7 So What?

In the last chapter, we covered the critical thinking tool why. Another very powerful critical thinking tool, and my favorite, goes hand in hand with why: So what? Its place in critical thinking differs from its conventional use; here, So what? is not a question you ask if you don't care. Rather, you ask because you care a great deal. What you really want to know is, “What is the relevance of this?” or “What if this were to happen?” You're truly asking, “Why is this important?” Although that's a question with a why in it, you're really asking for the so what. However, you must take care when using so what; people could easily misinterpret it as your being a wise guy or insubordinate.

I can remember the very first time I asked, “So what?” A customer care manager came to me and said, “Mike, our call hold time (the amount of time a customer has to wait on the line until a customer service representative takes the call) is down to 15 seconds.” I asked him if I should be happy or sad, and the manager responded that I should be happy.

I asked, “Why?”

The manager explained, “Because we answer calls in 15 seconds.”

“So what?”

At that point, the customer care manager looked at me in confusion. The conversation continued. What was the value of answering the call in 15 seconds, when our nearest competitor took over 60 seconds? Will our customers buy more from us? Will they recommend us? Will we retain them longer? It was costing us a lot of money to answer calls that quickly; could ...

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