Sometimes we get stuck in one place because we are not able to see things from a different perspective or we have trouble deciding an appropriate course of action. Using critical thinking for our businesses can be a way to “get unstuck”.
Here’s a practical example. Recently I was instructed to drive my car up a narrow ramp on a steep incline in a small garage and park it behind another car. I was there to perform in the studio located in this facility. I got stuck on the ramp at the very top just before it leveled out; I was unable to get my car to stay in gear. There was no way forward. There was no way back. The owner of the facility and my client observed my difficulty and both began giving me directions. One man positioned himself in front of my car and the other behind my car and they both began giving me directions which were contradictory and confusing.
Have you ever tried to understand two sets of directions at the same time while looking through a front car window and a rear view mirror? It doesn’t work very well. The combination of directions, frustration and worry about being late for my engagement caused me to become anxious and agitated. I put the car in neutral and rolled back on a slight angle and got stuck on the curb. Now I was really stuck!
My two instructors became impatient and both insisted on getting into my car driving it to get it unstuck. I had just met these two men and did not trust either one of them to operate my car. I figured if anyone was going to damage my car, it would be me. I asked them to leave so I could calm down and use critical thinking to resolve this problem. Here are the questions I asked myself:
- Why am I in this situation?
- What am I trying to accomplish with my car?
- How do I need to move my car to get “unstuck”?
- What can I do differently to be successful?
I determined that I should not have pulled my car up the narrow ramp in the first place and should have left the vehicle parked on the street. There was not enough of a level surface for me to park in the area which the two gentlemen had designated for me. I compounded this problem by taking directions from them at the same time trying to back down the ramp. The two men offered different approaches which ultimately led to me backing my car down the ramp and ending up stuck on an angle. Because I could not leave my car in that position, I concluded that it would make more sense for me to resolve the issue before I performed the job that I was asked to do there. I was determined that critical thinking would be my way out of this dilemma.
Realizing that it was necessary to assess how the car was positioned in order to determine my next steps, I put the emergency brake on, got out of the car and surveyed my situation. I was able to see how to straighten my tires and how much actual room was available to back up the vehicle. I got back into the car changed the direction of my tires and decided to acerbate forward quickly and then straighten out the tires and do this in a back and forth motion, a little distance each time. It worked!
Next, I slowly backed the car down the ramp which took 10 minutes. Twice I had to pull forward, and straighten out my tires and back up again. I parked on a level surface at the entrance to the ramp. It was done!!
I calmly entered the building and was able to perform unimpeded without worries of my car rolling down the ramp or a ruined transmission.
Here are three critical thinking steps that you can apply to your business:
- Determine what you are trying to accomplish. Ask as series of questions to gauge your thinking.
- Assess your situation. Critically examine where you are. What is the true nature of the problem you are trying to solve?
- Clearly define your goal. What are you trying to accomplish? Brainstorm alternative approaches to solving your problem or achieving your goal. What should you try that you have not considered? How can you achieve a successful outcome?
Critical thinking is a skill worth developing. It can shed new light on an ineffective strategy and lead you to better decision making,