The HeadScratcher Post Archive
September  2013
Persistence and Critical Thinking
       September 2013 The Headscratcher Post Headscratchers LLC    Edition 95

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Persistence and Critical Thinking

In studying successful businesses, there seems to be two ingredients always present.  The first is persistence.  The second is quality thinking; real hard, roll up the sleeves, not-taking-anything-for-granted thinking ... Critical Thinking.  These two ingredients are not mutually exclusive.   Let's take a look at the role Persistence plays in Critical Thinking.

First a little about Persistence.  It's the unwavering drive towards a goal.  I like the term, "There's always a way."  It's the acceptance of failure as just a bump in the road, it's a learning experience.   It's the ability to stick to something well beyond the expected norm.  It's working towards a vision that is believed to be achievable, but with no guarantee.

Thomas Edison's response to the question about how he felt after repeated failures to design a working light bulb was "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work".  Of course he eventually found a solution.

Persistence isn't always warranted.  There are times that persistence produces a negative effect.  For example; if you pursue a goal that, even if achieved, isn't of much value, at the expense of not pursuing another goal that would be much more beneficial, that's called a lost opportunity.

One of the cross over points between Persistence and Critical Thinking is to ensure that you're being persistent about the things that can make a difference.

During the critical thinking process, you uncover unknowns, uncertainty, and ambiguity.  The path to the solution you seek may not be immediately clear.  You discover new problems you never thought you had, and problems that are more difficult than you ever imagined.  While this is very valuable to know in the early stages, it's certainly anything but a motivator.  

Another cross over point is that Persistence enables you carry on through the valuable, but sometimes disappointing, discoveries during the critical thinking process. 

The place in critical thinking that persistence intersects the most is within the critical thinking tool of Vision.   When thinking critically about a sizeable issue or lofty goal, we ask the question, "What does the world look like after this headscratcher is solved?", "What's the end-state look like?".   This enables people to understand the relationship between the immediate headscratcher, and a bigger goal.  The value in understanding the Vision is this; If immediate solutions for the headscratcher are not forthcoming, or are unsuccessful, the persistence in seeking a solution to the Vision will drive additional efforts to create other solutions that are successful.   If Persistence is weak, the chances of achieving the Vision is greatly diminished.

Persistence is associated with a Vision and its achievability.

Can you be a critical thinking without being persistent?  There are many instances where applying critical thinking is easy, straightforward, and results come quickly.  For example, you can apply a little critical thinking when you write an email to ensure that what you are saying is clear.  It takes just a few minutes.  You don't need a lot of persistence for that task.  However, if you're going to apply critical thinking to the really big, hard, make a huge difference, kind of problem, you'll need a dose of persistence to continue to work towards the Vision, because not every step will be successful.


The Takeway;  Many problems are not easy to solve (if they were there wouldn't be problems!).   Critical Thinking without persistence will get you just so far.  If the value behind reaching your goal, your vision, is high, then persistence could be the most significant factor that differentiates you and your company from others who just try.  Yoda, from Star Wars said "... Do, or do not. There is no try."  If you set out to accomplish your Vision, then Do it.

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