Generative Critical Thinking

What do we mean by Generative Critical Thinking?

In simple terms, Generative Critical Thinking is a set of thinking skills that opens the way to:
•    wiser decision making
•    improving relationships
•    evolving oneself
•    better living.

You could ask: doesn't "standard" critical thinking do that? It could and can, if and only if it is applied self-reflectively. However, as you'll see in our discussion below, we claim that that is not a common application of critical thinking.

Generative Critical Thinking uses the knowledge and skills of standard critical thinking, but goes beyond that and embeds them in a heuristic that evokes self-reflective stages. It develops our metacognitive skills and, through that, the ability to make our thinking truly generative. In that, it then delivers the promise listed above.

Enrolment links will appear here as soon as the program is ready for release.

To find out more, please keep reading.

How did Generative Critical Thinking come about?

Generative Critical Thinking is the result of discussions between Peter Thompson (Apt Ventures) and Marvin Oka (Behavioural Modelling Research).

Our interest was aroused by the amount of discussion about critical thinking. It is said to be important in nearly all levels of education; but especially in higher education. A glance at the student attributes, course and subject learning outcomes in any degree will reveal myriad references to "critical thinking". Yet we find, as we expect you do, that despite all this focus many graduates do not appear as shining examples of critical thinkers.

Management and leadership literature, too, stresses the need for critical thinking as an aid to making wise and effective decisions. And here, as well, we find untold examples of poor decisions and thinking that can be described as poor and even, in some circumstances, dangerous.

We reflected on something that Peter used to tell his Higher Education students when teaching critical thinking. It went something like this: If you really learn, appreciate and use critical thinking not only in your work but in your life outside work, you will have a quality of life that most people only dream of having.

A bold claim … and we stand by it.

An appreciation and application of critical thinking to oneself – to one’s own thinking – can be truly generative. By that we mean, we can change limiting beliefs; we can truly learn from others who have different views from ours; we can evolve our way of perceiving the world and our stories about how life works. Then, and only then, critical thinking becomes generative.

Standard Critical Thinking

When taught well, critical thinking will equip a person with a good understanding of and skill with areas such as: deductive logic; inductive logic; and common fallacies. In more in depth programs it may include set theory and an understanding of the importance of categories.

One of the phenomena that can occur, however, is that someone might become skilled at picking faults in arguments – others' arguments – and responding with quick retorts. The responses might attack the structure of the argument and show the person's knowledge of a vast array of fallacy types. At times, of course, this may well be justified and one hopes that the response is delivered in an appropriate manner – but we know this is not always the case. Sometimes the response is a snappy putdown that simply carries the message *I'm right and you're wrong*.

What we observed often is the predominant outward focus of the application of critical thinking but a pronounced lack of inward focus. With a good knowledge of logic and fallacies, it can be easy to attack someone else's arguments and opinions without looking to the presuppositions and beliefs that shape one's own thinking – especially the way we think about other people's thinking.

As an aside, we've also observed people calling the ability to make quick jokes and satirical quips about situations "critical thinking". We agree that such ability may well be related to an innate ability for some degree of critical thinking but that alone does not qualify as critical thinking.

What is missing from the application of much critical thinking knowledge and skills, it seems, is the willingness to examine one’s own thinking. And by this we mean the willingness to deeply examine one’s own thinking.

As mentioned above, in our view, the application of critical thinking should be generative. It should lead to a much deeper understanding of oneself and the development of skills to examine one’s own foundational beliefs of how life is and can. Beyond that it should provide the skills to change those ideas, beliefs, notions, and stories that no longer serve to enrich life. When that happens, critical thinking becomes generative.

Generative Critical Thinking Programs

Our pilot program ran online early in 2022, with participants joining us in real time via Zoom. From that we have produced edited videos and some ebooks.

Initial Full Public Launch

Our first fully available public program offers:

•    the edited videos of the full three live sessions
•    eBooks
•    the full participant guide.

The videos, in conjunction with the participant guide take you through learning the six stages of the Generative Critical Thinking heuristic. Exercises are included to help you develop your skills.

Enrolment details will appear here as soon as the program is ready for release.