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Think Smarter: Critical Thinking to Improve Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Skills by Michael Kallet

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8 Need

What Is the Necessity?

More than 2,000 years ago, Plato claimed that “Necessity is the mother of invention.” If you want to get something done—if you need to get it done—then you have to understand why it is necessary. Think about how often we use the words want and need and how interchangeable we make them. We want lots of things. I want a new car, but do I need one? When getting clear about a headscratcher, ask why it is necessary to solve.

Think of a goal or task to do that you've had for a while. Do you ever think about why you haven't accomplished it—or even spent much time on it? I sometimes excuse that lack of progress on not having time to do it, but I have time. We all do. We just choose to spend that time on something else. I haven't accomplished it because the need to accomplish it isn't there. If it were necessary, I'd get it done.

Here's a simple business example: Many information technology (IT) departments send out periodic notices to employees to clean out their corporate e-mail inboxes, because e-mail takes up loads of storage. What do you do when you receive that request? You might delete a few e-mails, but you probably don't spend much time going through the old ones. Why should you? Where's the need? It's a request, a want—and although the IT department really needs to recover storage, or they will have to buy more, what's your need to help them with this? You don't have one in this regard until one day, when you get an “Inbox full” message. Guess what ...

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