The 20 Reasons Why Sensemaking & Critical Thinking Matter — Reasons #15–20

Grey Swan Guild
8 min readDec 16, 2021

Futures & Sensemaking Series #2 — Part 4 of 4

Author: Sean Moffitt, Co-Founder, Grey Swan Guild & Managing Director, Futureproofjng :Next.

Contributors: Mitchell Halpern and Jonathan Powers

To Read Part #1 of this post series and reasons #1–2.

To Read Part #2 of this post series and reasons #3–8

To Read Part #3 of this post series and reasons #9–14

#15. Finding the Fundamental Pieces in our Jigsaw Puzzle & Glut of Data

The amount of information available today is massive, and it’s not relenting with immersive technologies. The world produces more data in two years than nearly the entirely history of mankind before it.

Data unfortunately does not equal insight. And AI is not the ideal filter for the right information. People need guides to weed through the right information and not just passively accept it.

During the past century, confident decision making and strong problem solving skills were the top celebrated qualities of great leaders, but today, problem solving is quickly losing its value as a leadership skill. Certainly, technology plays a role in this trend, as AI becomes more efficient at solving problems, often surpassing human problem solving abilities; alarming as it may seem, leaders will not be called upon to solve problems in the near future.

We are coming to realize that it is not decisions that drive organizations; rather, it is the reasoning and meaning behind these decisions that shapes organizations.

Sensemaking and Critical Thinking performs what our data engines can’t, pointing to the important whys and wheres behind our quest for insight and foresight.

#16. Improves our Adaptability in Light of Different Perspectives and New Information

My innovation hothouse and consultancy Futureproofing ; Next recently sought to define what are the leadership skills of future innovators. Across 65 valuable factors and a battery of five criteria, the most important one of them all was “adaptable intelligence”.

You may have heard of IQ (intelligence quotient) and EQ (emotional quotient) but you may be hearing a lot more about AQ in the future — the adaptability quotient — the ability to pivot and flourish in an environment of fast and frequent change..

Callum Hughson , Joerg Esser and Natalie Gratto puts some more meat on the bone to this adaptability quotient, suggesting AQ is not only our ability to absorb new information, but also the ability to work out what is relevant, to unlearn obsolete knowledge, overcome challenges, and to make a conscious effort to change. It involves flexibility, curiosity, courage, resilience and problem-solving skills. Oftentimes, I say we need leading global change agents that can learn, relearn, unlearn and learn how they learn.

Smart people do indeed exist that may lack this third intelligence ability AQ, these rigid geniuses may struggle in the future. An IBM study corroborated our own finding, identifying “willingness to be flexible and adaptable to change” as the most critical skill for workers in 2019, up from fourth place in 2016.

Sensemaking and Critical Thinking allows us to shake our paradigms and bends to the new rays of enlightenment.

#17. Provides the Basis for Strong Science, Technology, Economy & Democracy

Our institutions, flawed as they may be, will cease to function if sensemaking and critical thinking isn’t well taught, well learned and well-practiced. We may have many people angry, at many things, for just reasons nowadays but lost in the big picture — we are progressing on many fronts. Interestingly, people that are educated can hold that longer term context.

To generate the value with any scientific breakthough, technology progress and free democracy, we need people that can think critically in order to make sound decisions about personal and civic affairs. We need people to sensemake how these developments can fit in to their lives.

At an early age, learning to think critically can be an essential guide by which they live their lives. Perhaps not surprisingly society has progressed innovatively, democratically, economically and health-wise over the last 120 years, as basic education has gone from 35% of the global population in 1900 to now 86%.

Sensemaking and Critical Thinking is foundational for building stronger, fairer societies; a progressing world needs to smarter innovators, citizens, customers, parents and children.

#18. Helps Us Detect False Statements, Infodemics and Hype, Even When in the Minority Opinion

New research provides evidence that conspiracy theorists are negatively correlated to critical thinking skills. Said another way, people with greater critical thinking are less like likely to believe terrorist attacks covertly directed by their own governments, or mind control technology helping control citizenry.

Over the last two years, this lack of reasoning faculty has been shown to impact the coronavirus conspiracy theories, acceptance of government regulations and taking the COVID vaccine.

Only 26% are “very confident” now in spotting fake news, that has dropped from 39% back in 2016. We make decisions decently each day — the stuff that is right in front of our noses we do okay with. It’s what people need to do for tomorrow, that’s the missing skill. It is an epidemic, it’s an infodemic.

Interestingly, behavioral scientists found that higher scores on the reasoning test were associated with a better ability to distinguish fake headlines from real news headlines. This was true even when the fake stories aligned with participants’ political preferences, with the conclusion being that people are more likely to fall prey to misinformation because of lazy thinking rather than due to any partisan affiliation or ideology.

Sensemaking & Critical Thinking are one of our only defences against the rising tide of fake news, bad actors, state propaganda and poor journalism.

#19. Ability to More Objectively Assess Our Own Strengths, Weaknesses and Gaps

Sensemakers and critical thinkers need introspection so they’re aware of their own degree of self-awareness, -alertness and -attentiveness.

Not in all cases, but stronger thinkers are able to better examine their own competencies, thoughts, feelings, sensations , emotional and mental state.

Some people may interpret this higher end talent in themselves, but many are really speaking to self obsession and narcissism which are both on the rise. You can actually take the test for this self-absorption (I received a 15.3 score, slightly above average, 20 and up and I should have been worried).

The introspective critical thinker is able and willing to acknowledge their shortcomings and their positive attributes in an accurate way. They are willing to stretch and open your minds to new capacities and development. The introspective sensemaker also has intellectual humility, the ability to be open to other people’s viewpoints, recognize when they’re in error and willing to challenge their own fundamental beliefs when necessary.

Deeper forms of Sensemaking and Critical Thinking assist us in learning where we are strongest, and more importantly, where we need to account for personal handicaps, deficits and learning opportunities.

Why Sensemaking & Critical Thinking Matter #20 — Improves Relationships Through Greater Empathy and Less Rash Judgements

Intelligence is a preferred characteristic in many relationships. It’s rated #2 and #6 as an attribute of romantic partners in stable and sporadic relationships.

The key difference between gold medal friends and toxic friends comes down to emotional intelligence. NextDoor found sensemaking and critical thinking attributes in good neighbors as well. Not only do we seek out friends for their intelligence and ability to accept us, but their intelligence and sensemaking actually rubs off on us favourably.

Finding sensemaking and critical thinking in our friends or exhibiting these traits ourselves can lead to a roster of social benefits:

  • analyzing interpersonal situations more objectively and improving communication among all those involved
  • a guardian, parent or caregiver helping people through life crises by quickly analyzing the situation, evaluating priorities, and inferring what actions to take in what order
  • remaining level-headed and preventing arguments from escalating during periods of tension
  • arbitrating between disagreeing friends, with empathy and fairness to all sides in a disagreement
  • in partner relationships, expressing your needs, improving your understanding partner’s point of view and developing more emotional intimacy
  • a mentor, coach or educator using clever questioning to guide peers to new insights
  • learning how not to take work-related discussions personally and to become more convincing in your own argumentation
  • engaging in healthy debate that gets everybody to a higher plane without post-debate resent
  • active listening as people need sounding boards for their life challenges

Sensemaking & Critical Thinking creates the better version of ourselves, able to get along and be valued by neighbours, colleagues, friend and families.

And those close out our 20 reasons. We hope you enjoyed and look forward to other long form posts on the state of futures, foresight, insight, innovation, sensemaking, science, critical thinking and hindsight.

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This post represents the second of a series of long form posts entitled The Futures & Sensemaking Series. We have canvassed a leading group of passionate and talented people who think a lot about the “why” and the “how” about our current and future state. We hope you enjoy our outputs and decide to join our Guild to participate, collaborate and contribute.

The Grey Swan Guild — Get Involved :

Sean Moffitt is the co-founder of Grey Swan Guild — Making Sense of the World’s Biggest Challenges and Future Grey Swans , Managing Director & Author, Futureproofing ; Next Innovation You Can Take to the Bank . Sean spends equal amounts of time navigating the now, and getting ahead of the future. A great majority of his efforts are spent building out global networks of leading thinkers & doers, fielding foresight ventures, authoring reports on the future, hosting innovation masterclasses, conducting futureproofing sprints, producing change workshops and providing strategic & innovation counsel for corporations & scale-ups. His new book Futureproofing ; Next — The Future Beyond Innovation launches this Fall. Feel comfortable getting in touch with Sean and his team here.



Grey Swan Guild

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