x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Critical thinking and brainstorming point the way forward

By helping young children to develop analytical thinking ability, we can create a generation that will help us to consistently move forward.

The Greek philosopher Socrates believed that critical thinking (or deep questioning) was a necessary process before one could claim to possess knowledge on a given topic or issue.

However, when we reflect on the level of critical thinking we put into our lives and the issues that surround us, it’s easy to get swept away by the wave of what everyone else is saying or doing and simply roll with it.

One of the first classes I took at graduate school in the US was on how to think critically about issues that affect the people, places and things around us, in the hope that we can act on that thought to bring about positive change to the world.

The fast-paced, information-congested world we live in today leaves little time for deep thought, a state of affairs that increases the risk of a significant drain on intellectual capital in society. The result of that brain drain is that fewer great ideas and innovative projects are fashioned into reality.

So why do I believe critical thinking should be ingrained into the fibres of society? More importantly, why do I think it should be a fundamental part of all levels of education?

Well, when one asks the simple question “why?”, critical thinkers dig deeper into the heart of matters that impact us.

They look at the issues from a variety of perspectives, be they social, economic or political. Furthermore, they initiate discussions on how to proceed in a way that benefits everyone in society as a whole.

If something doesn’t exist – say Arabic media content on the internet or a certain industry in our economy – it is only by asking “why?” that one can pinpoint the elements that are holding back its development.

No matter what age one is, curiosity opens the mind to endless possibilities that lie ahead for our country and its people.

By constantly being curious about why things don’t exist, or why things are always done a certain way, we welcome those possibilities into our lives, and begin the process of innovation, creation and positive change.

Furthermore, in a world that is changing faster than ever before we must be able to put ourselves in the future and work our way back, in addition to being present and engaged with present-day society, businesses and loved ones.

If one is able to think critically about the direction we are going in as a country and as a people and predict potential pitfalls, difficulties and opportunities, risks are mitigated and new value can be created.

On a more social level, as the barriers of communication between public officials and citizens start to break down with the ever growing use of social media, the messages of thought leaders at all levels of society will be a driving force for growth and innovation.

Unfortunately, we have seen time and time again the use of Twitter and Facebook as a means for public outcry, social attacks and negative energy.

However, on a different side of the spectrum we see a great example of the use of the intellectual capabilities and thoughts of citizens by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, who called on residents to “brainstorm” creative ideas to advance the country’s health and education sectors through the now popular Twitter hashtag #UAEBrainStorm.

The richness of any country comes from the collective collaboration of ideas between its people and its leaders.

This is especially true when people come together to think about the direction of our country and the leadership listens with open hearts and minds.

The need for us a society to think deeply about the future of our country is more critical than ever.

By building those skills within our youth through “analytical thinking” classes or debates in schools and other forums, we can create a generation that will challenge us to consistently move forward, to not rest on our laurels, and to constantly be thinking about how to make tomorrow a better place.

Khalid Al Ameri is an MBA candidate at the Stanford Graduate School of Business

On Twitter: @KhalidAlAmeri