Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Critical Thinking……and my simple mind

Written by: on September 13, 2012

“….critical thinkers are clear as to the purpose at hand and the question at issue. They question information, conclusions and points of view. The strive to be clear, accurate, precise, and relevant. They seek to think beneath the surface, to be logical and fair.”
                                            Richard Paul and Linda Elder

     Colin Powell once said “Great leaders are almost always great simplifier-s.”  The first thing that came to mind as I skimmed through the guide book from Paul and Elder on critical thinking was the effective yet simple approach to a complex subject.  “Simplicity on the other side of complexity” as someone smarter than me coined a phrase.  As I ponder the subject of critical thinking I am quickly drawn to my profession, my life / role in the church and the dimension of critical thinking that takes place, or maybe more importantly does not take place, in my day to day leadership role.

Critical thinking in the Oil and Gas industry

     I work in an industry that spends tremendous amounts of money on building capital assets all over the world. My experience in relating the above thoughts from Paul and Elder to the work that we do provides a mixed bag of results.  In some instances we spend 5 to 10 years planning a particular project to extreme levels of minutia and critical thinking has driven most of the decisions along the way.   In other instances we misstate the purpose, fail to ask important questions, bypass clarity, logic and fairness and forge ahead to a certain or uncertain future result.

Critical thinking in the church

     I have been a member of 15 different churches in my life time, in 4 different states in the US, in 4 different countries, on two different continents. These churches spanned several denominations and a few were non-denominational.   While that may be confusing for some, I cherish the rich experience I have been given.  As I look back over  that rich history (this is just personal experience so nothing scientific here) there seemed to be a common thread in the lack of critical thinking as outlined in the quote above.  It is never good to generalize but decisions on building programs, pastoral searches, ministry programs, dealing with leadership or moral failure….well there just never seems to be enough time or money to support an effectual critical thinking time frame.  I am wondering if I am alone in this pondering or if others have experienced similar patterns in the church?  Maybe that critical thinking was always there and I was the blind guy at the optometrists convention?

Critical thinking in my leadership role

     In my various leadership roles I would like to think that I seek clarity of purpose to the issues that I face on a daily basis.  I do question information and conclusions but if I have an area that I could improve upon it would he here.  Clarity, accuracy, preciseness and relevance tend to be ‘fit for purpose.’  Hundreds of decisions in a weeks time have me leaning to the 80/20 rule that would seek an 80% level in 20% of my decisions and a 20% level in the other 80%.   I would truly love to seek a significant level of critical thinking in all that I do but the reality of the pace we work at short changes my desires.

We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. 

I am thinking I need to establish a new habit.

     I have some questions for the cohort:
1. Is critical thinking more about time spent or methodology perfected?
2. Have you had similar experiences (lack of critical thinking) in your church life?
3. Do you let external influences dictate your level of critical thinking in a given situation?

Interesting surf of the web and what comes up. Somebody spent a great deal of time on this but does not seem to match the Paul and Elder litmus test.

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