The importance of critical thinking


It is not often I share links from the Daily Mail but I have to share this article from Jamie Carragher – “English players are weak… we think we are making them men but we’re creating babies” – an excellent piece on the failure of the English national team. In particular, this quote stood out for me:

“Why can’t the elite of English football cope with these moments? Is this what the academies are breeding? Players no longer think for themselves — ‘You didn’t ask me,’ is one of the most used sayings a coach or manager will hear. In those moments, you can’t keep looking over to the bench for guidance or instructions. You make your own decisions. You shouldn’t need to be told ‘do it’ — it should just come naturally that you ‘do it’.”

The importance of instinct and critical thinking in decision making cannot be understated. I think the weakness highlighted by Carragher – people not being able to think for themselves – is not limited to football. From our education system to the development of people in the corporate world, the fostering of individual thinking is not high on the agenda.

The point Carra made in his article reminded me of the story from former IBM Chairman Thomas J. Watson, Jr., who wrote that:

“In IBM we frequently refer to our need for ‘wild ducks.’ The moral is drawn from a story by the Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard who told of a man who fed the wild ducks flying south in great flocks each fall. After a while some of the ducks no longer bothered to fly south; they wintered in Denmark on what he fed them. In time they flew less and less. After three or four years they grew so lazy and fat that they found difficulty in flying at all. Kierkegaard drew his point: you can make wild ducks tame, but you can never make tame ducks wild again. One might also add that the duck who is tamed will never go anywhere any more. We are convinced that any business needs its wild ducks. And in IBM we try not to tame them.”

In a world of tame ducks, it is not always easy to remain a wild one.

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