A Guest post by Noah Rue
Being agile means allowing for maximum flexibility within a clear organizational structure. To achieve this, decision-makers must remain adaptable and level-headed, which requires critical thinking at every step.
Making the right business decisions means analyzing all avenues, information, and business trends to generate revenue-building results. Critical thinking makes this possible. By applying critical thinking to all business interactions, you build a framework for agile operations with fewer setbacks and greater results.
Critical thinking brings indefinable value to any operation, as can be seen in real-world endeavors. And the best part is you can apply these critical thinking strategies to your own processes.
Here’s what you should know.
What Critical Thinking Brings to Business Operations
In short, agility in business is impossible without critical thinking. Making decisions that minimize costs and maximize revenues requires a comprehensive understanding of audiences, users, employees, business models, and more. This takes more than just brainstorming and throwing out potential solutions.
But what exactly is critical thinking?
Critical thinking is the process of analyzing a situation and producing an informed judgment based on that analysis. It is a process frequently improved upon in the modern world by data and has applications that extend into every aspect of life.
Critical thinking in business brings about a wide variety of valuable benefits. These include:
- Effective, respected leadership
- Improved team communication
- Time-saving innovations
- Diverse plans and back-up plans
- Improved workplace functionality
These bonuses in efficiency are a product of effective problem solving, a skill that can be applied to virtually any endeavor. With the power of critical thinking across departments and management strategies, everything from sales to customer service can be honed into an expert process that saves the company time and money.
Take the scrum approach to agile customer service, as an example. This technique traditionally utilized by software developers relies on critical thinking to manage an adaptive process of early delivery and development. In customer service, this method allows teams to assess every bug and problem with customer experience to enhance overall customer success. As a result, businesses develop seamless and innovative approaches to handling customers with care.
Without the analysis inherent in critical thinking, approaches like scrum would be ineffective because they rely so heavily on asking why a system works and what it needs to improve. Being an agile organization means you guide analytical processes like these across a business to produce problem-solving results without limiting team creativity. You build agile project management processes so that as things change, you can adjust.
In the real world, such agile critical thinking is making an impact.
Agile Critical Thinking in the Real World
For every new business, the ability to think critically will determine its overall success. While data and statistics propagate on the web, this information must always be taken with a grain of salt and validated or invalidated through critical, agile processes. By doing so, companies ensure that they aren’t just accepting assumptions as facts but truly crafting their business to real needs.
“I think one of the distinguishing characteristics is agile explicitly encourages people to be more inquisitive, to confirm their beliefs through the experience of reality,” said Laurant Bossavit, a software developer with over 20 years of experience. Bossavit spoke about the need for questioning and analysis in agile business approaches, relaying the importance of verifying solutions through problem-solving and critical thought processes.
Bossavit has applied this ideology to developing better software through his firm, Institut Agile, which makes promoting agile processes in software its goal. Meanwhile, other businesses from across industries have applied similar patterns of agile critical thinking to inform their operations.
Philip Morris International, the tobacco company, is another unlikely example of such agility in their critical thinking processes. The cigarette manufacturer, in examining the health data and needs of their customer base, has committed to a smoke-free future. While this may seem counter-intuitive, it has allowed the company to reach out to 65,000 employees and generate input that has led to the creation of 3,400 patents for healthier alternatives to cigarettes.
By looking at trending data, asking themselves what they could do better, and engaging their employees to generate ideas, Philip Morris demonstrated what an agile and thoughtful approach to business can achieve.
Fortunately, you can apply similar strategies to ensure the success and longevity of your own business.
How to Integrate Critical Thinking in your Agile Business
Despite what some say about soft skills like critical thinking not being possible to teach, businesses can promote and train for the practice within their organization. Doing so at all levels will help build agile leadership for the digital age, leading to better innovations and databases of mutually created knowledge.
Integrating critical thinking to improve the agility of your business can be as simple as taking the following steps:
- Establish clear work processes and encourage employees to evaluate where they can improve.
- Ask for take-aways and useful insights from your team members after important meetings and developments.
- Encourage team members to provide their own recommended solutions and rationales before providing your own input.
- Implement projects that allow for team members to show their creativity and ability to innovate.
- Always approach critical feedback with care and tact, beginning with what works and offering recommendations with careful “I” messaging.
By practicing these simple approaches, you will better establish a business culture that values innovation and creativity from all of its members. As a result, you will find communication becomes more open and empathetic as well.
Nothing spurs agility in business quite like the ability of a team to think creatively. Businesses looking to stay ahead of the competition should apply this important tool in every area of the company. The results are all but guaranteed to produce streamlined business processes that can adapt to any situation or economic development.
Also published on Medium.