Critical Thinking: The Basic Concepts

In a simplest form, critical thinking is about effectively processing the information to reach a conclusion.

I found critical thinking was not easy to master when I first learnt it during my GRE test training at my college. The students are required to finish two essays in one hour, one focused on analyzing an issue, the other focused on making an argument based on a given topic. It was difficult not only because critical thinking skills were new to most of us, but also because the topics were mostly classical moral, legal, sociology controversial topics that requires large amount of background knowledge to be able to make solid reasoning.

I find it necessary to revisit these skills because I increasingly realized the importance of effectively information processing. I will start from a few basic concepts about critical thinking.

  • Claim, Issues, Argument

A claim is basically a statement, is about what we say. And we question about the statement, we raised an issue. An argument is different that it has to include two parts: the premise and the conclusion. The premise it to support the conclusion. In real life, however, people don’t directly share their argument, and your job is to find out the conclusion and their premise to support the conclusion.

  • Inductive Argument and Deductive Argument

Inductive Argument is the argument that if the premise is true, there is no chance that the conclusion is true. While in deductive argument, if the premise is true, it is a strong support for the conclusion, but the conclusion is not necessarily guaranteed.

  • Argument and Explanation

An explanation is different from an argument, that an explanation is to explain a fact, so that it often starts from a fact statement, then comes with why the fact is so. While an argument is trying to prove a conclusion, which is not a fact, as otherwise there is not need to prove it.

  • Value judgement, Moral Judgement

Besides making argument, people oftentimes make value judgement and moral judgement as well. Value judgement is more about the value to the person according to his or her personal preference. While moral judgement is more about moral, that what is right and what is wrong.

  • Evaluating Argument

In general, there are three steps to validate the argument. First of all, you should clarify the argument structure. The most basic structure is about the premise and the conclusion, however, in many reasonings, there could be more than one level of argument, that the conclusion of the first argument might becomes the premise of the next argument, and in many other cases, the premise or the conclusion could be understated.

The next step is to evaluate the logic: from a pure logical point of view, whether the reasoning make sense. In this step, it is especially important to not to be affected by the rhetoric expressions.

If the logic of the reasoning make sense, then you want to validate the premise: whether it is a true statement. And in many case, you have to realize that some of the premise are not within your own background knowledge, that you have to do research to validate the credibility of the premise.

Ask the Most from Your People and Get It, Part I

The managers should ask the most from the team for many reasons. The biggest reason is that the company and the organization expects you to deliver work as a group. Your value is measured by how much value your team can deliver. The more effective your team is, the more value they could deliver and the more successful you are. This is largely why as a manager your success is determined by the success of your team.

However, some of the first time manager including feel frustrated about asking the best from their team. Some of the first time managers get promoted to the manager position because they are the most effective people on the team. And they inevitably set a high expectation on his team: the team should deliver as good as he could and he get frustrated because apparently people won’t be as effective as him.

In other times, we feel frustrated because we carry an unrealistic expectation for motivating people. We thought managers are like the inspirational speakers that he could give great speeches and inspires his fellow, or religious leaders that his fellow follows, respects, and admires him. To some extend, a great manager should be like the great speakers or religious leaders, that he could motivate his team by inspiring them to be a better themselves. However, an incorrect goal can be very misleading. As a first step, let’s try to distinguish the different skill set of a manager and a leader.

First all of, we have to realize that it is impossible to motivate people. Mislead by the wrong examples, I had once believe people could be motivated because they don’t know what they want and your job it to tell them what they should pursue. However, I gradually realized that people are only motivated by themselves. The manager’s job is not to find out a way to incept the goal to the team member’s mind, but to find out what the people truly want and put him in the position that he could achieve it.

Finding out what people truly want takes skills, and most importantly, it takes lot’s time. Many of the first time managers, including me, spent more time thinking about the strategy and execution roadmap: what the team should do, rather than thinking about what people want to do. These managers are good at providing feedbacks for people’s execution and coaching their skills. But they would find it hard to ask even more from people besides the feedback you’ve given.

In the next part of this article, I am going to discuss some of the fundamental skills I learned about asking the most from the team.