In business or in the world at large, we can benefit from role models of clear and straight thinking.  One of my most respected FORENSIC INVESTIGATORS, Dr. Judy Wood,  published a detailed observation of the evidence rendered by the destruction of the World Trade Center in her book, “Where Did The Towers Go?”  Beware. The book has extensive graphics of the horrible event. But such detailed graphics is necessary for her forensic analysis, or should I say, forensic “observations”? Dr. Judy Wood’s work becomes a masterful reference in many ways but particularly for what it was intended, a book of evidence.

I have listened to a large number of her interviews and presentations in an attempt to provide a checklist to help myself think more clearly when faced with emotionally-charged events. I am now sharing my summary notes with you in hopes it may help benefit you, too. The checklist below presents–IN MY OWN WORDS, not hers– some of her principles to straight thinking:

  1. Follow the evidence. Don’t speculate. Don’t try to explain. Just see/observe.
  2. Your experience and training may not be sufficient to let you observe critically enough to capture all the variations and possibilities.
  3. Don’t get steered into this viewpoint or that,  too soon.
  4. Evidence always speaks the truth. Too often things are said or done to stop you from looking at the wider field of evidence.
  5. People too often guess to solve the problem, instead of studying the evidence and carefully searching and matching for patterns.
  6. You can definitely rule out  some things. Failure modes that the evidence clearly shows did NOT occur.
  7. First determine what happened, not how it was done or who did it.  Speculating on the who puts one’s mind into a revenge mode and shuts down critical thinking. This is a frequent trap…revenge-mode thinking drops your I.Q. Suspicions can’t substitute for valid evidence.
  8. Don’t need to know how. Don’t need to have seen it before. Some phenomena has been around a long time but people may not be trained to recognize it until it is explained to them.
  9. Never start with a theory…a theory ties you into solving an imaginary problem and stops the mind from looking at what’s actually happening. People spend a lot of time trying to fit what they see into what they know,  rather than just observing the evidence.
  10. It is very difficult to NOT ASSUME when looking at data. It is also difficult to prevent emotions from ruling critical thinking.
  11. Be alert to the deceptions caused by redirection or distraction. It is too easy to be deterred from critical observations and critical thinking.
  12. Avoid falling into the trap of trying to fit, or speculating to fit into a known pattern. Observe what is there. Don’t pattern match. Just observe the evidence.