Leadership Mistakes

How to Think More Clearly

Chris Farmer asked:

The art of clear thinking is a learnable technique that will help you to sharpen your mind and allow you to cut through rhetoric and evaluate the reasoning (if any) behind the words.

To initiate this process, I want to show you six common fallacies, which blur accurate analysis of ideas.

Learn them and apply them every day.

Democratic fallacy

Unreliable reasoning that stems from the idea that the “majority opinion” is a source of truth and a reliable guide for action.

This is a very dodgy way to discover “Truth”

For example;

Imagine a passenger aircraft is having engine trouble.

Would it be right for the pilot to hold a vote as to whether they should attempt an emergency landing?

If not, why not?

Is the majority opinion in the office a reliable guide to intelligent action?

Can a million people be wrong?

Be careful if you are tempted to reinforce your argument with the cry “everyone else thinks so, too.”

Correlation-cause confusion

Correlation-Cause confusion is a common trap that people fall into. Just because two things occur at the same time does not necessarily mean that one caused the other.

It is a mistake to treat a correlation as a causal connection

If I put on my lucky ring, and I go out and find a ten pound note, did the ring cause it to happen?

If a new boss comes to work and the sales next month go down, what does it mean?

Getting personal

Getting personal is the mistake of dismissing an idea because of the person suggesting it.

Imagine an overweight scientist has done research to prove that exercise reduces the risk of heart disease.

You could be tempted to say, “What does he know? Look at the state of him!”

Or you could say “He should practice what he preaches” and dismiss the valuable idea.

Halo effect

Halo effect is the reverse of the above. It means that you give extra credibly to an idea because of the person.

For example Elvis Presley was asked whether he thought the Americans were right to be at war in Vietnam.

He wisely answers ” I don’t want to get into that. I am an entertainer. Ask me about my music”

I remember a radio programme asking agony-aunt Claire Raynor what she thought about the state of the criminal justice system in England and Wales.

What specialised knowledge does her opinion carry?

Separate ideas from the person proposing them and evaluated an idea as a “thing” in its own right. Determine if the idea can act as a guide to intelligent action.

Arbitrary assertion

Is an unsubstantiated statement of belief with no principle, reasoning or sensory evidence to support it.

It is a mistake to grant plausibility to an assertion simply because it is forcefully delivered or repeated.

Frequency and volume should never take the place of logic in your decision to accept an idea as true.

Napoleon once quipped “Repetition is my strongest argument” (and then lost 250,000 in his disastrous Russian campaign)

Equally, it follows that you should avoid trying to convince someone else by simply becoming louder and more passionate. Instead strive to make your reasoning inescapable.

Gamblers fallacy

Is the mistaken belief that your chances of winning increases the longer you play.

This is a false idea.

If you are doing the wrong thing it makes no difference how long you do it. It still will not work.

If your current plan has not been yielding any meaningful results, it will not change fortunes tomorrow.

* Change your ideas.

* Change the plan.

* Change the actions.

* The results must and will change.

Critical reasoning to develop clarity of thought will cause you to do three things:

You will:

* Listen more intently

* Ask more questions

* Think more before you make your decision

All of these will help you get better results

Four step formula for constructing an argument

1. Make sure that the reasons/evidence you offer are relevant to the conclusion. (Ensure your reasoning has no fallacies).

2. Is your conclusion the best based on the reasons or evidence? Ask, Is this conclusion justified.

3. If your conclusion is for some new action or policy, can the policy be carried out practically?

4. Consider the counter arguments that could weaken your position. Make sure you have accessed all relevant information.


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