Critical Thinking and Business Decisions


Rodin's The Thinker 9485As a CEO, President or Owner of a company, you are not paid to solve problems. Rather, you are paid to think about the consequences of problems, determine which ones are critical, and then get the appropriate resources focuses on solving them.

That is management. Motivating your people and allowing them to solve the problems is leadership.

For the management portion, the question is, “How do I determine which problems are the most important?” More than that, “What skills and practices can I use to help?”

I believe Critical Thinking is core to deciding which problems are important and also in helping solve them.

In much of my experience, I see lack of critical thinking as a key issue in limiting the success of many businesses. Often, critical issues are not pursued because of some emotional or historic attachment.  For example, one of our clients continued to pursue a failing business unit because it was their business partner’s pet project.

Critical Thinking is the process of deciding whether something is true, partially true, or false, through a rational and disciplined thought process based on evidence, and open-mindedness. It requires setting emotions on the side, and looking at the facts.  It requires some maturity and reflection, and sometimes creativity. But it can also be mastered through a set of steps and skills.

The first element to determine if something is important is whether it’s part of “The Plan.” This can be your strategic plan, your tactical plan, or your marketing and sales plans. But the question many people omit is, “Is this in the plan?” Too many businesses change direction on a whim. Someone get’s exited and all of a sudden they have a new direction. A good question to ask is, “What’s changed?” Then, if it’s not part of the plan, “Is it important?” Focus and execution are keys to business success. So if it’s not in the plan, then it better be important.

The second element is to ask, “Do we have all the facts and information required?” Often decisions are made based upon opinions, or the power level of those with the strongest opinions. One client, a CEO of a very successful SaaS client always makes it a practice to make sure his people come to him with data. They know this, so they spend extra time gathering information before meeting with him. When he asked what his market share was, and I had to tell him it wasn’t what he expected, I had the data to back up that conclusion. Facts and data result in better decisions.

Another key skill to develop is patience. Patience helps critical thinking. This is often difficult for founders and entrepreneurs. We are men and women of action. It can be argued that’s why they are successful. But I also have a belief that many entrepreneurs and founders have an element of ADHD in their personalities.  Email and the Internet are also affecting the way our brains work. Other than taking Adderall, a good question to ask is, “Is this so important that it needs to be addressed immediately?” Or, “Can it wait?” Sometimes patience, time and distance are the answer. Give yourself some space.

Finally, another skill is to get an outside perspective. Often we are too close to a problem. The solution requires opening our minds a little. Every CEO, President, Owner and Founder needs a council or someone to offer counsel. Believing that it has to be lonely at the top is wrong. Successful management often has someone they trust to bounce ideas off. This trust is often based on experience because no one person has experienced every situation.

At Prairie Sky Group we help our clients develop plans, get the facts, and provide outside counsel based on years of experience. Sometimes we prescribe Adderall.

Do Great Things

Lee Stocking
Chief Provacatuer
Prairie Sky Group

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