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QLD Public Sector AO 5-6 Critical Thinking & Problem Solving

17th - 18th, July 2024 / Brisbane, AU


Practical outcome-driven models for critical thinking and problem solving

• Unpack critical thinking as a mental process and set of action steps to address everyday problems
• Use a structured systems thinking approach to analysing problems and designing solutions
• Leverage the skills of creative and lateral thinking in complex problem solving
• Overcome common roadblocks to critical thinking and problem solving


Dr Karen Whittingham

Karen is one of Australia’s leading executive management development specialists who has worked with thousands of executives to transition them into senior leadership roles quickly and effectively. She is an Organisational Psychologist passionate about people’s success and facilitating their careers to rise. She teaches Organisational psychology at UNSW and works with ASX listed companies and large public sector organisations to drive engagement, inclusion and performance.

Impact Psychology Pty Ltd



Critical thinking and problem solving as a key priority in the Queensland Public Sector

- Review the current context and landscape for problem-solving

- Why problem-solving has been identified as a top skilling priority across all levels

- How critical thinking provides the necessary lens to frame problems rationally and produce evidence-based solutions

- How problem-solving ability could drive your career advancement

Unpacking critical thinking techniques

- The cognitive principles, tools and strategies essential to critical thinking

- Reviewing critical thinking tools and taking stock of our own limitations and strengths

- How to think like a scientist - Learning how to objectively collect and evaluate evidence

- Whole-brain thinking; exploring creative thinking for generating new ideas and links, acting on intuition, imagining possibilities and connecting ideas through considering alternatives

- Understanding the barriers to sense-making and thinking rationally

Problem-solving methods and key tools

- Reviewing common types of problems

- Exploring linear/non-linear and logic-based approaches to problem-solving

- Root cause analysis - getting to the heart of the problem 

- Mapping known and considering unknown variables

- How to select the right method and apply specific tools to solve a problem 

- Explore how Systems Thinking is applied to provide clarity around root causes, interdependencies, possible constraints and outcomes 

- Creating a process map or mind map to provide clarity around the problem 

- Creative problem-solving techniques and activities: Abstract questioning, brainstorming, role switching, visualisation, ideation and process re-mapping

Working with others on problem-solving

- Facilitating a shared understanding of issues and problems 

- Learn to prepare and present powerful evidence-based arguments and solutions

- Resolving conflict and challenges in group problem solving

  • Dr Karen Whittingham Director Impact Psychology Pty Ltd


Definition: Understanding the problem

- Agreeing on the reality of the problem: Definition of key variables: known causal factors, structure, scope, stakeholder impact, interdependencies and constraints 

- Evaluating problem impacts

- Consider solution criteria and problem-solving deliverables

Analysis: Identifying and evaluating possible solutions

- Evaluate solutions based on feasibility, impact and risk

- How to approach complex or ‘wicked problems’ (problems resistant to conventional resolution)

- Review tools, priorities and resources available (including expertise) 

Implementation: The problem-solving process in action

- Approaching the problem-solving process as a system, applying a critical thinking lens at all stages, consider: 

- Problem identification, detection or framing

- Analysis of variables, root-cause analysis and interdependencies 

- Design of possible solutions, opportunities or courses of action

- Evaluation and selection of solution

- Consideration of risk, including feasibility, uncertainty/error 

- Decision on Implementation 

- Deployment of solution

- Monitoring, learning and evaluation 

Overcoming the roadblocks to critical thinking and problem solving

- Cognitive biases, ideological conflict and problems arising in groups

- Observation blind-spots and measurement errors

- The inherently challenging nature of ‘wicked problems’ 

- Cultivating your skills and maintaining your edge as a critical thinker

  • Dr Karen Whittingham Director Impact Psychology Pty Ltd


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Cliftons Brisbane

Level 24, 288 Edward Street, Brisbane, QLD, 4000, Australia

07 3231 0999

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