The art of critical thinking

albertEntrepreneurs need to make decisions, create strategies, plan projects and constantly face risks in order to manage day-to-day business challenges. In a global business environment, alertness and the right pace is the key to success. Critical thinking is the most important skill needed by entrepreneurs that can help them move ahead consistently and diligently.

The fundamental aspect of critical thinking is a clear and rational thinking process involving critique. The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defines critical thinking as the “intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.”

When you think through a business problem, your thought process is naturally motivated by biases, such as your point of view and your assumptions about the situation. Such ideas and biases affect your reasoning. If you let your biases drive your thought process and overlook blind spots in your logical thinking, you’ll unintentionally make decisions filled with flaws.

So what is the right method?

Here is a step-by-step process that can help you get better in critical thinking:

1. Knowledge or insight: The first step is to ask the right questions that can help deep understanding about the problem. The questions in this stage should be open-ended to allow the chance to discuss and explore main reasons. At this stage, two main questions need to be addressed: What is the problem? And why do we need to solve it?

2. Understanding: At this step you understand the material read, heard or seen. In understanding, you make the new knowledge that you have acquired your own by relating it to what you already know. The better you are involved with the information, the better you will understand it. The best way to know if you have understood and comprehended something is by defining what you have read or heard into your own words.

3. Application: This is the step where you build a linkage between the information, your understanding and resources available. An example would be to use Mind maps to analyze the situation, build a relation between it and the core problem, and determine the best way to move forward and take action.

4. Analysis: This is the stage when you deep dive into the problem and divide it into smaller sections or workable actions, so that you have a clear understanding of how ideas are ordered, related, or connected to other ideas and steps.

5. Synthesis: At this stage you put it all together. A decision should be formed about how to solve the problem and the initial routes to follow to take this decision into action. Synthesis involves the ability to put together the parts you analyzed with other information to create a solution.

6. Get going and take action: The result of critical thinking should be transferred into clearly defined actionable steps. If the decision involves a specific project or team, a plan of action could be implemented to ensure that the solution is adopted and executed as planned.

Last but not the least; it is highly recommended that you consider implications of your options and decisions. Every choice and action has consequences, and you can improve your decision-making by anticipating what those might be. In order to do that, try to look at the problem from all different viewpoints and angles and repeat the above steps if needed.

Top five skills for 2020

Top five skills for 2020The world is changing and so are the people! With the advancement of technology and the birth of automation, people around the world are collaborating better and fixing problems faster.

Four years from now, over one-third of skills that are considered important in today’s workforce would have changed. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is coming and is changing things fast. By the year 2020, we will see rapid growth in the field of advanced robotics, autonomous transport, artificial intelligence, machine learning, advanced materials, biotechnology and genomics.

So what is it that we need to survive in this advanced workforce of the future?

Here are the top 5 skills of the future workforce:

1. Emotional Intelligence: Emotional intelligence or (EI) is the ability of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them correctly, and to use this information to guide thinking and behavior. A manager or a leader who is good at understanding his and his teams’ behaviors and emotions is in a better position to manage people more effectively.

2. Cognitive Flexibility: This is the mental ability to switch between thinking about two different concepts, and to think about multiple concepts simultaneously. A manager’s cognitive flexibility is the fundamental for effective decision-making and consequently an important determinant of the organizational ability to learn and adapt to change. A manager should always have an open mind to think, analyze different opinions, concepts and ideologies and bring it all together while making decisions.

3. Critical Thinking: As the phrase signifies is critically analyzing of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion. Smart companies around the world are dependent upon active critical thinkers in order to plan, develop and strategize their business objectives. Managers in a position of creating change within their organizations need to learn, exhibit and teach critical thinking skills to their workforce.

4. People Management: By far the most important skill needed to exist in the future workforce. A manager’s most important, and most difficult, job is to manage people and the way to go is to first accept the fact that people management is an inherently complex and difficult job, and not to fight it. Managers and leaders should have the knack to lead, motivate, inspire, and encourage their workforce. This also means that managers should be able to hire, fire, discipline or evaluate employees as and when needed.

5. Creativity: Last but not the least, in the modern competitive world of business, creativity is essential to success. Managers often kill creative and ground-breaking concepts because they refuse to consider challenging and apparently impossible ideas. Creativity and businesses have a simple correlation: higher creativity leads to greater innovation within the organization and thus, greater success over the long run. Stimulating creativity and exploring completely new and unknown territories lead to new result that can increase productivity of the organization. Encouraging the employees to think outside of the box and giving them time and resources to explore new areas for innovative ideas is the key to cost-effective business solutions.

The New Face Of Africa

AfricaAfrica as a continent has been witnessing a dawn of a technology revolution. The rapid change is soon going to affect the entire region as a whole – lives, jobs, economy, relationships, industries and even politics. According to the world leaders, the continent is seeing “a transformation unlike anything humankind has experienced before”.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution and how it is going to affect Africa, was the hot topic of discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Unlike the Third Industrial revolution, when information technology and electronics transformed lives in Africa, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is said to be something that would be a paradigm shift. People in Africa would see the barriers between man and machine dissolve. Africa has been undergoing a digital revolution for the last 15 years and is gradually achieving the standards of the most advanced nations; the Fourth Revolution would dramatically propel this digital growth in the entire continent.

The big question: What does this technology-driven revolution mean for Africa?

Typical and routine blue and white-collar jobs will start becoming automated, which would mean that creativity, IT, agile management and foundational skills will win over traditional know-how. Employers will rely less on traditional knowledge, prioritizing innovation and adaptability instead. High-skilled jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and IT will also increase.

What does the government need to do about it?

Collaborate and Innovate: As the governments in Africa continue to aim for rapid economic growth, create good governance systems, technology and business innovation in local economies and the creation of jobs, most governing bodies will continue to encounter many challenges in the delivery of services to citizens, to business, or in relation to intra-governmental operations. The ability of these governments to adapt and drive digital transformation across all segments of society will determine their competitiveness and credibility.

The key is to democratize information and break tradition.

This would mean changing the mindset of the average African citizen. Making them understand the importance of this change and helping them develop better skills. Moreover, as Africa works to shift from a labour-based economy to a knowledge economy, investments in 21st-century education and skills development is no longer an option but a necessity.

Also, governments across Africa need to replace traditional approaches to delivering citizen-centric services with innovative solutions powered by technologies. Things like cloud computing, big data and analytics need to be readily adapted to make governance more effective and meaningful. As the continent continues to invest in digital transformation, civil servants need to be trained on how to optimize these innovations and technology change.

Last but not the least, Africa is seeing a new generation of leadership, that believe in collaboration, openness, the circulation of knowledge, research and the power of information technology, and these leader are confidently pushing the continent further.

We should never forget: If Africa can embrace a world of disruption and change, it will endure. It will also deliver on its promise to be the next “growth engine” of the world and the optimism has seen them embrace technology, and use it as a force for good.

NAVY SEAL tips for entrepreneurs

navy-seal

NAVY SEALs or soldiers that have been in combat are a great source of inspiration for the modern day entrepreneur. They bring with them fundamental qualities and attributes that can make a successful business owner. Things like discipline, tenacity, resilience and elite performance are just a few things that one could learn from them.

Here are the top five NAVY SEAL tips:

Plan your mission and be agile: NAVY SEALs plan attentively and carefully. They prepare for various scenarios and pay attention to every detail. However they know the fact that you can never plan for the unknown. Their teams are quick, can handle surprises, are capable of making adjustments on the fly and are agile. Modern day entrepreneurs need to prepare diligently. But it’s the combination of preparation and agility that turns a good team into a successful company.

Embrace Chaos: NAVY SEALs are always dealing with uncertainty and crisis. They need to prepare themselves to be bold, swift and be gone. Results and outcomes matter. A business owner’s day-to-day life would start and end with issues: sales issues, legal issues, service issues, financing issues, product issues, recruiting issues, you name it. There are always thousands of tasks to do and only time for 100, and this would never change. So you need to make peace with the idea of being around constant chaos and the sooner you embrace it, the faster you grow. Break down your objectives into components, define them, plan them, execute on them, and train yourself to be calm under fire.

Never stop training: SEALs believe in 80% training and 20% execution. When they’re not on actual combat deployments, they are spending the vast majority of their time training for a number of different types of missions. In contrast, at start-ups business owner typically spend 100% of their time executing and zero percent of their time training. So it is important to build a culture of training at all levels. Entrepreneurs should never stop learning or taking up training lessons that will build better skills. They should make it a point to build the same atmosphere around their teams and/or company.

Leave no man behind: SEALs make it a point that they leave no one behind during the time of combat crisis. The essence is teamwork. Your teamwork spirit should just not end at holding meetings or assigning tasks. You should be passionate and to an extent highly possessive about your team. Also, showing loyalty to your team is one of the most powerful messages in business leadership. We all know that plans can fail. Objectives can fail. Products and/services can fail, but an entrepreneur’s loyalty towards his team should never fail.

Be focused and minimalistic: No great team or company is ever built without discipline, focus and good habits. Try to focus on what you need to do your job and try not to waste your resources and energy on things that are not necessary in life. Success, failure, turmoil and chaos are a part of the entire entrepreneurial journey. Try to live it and fight it with all that you got and eventually you would discover the important things that actually helped you through the good and the bad times.

Q&A with Emma Casburn

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAO4AAAAJDcyZDA1OTQ5LTBkMjUtNDg5Ny04NTg3LTc2MDc5OWE2ZGMzMQQ. What inspired you to start a career in travel and teaching?

A. I first became seriously interested in traveling during my degree in Modern European Languages. I had a compulsory year abroad and spent time in France, Brazil, Guatemala and Spain. I already had wanderlust after family holidays sailing to the Ionian and Caribbean as a teenager but this cemented it further. During my final year at University I attended a talk by a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) company and that opened my eyes to the possibility of spending significant amounts of time in a country in order to experience its culture and really get to know its people and yet earn a real wage at the same time. The way the companies operated usually made it very easy to just step into life in a foreign country – with accommodation found, bank accounts set up, etc.

Q. What does it take to be a travel consultant?

A. To be an independent travel consultant takes a lot of grit and determination. Travel is undoubtedly a competitive business and the number of destinations to gain knowledge on is infinite. Luckily, through my 8 years of teaching and traveling I’d gained first hand knowledge of many countries but you can never have visited every hotel in every resort on the planet. It is also of the utmost importance to enjoy helping customers, to be patient and understanding and to really listen to a client’s brief rather than pushing the easiest option for you on them. This and the personal touches I give to clients such as departure texts at the airport or welcome home gifts has helped me grow my business through referrals and repeat bookings.

Q. What were the initial challenges that you faced?

A. Initially the most trying aspect was gaining clients in such a saturated market. Without a large marketing budget behind me, competing with flashy ads etc wan’t an option so I decided that meeting people face to face was the best way to explain my message. Also trying to make them remember me was important. Obviously this takes time and you can only meet so many people, so it felt like a very slow and upward slog at the beginning.

Q. What are some of the most exciting things you have learned while travelling?

A. When traveling you learn so much – about all different kinds of cultures and people. Having experienced multiple cultures enables me to be so much more flexible, adaptable and understanding to all kinds of people. I also now have a decidedly educated palate from living with so many types of cuisine. Aside from this you learn all kinds of weird and wonderful skills – such as how to remove a cork from a bottle of wine with a chopstick, how to count up to 99 on two hands using Chinese finger counting, how to catch a land crab without getting nipped, to name but a few.

Q. Would you rather just travel or travel to teach? And why?

A. Whether simply traveling versus traveling to teach is better is a tough question. When you teach you have real exposure to locals and therefore really learn about their way of life rather than just being in a sheltered touristy version of a country. You are also earning money to support yourself and future travels. However when you’re just traveling you have the freedom to move around without commitments to work or lesson planning, marking, etc. Now being a travel consultant I have the best of both worlds – I work in helping others plan their dream trips and at the same time increasing my knowledge about locations all around the world. I also am lucky to be invited on educational trips in all kinds of destinations to gain first hand knowledge about locations and in turn be better able to advise my clients.

Q. Advice for people who want to get into the travel consulting business.

A. If you are looking to become an independent travel agent then you really need to do your homework. You should consider who your target market will be and how you will tap into that market. You also need to carefully research the different consortia available and the suppliers, commissions and other benefits/hindrances each one could bring. You also need to know if you’re the kind of person who can be self-employed – you need diligence and motivation by the bucket-load. Finally you need to analyse your product knowledge and should maybe consider working for a travel agency first to learn more about the industry before going it alone. Good luck, bones chances, sue rte, viel glück (a degree in languages is useful for all kinds of things, checking bed configurations with hotels being just one I never thought I’d use it for)!

Emma Casburn is the founder and managing Director at Infinite Travel

5 easy ways to get organized and work smart

work smartMost entrepreneurs and business owners have this misconception that the harder they works, the more successful they might be. Working hard and long hours is the thing of the past. Times have changed and also the way we do business. In order to achieve goals (long term and short term), one must work smart and always remember the importance of efficiency and time management.

Here are 5 easy ways to get organized and work smart:

Remove the clutter

The less you have around you, the better you think. Too many things around you always act as distractions and can hinder focused thinking. This could be hard but try to avoid the urge to browse the Internet, or keeping looking at your smartphone, make personal phone calls, run personal errands during the workday, or allow other distractions to get in the way of competing important work related tasks. The other important element is to keep work at work and personal stuff at home. That way you’re more likely to accomplish what needs to get done during your work hours, and this will make your personal time at home more relaxing and enjoyable.

Create a routine

This is the most fundamental aspect of smart working. It is highly recommended that we prepare a routine and try to stick to it. This is where time management and prioritization comes into place. Schedule errands, meetings, and appointments in such a way that that you aren’t venturing out of the office multiple times a day. Get more organized and incorporate your breaks into this period, and you can lay out exactly how much time you are going to spend on each project daily.

Create a to-do list

In addition to your daily or monthly routine, it is important to highlight the most important tasks that need to be finished. Make a note of the most important things that need to be done each month, and then assign the tasks needed to complete them to specific weeks and days on your to-do list. This is the most effective way to be sure that a huge project won’t get overlooked and that your time is being used as effectively as possible. In a project based environment, you could also highlight project milestones and important deliverable for the complete month and/or year.

Delegate and/or Outsource

You can never be good at everything and delegating and outsourcing is the key to smart working. Don’t let yourself be held back from tackling the important things by mundane work. Look in-house first–are there other people on your team who can take these jobs off of your hands? If not, there are many websites available, such as Fancy Hands or Odesk, that offer relatively cheap services for monotonous day-to-day tasks, and they are more than happy to take your work.

Keep your emails short and simple

Yes, it is always better to keep it short and to the point. There is no need to send a paragraph convey an important message when one sentence will do. Not only does it waste your and the recipient’s time, but people tend to respond more quickly to email messages that are direct and concise. Not to mention, always be polite and courteous.

Get more Creative

bulb-on-the-ceiling-1495500-1280x960In an era where things change by the second, it is necessary that we prepare our minds to ideate instantly and also productively. The time spent in bringing an idea to reality is getting shorter every day, and this means that one has to always be wearing their creative thinking caps, which will help them get more creative in their thought process. This will help them come up with better and more effective ways to plan and implement their ideas. Creativity is essential to the success of any person or company, large or small. But how do you get more creative? How do you keep innovation coming, and new ideas flowing, especially when you feel like your day-to-day tasks have gotten you into a rut?

Becoming creative is a gradual process, and you can get better at it with practice and patients. Here are a few tips to follow that can gradually make you more creative in your approach to your ideas:

Ask questions and suggestions from everyone

We are living in an age of concepts and ideas so it is always important to keep an open mind to people and their thoughts. No matter how big or small a company might be, every individual in your company is adding some form of value and therefore has a mind of their own. Every individual thinks differently. People with different backgrounds, personalities, and interests bring different contributions when discussing new ideas. Also, the more questions we ask, the greater the chances of coming up with something new or connecting two things that hadn’t been connected before. It is important to inculcate a culture of creative thinking, because if each and every mind in your organization is thinking, then there is a better chance for you to get that unique idea or solution that you were looking for.

Get uncomfortable

Yes, that is correct! We are so caught up and relaxed with our daily routines that our mind has stopped thinking and being inquisitive. When you feel uncomfortable or are in an uncomfortable situation, your mind and body has to react differently than it normally does. Your mind goes into a rapid thinking mode and starts searching for answers or solutions. This can bring new ideas not only to your inception or business, but to your life as well. Such uncomfortable stations helps your brain dig into new topic and become more inquisitive and this can eventually help you to take a dive in a new direction to find new ideas. An example of an uncomfortable situation is to try to learn a skill that you hate i.e. something that you think you could never learn or master.

Stop multitasking

Multitasking reduces efficiency and the quality of work, also recent research shows it actually lowers your IQ. So when you have to get something done, just focus on the task at hand for best results. Also, one needs to keep in mind that a human brain can only focus and concentrate for 90-120 minutes at a time, before it needs a break. So you might be doing a lot of things at the same time, and without breaks, but not quiet effectively. Focusing on one task or job in hand can help you improve your concentration and focus, and eventually take less time to complete. Also, coming back to a job after a quick break can help you fresh up your mind to look at things with a different perspective, and hence give your better ideas and solutions.