Two of the most essential skills in the leaders toolbox are critical thinking and problem solving. These two mindsets go hand-in-hand; when you possess both, it is likely that your solutions will be better formed to the situation than if you only mastered one or the other. Both leaders and their subordinates need to be able to think through goals and raise the necessary questions for the successful completion of the mission; this includes mitigating any problems that may arise.
This lesson was most beneficial to me as a leader because without critical thinking and problem solving, minor problems that could’ve been solved through thinking thoroughly about the goal at hand could escalate and cause the mission to fall apart. Lack of critical thinking and problem solving skills may cause a Soldier to choose the most obvious solution rather than the correct solution. To use both of these mindsets efficiently, you must observe the situation in depth and view the whole picture as well as the end goal.
The implementation of critical thinking and problem solving within my unit would not be too hard to achieve. I would give a brief on what I learned to my Soldiers to inform them on the processes. I would go over the elements of critical thinking as well as the seven steps of the Military Problem Solving Process. Scenarios supplied after the brief would test their critical thinking and problem solving skills. After the completion of technical training, I would ask questions of my troops when new tasks would come up in order to get them thinking in the right direction of putting their new found skills into action. This type of implementation, effective as it may be, takes a good chunk of time which is something that we don’t have much of at my unit.
The largest barrier against implementing critical thinking and problem solving that would occur in my unit is time constraints. As an aviation battalion, we rarely have any down time during the work day; there is always some task that needs completing and normally within a specific time frame, leaving little room for critical thinking in people who are just learning the tactic. This, unfortunately, makes a good number of soldiers within my unit “yes men”. They follow the instructions given to them and don’t think about the situation themselves. This is a relatively difficult obstacle to overcome, but there are ways that you can accomplish it. The brief could be spread over a few days, reducing the time constraints on each day so that tasks can still be completed in a timely manner. I would check up on the Soldier’s critical thinking and problem solving practice by randomly going to their work stations and asking them to analyze a short scenario. It would provide a needed break from the regular everyday activities and teach them a valuable skill.
Critical thinking and problem solving are two of the most valuable skills that a Soldier could learn. They allow us to examine the issue at hand and provide solutions that are the best fit possible. Implementation of these principles in my unit should be necessary, and although time constraints may impact their introduction to the Soldiers, learning them is highly beneficial for the success of the mission.