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Critical Thinking Skills and The Cycle of Inquiry

why-how-what

“There is very little difference between people but that little difference makes a big difference.” – W. Clement Stone

One little difference that makes a big difference is possessing/acquiring CTS: Critical Thinking Skills and a fundamental part of Critical Thinking Skills is asking ambitious, focused, intelligent, provocative questions which in turn involves understanding the “Cycle of Inquiry”.

The Cycle of Inquiry involves sequentially asking “Why, What if, and How”, often over and over.

Asking “Why?” or “What is Our True Goal?” focuses on the desired outcome, the ultimate purpose we wish to direct our energies toward, the underlying meaning of the inquiry: why there is a problem, why it is a problem (for some or from another perspective it may not be a problem), why it still exists i.e. why it hasn’t been solved already.

Asking “What if?” or “How Might We?” or “What other paths lead to the mountain top?” helps us clear away obstacles in our mind, free our imaginations, and lets us see a different world. A variation of this is “Clean Sheeting” i.e. imagining that we are starting from scratch, building from the ground up versus attempting to modify an existing system or situation. If we were starting all over, what would we do different?

Asking “How?” or “What Would it Take?” leads us to the practical stage: creating action plans. When folks tell me something can’t be done, I sometimes ask “Could you do it if you had a million dollars?” Often the answer changes to “Sure, if I had a million dollars I could.” I then say “Well, then it is possible, we just need to find a more economical, cost effective way to do it!”

Questions are the “Engines of the Intellect”, leading us to challenge the status quo and seek new, different and better ways. The act of formulating questions enables us “to organize our thinking around what we don’t know.” The most effective questions are open ended (i.e. do not contain presumptions or constraints), solution-focused, action-oriented that concentrate our creative energies on transforming possibility into reality.

Closing Quotes:

“The most important part of my personality as far as determining my success has been my questioning conventional wisdom, doubting experts, and questioning authority.” – Larry Ellison

“Don’t just teach your children to read. Teach them to question what they read, teach them to question everything.” – George Carlin

“We live in the world our questions create.” – David Cooperrider

“Asking the right questions takes as much skill as giving the right answers.” – Robert Half

“To be able to ask a question clearly is two-thirds of the way to getting it answered.” – John Ruskin

 “If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer.” – Edward Hodnett 

“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” – Tony Robbins

“For true success ask yourself these four questions: Why? Why not? Why not me? Why not now?” – James Allen

“I found I wasn’t asking good enough questions because I assumed I knew something.” – Alan Alda

“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.” – Anthony Jay

“We thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong.” – Bono

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier

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