One thing, which is constant in health care, is that it is continuously evolving. The challenges health care leaders are facing are not simple. They are often multifaceted, which require strategic, creative, and inclusive solutions. There are competing priorities and goals. Critical thinking has become an essential skill for all healthcare leaders.
Here are five simple tips to help you practice your critical thinking skills.
1. Ponder on the challenge. Spend as much or more time on the problem as you would on the solution. Put on your divergent thinking hat and consider these questions. What exactly are we trying to solve? Is it the issue in itself or symptoms of a much deeper, bigger problem? Why does it matter? Why now? Who are the players involved? What would happen if we did not solve it? If we are saying yes to this, what are we saying no to? And what else?
2. Use what you already know. Look into what has been done on this issue already. What infrastructure do you already have? Have you or someone else in the industry faced a similar issue before? What can you learn from those experiences? Pay attention to what has worked and what did not and why. Don’t forget to question common assumptions on causation vs. association.
3. Do process mapping. Once you have done the research, start with multiple possible solutions, and consider the pros and cons of each. As you settle on the desired solution, simply walk through the process step by step. The easiest way of doing this is by using sticky or post-it notes to arrange and rearrange the workflow. “Creativity is just connecting things,” I think the magic lies in how well you connect things.
4. Pre-mortem your plan. Here you imagine that your solution has failed and then work backward to determine what potentially could lead to failure. Consider these questions: What will happen if we do this? What are my risk areas? What could possibly go wrong? How are people going to feel and react? What data do I have to defend my theory? What data and people do I have to see potential obstacles and blind spots? How would I respond if I fail?
5. Get perspective. It is crucial to get out of the personal bubble and put the collective intelligence to work. Be curious, focus on deep listening, listen to understand what others are saying and why. Don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know. Seek input from others, especially in the areas you generally struggle with. Strengthen your direct connection to frontline staff. They would bring the most valuable information for the implementation on the ground. Ask yourself, “Am I maintaining two-way communication throughout the process?”
It is better to solve a problem in five different ways than to solve five problems one way.
Priti Golechha is a pediatrician.
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