By Will Ostedt
In the house where I grew up, a replica of Rodin’s well-known sculpture, The Thinker, made its home between an array of classic and modern novels, antiques and family photos on a living room bookshelf. The iconic depiction of a man rendered incapacitated by thought, served as an inspirational reminder of the boundless gravity of thought, as we headed out the front door each morning.
But, in today’s world, where every solution or answer is just a few finger taps away, it makes you wonder if The Thinker has effectively been replaced by a new icon more appropriate for the times: The Googler?
There is no doubt that having the solution to nearly any problem or the answer to almost any question at your fingertips is powerful, but are we devaluing critical thinking and problem-solving skills by habitually repurposing and presenting someone else’s spoon-fed solutions as our own?
Ask any group of Millennials (or younger) to find a solution to a specific problem and more than likely you will see a race to be the first one to Google the answer. Why not? With that kind of power in the palm of your hand, it would be borderline careless to not use it.
The alternative would require a group discussion that, after a few hours, results in an answer based on logic and deductive reasoning. No thanks, I’ll just Google it, say the masses. Why reinvent the wheel, if you can just use someone else’s wheel? — even if it may be the wrong-sized wheel.
In some ways, the sense of satisfaction that comes from thinking through a problem has been marginalized by the satisfaction and accolades that come as a result of finding and sharing someone else’s content.
The creators of Twitter recognized this desire to circumventing thinking when they created a platform that allowed people to “rent-a-thought.”
Twitter users often receive more social affirmation from sharing another user’s original thought, than they do from sharing their own original thought. And, a recycled Twitter thought that goes unacknowledged is a much easier hit to the self-esteem than an original thought that is snubbed by 300 million fellow Twitter users.
The rapid-fire approach of recycling thoughts unquestionably leaves little time to engage in the process of thought.
Lack of time is the enemy of critical thinking, and the less time we have, the less we are able to initiate the process of thinking.
We see it every day as the 24-hour news cycle forces media outlets to rush a story to the public, without time to critically think about the credibility and validity of the story. But, in today’s fast-paced media landscape, the risk of being second to the table with information far outweighs the risk of coming to the table with the wrong information.
But, for those in the public relations field, short-circuiting the thought process can have some very serious brand and legal ramifications.
Companies depend on PR professionals to apply their expert critical thinking and problem-solving skills to stay ahead of trends and to deliver accurate brand messages that resonate with information overloaded public.
Some of the most successful public relations campaigns are outcomes of a critical thinking process rooted in a foundation of skepticism.
Clients hire PR experts to chart a long-lasting defendable strategic path around the dynamic barriers and obstacles in their marketplace, and in doing so, deliver brand messages to the various audiences along the way.
The Googler is capable of finding the obstacles and barriers, but The Thinker will always chart the path.
The value of public relations rests in the industry’s ability to identify where the information seeking ends, and the critical thinking begins.
As savvy brands increasingly look to PR firms to better position their brand for the future, it is The Thinker that will always be the most desired asset.
Don’t believe me? Google it.