Most research methods require experienced or trained researchers to define the design specifications for a project. The researcher employs different methods to collect data, analyze it and arrive at the solution that addresses user needs and expectations. One of the most important competencies that a researcher must have in order to arrive at an optimum solution is the ability to critically think and analyze.
Critical Thinking is a method of analyzing ideas, concepts or data collected to evaluate the situation from different perspectives and arrive at an unbiased optimum solution. A critical thinker can anticipate the consequences of certain actions in advance. A researcher with the competency to critical think can reflect, think independently, stay objective, problem solve to deduce a solution. Therefore, Critical Thinking requires self-actuated discipline and correction to get one step closer to the solution iteratively.
It is also important to discuss the difference between Design Thinking and Critical Thinking. Design Thinking is a process that involves stages of observation/interaction, empathy, problem formulation, solution deduction, testing, alteration, and reiteration. Here, Critical Thinking is a part of every stage of the Design Thinking process. Essentially, effective Design Thinking cannot take place in the absence of critical or creative thinking. There is also a common misconception that critical and creative thinking are distinct from each other. However, Critical Thinking requires some form as well as some level of creativity. Critical and creative thinking go hand-in-hand and cannot be separated or distinguished using any formal criteria.
Critical Thinking can also help identify gaps in reasoning and assumptions. Although design researchers are expected to have this competency independently, Critical Thinking promotes group ideation and task execution as well. Though, it shouldn’t be seen as an opportunity to criticize someone else’s ideas or work. In that sense, the objective of Critical Thinking is to strengthen a theory, process, product or service and not to find unnecessary faults to ensure that the ideas or processes collapse. A mature critical thinker can define project goals, define timelines, set expectations, manage expectations, handle conflicts and collaboratively work with a team to accomplish the project goals. It is more and more evident that Critical Thinking, even though not given its due importance in organizations, is a critical competency that cannot be undermined.
Advantages of Critical Thinking
01 Design Thinking
Critical Thinking is an important component that comes into play at every stage of the design thinking process.
02 Creative Problem Solving
Critical Thinking is not just rational and based on a set of logical rules. There is plenty of room for solid creativity to play a significant role in the Critical Thinking process.
Critical Thinking promotes independent and reflective thinking in the researcher to question and evaluate the solutions they have devised and reiterate for an optimum solution.
Effective use of this method ensures objectivity and therefore doesn’t leave much scope for biases.
Critical Thinking is a competency and method that is applicable to all projects irrespective of the type of solution expected.
Disadvantages of Critical Thinking
01 Researcher can introduce unnecessary complexity
Too much thinking can also be detrimental to a project. Some researchers can complicate an otherwise simple project by overthinking critical and pose questions when not required.
02 Expensive researcher
A mature Design Thinking researcher can be very expensive for a low budget small project. However, Critical Thinking is not a competency that is extremely difficult to master.
Think Design recommendation
It is difficult to separate reasoning from thinking and hence, this is the best context to introduce the three reasoning types: Deductive, Inductive and Abductive.
Deductive reasoning starts with the assertion of a general rule and ends up in a guaranteed specific conclusion. Inductive reasoning begins with observations that are specific and ends up with a conclusion that is likely but not certain. Abductive reasoning starts with an incomplete set of observations and ends up with a most likely explanation. It is believed that design, in general, is an activity that can complement abductive reasoning; that it is not very essential in the process of design to come up with deductive or inductive reasoning. However, we wouldn’t want to generalize this at this moment but would suggest that proceeding with abductive reasoning saves a lot of time and effort if that is the objective.
Critical Thinking, when coupled with the types of reasoning above, can generate magical results. It is therefore advised to employ Critical Thinking in situations where we need adductive reasoning… There are chances we over-complicate things if we indulge in critical thinking when we have clear conclusions or clear observations (Deductive and Inductive).