Think Critically by Asking Why, What Else, and What If



“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” — Sun-Tzu

What is a simple way to improve your critical thinking skills?

Ask “Why?”, “What Else?”, and “What if?”

It’s an easy way to probe issues and current thinking.

According to Jeremy Kourdi in Business Strategy: A Guide to Taking Your Business Forward, by asking, “Why?”, “What Else?,” and “What if?”, it’s useful to:

  • Challenge the thinking of others, even when they appear to be on firm ground.
  • Identify and challenge the assumptions or rationale that underpin decisions.
  • Get people to pinpoint the exact reasons for their views.
  • Challenge and provoke — look for radical change.
  • Play devil’s advocate and go for the opposite of current practice.
  • Avoid acceptance of the status quo.

I find “What if?” to be an especially powerful tool for getting a room of smart people to consider other points of view or new alternatives.   Along these same lines, I often ask people to think about “What if” we didn’t do X or didn’t do Y — what would be the impact?

It’s all too easy to get caught up in doing things without keeping in mind what we want to achieve or whether it’s actually effective.   By regularly exploring your thinking and the thinking of others, the more you’ll start to connect the dots between ideas, actions, and results (as well as link strategy with execution and impact.)

By asking the right questions, you can always create new opportunities, even in the midst of chaos.

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Image by Highways Agency.


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