Conventional wisdom refers to commonly accepted beliefs, theories, and practices.
It is often considered to be the default way of thinking and acting in a particular culture or society. But, while it can provide a sense of stability and safety, conventional wisdom can also stifle creativity, and limit possibilities.
Being overly invested in a particular way of doing things, we can be reluctant to try new approaches or take risks that could lead to failure.
One of the main ways it does this is by limiting our imagination. When we accept certain beliefs and assumptions as true, we may be less likely to question them or explore alternative perspectives.
Where’s the evidence?
Since conventional wisdom often follows theories and beliefs that aren’t necessarily based on evidence or logic, it can limit possibilities by discouraging critical thinking and closer inspection.
This can lead to a lack of questioning and exploration of alternative ideas, and a closed-minded approach that limits creativity and innovation. Encouraging critical thinking and exploration, on the other hand, can open up new possibilities for growth and progress.
The risk of groupthink is another threat. When everyone in a particular culture or society thinks and acts in the same way, the innate need to conform can make it difficult to speak up and consider alternative approaches.
This can lead to a lack of diversity of thought and a reluctance to challenge the status quo.
There is a chicken and egg situation where conventional thinking can limit possibilities by creating a sense of fear or resistance to change. This fear bolsters the need for ‘a way to do things’, reducing the likelihood that anyone will step up with fresh ideas.
When people are comfortable with the way things are done, they can be resistant to new ideas or ways of doing things. This can stifle creativity by discouraging risk-taking and experimentation. It can make it difficult, for example, to introduce new methods, products, or services, or to change existing ones to better meet the needs of consumers.
Not all bad
It’s not all bad. Conventional wisdom does provide a sense of stability and security, and it can save time. However, as it can also stifle creativity and limit possibilities if relied on too heavily it is important to remain also open to new ideas, perspectives, and approaches, and to be ready to challenge assumptions and beliefs.
In so doing, we can foster a culture of innovation and progress, and unlock new possibilities for ourselves, our organisations, and our community.
It’s not either/or, it can be both. Critical thinking can be applied in parallel with conventional wisdom by using it as a tool for questioning and evaluating commonly accepted beliefs and practices. Rather than rejecting conventional wisdom outright, critical thinking allows us to analyse and evaluate it, in a thoughtful and systematic way.
This can involve asking questions about the underlying assumptions and evidence, examining alternative perspectives, and considering the potential consequences of different approaches.
By using critical thinking strategically we can challenge conventional wisdom where necessary and identify opportunities for innovation and progress, while still benefiting from the collective knowledge of the past.
Ultimately, the goal is to strike a balance between respecting the value of conventional wisdom and being open to new ideas and approaches.