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Critical Thinking in an AI World 

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I recently finished the book “Calling Bullshit” written by Carl T. Bergstrom (2020), a professor of Biology at U of Washington. The premise of the book is awareness of how much misinformation there is in our now data driven world.  

Bergstrom who normally writes about epidemiology, evolution, medicine and science shares how often statistics, patterns and odds are misrepresented to benefit a special interest or sway a select group.  

If you take the time to digest the messages in this book, it teaches us some simple concepts about critical thinking that we should be able to execute without difficulty.  

Yet these days, we are getting further and further away from using forethought. We regularly rely on referred knowledge, trusting sources that are presumed accurate (but not verified) to make our decisions, rather than use our gift of critical thinking skills. BTW, social media is a force multiplier allowing for deceptive information to appear and disappear like a ghost. 

Yah, we all hear it, “things are moving so fast, we don’t have time to think.” That is exactly the problem. Today’s disposable mentality has moved past the concept of fast fashion, to fast strategy. Wear it once and throw it away has become “try it and toss it.” This is a great waste! 

Now don’t let me sound like a slow poke. I completely agree with fast idea to market strategies such as prototyping in the field. This sort of goto market strategy has been highly effective in many industries, including tech, oil and gas, and even medical.  

But there is a difference between prototyping and waste. Good critical thinking and prototyping is brilliant and will mainstream innovations quickly. Lack of critical thinking is nothing more than a “garbage in and garbage out” process for failure.  

Considering critical reasoning such as game theory, strategic thinking, and awareness of reasonable outcomes are the opposite of the garbage in and out process.  

Critical thinking starts with a simple question: “Does this make sense?” It is followed by a 5-W assessment to determine value and then a go or no-go decision. It is not rocket science. It is simply good basic blocking-and-tackling process management that in this writers opinion, seems to be lost a lot these days.  

In this future world of AI, machine learning, and reliance on data to make our decisions, critical thinking skills are going to be the number one value and performance expertise. Its kind of like toilet paper. Its value is completely ignored, until you find yourself needing a roll.  

Teach these skills in your management, operations, finance and sales teams. Your organization will benefit and gain.  

Chuck Bean is the founder of The Method Effect, a Calgarybased consultancy. In his 40-year career, he has led large corporations and worked with over 40 capstone teams in 20+ North American universities, providing strategic business and innovation support and consulting. www.themethodeffect.com 

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