John Ward

John Ward Headshot
1. How do you teach or model applied critical thinking?

One of the things my students learn early is that when I ask them a question "It depends" is often the right answer! Very seldom in business do we make decisions that are not dependent on other factors. We have to gather facts and data and process them with the proven frameworks we have to make the best decisions. If we start with a mindset of "it depends" we understand that we must always consider the options and available data before choosing a path forward. To me that is the essence of critical thinking.

2. Why do you think applied critical thinking is important in your domain or role?

One of the things that can be frustrating for business students is the realization that there are seldom perfect answers. Whether deciding on a target market to pursue with a new product or developing a new incentive plan for your sales team it is never 100% clear what the right answer is. Being "more right more often" is formula for success in business. That means you need to be better at objective analysis and evaluation of the available information. That is the essence of critical thinking.

3. Can you share a story where quality applied critical thinking was key to your success?

I was involved in the photographic imaging business prior to coming to RIT. One of the things that we had to do was determine how people would change their picture taking habits with the advent of digital cameras. We were able to build a good model of what the future would look like by stepping back and really considering technology curves, consumer behaviors, and economics to develop an advantaged photo system. Technology shifts almost always demand a high degree of applied critical thinking to identify opportunities.

4. How do you use critical thinking in other areas of your life outside of RIT? And any last critical thoughts?

We live in polarizing times. Every day I interact with people that are angry because they feel that their "side" is not winning. I try to step back and really evaluate issues. Dig hard to find the facts and work to eliminate bias. We all are better off to the extent we use critical thinking skills to form opinions vs the latest tweets or Facebook posts. I do my best to let that concept lead me.

Critical thinking is not something that can be taught in a single course or seminar. To me one of the greatest benefits of a college education is the accumulated experience one gets in critical thinking across all the courses they take regardless of the specific curriculum.