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Critical thinking is an inspiration starter, not a hope killer

look beyond the obvious

Why does critical thinking have a bad reputation? Is it because it seeks to uncover the truth? Do people think that the truth is negative? Is it because it is a Hope Killer?

I think that criticism is a form of optimism.

@cloverleafinnov wrote a nice post about how to think like an innovator. One thing they mention is how the ability to criticize is valuable:

Criticize. Creative thinking is critical thinking. The question “How can I improve this experience?” is a very powerful brainteaser. Just think of how many products out there solve problems or inconveniences: the remote control, the Swiffer, the Post-it… Next time you are in a frustrating situation like standing in a line which is taking too long, for example, ask yourself the question: “How can I improve this experience?” The answer may surprise you with its simplicity. This is how unpleasant experiences become idea starters.

The ability to think critically is probably the one thing I have trouble transferring over to others. I’ve even said that it is the gap between being truly innovative, to merely coming up with ideas.

Critical thinking = Hope Killer?

Negative words like “it sucks”, “time waster” and “no” have a bad reputation. Sure, they are not fun to listen to all the time. But let’s face it, most of the services and products we use on a daily basis are not awesome. And if you’re an innovator, you are constantly asking yourself: Why do people put up with this? How can I make this better?

What’s wrong with trying to improve things through critical thought?

If there’s one thing that is lacking within corporations, small or medium sized businesses, or any institution for that matter, is critical thinking. They seem to relate critical thinking with negativity.

For example, I have a client that has done away with criticizing. For example, the words “NO” and “PROBLEM” are not in their vocabulary. They are banned. Which is ok but, over the long term, it creates complacent conversations. By banning critical thought, my client is basically shutting the door on the Rebels.

It is funny because they haven’t completely banned me from their office, but I can see them twitch whenever I bring out the truth that is hidden in plain sight. It’s part of being an Insultant.

The language a business uses is incredibly important. It is the glue that brings everything together. And that language, what you choose to say and not say, shapes your environment.

Positive words may create a more “friendly” work environment. But, where innovation is concerned, Rebels use a completely different language.

It’s about how you see it

In his best selling book Good to Great, Jim Collins argued that Good to Great companies achieved breakthrough results because they “confronted the brutal facts”. They dreamed, but they also applied diligent thought to their decision making process. These companies created a climate where truth is heard and the brutal facts are confronted.

In other words, they thought critically.

I used the awesome picture of the iceberg because it exemplifies the notion that you need to look at things from different perspectives. If you only look at the iceberg from the surface, you see what everyone sees. But if you step back, look under and from above, you see that that tiny iceberg is actually huge. Which is, the truth.

In a day in age when we all have access to the same information, not all of it of course, it useful that we make the effort to apply diligent thought to turning that information into information that cannot be ignored.

The point: There is always more than meets the eye. Critical thinking helps you overcome biases and make better decisions.

Image credit: Joshua Holko/National Geographic Photo Contest

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  • Jay

    Good post.

    Add few thoughts of mine if you don’t mind.

    People and companies shut down critical thinking when they feel and act like they are on a constant survival mode. When you are trying to fight fire, you have no time to do critical thinking since it is slow, hard and very uncertain. So people prefer to be active doing, rather than doing any active thinking.

    • http://www.game-changer.net Jorge Barba

      Hi Jay,

      Good point. And, as you know, that is exactly when they should step back and take cold and detached look at the situation. We have to constantly remind ourselves of that.

      In what ways can we do that?

      Cheers,

      Jorge

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