Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Importance of Critical Thinking

The predominance of uninformed opinions only highlights the importance of critical thinking. We are a society easily swayed.  Say it loud enough and long enough and we will accept it as truth. We poorly select our sources and are fed assumptions, 10 second sound bites, loud voices, covert and overt agendas, never ending messaging and spinning of events and often just plain downright ignorance of the facts ... and we are told it is truth.

We are exposed to everyday conversations with those who didn't do their homework, don't know what they are talking about, yet speak as if they are authorities. We throw opinions around like candy. And let's not get on our high horse about this. We probably all do it to some degree or another, particularly around certain close issues. And there is nothing wrong with having an opinion. It's preferable to being blank. But we want to have opinions that are built on endeavoring to gain an understanding of the facts, opinions that have been thought through with openness to perspectives and adjustment, opinions that fit reality and not extremes.

I remember seeing a small but global Christian group follow the agenda of a handful of leaders bent on purging themselves of a certain way of thinking. The masses didn't think or at least kept quiet. Therefore they didn't question and stand up and it caused problems and sadness right around the world throughout the whole group. It took time, but the few achieved their agenda. And in the course of my coaching I am daily reminded of the politics of the corporate world, where good ideas yield to internal agendas and watching of the backside. Fear, posturing and power run the agenda and executives ... visionaries who advocate staying ahead of the curve are subdued by those cowering in the curve, their unproductive thinking leading them to maintain what is and rarely reach for what is possible.

Where are the daring, thorough, informed thinkers? Who do we listen to? What are the characteristics of good thinking? What types of thinking lead to the best results? How do we personally stem the practice of unproductive thinking? Maybe this post is my call for leaders, executives and professionals, across all spectrum of media, for-profit, non-profit and government endeavors to become better thinkers and less the hostages of not wanting to appear different. It's a call for me to examine the quality of what I have been thinking and to boost the way I go about it.

In his book, The Thinker's Way, John Chaffee says, "No wonder we live in an  increasingly unthinking society - people are being encouraged to believe that all opinions are equal, both the informed and the uninformed, the intelligent and the ignorant."

Let's reclaim thinking. We do not have to think what others think. We have to think for ourselves.  We do not have to accept gobbledygook, lies or even assumptions for truth. We are perfectly at freedom, or at least we should be, to disagree with each others thinking, advance an alternate view and be willing to have it held up to the light of thoughtful examination. Better independent thinking (versus herd mentality thinking) will lead to better decisions and more effective actions. And that will most surely be a positive thing.

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