Five Characteristics of a Critical Thinker

Criticl thinking questions

A journalist taught me about critical thinking in writing and editing. The importance of vetting and uncovering more than one side to a story. This is where critical thinking comes in.

    We think critically when we're able to determine the meaning and significance of what we observe or hear, paying attention to inference or an argument to determine if there's adequate justification to accept the conclusion as true.

    The five characteristics below can help us determine the extent of our familiarity with the use of critical thinking in our work and life:

1. raising important questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;

2. gathering and assessing relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively;

3. coming to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;

4. thinking with an open-mind within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and

5. communicating effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems; without being unduly influenced by the thinking of others on the topic.

    These abilities are critical in business and extremely useful in life. When we are able to suspend judgment long enough to negotiate meaning in a conversation, for example, our relationships benefit in the long term.

    Another good use of critical thinking is to counter our tendency to see what we expect to see. Which is why good disagreement is central to progress. Culture drives what we want to see. As individuals and businesses, we have the ability to expand our options.


Two dangerous effects of our over reliance on technology to interact are:

1. We think it's an extension of all our humanity but it's a regression of the part of us that communicates. This means we need to work harder to compensate by injecting critical thinking in our listening. Why listening is hard and how to think critically.

2. Especially on social platforms, our interactions become limited to a small group of people with whom we likely agree. This means that the only way to create a ripple effect and stand out is either by feeding the insecurity monster and forgo respect and civility, or borrowing too readily the idea of another. We underestimate the value of ecosystems and the role of co-creation in our growth.

More resources if you're curious about how to identify the most common pitfalls on the path to logical reasoning, the role of intuition, and some tools for thinking better.