After one of my presentations on critical thinking, an
attendee came up to talk.
In the presentation, I talk about the subprime crisis and
its contribution to the Great Recession (or whatever we finally decided to call
Afterwards, the gentlemen came up and began discussing a book
on the subject, one that was from an insider and provided insights into how
badly things had gone and how little retribution there had been.
We were having a good conversation, sharing our thoughts
about the debacle and, in general, talking like two intellectual adults who
were sharing and building on each other’s idea.
I then said something to the effect of “I’m not bringing
this up as a political discussion, but, in her prior role, Elizabeth Warren had
been trying to put in some controls.”
Now, you don’t have to agree with that statement; that is
what debate is for. But his reaction floored me. He got a look like the
sandwich he had just eaten contained something less than fresh meat.
I quickly repeated “Again, not talking about the current
To which he replied, “Pocahontas.”
I like to think internal auditors understand the basics of
critical thinking, of logical debate, of using facts and information to put
forward or refute a discussion. Saying that, I know we all say things in the
privacy of our homes, in conversations with friends, in “safe” situations, that
are not the epitome of sparkling repartee and wit.
But I was flummoxed to watch the change in conversation from
a reasonable conversation involving critical thinking into one using soundbite jingoism.
Internal auditors live and die by critical thinking. Do it
right and you’re a star; don’t bother and you wind up in the trash bin of your
organization’s history. And the more we let these logical gaps creep into our
everyday conversations — heck, the minute we let them creep into our
conversations with other professionals — the more likely it is those lapses
will occur again and again (and again and again).
I guess my warning to everyone is this simple. Be careful
out there, trying to keep your brain somewhere nearby every time you speak.