Sunday, June 1, 2014

Critical Thinking as Corporate Management Practice

Critical Thinking is an important skill to deal with multi-logical situations in a digital dynamic that require multiple disciplines or has multiple valid viewpoints.

The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defines critical thinking as the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. From a management perspective, why isn't a critical system thinking more prevalent in corporate management practices?

What is required to change the mentality as an order taker, not a value creator: Corporations, especially large multinational corporations, have to adopt more stakeholder management practices with overarching critical system thinking to stay ahead of the digital change curve? The mentalities that need to be changed are ‘the people' (citizens, stakeholders, stockholders, employees, customers, etc.). The people must continually seek to question, inform, and act as one voice as you demand transparency and 'accountability with consequences'.

The businesses with flatter structure encourage critical thinkingCorporations that blend in tribal and collegial elements that are less hierarchical have greater potential to encourage critical systems thinking. In practice, organizations derive their performance largely from the ecosystem of which they are a part. They are a system within other systems. Part of their capabilities lies outside the formal structure of a single organization. Focusing solely on the internal capabilities of a single organization misses the systems point. And within the formal organization or system, there will no doubt exist one or more ‘shadow’ systems that operate in pursuit of other objectives. In practice, the whole idea of formal structures looks different. Hence, in order to overcome such ecosystem complexity, critical thinking helps discover the hidden pattern or the blind spot, to ensure the organization as a whole is optimal than the sum of pieces.

Accountability: To adopt a stakeholder view is to also recognize that the organization must also be accountable to its stakeholders - just as the stakeholders must be accountable to the organization. However, the old adage "If it can't be measured, it can't be managed" is a myth, for it rests on the assumption that what is measurable can produce objective data. But the metrics can be twisted to desired ends, to what the management wants to hear rather than what they need to know. And the preoccupation with the short-term time horizon and the skew of incentives toward it is perhaps why true critical thinking systems will be hard to emerge in corporate management.

Management tips for encouraging critical thinking: Humans are rational but in an ecological rather than a logical way. There are different kinds of rationality that apply to different dimensions of corporate management. There is physical and technical rationality. There is emotional and psychological rationality, and there is mental or spiritual rationality, just to name a few. Each field may have its own laws, customs, and norms which if adhered to are regarded as rational. Each field would regard the application of another field norm as irrational in its own field. Hence, the pro-team style of management at the diversified workplace would be more beneficial to produce critical thinking as it would reinforce staff members in the workplace to maintain critical thinking while at work, such as rotate roles to keep things changing, short shifts on tasks, more frequent staff meetings to discuss strategy, creating a team system of management to ensure everyone has applied for micro-managerial roles, etc.

Critical Thinking is an important skill to deal with the multi-logical situation within today's hyper-connected digital dynamic, which are complex with many moving parts, or require multiple disciplines, or have multiple valid viewpoints. At the organizational level, the purpose of critical thinking is given in the quality of collective thought upon business vision and strategy, and how effective you can make decisions to move the business forward and upward with digital speed.


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