Thursday, June 11, 2015

Critical Thinking Is Essential to Survival

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There is no doubt that population shifts, generational differences and rapid technology advancements have created a confusing market for trade and professional associations. The result has been much debate over membership growth with a lot of concern about changing organizations to attract “Millennials” as the future. There has also been great speculation about what Millennials want and need, but few examples exist of successful changes implemented.

The Internet has made us accustomed to a flood of information from social media “experts” (no one has heard of) telling us Twitter, Facebook, Pintrest, YouTube, Vimeo and any of a dozen other Internet service sites are all you need to be rich and famous. Now there are marketing experts claiming “Millennials” have already changed the world and associations must snap them up or die.

Time has proven that social media is, at best, a tool for most organizations and a fortune only for the self appointed experts who charge for their highly prejudiced advice. And, we are still waiting for Millennials (currently ages 1-14) to change their socks—let alone the world.

The Internet has made critical thinking a lost art. Not disagreeable thinking, but the process of looking closely at what is said, by whom, with what authority, knowledge and practical experience to lend credence to the message. The self-anointed, self-appointed experts with their self-published Internet credentials simply cloud the issues. In this information age, there is a constant stream of new theories on this, and new thoughts on that, and before one is proven another jumps into the public eye before any of it is actually validated.

Unfortunately, organizations are sometimes distracted by a string of new concepts or theories. It is a process we call “bright and shiny objects syndrome.”  Because “new” items shine brightly for a while and are followed by something even more shiny and then another, they distract the organization to repeatedly pursue a different path without completing any, and eventually, nothing worth while is accomplished.

The best defense from bright and shiny objects is taking a critical look at the whole object, its credentials, expertise and practical experience and compare it to what you know is true in your own industry before jettisoning the current path for a new and yet-to-be-proven action by the organization.

Critical thinking requires you look at more than the first step in a new concept. You must project activities beyond to the 3rd and 6th and 8th step before an idea actually becomes a carefully considered plan of action. And if you cannot see where you should be beyond step 1 and 2, you have to question the wisdom of following a road that you don't know doesn't end just after the first bend.

It is always better to vet a source than to regret an action and that requires critical thinking.