Socrates is often considered to be one of the fathers of critical thinking. As one of the greatest logicians of all time, he used his considerable mental prowess to quiz his students with his namesake methodology – Socratic Questioning. Socrates once said,“ I know that I know nothing.” And Socratic Questions encourages us to look beyond what we think we know to explore our knowledge, assumptions and biases. Socrates had six basic types of questions, but the part I always found most interesting was that a number of those types of questions started with a single word – why.
The reason I found this so interesting is simple. The question “Why?” isn’t just an incredibly powerful critical thinking tool, it’s an equally powerful creative thinking tool. We often consciously separate creative and critical thinking as two distinctly different thought processes and skill sets, but in the end, they may not be as distantly related as we might have assumed. Critical thinking asks “why” to define, and creative thinking asks “why” to inspire. Socrates’ contribution to the world of creative thinking didn’t just stop at his “why” questions. In fact, there are creative insights to be gained from every one of Socrates’ questions. And oftentimes, the best way to create something completely unknown is to explore what know and work backwards to find the gaps. It is in these gaps, that great thinkers find fertile territory to shape the future.
So the next time you’re staring at a blank piece of paper with no idea where to go. Don’t ask, “Why me?” Start with a simple “Why?”, and see where Socrates can take you.