by Lisa Pustelak, NWIRC, Culture Development Specialist

In our world of instant gratification, we need Critical thinking phototo be extra careful of the way we think. Critical thinking skills continue to decline as we get used to a quick fix for everything. I use the phrase, “you can’t change something you’re not aware of” almost daily. If you’re not aware of whether or not you are applying critical thinking every day in your business, you may be going for the quick fix instead of finding the root cause of an issue. This way of thinking can put a bandage on a problem temporarily, but just like a physical wound that’s just covered up and not attended to, the problem may continue to resurface or even get worse. One of the most important critical thinking skills is keeping an open mind. We get very protective of our opinion and current way of thinking. When we choose to open our mind, we can see things from another perspective.

In the manufacturing world, often times problems are identified with either a process or an employee. We tend to be quick to blame a person when something isn’t working; but maybe we need to look at the process instead. Maybe we are not providing the person with the right tools, enough knowledge, or… maybe the process leading to their work is where the problem lies.
Whether you decide it’s process or people, applying critical thinking skills will help you move out of the ‘quick fix’ thought process and into long-term sustainable solution mode.
Just like we develop habits of doing things a certain way, we also develop a habitual way of thinking. When you constantly tell yourself you have too many things to do or we’ve tried to fix this a million times, you are creating the habit of thinking in ‘quick fix’ mode.

Choose to make a habit of slowing down and concentrating on the problem at hand with an open mind. If it’s a process that’s not producing the desired result then asking “why?” one time probably isn’t enough. Take the time to focus and dig deep to find the true root cause. The time you spend applying critical thinking now will save you time addressing it again later.
The next time you are faced with a process or people problem, slow down, think the problem through, ask lots of questions, and keep an open mind. Choose to become a critical thinker. Albert Einstein said: “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think”. When you choose to change your habit of thinking in ‘quick fix’ mode, you will create
long-term sustainable solutions for your business.