Thinking is good. Not thinking is bad. One would suppose that these two concepts are widely known and well-shared. Unfortunately, I am beginning to think that they are not. As I watch the world around me, I am beginning to come to the conclusion that in many circles, thinking is an action which is frowned upon and discouraged.
Let me share a rhetorical question with you. How many of you have minds which are closed, locked, and shuttered, much like a home on the Outer Banks of North Carolina when there is a hurricane approaching from the south? I say rhetorical, because if your mind is closed, you will be unable to read my words, interpret my thoughts, and frame a reasonable response.
Let me suggest that thinking is an important of what you and I do each day. However, let me suggest that I am not referring to passive thinking. No, I am talking about the type of thinking which requires you to weigh and evaluate things. How good is 'A' versus its opposite 'B'? This type of thinking has long been referred to as critical thinking.
You need to understand that over time, a great deal of value has been placed on the lessons of the 'thinking' process which occurs within the world around us every day. Let me suggest to you the importance of thinking as it regards the solution of complex personal or professional issues. Those who fail to think often end up thinking about failure.
Through my many years as a teacher, writer, and consultant, problem solving and critical thinking have been important components of my work within the fire service. It has long been my thought that the ability to think effectively lies at the heart of every part of our lives. Let me ask you a really simple question. How can any of us plan and prepare for the future unless we are able to weigh and evaluate the varied wide range of alternatives which we are all going to be called upon to consider from time to time?
It is important at this point to make a comment on one element within our current pop culture approach to management. There are those who would long preferred to use the term 'thinking outside of the box', when in reality they are referring to the concept of critical thinking. The identification and analysis of new approaches is truly the meat and potatoes of critical thinking.
It has been my experience that critical thinking can occur anytime a person works to judge, decide, or solve a problem. Many have been the times during my fire service career when I had to figure out what I should believe or what I should do in a given situation. Over time I came to understand that to succeed in this business of thinking, I had to do so in a reasonable and reflective way.
Let me suggest that over the years I have been exposed to the process which suggests that reading, writing, speaking, and listening can all be done in two distinctly different ways. You can be critical of the works you are reading or you can simply accept things as facts just because you read them in a book or in a magazine article. This failure to challenge what is being presented exposes you to the charge of thinking uncritically.
My professional associates and I believe that effective thinking is required if we are to becoming readers who pay attention to the words in front of them and challenges the thoughts they are being asked to accept. Over time, it has been my experience that in order to be an effective writer and communicator that I have had to challenge the norms of our field of professional endeavor. Let me stand on my written record as a guy who likes to shake things up.
Thinking is not a simple, random practice. You need to be able to utilize such tools as logic, either the formal type, or as is frequently the case, a more informal style of thinking (informal, but organized). In order to do this properly, you need to be trained to employ such broad intellectual skills as clarity, credibility, accuracy, precision, depth, and fairness.