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Show Them The Wrong AND The Way

You’ve probably heard the saying “put your money where your mouth is.”

Well, here’s another one for you:

Put your creativity where your criticism is.

That is, if you have enough time, energy, and passion to point out a problem, then try to muster up the time, energy, and passion to propose a viable solution.

When people propose solutions, no matter how imperfect their proposals are, it’s typically because they see their proposals as the best option available. Even if a proposed solution is absolutely horrible, it’s still possible that people will see it as “better than doing nothing” or “a necessary evil.”

If you observe someone advocating a “stupid” idea, for instance, it’s probably not because they’re deliberately trying to be “stupid.” Of course, that’s what it seems like when you’re annoyed with them, but the chances are pretty decent that people do “stupid” things because those “stupid” things seem pretty “practical” relative to what their other options are. Never underestimate people’s tendency to justify “bad” decisions by telling themselves “well, I’d love to have a realistic alternative, but this is the best I can do.”

So if you’re only good at pointing out the flaws in what other people propose, you won’t be very helpful unless you can inspire them to think in a way that opens their mind to better alternatives.

If you want to promote critical thinking and creative intelligence, it’s not enough to merely point out the problematic nature of current solutions. Go one step further. Put your creativity where your criticism is and take the risk of putting new ideas on the table. Give people a reason to believe that their problematic ways aren’t the only option.

People don’t change just because their strategies are shown to be imperfect. People change because they’ve actually seen a better way.

Don’t just point out the problems. Teach people how to see the possibilities. Show them the wrong *and* show them the way.

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