Helping a friend with a blog idea at the moment, we are deep in critical thinking. We analyze the blog’s positioning: who will it speak to, why would the content be of interest to them and how to negotiate personal and professional roles through the blog. We attempt to be constantly discerning but not negative.
All this sits alongside my friend’s vision for his blog – about where he’s come from, where he’s going and what matters to him.
Big brains like Clay Shirky’s have emphasized that in these times of information deluge, the prized skill is how we filter all this vast amount of content available to us. Estimates are that 80% of our learning is informal and those of us who spend lots of time online will know opportunities here are infinite. But lordy, there can be a lot of drivelly plankton to wade through before you get to the knowledge that’s coral: hard, embedded, built up over years…
Here then are some questions to focus critical thinking about content:
- who is the creator/s of this content?
- why are they creating it?
- do they have some evidence of authority?
- is their content available through different media so I get a fuller picture of where they come from?
- what am I after as seeker of content: analysis, inspiration, entertainment, provocation, a role model to imitate or relate to… and if so are they providing me with this?
And we can put our own content through these questions…from the point of view of a visitor to it.
Useful too, to identify our own habits in critical thinking. Maybe we :
- tend to decide too soon or too late? (with a history of impatience or missing the boat)
- don’t always understand our own motivations
- find analysis daunting or lack practice in it
- lack confidence in our gut reaction and don’t listen to any sense of foreboding we may feel.
Friends with who you can share what you want to achieve openly and honestly are helpful here (or a good coach. And, ahem, I’m not selling this). Studying any subject that involves analytical and verbal skills can help too. Literary appreciation, history, politics or even psychology will do, all creating awareness of context, variables and the subjective viewpoint.
Is the context in which you operate too complacent? Competition above all else encourages high levels of critical thinking. Predictably Irrational and How We Decide are both recommended reads on this subject.
And if you’re overly self-critical? Take heart: at least you already have the skill in place but may need to redirect it more towards others. Forgetting the analysis, my crystal ball is saying this ability will be the critical skill of the future.