Critical thinking skills are vital in any leadership role, but when you're leading the technology arm of a business it takes on even greater importance - both for the key decisions you need to make and for the technical people you need to lead.
A CTO needs to be able to reason, understand and solve problems.
Critical thinking is the ability to evaluate the truth of an argument and its premises by subjecting them to rational analysis.
Skills such as logic, analytical reasoning, and problem solving cannot be underestimated in today's world which is characterised by complexity and ambiguity.
In a world full of information and data, technology leaders and CTOs need to rely on their critical thinking skills more than ever.
This is because they are often asked to make decisions without enough knowledge or data that would help them make an informed decision.
So here are 10 steps for a CTO to improve their critical thinking capabilities;
When you have an open mind, it allows you to be flexible and see things from a different perspective.
When you are open minded, then you will be more willing to change your beliefs if necessary.
Judgemental attitudes are at the root of many frustrations and leadership blockages.
When we judge without understanding, we create separation and disunity. We are all on a journey to enlightenment; it is not our job to judge others for their paths or speed up their journeys.
Don’t judge others because of their choices. The world would be boring if we all liked the same thing. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into one category - this does no good for either party involved.
Constructive listening is a skill that will come in handy when it comes to solving disputes. It also affects the work environment and helps to create better customer relationships.
Listening is about hearing, understanding, and acting on what is being presented. The best way to do this is by using constructive listening skills. This means being non-judgemental and focusing on what the speaker has to say instead of trying to change their point of view or argue with them.
To start, it is important to avoid interrupting the speaker. If you have a countering opinion or idea, it is best to wait until the speaker has finished their thought before you speak.
Remember that constructive listening involves making eye contact with the person speaking and showing them that they have your attention by nodding and giving them feedback in an appropriate way.
It can be difficult not just for people who don't know how to listen but also for people who do know how to listen.
Active listeners are not only trying to understand what someone says, they are also trying to figure out why they said what they said and what they think about it as well.
Beliefs are often assumed to be ideas that we accept as being true. Beliefs are not always facts though, but rather they are ideas or opinions that we have about a certain topic.
Develop evidence-based beliefs is a process of recognizing the difference between beliefs and facts. There are many pieces of information in our world that we can't see or feel or taste, but we still hold opinions about those things.
Beliefs are tough to change but it's important to test our beliefs when presented with new evidence. When we encounter information that challenges a belief, it is important to consider whether there is evidence for the belief being true.
We should never disregard any piece of information as false or invalid simply because the belief doesn't align with what we want to believe.
There are two types of evidence-based beliefs: empirical and logical. Empirical evidence is derived from sensory experience, while logical evidence is derived from logical argumentation.
Evaluating ideas, claims, beliefs, statements can be challenging.
In order to evaluate an idea, a statement, or claim, you need to think about the following:
-Is the idea or claim possible?
-Is the idea or claim reasonable?
-What is the purpose of this statement?
Questions are the bread and butter of any conversation, interview, or meeting. They allow you to learn more about the other person and to explore topics that may be outside your area of expertise.
There are three types of questions that you can ask to get the information you need to complete a project:
Open-ended question: Let your client talk freely about the topic.
Closed-ended question: Ask the person to answer with a yes or no.
Probing question: Ask more detailed questions about specific aspects of the topic.
With this in mind, it is important to ask probing questions that will not only provide answers but also create a dialogue. Questions should be broad enough so that they can generate a conversation, but specific enough so that the other person knows exactly what you are asking about.
You'll want to think about new concepts in a variety of different perspectives.
The first perspective is what your idea means for you and your team. What’s the effect for your employees, stakeholders, and anything else that comes to mind? The second perspective is what it means for your company. What does this mean for the products or services you’re providing? Thirdly, shift your perspective to what it means for society, the environment, and anything else with a broad scope.
The last perspective to consider is what it would mean for consumers or users of any product or service that impacts them. Would they be positive or negative about this idea? And how might they react in various situations if this idea were introduced?
This is a great opportunity to get the creative juices flowing.
Think about what you would want to do if you didn't have any constraints or limitations. What would you do if you weren't afraid of failure? Imagine that you don't care what others think or how they'll react. What would be possible in this case?
As an example, imagine that your company gave you a free pass to go ahead and create something new. You no longer had any restrictions related to deadlines, budgets, or anything else. How might this change your process? Would it change your priorities? Would it change what kind of work you're doing?
As humans we are predisposed to feeling emotions and making decisions based on those emotions. Data is able to make you feel more emotion, which in turn can drive you to a decision.
Data often provides the insight that we need, but it has to be presented in a way that the human brain will comprehend. Numbers and statistics can be difficult for humans to process but if they are presented with the right visualizations, then it becomes much easier.
Visualization is important because when humans see data visually their brains process it faster than if they were just looking at an Excel sheet of numbers. Visualizing your data allows for it to be memorable and shareable as well as simplified for your audience’s consumption.
Data is the best way to prove that something is true or false.
Data can be an effective way of substantiating claims that people make. It can also be used to disprove or dispel myths and misconceptions. Data provides quantitative answers, where other types of evidence may not exist.
People might not trust a claim because it comes from a person they don't know, but when the same claim is supported by data, it becomes much more persuasive.
We should not rely on data alone for decision-making but instead apply other sources of information like intuition or expert opinion.
The tendency to infer too much from data is called the “data fallacy.” This fallacy involves two types of errors: "misunderstanding the data" and "assuming that correlation implies causation."
Data is not a perfect truth and it can mislead us, so we should be careful with the conclusions we draw from it.
Be aware of your personal thought patterns through self-analysis, for example, the tendency to selectively remember positive experiences and forget negative ones can lead to disappointment and feelings of hopelessness when things don't go well.
Incorporate feedback from others through honesty and humility - criticism is a good thing if you're open-minded enough to consider it objectively and without defensiveness.
Feedback that is too harsh or too critical should be reworded until it's constructive, but feedback should always be accepted as a gift. It might just be what you need in order to improve your leadership and critical thinking skills.
Build your critical thinking capability with CTO Academy - our online leadership skills courses and coaching can help you enhance your skills in this area.