“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
This is one of my favorite quotes for several reasons. First of all, I know this is tough to do, but I also know it’s the bedrock of critical-thinking skills. Holding two opposing thoughts simultaneously also makes us grow and explore, which leads to self-learning – and makes us balanced in our thinking.
Ah, balance. The much-prized, must-sought-after balance. Something that seems to be a dwindling commodity in our world. Politics or religion – or pick your favorite controversial issue – somewhere in my study of life someone advised me to always study both sides of the issue.
If you read a conservative article on a subject, what does the liberal press say about the same issue? If you watch a conservative TV station, also balance your thinking by watching a more liberal one. One can almost discern a person’s politics by where they get their news today! It’s hard to open your mind to both sides of the topic, but crucial to growing and polishing those critical-thinking skills.
Positivity is an important quality
Which brings us to critical thinking in a positive world. To me, being positive is very important. In fact, on Strengthfinders, it’s one of my top skills. And while I truly believe it takes more than attitude to get a job done, a positive attitude is probably the most important ingredient we bring to any job.
We can do this! With the proper training and guidance, we can figure this out! However, we want to be realistic! Whoa, that sounds a lot like balance. What are the expectations? How long do we have? What are the key issues?
Putting conflicting thoughts to work
One of the earliest teachings of critical thinking was Socrates, recorded by Plato. He indicated that we cannot depend on those in “authority” to have sound knowledge and insight. This one principle can be applied in the workplace for amazing results: Hold two conflicting thoughts at the same time.
Let’s use an example. Your company wants to launch a new product, and we’ll call that product Widget New. Conflicting thoughts might be: Maybe there will be a market, and maybe there will not be a market. How can I determine that? Curiosity!
Let’s employ research, and ask more critical questions of the target market. But, it’s important to remain impartial in that research – even if it’s the CEO’s pet product, right? Here’s how I play that out:
- Step 1: I’m going to have data, and analyze that data, and present that data to either show it’s a good idea or it isn’t.
- Step 2: I’m going to then employ my creative brain cells to understand how to tweak the idea to make it work better.
- Step 3: Finally I’ll go back to the CEO with a way to solve his/her problem. Wait; when we started, he/she didn’t even realize there was a problem!
Hence, the importance of applying critical thinking to the task at hand. Because now, either way, the CEO is going to grow in respect for me, and see me as:
- A problem-solver
Critical-thinking skills can be assessed and strengthened. The top five critical-thinking skills are the ones I mentioned above. Thought leaders of all kinds employ these to make themselves better. And often, it’s when trouble is on the horizon that your passion or enthusiasm, or your positive thinking gets ahead on the critical thinking. It takes both to make a project or new product launch successful.
Want to talk more about applying positivity and critical-thinking skills to your business and marketing efforts? I’d be happy to chat with you. Shoot me an email or give me a call at 314.480.3606 today.