When decisions get tough, some of us dream wistfully of a boardroom full of wise, deep-thinking leaders who can analyze an array of options placed before us. Unfortunately, if our dreams meet reality, it's more often the luck of the draw rather than a result of a thoughtful, broad recruitment process that recognizes criteria that are not often easy to identify.
Like critical thinking.
Recently, while reading Sharan Merriam and Laura Bierma's Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice, I ran across a list (p. 223) of "abilities of critical thinkers" (citing work* by R.H. Ennis) that make the qualities we need more visible and accessible.
- "Assume a position or change it based on the evidence."
- "Remain relevant to the point."
- "See information and precision in the information sought."
- "Exhibit open-mindedness."
- "Consider the big picture."
- "Focus on the original problem."
- "Search for reason."
- "Orderly consider complex components of problems."
- "Seek a clear statement of the problem."
- "Seek options."
- "Show sensitivity to others' feelings and knowledge."
- "Use credible sources."
Undoubtedly, some of us have more experience, and perhaps more inherent capacity, for critical thinking. But this list also reminds me that there also are ways to increase our awareness and consciously incorporate into our board discussions.
As you read Ennis's list of critical thinking skills, what does it seem to offer boardroom interactions and decision making?
If we were to find a way to identify one's capacity for critical thinking, what would that look like and how might we appropriately value it in board member recruitment?
* Ennis, R.H. (1989). Critical thinking and subject specificity: Clarification and needed research. Educational Researcher, 18(3), 4-10.