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Hands On Technology Transfer

Famous Failures in Critical Thinking

When folks fail to think effectively, bad things happen.

Critical Thinking Course Description

We all make mistakes...

But sometimes our errors have spectacular consequences. And often, the mistakes and spectacular consequences could have been avoided if the decision makers had simply applied a little critical thinking. For example...

If you like our toothpaste, you'll love our TV dinners:
Colgate leverages the brand

	  Toothpaste is not good food. In 1982, Colgate – the toothpaste people – decided that it was a good idea to leverage their well-established brand name into a new market sector: frozen foods. They introduced a line of Colgate-branded frozen dinners, thinking perhaps that consumers who associated the name Colgate with oral hygiene would find a line of Colgate dinners to be attractive. Alas, toothpaste is not good food, and, while the products were actually at least as appetizing as competitive products at the time, the line flopped miserably.

Good critical thinkers do not convince themselves that a good outcome is likely merely because they would like to see a good outcome.

If we didn't do it, it can't be any good:
Western Union passes on a new invention called the telephone

One common mistake in critical thinking is when a decision maker leaps to a conclusion with little thought, often because they would rather not believe that a great idea might have come from outside their own enterprise. A great example of this error dates to 1876, when Western Union, owner of the telegraph, which was the most advanced communication technology in the world, passed on the chance to buy the patent for the telephone for a mere $100,000 (about $2.5 million in 2021 dollars). William Orton, president of Western Union, repeatedly mocked the idea of the invention, confident that (1) it was not a great idea, and (2) if he were wrong, his own team would do a better job of building such a device anyway. He refused to listen to contrary arguments, and the rest is history: Bell Telephone became so successful that the federal government broke up the company, and Western Union survives at a fraction of the value of the so-called Baby Bells. (Note: Some reports say the amount was $10,000 and that the investment was offered to a friend of Orton, but the essence of the story is correct.)

A good critical thinker evaluates evidence and seeks expert advice before making important decisions.

I could not possibly have been wrong:
Blockbuster executives refuse to change their minds about Netflix

	  Alas, Blockbuster is gone In the late 1990's, mighty Blockbuster video, at that time the unassailable market leader in the rental of recorded movies to consumers, became aware of a fledgling rival called Netflix which had a different way of doing business. Blockbuster executives looked carefully at this tiny competitor and, based on the evidence at hand, decided that they posed no challenge to their position as industry leaders. Given the chance to acquire Netflix for a trifling $50 million, Blockbuster turned down the offer, convinced of the strength of their position. Even as Netflix grew and the opportunity remained on the table, Blockbuster executives simply refused to change their minds. Today, Blockbuster is little more than a memory. Their $6 billion dollars a year in sales is long gone, along with close to 100,000 jobs in the US alone.

A good critical thinker knows that given new and compelling evidence, it is wise to change one's mind.

On-Demand Training

Critical Thinking
for the 21st Century

A one-of-a-kind course that will improve
the job performance of all employees

New is better: Coca-Cola company introduces New Coke

In 1985, the Coca-Cola company committed the incredible double blunder of introducing a new version of Coke that seemed like it was designed to taste more like Pepsi while simultaneously discontinuing sales of their cornerstone product, Coca-Cola. The public screamed, sales plummeted, and eventually, Classic Coke (the old product) was reintroduced. Eventually, New Coke was discontinued.

It's hard to blame the New Coke fiasco on a single error in critical thinking, as there were so many. A good critical thinker knows that while humans have an inherent bias in favor of new things, there is also an inherent bias in favor of familiar things. A good critical thinker knows that the law of large numbers tells us that product testing is best performed on large groups, and that such groups must not be self-selecting.

The lesson: critical thinking is not automatic or intuitive

Even the most brilliant and successful individuals do not think critically until and unless they know how to. Therefore, Hands On Technology Transfer has created a comprehensive 28 hour on-demand course that teaches all these topics and provides a foundation that will improve the thinking and job performance of even the most highly educated and self-assured individuals, while remaining accessible to all by avoiding jargon, unnecessary detail and gratuitous complexity.

Critical Thinking for the 21st Century offers a spectacular opportunity for those involved in job retraining to assure that trainees are truly ready for retraining, and provides a unique tool for improving the effectiveness and performance of all who take the course. While a single user can take the course for a mere $1,495, bulk purchases can go for as little as $200 per student. Call for details on bulk pricing (978-250-4299) or click here to view the course description.

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