Why is Critical Thinking key in breaking from the pack?

What would you say is in general a company’s real business problem?

Most people see it as a sales problem and recommend better marketing and promotion.

I tend to disagree.

I am afraid the more experience you have, the harder it is to break from conventional mindsets. Leading companies often get stuck in old business models. Kodak engineers developed an early version of the digital camera, while the rest of the company remained focused on chemical film processing. Microsoft executives doubted the value of online search as a revenue model. Barnes and Noble seemed convinced that people would always want a physical book in their hand, etc….

I believe we often miss the crux of issues by drawing imaginary connections between what we see and what we expect to see. People at large are not or rather dare not be critical enough and challenging the traditional way of thinking.

My recommendations to breaking from the pack?

1. Think Deep. Insist on multiple problem definitions before moving towards a choice. This doesn’t need to be a time consuming process – just ask yourself or the group, “How else might we define this problem – what’s the core issue here?” This should become a standard part of every project scoping conversation you have, especially when the issue is new or complex.

2. Buck conventional wisdom. Actively work to buck conventional wisdom when facing new challenges or slowly deteriorating situations. Don’t settle for incremental thinking. Design ways to test deep held assumptions about your market. Of course, different is not always better so seek to understand the wisdom inherent in conventional wisdom as well as its blind spots.

3. Encourage healthy debate. Debate can foster insight, provided the conflict is among ideas and not among people. Increasingly, we live in a world where people can choose to interact only with those who agree with them, through Facebook or LinkedIn friends, favorite news sources, or our social cliques. To escape from these cocoons and echo chambers, approach alternative views with an open mind. Don’t become a prisoner of your own myopic mental model. I am the first one in here still honing my skills in this regard … but I am learning fast.

4. Engage with bigger than life mavericks. Find credible mavericks, those lonely voices in the wilderness who many dismiss, and then engage with them. It is not enough to simply be comfortable with disagreement when it happens to occur. Critical thinkers seek out those who truly see the world differently and try hard to understand why. Often you will still disagree with these mavericks, but at times they will reframe your own thinking for the better.

Bottom Line: Never be afraid to dare and challenge anyone as long as your arguments are factual and well researched. You will go a long way in life. I do it every day, you can do it too.

Written by

Ziad K Abdelnour, Wall Street financier, trader and author is currently President and CEO of Blackhawk Partners Inc., a private equity and physical commodities trading firm based out of New York City, Founder & President of the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon (USCFL), Founder & Chairman of the Financial Policy Council, Member of the Board of Governors of the Middle East Forum and Former President of the Arab Bankers Association of North America.