The Value of Critical Thinking

If you follow the social media industry at all you have likely come across Olivier Blanchard’s work. One of the reasons I respect Blanchard’s work is because he is a very good critical thinker. It is easy to get caught up in excitement and trends in an industry and swept into thinking that may be, ultimately, incorrect or unproductive. Critical thinking plays an important (if not the most important) role in any industry. It corrects misperceptions and calls out practitioners who are mis-representing themselves and the industry. Critical thinkers protect the reputation of an industry and create a credible body of information that can reliably be referenced as an industry grows, matures, and evolves. Without it an industry is vulnerable to practices and practitioners who are not effective and tainting the entire industry. Until academia catches up and builds the research and reference library that serves as a foundation, any industry is vulnerable.

Critical thinkers are seen as negative. I don’t know why. It is positively ludicrous to believe an organization or person can be successful with only positive feedback. And we need to remember that recognizing an error or a potentially unsuccessful strategy is not negative. Some of the most valuable information uncovered in research is what doesn’t work because it reveals the method that won’t achieve the objective. Think of it as solving a maze puzzle. Sometimes you hit a few dead ends but that means you know now that a different direction is required. This is not a criticism. This is simply pointing out that the bulls eye is in a different spot than originally believed. Blanchard is frequently criticized apparently and it seems he recently hit his limit and is experimenting with only positive thought. Not surprisingly, it ends up being silly. I think he is having fun with it and I appreciate the tongue-in-cheek response but it also really hit home for me.

I’m not surprised Olivier Blanchard has met resistance and even criticism for simply pointing out inconsistencies and errors because I’ve struggled in my career with organizations and people who are tremendously offended and resist hearing the truth. I’m not talking about hard-to-hear truths that may be embarrassing. I’m talking about simple truths. I was once told I was inappropriate to suggest conducting some kind of root cause analysis to a problem before developing a solution plan. I don’t know why someone would have found that insulting. I didn’t point to anyone and call them names or criticize anyone’s actions. It was a broad suggestion during a strategy meeting. Not surprising to me, that organization has struggled a great deal over the last few years and don’t seem to be quite hitting the mark with any of their solutions or products as a company overall.

Simple logic and basic knowledge. It isn’t witchcraft and it isn’t higher thinking. I’m rarely the smartest person in the room so why are so many people resistant to the truth? Sometimes I think it is because it is simple. Are people offended that their problem may not require the most complicated solution possible? Maybe they want to believe that with all their experience, they know the basics so well that they don’t need to consciously go back to the beginning.

When I’ve struggled with whether or not I should point a flaw or problem out I think back to The Emperor’s New Clothes which is a great analogy for critical thinking. I just don’t want to be one of those people who can see something is wrong but doesn’t say anything out of fear or embarrassment. Some truths are not going to be positive. A person who practices critical thinking isn’t being negative and sometimes snarky remarks are a great way to add humor to information. Constant positiveness and back slapping is disingenuous. Blanchard’s new uber-positive outlook  is a sugary diet I can’t take for long. Snark is the fiber we all require for good health. Let’s encourage each other to be critical thinkers and to embrace the snarky-rich goodness. I want my Brand Builder back!

Laurie - Fifteen years in high tech training organizations means trial by fire for most of her career! For her Master's in post-secondary adult continuing education Laurie's research was in blogging and learning so trainersblog is an important educational tool to her and she wants this to be where trainers and OD professionals find resources and contribute to the body of knowledge.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Laurie Drew, Laurie Drew. Laurie Drew said: New Post: The Value of Critical Thinking […]

  2. olivier blanchard
    Oct 05, 2010

    Thank you. :)

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