A young girl was watching her mother bake a ham for a family gathering and noticed her mom cutting off the ends before placing it in the oven.
“Mom, why do you cut the ends off before baking the ham?” she asked.
“Hmmm…I think it helps soak up the juices while it’s baking. I’m actually not sure, though. That’s just the way your grandma always did it, so I’ve just always cut them off. Why don’t you call grandma and ask her?”
So, the little girl phoned her grandma and asked “Grandma, mom is making a ham and cut off the ends before placing it in the oven. She said that it’s probably to help soak up the juices but wasn’t sure. She said you’d know because she learned how to cook from you.”
“That’s true. I do cut off the ends of the ham before baking. But I’m actually not sure why either. I learned how to cook from my mom. You should ask her.”
So, the inquisitive little girl called her great grandmother and asked “Great grandma, mom and grandma said they learned how to cook a ham from watching you. Do you cut off the ends of the ham to help it soak up the juices?”
The great grandmother chuckled. “Oh, no sweetie. I just never had a pan big enough to hold a whole ham, so I always had to cut off the ends to make it fit.”
The allegory of the ham is not new, and has been told numerous different ways, but it is a great example of the critical thinking errors we make every day.We do things because that's the way we were taught, but never asked the most simple critical… Click To Tweet
When we do things “because that’s what we’ve always done” we fail to seek opportunities for improvement. We fail to see the assumptions we make every day out of habit and routine. Fresh eyes on a process or standard procedure can help you find errors, redundancies, gaps, and unquestioned assumptions. When we just keep cutting off the ends of the ham, we fail to innovate.
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” - Albert Einstein
Stop cutting off the ends of the ham at work. Ask why.
Learn more about critical thinking by downloading the Think About It! eBook.
Editor’s Note: Breanne Harris is the Solutions Architect for Pearson TalentLens. She works with customers to design selection and development plans that incorporate critical thinking assessments and training. She has a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and has experience in recruiting, training, and HR consulting. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter for more of her thoughts.