How often do we step back and think about how we think? Probably not often enough. However, understanding how we think is important if we want to improve the quality of our ideas and, as a result, our innovations.
Periodically throughout my career, I have benefited from reflecting on how I think. It's important for me to understand how I think so that I can improve the quality of my ideas and be more innovative in my work. I'm always striving to get better at thinking, and it's a process that requires patience and practice. But I know that it's worth it, because the better I become at thinking, the better I am at my job.
Thinking is comprised of multiple skills that can be learned and practiced. And, like any skill, the more we use it, the better we get at it. Individuals who are proficient in a wide range of thinking skills are better able to adapt their thinking to meet the demands of different tasks and situations.
Thinking Skills In Demand
In its “Future of Jobs Report”, the World Economic Forum shares its 2022 Skills Outlook. This is a listing of the top skills that employers will demand in the global economy of 2022. The top 10 growing skills are:
- Analytical thinking and innovation
- Active learning and learning strategies
- Creativity, originality, and initiative
- Technology design and programming
- Critical thinking and analysis
- Complex problem-solving
- Leadership and social influence
- Emotional intelligence
- Reasoning, problem-solving, and ideation
- Systems analysis and evaluation
At least 7 of the top 10 skills hinge on one or more forms/skills of thinking.
3 Core Thinking Skills
There are many different ways to think. And, as we noted above, some thinking skills are more in demand than others.
For this discussion, we will focus on three different thinking styles: divergent, convergent, and lateral.
Divergent thinking is a type of thinking that allows us to come up with multiple solutions to a problem. When we engage in divergent thinking, we take an open-minded approach and explore all the different possibilities. This type of thinking is often associated with creativity because it allows us to come up with many original ideas.
Divergent thinking is best applied when:
- When you need to come up with multiple solutions.
- When you need to find a new perspective.
- When you need to deliberately think outside the box.
Convergent thinking allows us to come up with a single solution to a problem. When we engage in convergent thinking, we take a more focused and narrowing approach. We typically use this type of thinking when we need to find a quick and efficient solution to a problem.
Convergent thinking can be applied when:
- You need to find a quick and efficient solution to a problem.
- Narrowing a pool of ideas to a single solution.
- You need to focus on one task.
- Trying to solve a simple problem.
Lateral thinking is used to come up with solutions that are not immediately apparent. When we engage in lateral thinking, we take an indirect and creative approach. This type of thinking is often used when we need to solve a complex problem or find an original solution.
This type of thinking involves coming up with new and innovative ideas. To do this, you will need to take an indirect approach and think outside the box.
Lateral thinking might be helpful when:
- You need to come up with an original solution.
- Working to solve a complex problem.
- Needing to think outside the box.
- You need to be disruptively creative.
- Looking for an original perspective.
Is Creative Thinking A Skill?
Creative thinking is a combination of thinking skills (convergent, divergent, and/or lateral), depending on the situation. Creative thinkers use the proper set of thinking skills to come up with new creative ideas and solutions.
Creative thinking is essential in the business world. It’s what allows businesses to come up with new products and services, and to stay ahead of the competition. But it’s not just businesses that need creative thinkers—everyone does. We all need to think creatively in order to solve problems, come up with new ideas, and improve our lives.
Is Critical Thinking A Skill?
Critical thinking is a skill that involves using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of an argument, idea, or problem.
It is applied after other thinking skills generate creative ideas, solutions, or possible actions. Critical thinking is a higher-order thinking skill that helps us to make better decisions by evaluating information and options.
There are different ways to approach critical thinking, but the end goal is always the same: to make the best possible decision given the information and resources available. The best decisions take into account all the relevant factors and weigh them accordingly.
How Can You Identify Your Preferred Thinking Style?
There are many different ways to identify your preferred thinking style. One way is to take a quiz or test, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This test will ask you a series of questions and, based on your answers, will place you into one of 16 different personality categories. Each personality category has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Another way to identify your preferred thinking style is to simply think about how you approach problems. Do you like to explore all the different possibilities or do you prefer to find a single solution? Do you like to take a direct or indirect approach? The answers to these questions will give you some insight into your preferred thinking style.
No matter what your preferred thinking style is, it’s important to remember that we all have the ability to think in different ways. We can use different thinking styles depending on the situation and the type of problem that we need to solve. By understanding and practicing different types of thinking, we can become more flexible and adaptable thinkers.
Improving Your Thinking Skills
So, what can you do to improve your critical thinking skills? First, start by identifying your preferred thinking style. Once you know how you best think, you can begin to practice using different thinking skills in different situations. There are many different ways to practice thinking, so find the ones that work best for you. And finally, don’t forget to keep an open mind—you never know when you might need to think outside the box.
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