In the dynamic realm of business, much like the vast landscapes of the wilderness, critical thinking and decision-making are indispensable navigational tools. 

In today's fast-paced corporate wilderness, where the landscape is changing fast due to the acceleration of Artificial Intelligence, 'applied judgement, critical thinking, and leadership’ (according to PwC’s Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023) will be in greater demand than ever before to solve business problems and deliver better outcomes. 

This statistical insight resonates deeply with my experiences guiding clients through the unpredictable terrains of the Arctic tundra and the dynamic landscapes of the business world alike.

Drawing parallels between my experiences in the wilderness and my earlier role as an infantry officer on operations at the tender age of 20, I've come to appreciate the profound impact of critical thinking and decision-making on a personal and professional basis.

The Expedition of Decision-Making:

Just as in the mountains, decisions made in the corporate world require careful consideration. Hastily made choices can have far-reaching consequences for the entire team and organisation.

Critical thinking emerges as a beacon, illuminating the path through uncertainty. It involves:

  1. Objective analysis 
  2. Thoughtful evaluation of options
  3. Informed decision-making 

These principles, honed through years of leading and high-performance coaching, are equally applicable in the corporate setting, where critical thinking forms the bedrock of effective decision-making.

The only difference is that in the wilderness or the military, the decision-making can be a life-or-death decision; in sport, it can be the difference between winning and losing. This binary environment very quickly hones your skills to evaluate situations quickly and accurately. Luckily, I have used these skills to help teams win games and in real life to save a few lives. Applying the principles in the corporate setting is equally relevant, although luckily, not a matter of life or death. Or at least, I hope not.

Learning from the Trail: Training for Critical Thinking

Leading individuals through challenging environments has underscored the importance of preparation. Just as we equip ourselves with the right gear and knowledge before ascending a peak or walking an unknown path, businesses can prepare their teams to tackle challenges by honing critical thinking and decision-making processes. 

For instance, I have helped a range of sports, military and business teams improve their decision-making without very little knowledge of the subject matter by 30-70% in less than 5 hours using simulation exercises.

How to Prepare?

1. Expedition Preparation: Much like preparing for emergency scenarios on the trail, businesses can conduct simulations to expose and train their teams to real-life situations. Hands-on experiences in controlled environments aid in developing the ability to think on one's feet and make effective decisions promptly.

2. Diverse Perspectives: We all benefit from embracing diversity within our teams. Encouraging different perspectives enhances critical thinking by fostering a range of viewpoints, a potent force for innovative problem-solving and decision-making. It can also prevent sabotage by ‘Groupthink’. I often see the male ego and competitiveness interfering in finding the correct solution.

3. Continuous Learning: In the ever-changing wilderness, learning is a constant. Every time I step outside to train, coach or guide, the situation and conditions differ. I learn something new, as the environment is unpredictable. I have coached several World Record-breaking crews across the Atlantic Ocean and know that the sea can throw many surprises at the crews. They must learn quickly. Similarly, businesses must instil a culture of continuous learning. Opportunities for training and development keep teams abreast of industry trends, ensuring they are well-equipped to analyse situations critically and make informed decisions.

Future ‘Premium’ Skills according to employees (PwC Survey 2023)

The skills highlighted in the PwC Survey 2023—Adaptability and Flexibility, Critical Thinking, Collaborative Skills, and Leadership Skills—are deemed 'premium' due to their strategic importance in the evolving landscape of the workforce. Here's how they connect to critical thinking:

  1. Adaptability and Flexibility: The pace of change in technology and business requires individuals who can adapt to new situations, embrace innovation, and quickly adjust strategies. Critical thinking is essential in this context as it allows individuals to analyse changing circumstances, identify opportunities, and make informed decisions in dynamic environments.
  2. Critical Thinking: Deemed crucial in the survey, critical thinking involves objective analysis, thoughtful evaluation, and informed decision-making. As the business landscape becomes more complex, individuals with strong critical thinking skills can navigate uncertainties, assess risks, and contribute to effective problem-solving.
  3. Collaborative Skills: In today's interconnected world, collaborative skills are essential for fostering innovation and achieving collective goals. Critical thinking plays a role here by encouraging diverse perspectives, facilitating creative problem-solving, and ensuring that decisions are well-informed and thoroughly evaluated.
  4. Leadership Skills: Effective leadership involves guiding teams through challenges, making strategic decisions, and inspiring others. Critical thinking is at the core of leadership, enabling individuals to assess situations objectively, mitigate risks, and lead with a strategic mindset.

In essence, these 'premium' skills form a comprehensive set of abilities that empower individuals to thrive in the face of ambiguity and drive success in the modern business landscape.

Summiting Success: Optimising Critical Thinking in Business

Reaching the summit isn't just about physical prowess in the mountains; it requires mental resilience and strategic thinking. Likewise, success in business demands a balance of skills, with critical thinking at its core. 

As we ascend further into the intricacies of navigating the corporate terrain, let's explore the key strategies for optimising critical thinking in the ever-evolving business landscape.

1. Risk Navigation: Just as navigating treacherous terrains requires risk management in the mountains, the business landscape demands a keen understanding and mitigation of risks. Critical thinking enables leaders to assess risks objectively, making choices that align with the organisation's goals.

2. Adaptability: Adaptability is key in the wilderness and business. Critical thinkers thrive in dynamic environments, adjusting strategies and decisions as needed to navigate evolving landscapes.

3. Team Collaboration: Solo treks present their own unique challenges, but successful expeditions often hinge on teamwork. That was true for two such teams that I helped and coached: Olly Hicks and George Bullard, who kayaked 1,200 miles from Greenland to Scotland (a world first) and had to overcome some challenging conditions, and the Spear17 team, who man-hauled their sledges 1,100 miles on a full coast-to-coast traverse of Antarctica. In business, fostering a collaborative culture is essential. Critical thinkers recognise the value of collective intelligence, leveraging team strengths for well-informed decisions.

A Call to Trailblaze: Elevating Business Navigation

As a leader and coach, I've witnessed the transformative power of critical thinking and decision-making in both the wilderness and corporate landscapes. The wilderness imparts invaluable lessons that directly translate to the business world, urging leaders to prioritise and optimise these skills.

Key Points:

  1. Embrace the Challenge: Recognise the significance of cultivating critical thinking in your teams.
  2. Equip Your Team: Through targeted training, business simulations, and a commitment to continuous learning, prepare your employees to traverse the complex corporate landscape confidently.
  3. Collective Journey: Optimising critical thinking in business is a collective journey. By embracing these principles, we can elevate our navigational prowess, overcome challenges, and lead our teams to new summits of success in the ever-changing corporate wilderness.

Ready to Trailblaze? Equip your team with the skills they need to navigate the corporate landscape confidently. Invest in training, encourage diverse perspectives, and foster a culture of continuous learning. Let us at Peak Dynamics help you trailblaze a path to success. We have been running exciting Future Leader programmes for over 20 years.