Harvey Mackay: Critical thinking is in critical condition
BY HARVEY MACKAY United Feature Syndicate
Sunday, July 15, 2012
7/15/12 at 3:06 AM
A Midwest university professor complained: "We are now focusing more on how to use the tools of communication than we are on how to effectively communicate. ... As a result, we are turning out computer and Internet gurus who can't write and think creatively."
Is writing and thinking creatively important?
Is substance important?
Is critical thinking important?
You bet they are. Making your points to your boss or anyone else requires more than information. It demands the critical thinking that convinces them of your point of view.
I would venture as far as saying that technology has set us back in the general field of thinking, trusting gadgets to do some of our thinking rather than using them to enhance our lives.
Critical thinking has never been more important - or more challenging. With so much information bombarding us 24/7, sifting through the content to find factual, legitimate and useful material is no small task. Do you believe everything you read or hear? Do you check sources?
Thomas Edison, the genius of invention, had a way of thinking that was critical and creative. Fortunately, it isn't only a natural-born talent - it's a habit you can cultivate. Take some lessons from Edison's thinking processes as outlined by Michael Michalko in "Three Lessons in Creativity From Thomas Edison":
Question all assumptions. Examine and challenge conventional wisdom. When hiring an employee, it is rumored Edison would invite the person to join him for soup. The person wouldn't get the job if he salted the soup before tasting it.
Generate as many ideas as possible. You're more likely to find an idea that works if you test several.
Analyze your failures. If an experiment fails, set aside some time to think about what you learned. You can re-examine your efforts if you keep notes on your progress and failures.
Adapt other ideas. Look for ways to take policies, systems or ideas that are already working somewhere else and turn them into something you can use in your own department.
Record all your ideas. Spend time reviewing the ideas and looking for connections. You might find new ways of thinking about something.
These techniques may not make you into Thomas Edison, but they will help you learn to filter out the garbage that clouds your thinking and decision-making. I would also recommend these two rules:
Avoid jumping to conclusions and snap judgments. Be sure to collect additional information before drawing conclusions about what you see.
Don't take a "yes or no" approach to data and decisions. Make a habit of exploring the edges of a problem and looking beyond the obvious alternatives.
Changing your thinking patterns takes practice, but as it becomes habit, you'll notice that you will not second-guess yourself as often and will spend less time worrying about "what if?"
Critical thinking can also help you with creative solutions to problems.
Mackay's Moral: Critical thinking is critical to success.
Original Print Headline: Clear thinking is in critical condition
Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." To send him a question or comment, go to tulsaworld.com/mackayfeedback.