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Helping Teams Think Critically Together

Updated: Jan 15

In the ever-evolving landscape of collaborative work, equipping teams with the tools to think critically and solve complex problems is paramount. The Intellectual Standards, pioneered by Richard Paul and Linda Elder, provide an invaluable framework for enhancing critical thinking and facilitating effective team problem-solving. These standards encompass clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, fairness, and significance, offering a comprehensive guide for constructing insightful questions that drive productive conversations. By applying these standards, team leaders and facilitators ensure that questions are clear, fact-based, precise, and relevant to the issue at hand. They encourage in-depth exploration, consider diverse perspectives, and promote logical, unbiased thinking. Moreover, these questions focus on the significant aspects of a problem, steering teams toward thoughtful analysis. In essence, the intellectual standards empower teams to approach problem-solving systematically, leading to more robust and well-informed decisions.


As I take on more complex facilitation roles, I've come to rely on the intellectual standards as a valuable tool for crafting questions that guide teams through intricate challenges. In a recent conversation where I helped a team address a particularly thorny problem, I used these standards to generate a set of questions that encouraged the group to explore various perspectives before leaping to conclusions. Not all of these questions were introduced, but they were very helpful in helping me prepare my mind for the way I curated the conversation.


  1. Clarity:

    1. What precisely is the core issue or challenge we are confronting?

    2. Can we succinctly articulate our goals and objectives?

    3. How well do all team members understand the problem and potential solutions?

  2. Accuracy:

    1. Are the data and information we rely on accurate and reliable?

    2. Have we verified the credibility of our information sources?

    3. Are our assumptions and premises well-founded, or do they require further validation?

  3. Precision:

    1. Have we precisely defined the problem to identify potential solutions?

    2. Are our strategic plans and tactics well-defined and specific?

    3. Can we clearly describe the desired outcomes and success criteria?

  4. Relevance:

    1. Is the information we are considering directly related to the challenge at hand?

    2. Are we addressing the most critical and immediate issues or distracted by less important matters?

    3. Does our decision-making process align with our organizational goals and values?

  5. Depth:

    1. Have we thoroughly explored the root causes of the challenge, going beyond surface symptoms?

    2. Are we considering the long-term implications and consequences of our decisions?

    3. Have we engaged subject matter experts or conducted in-depth research where necessary?

  6. Breadth:

    1. Have we considered multiple perspectives and viewpoints on the challenge?

    2. Are individuals from various departments and levels of the organization involved in the decision-making process?

    3. Are we examining the challenge from both internal and external angles?

  7. Logic:

    1. Is our decision-making process grounded in sound reasoning and logic?

    2. Are we vigilant against logical fallacies and biases in our thinking?

    3. Have we identified potential flaws in our arguments or proposals?

  8. Fairness:

    1. Are we treating all stakeholders and team members equitably in our decision-making process?

    2. Have we considered the impact of our decisions on various groups, including employees, customers, and the broader community?

    3. Are we avoiding favoritism or undue bias in our actions?

  9. Significance:

    1. How critical is the challenge we are addressing to the overall success and sustainability of the organization?

    2. Are we prioritizing our efforts and resources on the most significant challenges?

    3. What is the potential impact of our decisions on the organization's mission and goals?

  10. Sustainability: (this is not considered one of the Intellectual Standards, but my client wanted to think how their decision aligned with their core values.)

    1. Are our proposed solutions and actions environmentally and socially sustainable?

    2. Have we considered the long-term effects of our decisions on the organization's sustainability?

    3. Are we taking steps to ensure our actions align with our values and responsible practices?

My role as a facilitator is to help individuals and teams think better together. I have found that incorporating these intellectual standards into a team's decision-making process fosters more critical thinking and contributes to more ethical, well-rounded, and sustainable solutions. By challenging assumptions, embracing diverse viewpoints, and staying grounded in logic, teams can navigate complex challenges with greater clarity and purpose. Ultimately, the intellectual standards serve as a compass guiding teams toward better collaboration and more effective problem-solving.


Click on the link below if you wish to learn more about the Intellectual Standards. - - Enjoy the learning journey!

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