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Think Smarter: Critical Thinking to Improve Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Skills by Michael Kallet

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4 Empty Your Bucket

The Bucket

The first tool I introduce for critical thinking and clarity helps you get your head in the right place. We all have a bucket that contains the memories of our experiences: past projects, interactions with other people, or attempts at solving a problem. When you encounter a situation that is similar to one you remember, many of the memories you first invoke tend to be negative. Specifically, they focus on why this prior task was unsuccessful or the constraints and barriers you faced. Figure 4.1 shows what a typical bucket looks like.

The problem is there is no room in a filled bucket for critical thinking and creativity. You can't think critically or be innovative from the perspective of the memories in your bucket—because it's filled with prior experiences that significantly affect the way you reach conclusions. If you're thinking from the perspective of the things in your bucket, then your conclusions are going to be heavily biased based on those items. As a result, your breadth of conclusions will be narrow. If, however, you understand and can learn to ignore what's in your bucket, then you're much more likely to be able to create new conclusions.

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Figure 4.1 A Filled Bucket

For example, let's say senior management issues a directive about a project that they've labeled as a top priority. Perhaps you have had experience with this statement, and ...

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