How clear writing helps your critical thinking skills

Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

If we have an in-house writer, why does it even matter if I can write well?

There’s an old saying, Sloppy language is a sign of a sloppy mind. The saying has been attributed to a whole variety of people, but the underlying tenet is universal: writing helps you sort through your thoughts and ideas in a coherent way.

Writing and critical thinking are intricately connected. Good writing is good thinking. Clear writing brings clear thoughts.

The process of writing is central to the development of ideas, whether you’re a designer, marketer, programmer, project manager, or hold any other role.

When you write out your goals, business plans, project development plans, technical documentation, or define a user problem before sketching out the design, you’re challenging yourself to think through all parts of the project, goal, or problem.

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly, to observe, experience, and reflect—and to understand and form a logical connection between ideas.

In business, the ability to write clearly and persuasively can sometimes make or break a project. If you can present a clear and logical thread, your hypothesis or argument becomes stronger, which can often lead to more support from critical stakeholders.

Here are a couple of ways you can practice your critical thinking through writing.

If you’re trying to solve a design problem

Instead of starting into your sketches with a visual concept to solve the problem, start by defining the problem as clearly as possible, using words.

Write out the problem, then define the steps that you’d take to solve it with design. Name the components, name the actions.

Define your hypothesis or your expected outcome. Write out your ideal state and list at least a few edge cases.

Read through your design concept and ask yourself if it’s logical, reasonable, and realistic. Notice where questions come up and try to answer them with words before answering them with sketches or mocks.

If you’re trying to solve a team communication problem

Everyone communicates differently. Even when you’re talking or messaging with someone whose style and patterns are similar to yours, there will be subtle differences and nuances to your approaches that are yours alone.

Problems can arise when people lean too heavily into the similarities and forget the unique aspects. There’s a risk of making assumptions or jumping to conclusions because we think we know exactly what the other person means, is thinking, or intended when they said X, Y, or Z.

When a bunch of people are working on a project and have a shared goal, it becomes extra-important to make sure no one is making assumptions, and everyone is clear on the problem, solution, and steps to get there.

Writing out your project goals is one way to start making sure you are clear about the project needs and how you’ll approach them.

Writing out the project goals is important even if you’re not the one running the project. Those contributing to the project need to be clear on what the final solution should be, what success will look like, and what’s expected of them.

It’s helpful to read through the project doc, of course (if there is one), but if you can clearly restate the goals in your own words, you’ll be on your way to determining which questions still need to be answered and what tasks remain so everyone on the project has full clarity about how to move forward.

Make it an org-wide goal

Effective writing in any organization should be a companywide endeavor. A successful business needs to foster an atmosphere where everyone seeks to improve their communication skills through writing.

It can take a long time to implement change, so start with yourself and lead by example. You’ll improve your own critical thinking process, and that will go a long way in your career.

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