Complex issues emerge quite often whenever you are running your own business. Successful entrepreneurs can think strategically about these problems and come to a decision quickly. To do so, they need to possess strong critical thinking skills.
Critical thinking is the ability to evaluate information to make a wise judgment on how to move forward. As a business owner, it’s not the best idea to always make snap decisions and hope to get lucky in finding the right solution. Building strong critical thinking skills allows business owners to evaluate the way their company is running or any issues they are facing and develop efficient solutions.
There are many skills needed to be an entrepreneur. Fore example, you may need communication skills in order to sell your products to customers. Also, there are several tech skills needed to be an entrepreneur that intends to operate some of their business online.
Critical thinking is a skill that often helps strengthen other important skills as well. This article explores practical strategies on how to develop critical thinking skills as an entrepreneur.
Learn to Analyze Problems
Analyzing a problem effectively is a foundational aspect of critical thinking. The way you analyze a problem will greatly affect the solution you develop. Great business owners develop systems around analyzing business problems.
One of the key aspects of analyzing a problem effectively is understanding what the problem is. You should first clearly define the issue at hand, gather as much information about the issue and begin to look at it from different angles. By clearly defining the issue first, you can avoid wasting time and resources on solving for symptoms instead of the root problem. There are several problem-solving strategies out there including Fishbone Diagram, SWOT Analysis, and more.
To give you a start, here are some descriptions of a few strategies to try out:
- Fishbone Diagram (Ishikawa or Cause and Effect Diagram)– This tool is used for identifying and organizing possible causes of a problem, with the goal of determining root causes. The diagram looks like a fish’s skeleton with the problem/defect at the head, the major categories of causes as the bones along the spine, and the potential causes as smaller bones attached to the major bones.
- SWOT Analysis– This is a strategic planning technique used to help a person or organization identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats related to business competition or project planning.
- Brainstorming– This is a group creativity technique by which efforts are made to find a conclusion for a specific problem by gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its members. The goal is to generate as many ideas as possible.
- The 5 Whys Technique– This is a simple but powerful technique for getting to the root cause of a problem. Essentially, you ask ‘why’ five times, each time drilling down further into the cause of the problem.
Ask Good Questions
As an entrepreneur, always ask questions. Making assumptions can be detrimental. By asking questions, entrepreneurs can challenge assumptions and uncover hidden opportunities for improvement. Asking questions can help to identify the root cause of an issue. It also helps to better understand a situation from all angles. Asking the right questions can sometimes be tricky though.
One of the first steps to learning how to ask good questions is to start asking more questions. By asking more questions, you’ll begin to learn what types of questions help get the answer you need. When trying to find a root cause, asking “Why?” multiple times can help to dig deeper into an issue (use the “5 whys technique”, if needed). You’ll also want to try and ask more open-ended questions rather than questions that can be answered with yes or no. Open-ended questions allow for more creativity and critical thinking when understanding and solving an issue.
Think Alternate Views
Often people seek out answers and information that matches their views. This has become known as “confirmation bias”. Cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber refer to it as “my side bias”. They state that humans aren’t randomly credulous. Presented with someone else’s argument, we’re adept at spotting the weaknesses. However, the positions we’re blind about are our own. By intentionally seeking out different viewpoints from your own, you’ll continue to refine your critical thinking skills and expand your view of the world.
To practice thinking alternatively, you can start by reading from diverse sources of information. Search for information that does not align with your views on a topic. Even if you don’t agree with something, you can gain insightful information that will help to see an issue from a different perspective.
By diversifying where you get your information you will expose yourself to new perspectives and broaden your knowledge of a topic. To take it another step forward, you can participate in engaging dialogue around a topic as well. Seek to understand others’ perspectives and see an issue from another angle.
According to some studies, humans are becoming less observant as we rely more on technology. While this may be bad, but not detrimental for the average person, this can hurt an entrepreneur’s effectiveness. Observational skills are an important aspect of critical thinking. Being observant of the world around you is useful for understanding how things operate. It allows you to notice when things change or aren’t working the way they were intended to and be able to act.
Practicing being mindful of your surroundings and being present in the moment are two ways to improve observation skills. Take a few minutes out of every day to eliminate any distractions and intentionally observe what’s around you. Try to use all of your senses to observe. Pay attention to tiny details when looking around and commit them to memory. There are many mindfulness exercises out there and these types of exercises will help to increase your observational skills.
Evaluate Your Approach and Seek Feedback
Evaluating your processes and strategies on a consistent basis makes sure that you are not using outdated practices that are not serving your business goals. Entrepreneurs should continuously seek opportunities for improvement. Set quarterly self-evaluations to reflect on your business journey so far. Be real about what your strengths and weaknesses are and set goals for improvement.
Entrepreneurs should also look for feedback as this is an opportunity for growth. One way to do this is to ask your clients through surveys, reviews, or focus groups. This can help you understand how well your product is serving customer needs.
As well, finding a good mentor can be a great resource for guidance and feedback. Interact with business experts through workshops and conferences. Connect yourself with other like-minded people to see how they go about solving their business challenges.
To continue developing your critical thinking skills in order to run your business better, practice deep researching. Research fundamentally enhances critical thinking skills because it involves analysis, evaluation, and interpretation of information. When conducting deep research, one must scrutinize data to ascertain its validity, a process which encourages skepticism and questioning. This fosters discernment and a capacity to separate fact from conjecture.
This type of research also hones problem-solving abilities as one needs to find, filter, and organize information effectively. It requires forming hypotheses, drawing conclusions based on evidence, and then reconsidering these conclusions when new information surfaces. Thus, it nurtures a habit of adaptive thinking.
Moreover, research involves seeing issues from multiple perspectives, encouraging a more nuanced understanding of complexity. The process of research cultivates the essential components of critical thinking. When you come across a problem, don’t settle for a simple search result or Siri answer. Go deeper and research the problem and its solutions in their entirety. By doing this, you will not only better understand the issue, you will develop a habit that will grow your critical thinking abilities.
There are many critical thinking skills needed in entrepreneurship. You must know how to problem-solve, think creatively and make decisions. Incorporating the different strategies talked about in this article will enhance your critical thinking skills. By building strong critical thinking skills, entrepreneurs can be more confident in navigating the various challenges and uncertainties that come with running a business and increase their chances of success.