“True discernment means not only distinguishing the right from the wrong; it means distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient. And, yes, it means distinguishing between the good and the better, and even between the better and the best.” – Sinclair B. Ferguson

In both your personal and professional development, you can benefit from the insight of others; indeed selecting who to be influenced by is one of the most important tasks you face.

But if you’re wise – and as a reader of this blog, I expect you are – you’re likely to assess everything you read, see or hear, critically. 

Critical thinking is the disciplined process of conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information, wherever it comes from, (a blog, the main stream media, a colleague, etc.)

Read More: How to Best Deal with Criticism

onducting secondary research

Helping business leaders with evidence-based decision making, both the obtaining and the evaluating of evidence is part of what I do as a management consultant. 

In a nutshell, I perform secondary “desk” research – identifying, locating, sourcing and making sense of competitor, demographic, economic, market, regulatory, political and social information for business planning, and feasibility studies.

Drawing from my own experience, here are a dozen key questions to ask to help you think more critically and practice discernment. Keep in mind that they’re indicative (not exhaustive):

1.   Who says so…? And what benefit might they get FROM saying so?
2.   Who is this potentially harmful to?
3.   Who else have you heard say this – and what’s their credibility?
4.   What are the strengths and weaknesses of the argument?
5.   What would an alternative perspective look like?
6.   Where did the original information (really) come from?
7.   Where can more information come from?
8.   Where does the argument lead (implications)?
9.   When was the information obtained (is it out of date)?
10. Why is this important?
11. Why are people influenced by this? (And which people?)
12. How can this be used effectively?

By all means, print off this post and use it but don’t think it’s comprehensive… or that I don’t have a vested interest in providing it. Remember that everyone has a vested interest… 

This post was contributed by Adrian Rhodes. He’s a UK based management consultant with an MSC in Management Psychology. Learn more about Adrian and what he does here.