The Hidden Treasure

Where Ancient Wisdom Meets Contemporary Psychology

Critical Thinking: Why ask why?

Written By: Vic Rebman Ph.D - Aug• 01•10

I remember when our daughter was around 3 or 4 years old and it seemed like 90% of her vocabulary consisted of the word “why.”  Everything generated a question and there was not an aswer that would satisfy her curiosity.  At that age, children are learning about cause and effect and the process of questioning every aspect of their life experience, from brushing teeth and eating vegetables to why Santa rides in a sleigh and not a mini-van is open for discussion.  It is now easy to find the humor in what were then very trying times!  It is unfortunate that we grow so far away from that childhood curiosity to question every life experience, because it is the willingness to ask why that is at a foundation of developing strong critical thinking skills.

When I complete selection assessment reports for businesses seeking to evaluate the quality of fit of a candidate for employment, the first measure is an assessment of critical thinking skills.  Individuals with strong critical thinking skills think faster under pressure and draw more accurate conclusions from the data and information they have at hand.  To an organization, these individuals are far more likely to avoid costly errors in judgment, find cost savings others miss, and devise the strategies that improve operational functions.  These are folks who never stopped asking “Why?”

The willingness to ask “why?” is the courage to question and challenge assumptions.  When we stop questioning the underlying assumptions upon which our methods and practics are built, we become locked into strategies and procedures which can ultimately become outdated and ineffective.  Our methods can become less than optimal, even outdated, and we have no way of knowing it, because that’s the way it’s always been done and we don’t ask “why?”

The failure to ask this question is the failure to constantly challenge assumptions, explore new possibilities and discover new solutions.  Great organizations are filled with folks who never stopped asking “why?”  Are you one of them?

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