Available literature has illuminated the importance of critical thinking in making our lives and daily encounters more fulfilling and satisfying. At the individual level, critical thinking can be described as the capacity to make a resourceful and holistic synthesis of fundamental issues or factors affecting our daily interactions with other people or institutions (Allen & Gerras, 2009).
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At the organizational level, critical thinking, which is usually equated to strategic thinking, has been denoted as the capacity of an individual or groups of individuals to make a creative and holistic synthesis of critical factors affecting an organization and its internal and external environment for purposes of achieving sustainable advantage and enduring success. Critical thinking galvanizes anticipated requirements with future individual or organizational capabilities.
At a practical level, researchers has elucidated that it important to provide people with the most basic fundamentals of how to think and value our daily challenges at the critical level largely because of the irregularity of both the internal and external environments in which we operate (Allen & Gellas, 2009). It is the purpose of this paper to provide an example of critical thinking application at the personal level in addition to critically discussing the importance and benefits of critical thinking in decision-making processes.
As a military police training instructor, I have internalized a model of instructing recruits on how to expand their ‘thinking skills’ of diverse types as opposed to basically instructing for information and content. The purpose of this model is to encourage recruits to be creative and generate novel ideas that will add value to their own lives as well as provide new and effective strategies to problem-solving. John Dewey, the father of modern critical thinking tradition, defined the concept as “…active, persistent, and careful consideration of a belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds which support it and the further conclusions to which it tends” (Fisher, 2001, p. 2).
Using this background, I always instruct recruits to initiate an active process of thinking as opposed to relying on my ideas and information. Instead of jumping to conclusions, I instruct recruits to be persistent and careful in evaluating the possible alternatives available, and critically synthesis their sources of information before depending on such sources to make judgments. I always underscore to recruits the fundamental importance of establishing a solid framework for the reasons they have for taking particular sides and the implications of their orientations or beliefs to their own individual and career development
Away from issues of instruction, I have frequently being involved in applying critical thinking capacities to make work-related decisions. In one particular scenario, some recruits had complained loudly that the workload was overbearing and that there was no adequate time for rest. Sensing that the problem could have been initiated by institutional structural elements, I invited a few recruits and had a candid talk aimed at acquiring information about the matters at hand.
The grievances aired included harassment, tight training schedules, low morale, and lack of a complaints section to air perceived grievances. Having recognized the challenges and gathered pertinent information about the issues, I recommended to the management to consider using more flexible training time-frames that will allow recruits adequate time for personal and leisure activities. The unstated assumptions about the issues presented by the recruits demonstrated a system that neither furthered the morale of the recruits nor initiated practices to check and curtail harassment by some instructors.
Using my critical thinking skills, I developed logical relationships of the propositions presented by the recruits that assisted the administration to develop flexible reporting times and harassment controls provided the recruits acted within the set regulations. The administration also developed a reward system to recognize best performance, thus enhancing motivation among recruits. The problems were solved amicably.
The importance of critical thinking in decision-making process can never be understated. It is imperative to note that ‘decision-making’ is basically a process through which the individual charged with the responsibility of decision making arrives at a credible solution to a recognized and defined challenge after careful consideration of all interrelated factors (Feldman, 2002).
According to Fisher (2001), critical thinking not only assists individuals to recognize the core roots of the problems or challenges facing them, but it also assists in developing means and frameworks of working through the challenges to achieve positive outcomes. More importantly, critical thinking enables individuals to appraise evidence based on credible sources of information and evaluate statements to ensure they have a holistic representation of the issues at hand. This is critical in decision making, both at the individual and organizational level.
Critical thinking enhances our capabilities to reconstruct our patterns of beliefs and values based on broader experience to enable us make adequate adjustments in scenarios where we might have rushed to make unreasonable and unreflective judgments (Fisher, 2001). This attribute was essentially vital in pressurizing the administration to make proper adjustments about how recruits interrelated with the rules and regulations of the institution, not mentioning the fact that it enabled the administration to render accurate judgments about the needs for recruits to be provided with flexibility in everyday training engagements.
From the above discussion, it is evidently clear that critical thinking and decision-making are intricately related. However, while critical thinking is largely viewed as the independent variable since it can be initiated without the need to make a decision, it is imperative that individuals learn to make decisions by critically thinking through the issues and challenges facing them. Decision-making processes must utilize critical thinking frameworks to arrive at the best possible solution for a challenge (Feldman, 2002).
In this respect, critical thinking is beneficial in decision-making processes since it provides an individual with the opportunity to critically evaluate all the details of a particular situation without missing or bypassing pertinent information or unstated assumptions. Critical thinking also allows us to evaluate our daily encounters and store the information for later use when making decisions related to a similar encounter. Within this context, critical thinking is beneficial since it allows us to make fast and accurate decisions about the challenges confronting us using previous information that is stored in our cognitive capacities. This capability is especially beneficial in the management of organizations due to the continuous shifts of the business environment that necessitates fast and accurate decision-making. It also saves time that could be used for other productive purposes, and keeps managers abreast of situational dynamics (Feldman, 2002).
Lastly, critical thinking not only offer people the opportunity to make credible choices about how they will react to whatever they come across or hear in their daily interactions, but also assists them to determine why things happen the way they do and what their individual experiences mean to such occurrences. These predispositions enable individuals to make viable and effective decisions based on relevant current circumstances as opposed to subjective dogmas or misplaced values (Feldman, 2002). All in all, this paper has effectively demonstrated the importance of critical thinking in decision-making process. Quite frankly, critical thinking must always be involved in the process of making a decision, even if such thinking may be defective or incomplete.
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Allen, C.D., & Gerras, S.J. (2009). Developing creative & critical thinkers. Military Review, 86(6), 77-83. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier Database.
Feldman, D. (2002). Critical thinking: Strategies for decision-making. New York: Crisp Publications, Inc.
Fisher, A. (2001). Critical thinking: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.