This phrase is attributed to the physicist Wolfgang Pauli, who also described some arguments or theories as so bad that they were ‘not even wrong’.
What is clarity of thinking? Is it the same as simplicity? Does clarity mean truth? Do ‘confused’ arguments make them wrong?
I have written many times about Critical Thinking and the need to find a way to inject this into the water supply of our organizations. I have designed a Critical Thinking programme for one of my clients and explored hundreds of sources in the quest for the right combination of ideas, toolkits and practical applications for everybody in the company. In this journey, I have become more aware, more excited about the topic, and more sceptical about what passes as ‘serious thinking’ in our business organizations.
Every ‘pret-a-porter’ template, off-the-shelve programme with its set of ‘the 10 things leaders do’, contains the seeds of Outsourced Thinking. Yet, we need tools, and ‘maps’, and types of help to navigate through the enterprise. The issue is neither to accept them blindly, nor to discard them completely. It is about exercising the discipline of thinking critically and making sense of the maps and tools we choose to use.
The beauty of Pauli’s harsh language is that it confronts us with our own deficiencies, and forces us to bring more rigour and more logic to the party. Our management teams, our consultants, our Boards, ourselves, we are all in need of a good dose of the Critical Thinking vaccine.
In some places, not being ‘able to tell whether something is nonsense or not’, is endemic. Truths come in a bundle with half truths and no truth at all, ‘management consulting findings’ are dressed up as scientific data, and sets of assumptions are elevated to the category of reality.
But, I think that I got this business of ‘injecting Critical Thinking into the water supply of the organization’ wrong. Too late. The target should be our primary and secondary school systems.