How do you master critical thinking?

Have you seen Bosch, the drama series on Amazon Prime? Last night I was watching the 8th or 9th episode, season four. Detective Bosch’s partner, Edgar takes a split second decision and fires a gunshot at the armed suspect. He hasn’t clearly seen the weapon on the suspect, yet he has made the right move. Bosch says, this was Edgar’s  ‘training kicking in.’ In another instance, Edgar gets shot by a sniper. After the first hit, injured Edgar rolls behind the car. The second bullet hits the bonnet. Bosch reads the crime scene and comments Edgar’s training kicked in!

When something “kicks in” it means that it starts to work. Something that can “kick in” is an instinct, a feeling, or a certain way of thinking. For example, ‘as soon as he heard the gunshot, his military training kicked in and he dropped straight to the ground.’

Critical thinking is a skill, like any other skill that needs training. It is the training and the practice that kicks in at the time of the need. To master critical thinking, you need to follow the training. 

thewoodpeckermethod Axelsmith

In chess, there is a popular book titled The Woodpecker Method. The Woodpecker Method is the name given by Axel Smith to a training system developed by his co-author Hans Tikkanen. After training with his method in 2010, Tikkanen achieved three GM (GrandMaster) norms within a seven-week period. The quick explanation of the Woodpecker Method is that you need to solve a large number of puzzles in a row; then solve the same puzzles again and again, only faster. There is no lazy shortcut to success – hard work is required. But the reward can be re-programming your unconscious mind. Benefits include sharper tactical vision, fewer blunders, better play when in time trouble and improved intuition.

This is how critical thinking works too, practice and sharpen. Critical thinking is a personal skill, it is not a team skill. While, one does problem solving and innovation designs in groups but each one brings a certain set of skill and expertise to the group.

To hone, personal critical thinking skills, we look it through the following framework:

PERSONAL– How might I inculcate habits to sharpen critical thinking skills? 

SOCIAL – How might I pick up ideas from my social life?

PROCESSES– How might I make my work process more efficient? 

Each of these areas, when paid attention to, help in sharpening the skill.

For training, we seek lessons from contextual references around us. We decode it, mostly subconsciously, for our own learning outcomes. To consciously train, here are examples of articles that have been published in the last few weeks. In the table below, you will see how each article falls within this critical thinking framework, the contextual reference and the learning area. The outcome or the learning from each article is detailed on the article pages.

S.noArticle on habitsforthinkingFrameworkContextual referenceLearning Area
1Language in the new normalPersonal- ProcessNew vocabulary after big eventsCommunication skills
2The snake queues & the art of making choicesPersonal _ ProcessSnake queues for liquor shopsPersonal habit
3The four tenets of effective community communicationSocial – ProcessCommunity health safety measuresBehavioural Economics
Six reasons why you shouldn’t ignore the power of work from office
Social- PersonalNeed to keep office spaceCommunity
5Tumse Na ho PayegaPersonal- ProcessCovid- 19 Vaccine development plan Pivot/ Innovation
6Today, I am in my 20sPersonal habitCommencement speeches for graduatesPersonal positioning
7Three must know skills for leaders to ask right questionsPersonal – ProcessAsking for help for a job, ask for help if you are mentally illProblem Solving

Here are two examples of articles with learning outcomes.

Events and actions around us are our training modules. When we read an article or a book or listen to a podcast or attend a course, it helps us in seeding new thoughts. Gradually, these lessons kick in at the right time. Next time when you read an article that makes you think, try to answer if it helps you in changing a personal habit, or makes your process more efficient or is it just a social learning lesson to be bookmarked!

Let us be the woodpecker and the training will kick in when it is the right time.

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