Oklahoma Federal Executive Board Promotes Critical Thinking Skills
Vol.8 Issue 7

On September 28, 2022, federal employees gathered at Rose State College in Midwest City, Oklahoma to learn more about critical thinking and how crucial it is in the workplace for business success.

Chris Zervas, a renowned leadership expert and keynote speaker and author, presented engaging tips and tricks to 28 employees, encouraging their involvement. Early into the presentation, Zervas compared critical thinking to Ordinary Walking vs. running a 100-Yard Dash. He explained that everyday thinking (like ordinary walking) is a natural performance that most everyone picks up. But critical thinking (like running the 100-yard dash) is a technical performance. Sprinters have to be taught how to run the 100-yard dash; critical thinking is the result of good teaching, which includes much practice.

Employees working together at the Federal Executive Board Training Session on September 28, 2022

Zervas explained the concept of "Thinking Framework", and the pathway from input to output. People who are not trained on how to conduct dialogue or evaluate situations through critical thinking typically employ "thin" thinking, which ends in quick, surface-level responses.

One of Zervas’ most important tips is to listen well. The group discussed the two-communication premises, (know your audience, and message sent equals message received). This tip of listening well was broken down and put to practice during the training session. Employees broke into groups of three, (speaker, listener and filmer) where they practiced listening skills by summarizing bite-sized phrases, ensuring that the speaker felt understood, suspending evaluation, judgement, solutions, and expressing empathy. The person who filmed the interaction did so for the listener, so they could watch themselves listening to the speaker. Each member of the three-person teams rotated through each position in the exercise, and critiqued each other’s act of listening.

During the training session, Zervas repeatedly referred to the "pyramid of critical thinking." This is a way of thinking that begins with stimulus, or something that initiates the action of thinking. Following that, one decides to take time for considering the best, rational decision. The output then becomes the response to whatever the initial stimulus may have been.

Oklahoma Federal Executive Board

The next hands-on activity stemmed from Bloom’s Taxonomy, which is a set of three hierarchical models used for classification of educational learning objectives into levels of complexity and specificity. The three lists cover the learning objectives in cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains. Participants played a game in their groups, where they had to determine how to pass a tennis ball through everyone in the group in under a second. After accomplishing this, the groups discussed how they went through each stage of the pyramid.

Zervas went over higher-level questioning, question formula techniques, "quiet quitters," appreciative inquiry, and how to use these techniques. He showed different ways of formulating questions that allow critical thinking, concepts, goals, and how to "set the stage." This taught employees how to use more powerful words, how to analyze sentences with intonation and power, the power of eye contact, and the importance of connection before content.

The Federal Executive Board came out of this training with a much greater understanding of critical thinking, attentive listening, and so much more. These are the building blocks of the leaders in our workforce.

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