The Critical Thinking Toolkit: Spark Your Team's Creativity with 35 Problem Solving Activities

The Critical Thinking Toolkit: Spark Your Team's Creativity with 35 Problem Solving Activities

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by Marlene Caroselli

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Now everyone can learn to think creatively, analytically, and quickly with brain-boosting activities for the workplace.

Efficient and punctual employees are great at keeping the day-to-day processes humming along. But with tight budgets, lean staffs, and fierce competition, “day-to-day” is losing relevancy fast. What

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Now everyone can learn to think creatively, analytically, and quickly with brain-boosting activities for the workplace.

Efficient and punctual employees are great at keeping the day-to-day processes humming along. But with tight budgets, lean staffs, and fierce competition, “day-to-day” is losing relevancy fast. What organizations need now are people who can quickly assess challenging situations and creatively problem-solve to find solutions. They need nimble thinkers who can both connect the dots and see the dots that aren’t there.

The ability to think quickly, innovatively, and logically—in other words, to think critically—is a prized commodity in the workplace today. Whether it’s improving a business process, forming new alliances, devising a marketing campaign, articulating a vision, analyzing data from an unexpected angle, or any other business function, critical thinkers bring clarity and originality to the task and are invaluable players on every team.

Thankfully, critical thinking is neither a fixed nor innate skill. Everyone is capable of building their critical thinking skills, and everyone will benefit from the 35 brain-boosting activities in The Critical Thinking Tool Kit. Fun and original, these activities help trainers and managers draw people out of their boxes, freeing them from all their routine tasks and preset ideas.

Team members work on building their critical thinking skills in a variety of ways: crystallizing excess information, answering questions articulately, estimating numbers accurately, assessing situations from multiple perspectives, making associations more freely, scrutinizing issues and analyzing tasks with greater precision, and much more. And they’ll learn to do it in real-life speed—quickly!

Designed to be exceptionally easy to use, the exercises come with reproducible worksheets and step-by-step instructions, including tips on how to get the maximum benefit from each activity by linking it to the participants’ work. Two full-length self-assessments help users measure their current level of creative and analytical thinking skills.

The Critical Thinking Tool Kit offers an invigorating departure from the everyday—with the potential for big payoffs in the form of enhanced “on-your-feet” thinking, innovative problem-solving, and profitable idea generation from everyone on the team. In addition, the worksheets, transparencies, and handouts are available online, free for purchasers of the book to download.

Marlene Caroselli is the author of Leadership Skills for Managers, 500 Creative Classroom Techniques for Teachers and Trainers, and dozens of other books. She has trained employees and executives at many organizations, including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, the Department of Defense, and AlliedSignal.

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Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.40(w) x 10.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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The three most important aspects of critical thinking—quick thinking, creative thinking, and analytical thinking—are covered by a series of skill-building exercises.

Quick Thinking. What enables one person to respond to an unexpected prompt fluidly and flawlessly, while another person stumbles and mumbles and fumbles for words? Often the distinguishing factor is that one person does not practice thinking on one’s feet, while another person does. The practice exercises in this section are useful, but they are also entertaining. They will develop critical thinking skills—especially important in those situations that force us to keep our wits about us.

Creative Thinking. Unfortunately, many perfectly able problem-solvers damn themselves by declaring that they are not creative and should not be expected to come up with creative solutions. The truth is that we all have creative potential. We may have allowed the potential to be submerged, but it lies within us, nonetheless. The exercises in this section show participants how to strip away layers of self-doubt, self-criticism, and self-cynicism in order to rediscover their creative cores.

Analytical Thinking. Despite the plethora of problems confronting us on a daily basis, few of us have had formal training in problem-solving. The exercises in this section employ tools for solving problems logically (based on the scientific approach of defining the problem, generating a list of possible solutions, selecting a solution, and then implementing, evaluating, and making adjustments as needed). The Five-Why tool will force us as problem-solvers to uncover the root cause of the problem, which will lead to a solution that permits expedient and results-oriented action.


Each activity begins with an Overview or brief explanation of what the activity entails and its significance for critical thinkers.

This is followed by the Objective, which is written as an answer to the question, “What does this activity do?” Objectives are typically written from the facilitator’s or the participant’s perspective, but we have chosen to write these as clear statements of purpose.

The Supplies listed in the third entry are standard supplies for adult learning situations, inexpensive and readily available in most training rooms.

The Time listed is an approximation; it may vary according to the number of participants and their levels of expertise. Allow additional time for optional extended activities (designed to reinforce key points), or when using the debriefing questions that appear at the end of each activity. The activities can be expanded to considerably longer periods when these two optional elements are built in.

Complicated or excessive Advance Preparations sometimes discourage a facilitator from using specific activities. For this reason, activities have deliberately been kept simple and user-friendly.

The Participants/Applications section provides information on the ideal number of participants and the most appropriate times and places for the activity within the instructional sequence.

The actual lessons begin with an Introduction to Concept. These mini-lectures contain background information that permits easy transitions to the concepts being presented. They contain the text the facilitator can use or paraphrase to introduce the lesson. Examples are provided throughout the Introductions when illustrations are required.

The Procedure is a sequential listing of the steps to be followed as the activity is conducted. As simply as possible, the facilitator is given information essential to each exercise in order to maximize the effectiveness of the instructions.

Included in the Procedure are suggestions for Extending the Activity. These will help reinforce the concept being presented or the skill being reinforced, and can be used immediately following the activity or at a later time as a review or refresher exercise.

Workplace Connections are suggestions for extending the learning beyond the classroom. They encourage the facilitator and the participant to apply the lessons learned to other situations and expand upon the basic concepts presented.

Questions for Further Consideration have been included at the end of each activity in order to strengthen the application between training and the actual work that attendees do when they return to their offices or workplaces. The questions can be asked by the facilitator before the session begins (the list could be sent to attendees several days prior to the start of the course), during the session, or at the end of the session as a means of debriefing and achieving closure. Ideally attendees will continue to ask and answer these questions long after the training program itself has concluded. Three distinct groups of people within any organization will benefit from this book:

Trainers will enrich their presentations by including fast-paced, interactive exercises that stimulate both thought and group cohesiveness, regardless of the topic of the meeting or lecture.

Learners will benefit from exposure to a wide array of strategies for framing problems and formulating solutions.

Organizations will profit because improved thinking on the part of employees always leads to improved contributions. Intellectual capital that is not capitalized on represents the losses to which Dr. W. Edwards Deming refers: “The greatest losses are unknown and unknowable.”


Excerpted from THE CRITICAL THINKING TOOL KIT by Marlene Caroselli. Copyright © 2001 by HRD Press. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission.

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