Are you thinking CLEARly?

We spend most of our time thinking about one thing or another. Maybe we’re thinking about the project at hand, maybe we’re thinking about the future, or maybe we’re thinking about a cat video that we saw on YouTube last week. Regardless of what we’re thinking about – our mind is constantly working. But how often are we thinking critically?

Ultimately, critical thinking is just thinking about thinking, trying to structure it to be better and more effective. Critical thinkers are able to separate facts from opinions and biases, and they question why things are the way they are. Critical thinking isn’t just a singular skill, rather, it’s a collection of skills that need to be applied across the entire decision making process to ensure that solutions are fully thought out and developed. This video delves into what it means to think critically, and how to improve upon your own critical thinking abilities.

The CLEAR Thinking Model is, beyond just a clever acronym, a way to think through your own thought process to ensure that you come up with the best possible solution to a problem at hand. It’s 5 simple steps that allow you to truly delve into why you see things the way you do, and allows your creativity to flow.

  • Clarify – The first step in the CLEAR Thinking Model is to clarify the issue. The way you define an issue will ultimately have a major impact on the strategies that you end up developing. As explained in the video, too often we allow our subconscious to dictate how we frame an issue without even realizing it. This prevents us from seeing the entire picture and truly taking in all parts of the problem. Some questions to ask yourself to help frame the issue:
    • “What’s really happening?”
    • “What isn’t happening?”
    • “How can I define this problem?”
    • “What are my criteria for making a good decision?”
  • Look – Step two is to look at your beliefs and assumptions as well as the facts, and try to help yourself separate them. We don’t believe the world we see, we see the world we believe. Help yourself separate your facts from assumptions by thinking through why you have certain beliefs and how you can test them.
  • Establish – Step three is where you’ll establish ideas and possible strategies to solve your problem. You can now begin to think through solutions, and the sky truly is the limit here. Generate as many ideas as possible and don’t limit yourself or stop at what appears to be the first right answer- explore any and all possibilities, no matter how crazy they may seem at first. This step is all about idea generation, not limitation. This is a great step to explore brainstorming or mind-mapping- create diagrams that will help you visualize your ideas and how they do or don’t fit together to solve the issue at hand.
  • Assess – Whereas step three is all about creativity, Step 4 employs the more logical parts of the brain and focuses on winnowing down the ideas from the last step to determine which are the most feasible. A decision matrix or a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) Diagram may be helpful in assessing which options are going to ultimately provide you with the best outcome.
  • Reach – The final step of the CLEAR Thinking Model is to reach a well formed decision. Now that you’ve assessed your possible solutions, you should have arrived at a strategy for your decision. You’ll want to test it to ensure that it meets the decision criteria established in the first step (Clarify).  Be sure that the solution is ethical and aligns with your value system,  and really think through whether it solves the entire issue or just part of it. You may need to go back to steps three and four a few times before you can truly reach the best decision.

The thought behind the CLEAR Thinking Model is that it will help you structure, test, and ultimately improve your thinking. By employing this model when you need to reach a critical decision, you can be sure that you’re coming up with strategies that are fully thought through – taking into account the various biases and pre-conceived notions that we typically allow to dictate our thinking subconsciously. Watch the video now for more detail on how you can employ the CLEAR Thinking Model to improve your thinking, influence, and leadership skills.