Don’t You Wish Your Staff Would Learn to Think?

Rodin's 'The Thinker'
Rodin's 'The Thinker' (Wikimedia Commons)

How do we teach someone to think?

Graduates may learn subject matter, test taking and prof pleasing but do grads, as a whole, improve critical thinking skills in college? The thinking skills required for career survival are most likely developed through empirical training.

Think about the impediments to thinking in today's culture.  

  • Has technology helped develop thinkers or searchers? Developing leaders can find answers but how do they learn to understand why the outcome occurred?
  • Does anyone need to think when we have so much media available to tell us how to think? It seems more young minds are imprinted rather than developed.
  • Does a high fat diet develop creative thinkers or mental lethargy?

I recently read about Project Zero, which offers, among other things, two good questions to train a thinker. The questions are Socratic but remember it's a Harvard project.

1. "What's going on here?"

2. "What do you see that makes you say so?"

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Rote memorization skills are well taught in higher education but provide little value in finding an answer that requires explanation and analysis. We need to teach young leaders to ask more "whys."

When we ask, "what's going on here," we probe a team member to think about the observed facts. An experienced leader will not be quick to provide answers to the question. A quick reply implies that an answer exists. Leaders who teach continue to ask more questions, resisting temptation to thwart the thinking process.

"What do you see that makes you say so?" This question is a powerful separator of fact from red herring. It's fascinating to listen to a developing leader look at a data set and conclude that the world is flat. Thinking teaches us to see with new eyes.

Allow me to add one more dangling thought. Leaders are readers. Senior leaders must encourage, model and monitor the reading syllabus of young talent. We know where a young leader will be in five years by observing what he is reading today. Voracious reading is not optional for future leaders.

Thinkers are developed by thinkers.

Ask more questions. Provide fewer answers. Keep their nose in a book.

"Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things" (Phil. 4:8).

Dr. Steve Greene is the publisher and executive vice president of the media group at Charisma Media and executive producer of the Charisma Podcast Network. His book, Love Leads: The Spiritual Connection Between Your Relationships and Productivity, is now available.

Leaders, Dr. Greene wants to help you understand the spiritual connection between relationships and productivity. Read his new blog, Love Leads.

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Dr. Steve Greene is now sharing stories, teachings, and conversations with guests who lead with love on Love Leads, a new podcast. Listen now.

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