Interview. Alexandra Didry, doctor in social and organizational psychology and R&D director at PerformanSe: “The great comeback of critical thinking …”
Critical thinking, ranked fifth among the main skills for the future by the World Economic Forum, will become an essential social skill, despite the fact that it has always aroused mistrust in organizations, due to the high esteem it has is awarded for loyalty. Alexandra Didry, R&D director at PerformanSe, explains what it is and how to develop it …
Question. By the way … what is critical thinking?
Reply. Critical thinking is careful, thoughtful, and rational thinking. It is a conscious, deliberate and focused process and therefore an alternative to the usual, often more intuitive, processes. As such, critical thinking is also more cognitively “expensive”, more demanding, requires perspective, time and effort. It is not an “algorithmic” intelligence – like that measured with IQ – but rather an ability to accurately assess situations, to make the right decisions …
Q. Why have you caught the attention now?
A. Because the agility that organizations need to adapt to increasingly rapid change requires special flexibility and acuity. Even when the excess of information available and the demand for speed lead us to think in the wrong direction! Critical thinking thus becomes the skill necessary to make the right decisions in changing and stressful contexts.
Q. How can it be detected?
A. There are different ways to identify it because it is made up of cognitive skills and attitudes. So, of course, it has to do with reasoning and problem-solving skills (the ability to distinguish between facts and opinions, to evaluate arguments and to draw correct conclusions). It also corresponds to specific attributes of the personality (openness and maturity of judgment above all), but also to a certain type of intellectual attitude (ability to ask questions, confidence in one’s own lucidity) …
“Critical thinking is made up of cognitive skills and attitudes.”
Q. How can it develop?
A. To nurture critical thinking in itself, it is important – I believe – to cultivate an attitude of humility in the face of the issues that concern us, while developing a real capacity to question prejudices: learning to investigate, diversify and cross information sources, assess the quality of arguments and the correctness of reasoning …
Finally, it is also important to be critical … with your own critical thinking! know when it is necessary to activate it (because it is expensive in internal resources), and also what are the situations – rich in tension or in emotions, for example – in which the risk of cognitive bias is important.
Q. And how can you give him a voice in organizations?
A. This is a fundamental question, because critical thinking is in fact opposed to many of the habits that prevail in classical organizations: obedience, respect for rules, processes and hierarchy, games of alliances and influences, demand for rapid action, etc. The development of critical thinking will therefore require openness and maturity on the part of management, as well as a certain degree of freedom and confidence, but also a form of quality and an intention to be accepted. In any case, it is essential not to make it an expected competition in the organization … unless you first create the conditions for it to be well received!
“It is essential not to make it an expected competition in the organization … unless you first create the conditions for it to be well received!”