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The Lost Art of Critical Thinking


I am often shocked by some of the things I hear people, who would otherwise be considered intelligent, say in conversations that are utterly misinformed and one-sided. Rather than assessing all sides of an issue, story, or event, it seems that the default for so many has been to regurgitate sound bites and overly simplified assessments made by media pundits or politicians on both the left and the right of the political spectrum. The act of considering an issue deeply from various angles is increasingly missing from the strategic and decision-making processes of many, even at the highest levels of leadership in our world. So the question is, "Why is this happening now at a time when the public's access to various news and information sources has so dramatically increased?" 


The reality of the situation is that for so long we as individuals have relied on a hierarchical system of news and information to do much of the critical thinking for us. By hierarchical I am referring to the process and protocol of how news and information has been disseminated. The difference today is that not only do we have far more access to news and information from a plethora of sources, in many if not most cases we, the public, are the sources. Today, ordinary people can amass an audience to listen to their point of view and take on the state of affairs, simply by creating a following via social media. One of the many results of this phenomenon is the growing distrust in the "sources" of information that we have available. For people considering the issues and events of their day, this reality can be confusing, and perhaps even frightening. Along with the growing distrust, the variety of voices and viewpoints being heard is often overwhelming. People are increasingly finding their long held viewpoints challenged, the foundations of their beliefs shaken.


It seems not just a law of physics, but of society, that every action or movement is met with an equal and opposing reaction. For many the reaction has been to default to one source, one position, and one answer. The major news sources have responded to this increasing demand for safe, palatable, and oversimplified news, by catering to one side of what is often mistakenly considered a two-sided, rather than many-sided, issue. This reaction has fueled the political and ideological polarization so prevalent in our country today. It is natural to seek safety when threatened, but our desire for a comfortable, unchallenged existence has cost us the art of critical thinking; therefore, we are much more likely to make decisions that are misguided.


It is increasingly important, not just for individuals, but for organizations to guard against this growing trend. In my line of work, critical thinking is the foundational attribute required for organizations and individuals to truly take ownership in creating their ideal future. Critical thinking requires us to always question our bias and assumptions when it comes to a situation, piece of information, issue, or event. To take a narrow and oversimplified position on the issues we are currently facing leaves organizations and individuals extremely vulnerable to market disruptions and missed opportunity. Now is the time to not only question the information you have available, but to question the narrative by which you interpret that information. 


On a Personal Note.........

"Every child is an artist. The problem is staying an artist when you grow up." - Pablo Picasso
  • Staying young - So many of us have multiple interests, talents, and passions that we have let fall to the wayside amidst the day to day grind. This has been a recurring theme in my life. Just ask my wife. Many of you may or may not know that I've been composing music since the 8th grade. The catch of course is that I cannot read music and once I go beyond the top four frets of my guitar I no longer know what key I am in. All that said is that well over half of the pieces I've composed are probably lost for good thanks to my musical illiteracy. So I've decided to record and share some of these pieces of music on my blog and  in this newsletter as well. It is my hope that you enjoy these short instrumental pieces if you so choose to listen. You can listen to my latest recording here.
  • In more exciting and important news - My wife is pregnant with our second child and due in February! We are truly blessed and excited to have a new addition to the family in 2014. Rylan is pretty certain it is a girl but then again....he's two and a half :). We will know later this month if his toddler intuition is accurate.   
  • Getting old - A week ago I turned 35 and I admit, I still think I'm 25. I live in a college town and nothing helps you remember how old you really are until you see several thousand students return for the fall semester like a migrating flock of geese. This revelation also happens when I hear myself thanking the checkout clerk for the compliment as she asks to see my ID. Most just punch in random numbers as it is very obvious I am past the great age of 21. 
20/20 Foresight: a revolutionary approach to dramatically increasing cohesion in your organization
Now more than ever individuals, executives, students, and leaders are facing a dramatic decrease in clarity and vision about the future direction of their lives. The result of this can wreak havoc on your organization's efficiency and overall cohesiveness. Strategic planning and goal setting are popular exercises traditionally used by organizations to address these problems with their leadership teams. Unfortunately, traditional goal setting and strategic planning typically has a short shelf life in the grand scheme of things. The reason? A lack of clarity on what it is we truly want for ourselves and our organizations. 


20/20 Foresight is a process of uncovering what each member of your team truly aspires to in their personal and professional lives. By deconstructing the "compartments" by which we define ourselves in our own lives, we can begin the process of zeroing in on what is most important in each of those places. When individuals find cohesiveness within their own lives, they are better able to understand their roles within an organization. The organization then can undergo a transformation in which its goals and strategic plans are no longer just arbitrary benchmarks, but actually incorporate the aspirations and insights of the individuals that make up that organization. When done as a team, the resulting impact will: 
  • Significantly increase organizational effectiveness.
  • Create a safe atmosphere of mutual respect and trust. 
  • Increase effective communication throughout the organization.  
  • Motivate employees to promote the organization's long-term aspirations and strategic initiatives.
  • Dramatically increase employee confidence in the day-to-day decision making process.  
Here is what some of the management team of Mountain Air Country Club had to say about our work together: 
To find out how we can customize a program to your meet the specific needs of your organization, contact us at:




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The Jared Nichols Group
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Boone, NC 28607