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The Lost Art of Critical Thinking & Problem-solving

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Testing our knowledge creates understanding, and the evidence of that understanding becomes wisdom. Wisdom examined and tested from all angles with no bias is truth. Truth should be unbiased and is foundational to the design we see and don’t see.

Although this article may be positioned for brand strategy, I assure you this can be applied to all aspects of our lives. I hope that this will be a universal guide, or at least point you in a more optimal direction for your path to success.

I am going to focus on just three points in this article:

1. How should we define critical thinking & problem-solving?

2. How is this fundamental to brand strategy?

3. How would we apply this to our brand strategy process?

Point 1:

So, what is critical thinking or problem-solving? Let’s not leave these open to interpretation but use the definition of each to give us a foundation to expand upon.

critical thinking

noun

The objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.

"Professors often find it difficult to encourage critical thinking amongst their students"

And…

problem-solving

noun

The process of finding solutions to difficult or complex issues.

"An expert at creative problem-solving"

Point 2:

Now that we know that critical thinking is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue to form a judgement, and problem-solving is the process of finding solutions to difficult or complex issues, how are both of these skills important and necessary in a strategic process?

Let’s take critical thinking for starters. Critical thinking is about analyzing and evaluating to find the truth. That discovery process leads us to unbiasedly examine each side to determine the best path forward when building a business or brand.

We at BAM Align have our clients take our FREE Archetype Alignment Quiz before walking businesses through our problem-solving frameworks This quiz lets us get to know our clients better and gives us a clearer vision of their goals and motivations. It also identifies their style of communication and what tone they best respond to so we know what words trigger for them and why. By correctly decoding their archetypal mix we are able to test our clients’ reality. The evidence of this process allows us to clearly see what our clients’ “true north” is and advise them accordingly.

You may have a different method for arriving at an unbiased conclusion, and that’s OK. As long as your process is able to examine the narrative elements that shape your client’s story.  If you include that piece you’ll likely get an optimal result in the end.

But… there are many people out there not using critical thinking in their process, and this is especially evident when looking at social media platforms. Due to the convenience of sharing, reposting, retweeting, and so on, we react to a post, and then share it without the consideration of actually looking at both sides to determine the merit or truth of what’s being shared. The consequences of this behavior have led to the “age of misinformation,” where truth has somehow become subjective.

By not testing the knowledge through a reliable, unbiased process, we remove the ability to understand all sides of the issue to find the evidence we need to draw a sober conclusion. Without testing our knowledge for full understanding, even though we may believe we have wisdom and know the truth, we create chaos and obscure what’s actually true. If truth is foundational, then it’s neutral - it can have no biases. This is not a one-and-done process, however, and we must test the fortitude of our beliefs against the data as more data points emerge. Through this process, we get truths that stand the test of time, and we at BAM Align call them “eternal truths.”

This all may sound like a bit of a tangent, but it’s important that we understand all the points that connect in the process of critical thinking as well the consequences if we negate this flow.

  1. Knowledge - Raw information acquired from examining our sources
  2. Understanding - Insight gained from objectively examining knowledge from all sides
  3. Wisdom - A holistic grasp of the many facets of understanding, and how to apply them
  4. Truth - Wisdom that has stood the test of time to produce consistent, widely-applicable patterns

We now have a process of critical thinking, allowing us to unbiasedly advise a business’ unique path of success—one that's grounded in the evidence of truth, that shapes our reality.

We may now have a better understanding of the client’s direction, but we still need to ask more questions through a process of problem-solving to determine the best solutions. We build on the existing evidence to start shaping their success.

Our method is called The Big BAM Process strategy framework. This helps us align all the elements of the client’s vision in a layered structure to determine the message (voice) of the brand.

You may have a different way to this approach of helping others in their business find their message, voice, identity, vision, and/or solution, and that’s OK. As long as you are building on the wisdom and truths discovered through the critical thinking process to give you a bearing on how to advise, then you are on solid ground to start building a brand.

Critical thinking should always be the first part of the problem-solving process when you start working with your clients. By taking this important first step, you’ll be able to transform their current reality into a better way forward.

Point 3:

We have seen how to use critical thinking and problem-solving as cornerstones of our brand strategy process, but how does that help you and your business?

In this next part, I am going to be framing and creating boundaries for helping you determine that reality.

Just as there are two sides to every coin, there are two sides to many designs in the world around us. Up and down, left and right, hot and cold, push and pull, light and dark. They are opposites of each other, but each one has its purpose. The balance comes from the parts, pressure, force, opposites and so on. This complementarity is intentional.

Examining our biases means looking at all the opposing sides and testing the evidence.

One way we can do this is by asking questions about experiences that were positive and negative with brands in your industry, which starts to outline the balance of what’s needed and what isn’t.


Another way is by assessing the pain your clients may be experiencing by asking targeted questions. The goal is to pinpoint the resonant pain points through this process. Think of it like playing the board game Battleship. You try to strategically locate the opponent's ships by calling out coordinates. You know they are on the grid somewhere, but you aren’t exactly sure where until you get a hit or miss. You can read the body language and tone to assess how close or far away you are.

By discovering that pain, you can determine what your solution needs to look like, and show them the steps or strategy necessary to make their goals a reality. Then, you need to help them package that solution and choose a channel where their current aligned client is most active. Measure and reflect on these results to make adjustments, and then you’ll be able to start uncovering the deeper message that has been resonating inside them, but was invisible until now. Through this added clarity, you can give hope and a new sense of focus to your client and encourage them to make that vision a reality.

Your process should reflect the client experience your clients want, and the culture you represent. It’s about mining through each layer of information and building on the truths you find to reveal a deeper existence or reality. As you go deeper, your area of focus will get tighter and the resonance inside your audience will get stronger.

This resonance is a result of the neocortex, limbic, and primal alignment in the brain. It’s not just about emotions or feelings, it’s the deeper, unconscious sense of who we are. If we base our decisions on our feelings, we are like a wave blown by the wind and tossed by the sea - fully at the mercy of our emotions; and that’s not balanced or healthy. But when we make decisions that are in alignment with our deepest selves, we can truly thrive.

When we are in business, our brand is built around problem-solving. The basic function of a business is to meet the specific needs of a pain/problem our clients have, and provide them with a solution. Your creative approach to the problem-solving process, as well as your solution to it, will partly be what differentiates you from your competitors.

One way I approach this is by examining each problem as though it was a cube. How many sides does a cube have? Six. And the cube has different facets that need to be examined before you can get a sense of the whole. Similarly, to get a complete understanding of the problem at hand, you need to turn it over to examine the six major questions: Who, What, Where, Why, When and How.


Here is an example:

KEY QUESTION: What value do I offer that is different from my competitors?

  1. Why should they choose your solution?
  2. What competitors is your solution different from?
  3. How is your solution different or better?
  4. Where can they find your solution?
  5. What is it about the result that makes your solution different?
  6. When is the best time for your different solution?

Another example...

KEY QUESTION: What is the internal pain/challenge my client needs me to solve?

  1. Why are we drawn to deal with the challenge/pain our client is having? 
  2. Who causes the challenge/pain for our client?
  3. How do we know this is the challenge/pain our client is having?
  4. Where do we address the challenge/pain in our process?
  5. What is the root of the challenge/pain our client is having? 
  6. When do we help the client with the challenge/pain?

As a rule of thumb, once I’ve examined all six perspectives, I focus on one of them to tackle the problem of the key question. This gives me a clear strategy to solve my problem.

These are all just different ways to use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to find solutions for clients. It’s important that anything we discover is thoroughly tested and examined from all sides. The results of that testing process then give us insight on how to proceed with our client.

Agree? Disagree? Comment below.

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