Think Fast

Put some thought into thinking. Problem solving skills are an undeniable asset for personnel at every level of a company.

Why do we have to learn this? This is one of the most common questions my wife, a high school math teacher, hears. 

I’ll come clean. I was a student who asked that question many times even through my college education, and usually when I was frustrated or stuck on a problem or a subject that really tested me. It was a few years later that a lesson in that frustration dawned on me. It wasn’t the subject matter — it was learning to tackle something that didn’t come easily. To see a problem and solve it one way or another. 

I’ve worked a few jobs now in different fields. I’ve been an entry-level technician, a manager and everything in between, and I’m a firm believer that critical thinking skills are one of the most valuable assets employees, managers and owners can possess. The ability to rationally determine what to do in a specific situation quickly and confidently isn’t something people learn as a specific class in school — it’s something developed in every subject and well beyond formal education. 


I can hardly think of a career field where critical thinking and problem-solving are more vital than disaster recovery and cleanup. As an owner or manager, it’s vital that you can make important business decisions at a moment’s notice when leading a team into a disaster-ridden area, with little to no insight about the circumstances beforehand. 

It’s just as important for employees and operators. The ability to analyze surroundings on the spot, formulate a safe plan of execution and put those thoughts into motion without hand-holding will make you an invaluable asset for the company. 


It’s never too late to teach or learn these skills. Training sessions that involve logical reasoning, recognizing similarities and differences, and providing practice situations that enable team members to plan and predict outcomes are proven to be effective ways to improve critical thinking. Put your employees in scenarios they are likely to encounter on a cleanup site and require them to come up with solutions. Not only does this build thinking skills, it gives employees confidence when they find themselves in those situations in the field.

Incorporate asking questions that challenge them to think throughout everyday work activities. What will happen if we do this? Why did you come to that conclusion? What other options can you come up with? What should we prioritize in this situation and why? 

From the owner of CrowderGulf Disaster Recovery & Debris Management, a company managing a fleet of subcontractors in Alabama, to the team in charge of a wastewater treatment plant in Vermont, you’ll read all about successful problem-solvers in this issue of DCR. 

Enjoy, and thanks for reading. 


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