The world seems like a pretty crazy place lately. “Fake news” is an ongoing buzzword, causing people to question everything they read, hear, and see. Or worse, too many people are not questioning what they hear. The lack of critical thinking is a serious issue. The widespread and persistent ignorance needs to be addressed. It is time to stand-up and change your corner of the world.
Problems are exaggerated, claims are exaggerated, and true issues are misjudged. Intuitive, emotional judgements are preferred over reason. The use of distortions, exaggerations, or lies remains unchallenged. Too many people present ridiculous arguments based on zero evidence and unsubstantiated claims.
Too many people blindly believe anything they hear. Most people go through life with unsubstantiated beliefs and driven by biases and emotions. It is time to start changing how you interpret the world and become a disciplined and critical thinker.
If you are like me and are frustrated by the poor thinking habits of co-workers it is time to change (the media and politicians are really frustrating, but I can’t change them, yet). It is time for a revolution. It must start with you. Change yourself, first. Recognize bad arguments and learn how to construct good arguments. Understand unconscious cognitive biases that influence how we make decisions. Improve your reasoning.
Watch the Joe Rogan podcast, listen to the Argument Ninja Academy by Kevin deLaplante and watch his videos, and read books like Factfulness by Hans Rosling or Applying Scientific Reasoning to the Field of Marketing by Terry Grapentine.
Use fact-based understanding and data-driven arguments. Keep the following points in mind:
- Ask reporter questions (who, what, where, when, why, and how)
- Don’t generalize
- Look for differences and similarities across (and within) groups
- Don’t blindly follow the majority
- Always stay open to possibilities
- Don’t assume people are idiots
- Beware of vivid examples
- Don’t focus on being right
- Avoid jumping to conclusions – stay calm, be patient
- Test opinions against data
Improve yourself, learn how to properly consume media, and identify over-exaggerations. Be humble, curious, and realistic about the extent of your knowledge. Do not be embarrassed if you make a mistake or if you do not know something. Be open to new information, actively seek out disconfirming evidence, and realize that things can be both good and bad.
Once you improve yourself, then share the thinking tools with co-workers and help them improve their arguments. Hunt out ignorance within your organization and demonstrate the value of data, evidence, testing and experimentation. Embrace ongoing discussions, arguments, and collaboration between cross-functional teams; the different perspectives, talents, and knowledge will strengthen decisions and improve your business.
And if someone still uses poor logic, or emotions to argue their belief, challenge them. And if they think the world is flat, or the environment is not warming, just tell them to make sure their doctor does not bother to wash her hands the next time you go into surgery. Ignaz Semmelweis would be proud.