Fostering the critical mind 

There is something about critical thinking which, currently at least, feels so counter-cultural.  The way that multiculturalism plays out within the UK makes us reluctant to critique cultural phenomena or traditions that do not seem seem conducive to a modern, civilised society.  We are more inclined to vote for our politicians, based upon their personal attributes than the actual policies that they are likely to be responsible for implementing.  Our entire consumerist society appears to be built on what feels, tastes or looks good, rather than on what it may be doing to the planet, or to our neighbours, family and friends.

In fact the very term 'critical thinking' seems to carry with it negative connotations, as if in the very exercise of such thought we might be deemed to be narrow, cavilling, divisive people with a propensity towards bigotry.

However, such an interpretation actually misses the point.  Critical thinking exemplifies an approach towards engaging with the world around us, which is entirely positive and beneficial in its approach and outcomes.

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally. It includes the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking. Someone with critical thinking skills is able to understand the logical connections between ideas.

IFAs need to be critical thinkers.  The Arch Cru debacle is proof - if we needed such proof - that careful analysis, and that slow process of a cool, critical assessment of something new or unknown, is absolutely vital to the continued effective role of IFAs.  It is possible that we can stop short of the financial equivalent of forensic science, but certainly we do need to develop inquisitive methodologies, rather than take at face value the claims made by product-providers.

And encouraging it was to listen to some of our own ValidPath Members, at our recent Pensions Reforms CPD Special, politely but persistently holding product-providers to account, questionning their assumptions, probing their experience with HMRC, and generally looking for signs of the weak spots in their propositions.  Critical thinking skills are one of the jewels of the consistent IFA, and another example of what separates us from the Restricted Herd.

Related Resources

Logged-in ValidPath Members can now view a growing library of resources aimed at supporting your pensions advisory proposition, post April 5th 2015.


Kevin Moss, 06/03/2015