Saturday, October 20, 2007 at 6:00pm by Site Administrator
What do Sherlock Holmes, Batman and Adrian Monk have in common? Besides being fictional crimefighters in their own ways, they’re all what some people might call critical thinkers. Applied to business, critical thinking might make the difference between producing a truly groundbreaking product or service and just another variation of existing offerings.
What is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is hard to define exactly because there really is no universal definition. It’s based on principles, not procedures. It involves non-linear, open-minded, multi-disciplinary approaches and considering multiple potential solutions. It takes a lifetime of continuing to learn, and considering input from all five senses before applying analytical principles to complex problem solving. (Think Batman or Adrian Monk.) Critical thinking is about how to think, not just what to think, and for some it’s a pursuit of truth. To me, critical thinking is the ultimate application of “lifehacking”.
Examples of Critical Thinkers
Who are critical thinkers? Logicians, philosophers, detectives/ CSIs, FBI profilers, forensic scientists, to name a few. They go beyond the basic principles to solve problems, using multi-disciplinary thinking, and have many attributes.
How Can Entrepreneurs Use Critical Thinking?
Entrepreneurs, especially bootstrapping entrepreneurs, probably have the mental framework and background to become critical thinkers, if they’re not already. Bootstrappers in particular have to solve problems in the most cost-effective long-term manner, not just put a bandage on the problem. The bandage is just a superficial solution; the root cause of the problem still exists.
To accomplish this requires both an basic understanding of various types of thinking (science, math, history, anthropology, economics, philosophy, logic, etc.) and an open-mindedness to consider various solutions. To really solve a problem, find not just the symptoms but the root cause, then attack that.
In my opinion, one of the most ideal tools for critical thinking is the use mindmapping. However, not once in over 30 years of using mindmaps have I ever seen anyone connect radiant thinking (mindmapping) with critical thinking.
Why Don’t More Entrepreneurs Use Critical Thinking?
There are probably three main reasons that more entrepreneurs do not use critical thinking:
- Critical thinking is not learned naturally by most people, without catalyzing conditions.
- It’s not commonly taught in the public education system, if anywhere at all, and certainly not in many careers.
- The results of critical thinking sometimes resemble idealism, and there’s a chain of confusion about idealism. It’s confused by some with “bleeding-heart liberalism”, which is confused with socialism, which is confused with communism – considered a sin by most Americans. Idealism and communism are wholly different, buthow do you go against this kind of societal misconception?
- Having capital to throw at a problem often dulls the thought process towards coming up with more cost-effective, efficient solutions.
Even if you find you’ve learned to think critically on your own, it takes discipline to experience constant application, and it’s a lifetime learning process. The path of least resistance – which is related to the principle of least effort – suggests we’ll take the easy road out. That is usually to throw money at a problem and have done with it.
That said, bootstrapping entrepreneurs have the greatest opportunity to become critical thinkers. Out of necessity due to lack of capital, they’re open to alternate solutions.
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