Critical thinking is the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it.
Put differently, it is the process we use to reflect on, access and judge the assumptions underlying our own and others’ ideas and actions.
In the context of the Socratic Method, critical thinking involves asking six types of questions to get to the bottom of an issue.
For the purpose of this post the issue will be the crisis of credibility facing the advertising industry today.
According to Dr. Richard Paul, the six types of questions are:
I. Questions that serve to clarify the issue
- ‘Why does the advertising industry find itself in the dock today?’
- ‘What are the charges that have been brought against it?’
- ‘What has prompted the charges?’
- ‘How credible are the sources of the charges?’
- ‘How have the industry’s own behaviours and attitudes contributed to the crisis, if any?
II. Questions that challenge our assumptions about it
- ‘Why do we believe the advertising industry is in the grips of a credibility crisis?’
- ‘Is the crisis a general phenomenon or has it been blown out of proportion in our market, industry, circle, product/service category . . . ?’
- ‘How have fellow marketers or marcom agencies responded (or reacted) to the crisis? Why have they done so in the way they have? How alike or dissimilar has our own response been? Why have we responded in the way we have?’
- ‘How have we contributed to the crisis? What have we done to mitigate the impact of our advertising decisions and practices? What are we doing now and what should we be doing in the days to come?’
- ‘Is the crisis an existential one, a wakeup call or an opportunity in disguise?’
III. Questions that probe our reasoning and the evidence
- ‘If advertising is an important facet of the promotion part of the marketing mix, why are questions being raised about its credibility?’
- ‘What is the root of the general opinion regarding the crisis?’
- ‘On what evidence and authority have we based our own conclusion?’
- ‘Has anything of this magnitude happened in the past? What triggered that crisis and how did the industry deal with it? What lessons were learned from it? Was the industry better or worse off because of it?’
- ‘Besides the numbers, data, news, word of mouth and industry bodies, what do the sales & customer service people and the consumers themselves think/believe?’
IV. Questions that uncover viewpoints and perspectives
- ‘If the crisis is real, what’s likely to happen by Q3 or Q4, next year or the years after?’
- ‘What must marketers and agencies do posthaste to stem the tide?’
- ‘How can technology help us to at least arrest the haemorrhaging?’
- ‘Is our unfettered over-reliance on technology to blame for the crisis in any way?’
- ‘Is the crisis partly the result of misconceptions that have historically plagued the advertising profession?’
V. Questions that throw light on the implications and consequences
- ‘What precisely does the crisis translate into for a marketer or an advertising agency like us?’
- ‘What are the consequences of assuming that the crisis is real, not real, temporary, or cyclical?’
- ‘Have we been looking at the business & discipline of advertising from the wrong end of the telescope?’
- ‘What is the most objective & cost-effective way we can deal with the crisis and/or its most pressing symptom?’
- ‘Are we too big to fail or too myopic to see the rot that’s already set in?’
VI. Questions that question the question itself or its gist
Question: ‘If advertising is an important facet of the promotion part of the marketing mix, why are questions being raised about its credibility?’
Counter: ‘In our own or a client’s case, how important is advertising when compared with the other promotional elements (public relations, sales promotion, direct marketing and/or personal selling)?’
In parting, I yield to the philosopher par excellence: