly. Even though we no longer live in ancient Greece, the method remains insightful, especially for critical thinking skills. Jay champions the Socratic questioning method because it’s a systematic way to get deep into complex issues logically. Work through these six question groups in order and you’ll end up with a much better understanding of any issue, situation, or problem.
#1 Clarify concepts: These questions help others think more about what claims they are making. Questions are in the “tell me more” vein, i.e.,
- What exactly does ________ mean?
- Why are you saying ________?
- Can you please give me an example?
#2 Probe assumptions: These questions use critical thinking to examine presuppositions or unquestioned beliefs at the basis of an argument or position.
- It seems to me you’re assuming ________. Can you please explain why?
- How could we disprove or verify ________?
- What would happen if ________?
#3 Examine reasons and evidence: Instead of taking all arguments as truth, these questions help bring the underlying rationale(s) to light.
- How do we know ________?
- Why is ________ happening?
- What do you think causes ________?
- How could ________ be refuted?
#4 Question from other viewpoints: To better understand a problem, look at it from as many positions and perspectives as possible. You’ll often find creative solutions here.
- What other ways of looking at ________ are there?
- Why is ________ necessary?
- Who benefits from ________?
- How are ________ and ________ similar?
- What are the strengths and weakness of ________?
#5 Explore implications: These next questions allow you to better see potential consequences for any given solution.
- What would happen after ________?
- What are the consequences of ________ vs ________?
- Why is ________ important? What will it affect?
- What are the larger implications for ________?
#6 Question the questions: Finally, get reflexive about your critical thinking process. It can help you dig into any ambiguities that still remain.
- Why do you think I asked that question?
- What else should we be asking?
- What does ________ mean?
- What was the purpose for asking that question?
Critical thinking element #2: Get into the details
Reading through the Socratic questions, you probably notice they often start with “why” or “how.” These signal question types that require more than just a yes or no answer, making them perfect for digging into a meaty problem or concept.
But sometimes the best way to start your critical thinking exercise is to work through a series of yes/no questions. Even though they might seem simple, they will lead to bigger insights. This same process is also useful when you’re exploring all the elements of your leverage marketing strategy. Here are some questions Jay uses to spark critical thinking for a business. For every answer, reflect on what it would take for you to answer the opposite. We bet you’ll find some surprising insights about your business and at least one area for improvement as a result.
- Is there a better way to be growing my business?
- Is there a better way to position my company in the marketplace?
- Is there a better way to describe my unique selling proposition?
- Is there a better way to price my products?
- Is there a better market or niche to go after?
- Is there a more predictable way to increase sales?
- Is there a way to accelerate the buying cycle for my leads?
- Is there a better way to bundle my product?
- Is there a better way to generate repeat sales?
- Is my business using the strategy of preeminence to enhance every interaction, both external and internal?
- Are there better ways we could leverage technology?
- Are there better ways we could leverage other people’s resources?
- Are the better ways to redeploy old inventory, assets and resources?
- Am I asking the right questions in my business?
- Am I asking my market the right questions?
- Am I asking the market what they want instead of telling them?
- Am I in the right business?
- Am I working with the right people?
- Am I striving to learn and grow every day?
Critical thinking element #3: Find the business problems worth solving
If you’ve gone through the 19 questions above, you probably already have some ideas about problems in your business. For critical thinking to help, you need to start knowing where both the problems and opportunities lie. And if your situation feels like there’s no possible solution, take inspiration from loggers. Before semi-trucks, the easiest way to move logs around was to float them down the river. But sometimes the logs would jam up and nothing would move any more. So loggers would send someone up a tree to look and find the log that was impeding progress. They’d go loosen that single log and suddenly everything would start floating down the river again. But hitting other logs wouldn’t make any difference, except to exhaust and frustrate the loggers.
Dealing with your business works along the same lines. Critical thinking lets you pull back and get an overview of the situation, like the logger in the tree, so that you can pinpoint the actual problem holding everything back instead of wasting your energy hitting every possible log in the hope you’ll just stumble on the right one. Fix the problem log and you’ll be amazed at the growth that follows suit.
Jay Abraham is a proven business leader and top executive coach in the United States, and a close friend of Tony Robbins. Jay has spent his entire career solving complex problems and fixing underperforming businesses. He has significantly increased the bottom lines of over 10,000 clients in more than 1,000 industries, and over 7,200 sub industries, worldwide. Jay has dealt with virtually every type of business scenario and issue. He has studied, and solved, almost every type of business question, challenge and opportunity. His principles can be the difference between mediocrity and a business that generates millions of dollars in additional revenue.
Turn Critical Thinking Into Action
Apply your critical thinking skills to grow your business – get Tony’s free Entrepreneur Accelerator Toolkit today.