In yesterday’s post I said that critical thinking is the platform that allows us to take facts and knowledge we learn, and transform them into breakthroughs, insights and innovation.
So how does that work?
I can only speak to what works for me. The critical elements are:
Always question the premise first. It’s amazing how often something is based on a flawed premise. And if the premise is wrong, everything that comes off it will be too.
Question the source. Anything the government, media or organized religion tells you comes from an ulterior motive. And so does everything your spouse, friends and kids do as well. This doesn’t mean you have to be cynical or throw out everything they say. It does mean you need to question if their own needs or confirmation bias is clouding what they are telling you.
Explore if you have come to an assumption based on logical thinking, or been clouded by emotion. We’re all human. We feel. And that’s a good thing. We need, learn, and grow from all the emotions, even ones like anger and sadness. But this only happens if you go up to 30,000 feet and study yourself from the outside. You have to become the “thinker of the thought” so you can objectively determine if something is in your highest good. Now once you are able to distinguish the difference, you can expect to hear from people that you are heartless and out of step with the times. That’s simply the new reality in our snarky, social media world. Which simply demonstrates the importance of the point to begin with.
Play the “what if” game. When you learn something, think laterally and creatively about it. What if there was no gravity, what if you manufactured it under water, what if it could be made with a different material, what if you sung it in Russian?
Project it out to its logical conclusion. If everything remains constant, what will happen in two weeks, two years, or two decades? Do the same thing with some changing variables.
What you’re doing with this process is simply yet quite profound. Because instead of viewing learning as the last step, you realize it is actually the first one!
It is a mistake to think there are only two gears in the human system: logical thinking and emotion. Most of the big breakthroughs in history have not been the result of either. Just yesterday there was an announcement of a bacteria that can devour plastic..."discovered by accident" according to the scientists involved. No logic. No emotion.
There is Information (facts and data that are best if true); knowledge (knowing what to do with that information); and the rarest treasure on the planet - wisdom (seeing the highest possibilities most others do not see and knowing how to make them a reality for the greater good.)
Information and knowledge tend to be about the past whereas wisdom tends to be about the future. Many believe our role is to solve problems, to mend yesterday. But it's not. Our role is to see the invisible and do the impossible and create.
Dan Sullivan the owner of Strategic Coach in Toronto calls these accidents "strategic by products". The kind of serendipity events that were not expected yet came out of the mix as a positive contribution irrespective of the original intention. Wisdom is a future looking outlook based on historical experience. Experience, knowledge and good judgement come out of events in the past and temper the decisions one makes going forward. The enzyme discovered in Oxfordshire was discovered as a result of looking for something else by an Xray transmitted at the speed of light. Likewise penecillin was an accident, Sweet Sauternes was an accident as a result of grapes being left on the vine to rot as a result of the Napoleonic War. Cubic Zirconia is a man made diamond discovered when manufacturing heat shields for the space shuttle.
You could argue that a third gear is created by the marriage of logic and emotion. But I don't think that negates the necessity of critical thinking to transform learning into wisdom. Yes many breakthroughs seem to appear by "accident," but I doubt most of them would occur if people were pursuing worthwhile endeavors with deliberation and consideration. I'm all in on your view that our real job is seeing how to make the impossible, possible! -RG