When getting the right strategy for you or your organization is proving difficult, it may be down to an odd way we all tend to think. To have what your want in your life, career, or organization, use a better kind of thinking when it’s time to think about your personal or organizational strategy.
When what you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.
We have been trained to be very good at one type of thinking: critical, problem-solving thinking. We’ve also learned to value it highly. We usually judge whether we or others are smart by how good we are critical thinking. Look at what is considered important in school, at work, in politics to see all of this is true. And so we use critical, problem-solving thinking everywhere, usually to good effect. Sometimes, however, our habit of using critical thinking gets in the way.
When the future is uncertain–when either the goal or the path to the goal is unclear–critical or problem-solving thinking is not appropriate. In fact, it and our habit of using it everywhere get in the way. What’s really needed when looking to the future is creative thinking.
And, please wait. Before you are tempted to apply the hammer of critical thinking to my above assertion (e.g. “Yeah, but, I’m not that creative” or “Yeah, but, critical thinking is important.”), hear me out.
Creative Thinking and You
Let’s start with these simple, practical definitions of creative and critical thinking:
- Creative thinking is no more than considering and answering three questions: What is true now? What do I/we want to be true? And, why?
- Critical thinking is no more than considering and answering these three questions: When? How? and Who?
Can you see how creative thinking is exactly what’s needed when the future or the path to the future is unclear? And can you see how, despite what you may have thought, you and all of us can be very creative thinkers? We just have to answer some simple questions.
Critical Thinking, at the Right Time
Of course, critical thinking is still important. Once we have a direction, a strategy, or some other path to the future, we will tap our critical thinking to help get us there. We just have to use it at the right time and not use it when it’s time for creative thinking.
Hint: if you apply critical thinking when it’s time for creative thinking, it often takes the form of a “Yeah, but…” statement. And “Yeah, buts” have a nasty tendency to kill off good, creative thinking before they even see the light of day. More on that in the next post.