Critical Thinking Advice From Abraham Lincoln and PT Barnum
Does it matter who said it first? Supposedly Abraham Lincoln said “You can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” He may have been quoting someone else because P.T. Barnum is also supposed to have said this.
The quote intrigues me because I change it slightly to say “You can please some people all the time, all the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time.”
When I teach about critical thinking, I want everyone to realize that it is something you work at for the rest of your life, that everyone can get better than they are at the moment, no matter their present level, and I want everyone to appreciate and value the learning. It doesn’t happen! Some want to push back and say they are already good at it and there is no need to learn more. Some want to tell me that there are people they know who think they know it all., and they would like to take those others down a peg.
Critical thinking is about investigating, asking questions, wanting to know and understand better. It is not about proving others wrong. Now sometimes that happens. Others may be proven wrong through investigation. But the purpose of critical thinking is for both of you to discover deeper truths, more facts, better validity, more relevance, clearer logic, and more complete, useful information.
Someone who sincerely asks and digs for facts and truth does it with others rather than against them.
In a business situation where decisions get made every day that affect the life of the business and financial returns, getting at the facts, using logical thought processes, exploring and comparing options is a win-win-win proposition. You win because you are respected for your critical thinking methods. The organization wins because better decisions are made. And customers and stakeholders win for the same reasons.
Which brings me back to the quote. It would be hard for anyone to argue against the importance of critical thinking, except that people do. They say it takes too long or annoys the people who feel like they are being tested. So you can’t please everyone just because you are applying good critical thinking processes. Which brings us to another quote, “If you don’t have enough time to get it right the first time, how are you going to find the time to do it over?”
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