Thinking for yourself, critical thinking is the most important skill one must train relentlessly. Unfortunately, it's a skill not taught. And a majority of people couldn't care less. They are satisfied with their daily soap opera. They believe what they are told. They do what is expected. They complain every now and then. But of course within the rules and constraints. Obedient citizens.
And many of these obedient citizens are assigned leadership positions. In governments. In companies. In organizations. Aimless, helpless, and willing consumers themselves. Consumers of whatever senseless and meaningless stuff. Repeaters of what they are told and never dared to question. Believers engaging in spontaneous communication out of an intellectual nothingness. It’s astounding what kind of complete nonsense people are willing to believe.
Thinking is work and is time consuming. Especially critical thinking. And that’s the reason why, for instance, many politicians can maintain more bullshit in 5 minutes than critical thinking can check in a lifetime.
When our species appeared on this planet the chance for survival looked rather dim. There was nothing we could do better than other species. Too slow to outrun predators. Mediocre endurance. Not strong enough. But we had the capacity to think for ourselves. More and better than any other species. It's our brain that made our survival possible. That’s why we are still here … still. Hence, why not using it properly?
Have a look at this:
What is it? What comes to your mind first? Most people will say it’s a cube. But wait. Is it? A cube is a 3-dimensional object. And this image is 2-dimensional. Therefore it can’t be a cube.
Now look at this one:
What is it? 12 black lines. That’s it.
In both images you had the exact same information. 12 black lines. Yet, the first one represented to your brain a recognizable pattern. And immediately your brain delivered the interpretation of the information. That’s how our brain works. Our brain is interpreting incoming information based on recognizable patterns. All the time. Bluntly spoken our brain makes stuff up. That’s why critical thinking is so important. Because otherwise you can be easily fooled.
As a leader you must master critical thinking. You must think for yourself. And as a leader you must train your team in critical thinking. Thinking the way scientist do. For instance:
- When you have an assumption you must check its validity by testing it. Doing your best to disprove it. Remember what Richard Feynman said: “You are the easiest person to fool.”
- When someone else is presenting to you for instance methods or systems, ask for sound evidence that it works. Don’t just trust hearsay or dubious statistics. Ask the right and tough questions. Forget being just polite. It’s always you and your reputation at stake. Make sure that you do your due diligence.
- “Trust one who has gone through it.” (Virgil). You wouldn’t jump out of an airplane when you know that your instructors never ever jumped themselves. Likewise, listen only to those who have done what they are talking about. There are so many people who always seem to know everything and telling you what to do. But never did it themselves. Don’t waste your time with them.
True leaders mastering critical thinking are encouraging others, their teams, doing the same. The more the art of thinking is spread, the better our results will become. Technology is evolving fast and people need to keep up with it. The way it's done, however, is cementing the system of a small group of people controlling and commanding the rest. What the 99 percent don't get, and how could they without thinking, is that they become soon obsolete.Thinking is worth the trouble. And it starts with leadership.