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This week on Talk Learn Connect, Journalist Yvonne Reddin asks Coach & Critical Thinking Trainer, Valerie Pierce to share some TLC

Could you share a summary of your career and what you do now?

My career began when I spotted a gap in the corporate learning & development market in 1990.
I was a postgraduate student in philosophy at Bristol University at the time, working part-time as a receptionist at a management training school.  I noticed that a lot of the courses on offer had to do with teaching psychology -  how to use tactics and strategy in negotiation, for example.
I noticed that no one was looking at how philosophy – the ability to think clearly and critically – was so important in business.  In negotiation, before we can even begin to understand tactics and strategy, we need to differentiate good logic from bad reasons.  We need to be able to understand manipulation and how to avoid itIn other words, we need to excel at Critical Thinking -  what I was teaching students in the philosophy department at the time.
So, I went to the Director of the Business School with my idea and he let me run the first course on ‘Clear & Critical Thinking’.   I returned to Dublin and with the help of the Professor of Philosophy at Trinity College, I set up my business that has turned into a global teaching concept.
I now run training courses for corporations all over the world on how to think clearly when leading others, solving problems and making decisions.  I have published three books on the subject that have been translated into Chinese, Japanese and Arabic.
I am also a Professor at an international business school, Ashridge Executive Education, based in the UK.

Where did your interest in critical thinking stem from?

My interest in critical thinking stemmed from my school days, where I was always curious about how we come to know anything.   The stories we were taught in religion, for example, intrigued me and I always wanted to know who made them up.
It was in my second year of a degree in French when I entered a lecture on medieval philosophy, I was shown how many of our religious practices were devised at that time in history by church theologians.
At last, I thought, someone was telling me the truth.  I changed my studies to philosophy there and then and my passion in learning more about how we as humans think was born.   I have never stopped searching for the best way we can all think to create the best life we can live.


"I teach how important negative thinking is in achieving exactly what we want"


A major component of your teaching is how to change negative thinking to work in our favour?   Can you explain?

Yes, this is so important.   Most of us believe negative thinking is a bad thing.  We tend to react emotionally if others are negative towards us.  Even worse, we are often seduced by the logic of negative thinking, believing in a negative argument when in fact it may not be true.  In this way, we stop ourselves from progressing to greater things, or a more fulfilling career, simply because we are trapped by negative thinking.
However, I teach how important negative thinking is in achieving exactly what we want.  Because we can use a negative thought process to stimulate our imagination to achieve our goals.
For example, If you write down on a piece of paper all of the reasons why you cannot achieve what you want, you are looking at your ‘how to’ plan.  For if you overcome each negative situation you have written down, you will have exactly what you want.  ‘Why not = How to’.
Let’s say you cannot do something because you have no time or money, that means you can do something if you get the time and money… now know what to look for and you now need to use your imagination to think of ideas on how to overcome those two negatives.  When done you will have achieved your goal.

You have been described by the Irish Times as a “Modern Philosopher in the Market Place”. How does that make you feel?

Very chuffed and of course humbled at the same time.
What I am really pleased about though is that philosophy/analytical thinking is seen as an important part of business in today’s ever-changing world.  Critical Thinking is now seen as a fundamental core competency in making the right decisions, solving complex problems and communicating ideas to secure sustainable business futures.
This was not always the case.  When I first started my career in the 1990s, I was told by some organisations that they did not want their people to think!   Quite extraordinary, but true.  I was horrified at the time, but am very pleased to see that we have now come full circle.
I am passionate about my belief that critical thinking is one of the most fundamental human survival skills to ensure the best life we can lead.  If we feel we can depend on our ability to think our way out of stressful situations, we can achieve anything.

Are there other individuals/visionaries here in Ireland or globally, that you think are making a difference in the world?

This is a difficult question.
We may say it is easy to see who has made a difference in the world we live in today as we look at the Steve Jobs,  or the tech giants of Facebook and Amazon say.  They have certainly changed the way we live our lives.  But I am not sure if their legacy has produced a good or bad difference.
Perhaps a better place to find individuals who make a difference is to think of everyday people we see on a daily basis making a positive impact on the lives of others.
I immediately see the wonderful carer of my sister who had a stroke last year.  Marianna is making an enormous difference in my sister’s life as she helps her to progress on a daily basis back to independence.
To find individuals who make a difference, I believe we can see them all around us in their small acts of kindness and individual thoughtfulness.  These are the accumulative acts that make up a world of difference in such a positive way for us all.


Find Valerie Here -




Valerie Profile pic
Valerie book

The latest book by Valerie - "Make the 'NO' Day a YESterday"

'Focus - The Art of Clear Thinking'