Critical Thinking in the “Mis”-Information Age

Photo by Wouter de Jong from Pexels

Two monks were arguing about a flag flapping in the wind. “It’s the wind that is really moving,” stated the first one. “No, it is the flag that is moving,” contended the second. A Zen master, who happened to be walking by, overheard the debate and interrupted them. “Neither the flag nor the wind is moving,” he said, “It is MIND that moves.”

In the famous Zen allegory, two monks argue whether it is a flag moving or the wind moving but the passing Zen Master corrects them by saying “not wind, not flag – it is mind that is moving”.

Lately, I see lots of people arguing about the wind and the flag (the obvious) while missing the mind (the not so obvious).

In this age of rapid, directed, and compensated marketing behavior, it seems to me that many times we miss information which leads to misinformation. Sometimes it’s intentional misdirection but mostly it’s because we aren’t trained to think critically.

Sadly, many times I see this happen between and amongst people whom I believe to be smart, compassionate human beings and the discussion causes all too real emotions and disconnect.

In an effort to steer clear of emotional examples, I’ll stick to business articles.


“Here’s the final nail in the coffin of open plan offices”- A new study from Harvard Business School finds that open plan offices don’t live up to the hype–in fact, the idea that they promote interaction is dead wrong.

If conventional wisdom is correct, that interaction and collaboration drive innovation and employee happiness which drives company success, then we need to try a different strategy right?

But what’s missing? At a minimum, there have been shifts in compensation strategies that reward specific outcomes and activities (think Wells Fargo). In an open-air environment, the pull toward increased interaction and collaboration (the purpose of open plan offices) is in direct competition with individual employees’ compensated behaviors.

Perhaps the answer isn’t so clear…

From The Motley Fool:

“The Samsung Galaxy S9 is a Flop” – Samsung’s latest flagship smartphone seems to be underwhelming.

The article does a great job of reviewing market based analysis – comparison to S9 competitors, the market for ultra-premium Android smartphones, and incremental upgrades rather than radical redesigns.

While the purpose of the article is to look at stock valuation, there is missing information. At least in America, the cell carriers have radically changed their approach to cell phone purchase. Gone are the days of a dramatically reduced price of the phone in exchange for a two year contract. The new model has people paying exorbitant prices for the hardware. Is the new practice encouraging people to hold onto their phones longer? Is it driving people toward more moderately priced phone models?

Perhaps the answer isn’t so clear…

Try this when you find yourself in a conundrum regarding something that is being presented to you: ask yourself, “what’s not being looked at – what is here but being missed”.

Critical thinking when applied to interaction – especially social media interaction – allows us to find common ground which leads to increased interaction and innovation…

Which leads to increased personal satisfaction as well as increased business success…

Give it a shot – take a break from knee jerk reactions and apply a little critical thinking!

Scott Alexander is a published author, a coach to entrepreneurs and senior executives, an accomplished speaker, and a strategy/leadership consultant.