Essentials of Critical Thinking in Management

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In an increasingly multifaceted business environment, characterized by fluidity, diversity and plurality of all forms, managers find themselves faced with dilemmas of different options and opinions. An ability to think critically becomes essential for managers in their endeavors to find solutions and navigate turbulences. However, as a discipline, critical thinking has not been given due attention as an essential tool of organizational management. Critical thinkers who have good decision-making skills are essential to organizations who aspire to be forward thinkers and successful. When organizations ignore the importance of including critical thinkers as a part of the organization, new ideas may not emerge, current processes may not be challenged, and changes may not occur.

A higher order of thinking is often cited for employee hiring, as well as what is within the organization. Critical thinking provides managers with knowledge and skills to assess decisions. It is a tool used for assisting and separating the truth from opinion. It assists in the analysis, evaluation, and integration in the everyday strategic decision making leading to successful outcomes wherein an administrator can adequately defend ideas, determine whether recommendations are feasible and identify best solutions for effective results. We also find critical thinking as a foundation for what is known as design thinking. Design thinking is a recent executive trend used as a proven and repeatable problem-solving protocol. Any business or professional can employ design thinking to achieve extraordinary results in organizations. This design thinking is a creative process and critical thinking that allows information and ideas to be organized, decisions to be made, situations to be improved and knowledge to be gained.

Expanding the ability of critical thinking can assist in conducting the organizational operations of executives as well as carrying on to their personal and professional enrichment by listening and reading in a critical light, both of which can expand and improve their analytical thinking necessary for successful decision making. Managers need to focus on thinking creatively, critically and with curiosity using focused questions to manage risk, improve productivity, and coordinate employee talents in a time of rapidly changing organizational environments.

Razor-sharp critical thinking skills and training programs are needed at the forefront of organizations. Also, executives and managers need to think creatively, critically and with curiosity to be sure they make the correct administrative decisions. Such decisions should be effective enough to answer the right questions, manage risk, and improve productivity as well as use knowledge, skills, and abilities effectively to expand communication within the organization. Critical thinking skills and training programs are needed to assure each member that the organizational structure knows, understands, accepts, and supports the vision and mission of the organization. This emphasis on critical thinking would also encourage seeking informational resources within and outside an organization. Successful executives stress the need for critical thinking and foresee their continuing role toward the development of thinking and information needed within new and emerging technologies that continuously increase organizational communications. Strategic thinking is most often identified as the key to success among executives and employees, and successful employees contribute to the success of the organization. As often noted, success breathes success. Employees want to be identified with a successful organization and a successful and professional career. The most important skills needed both for employers and employees now and for the future is critical thinking. Critical thinking ranked even higher than innovation or information technology knowledge.

Human brains play key roles in critical thinking. As critical thinking involves various parts of the brain, we can appreciate its function if we understand the basics of the brain. The frontal lobe is responsible for the brain’s control functions, which includes one’s ability to plan, take action, solve problems, learn and take cues from errors. It is what enables you to evaluate situations, formulate strategy and achieve detailed objectives. The activities associated with critical thinking are the frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex, which regulates decision making, problem solving, behavior, consciousness and emotions. The primary sensory cortex, which processes sensory information received from the body; the parietal lobes, which receive and process sensory information from the body and where letters from words and words combine into thoughts; the temporal lobe is one of four parts of the cerebral cortex and involves emotions, memory, language, hearing, and learning. Although practitioners have made significant achievements with understanding the brain functions, it is not understood how the brain creates behavior. We do know, however, that critical thinking results from neurotransmitters, chemicals that transmit signals from one neuron to another targeted neuron to produce critical thinking. We can generalize and state that critical thinking is characterized by neurons activating the cortex. We know that critical thinking consists of analyzing, synthesizing, developing strategies, planning possible outcomes and solving problems.

Critical thinking involves reasoning in a logical manner, evaluating what is written or spoken, reflecting on individual thoughts and ideas and reasoning as questions are posed to clarify understanding. A prime objective of any executive within an organization should be to provide opportunities for management to encourage thinking skills during discussions and dialogue, especially within a decision-making time such as a meeting or in conference communication. Critical thinking follows a path, which leads executives and employees toward effective crucial decision making. It allows the brain to accept, reject or suspend judgments in order to reach a final decision. Executives should encourage all members of the organization to exercise critical thinking within the organization. Employees should be encouraged to practice with identifying organizational practices, asking appropriate questions, analyzing and synthesizing information, evaluating the decision processes and its results. These practices will improve everyday decisions made by executives and employees toward reaching effective solutions to strategic policies and organizational strategies. Critical thinking is a learned ability as evidenced by research findings, like practicing and excelling in sports, riding a bicycle, or driving to work, all of which require practice and certain basic skills.

Active utilization of critical thinking assures individuals’ maximization of understanding of how they and others think and behave toward achievement. When encouraged it enhances discussions in an organized and analytical manner. An executive can integrate critical thinking within the workplace by creating an awareness of the importance of critical thinking within each schedule of events, group meetings, planning, and project management coordination, analysis of financial reports and organizational trends and projections. The result will be a team of administrators and employees with the ability to use critical thinking techniques through self-directed leadership and an expansion of the pool of leaders ready to take on new and creative organizational activities as a result of becoming good decision-makers and problem solvers. To facilitate critical thinking strategies, practitioners have indicated specific guidelines. An executive who wishes to entice critical thinking in administrative functional meetings in management, finance, public relations, marketing, and human resource meetings can do so by encouraging employees to ask questions. Questions can assure executives that employees can understand the situation, examine the evidence, contemplate any implications, question their assumptions, explore different perspectives and consider other questions that may be crucial to the outcome of the meeting or group effort.

Practitioners have used the Socratic Method in critical thinking. This method is the basis of critical thinking because it enables an individual to cross-examine the claims of another individual to see if there are any inherent contradictions or inconsistencies in claims. If individuals use Socratic questions, they are able to determine the accuracy and comprehensiveness of thought so that people can learn to their highest ability. Not only can critical thinking help people address others’ thoughts but also their own so they can reflect and elaborate on personal assumptions, ideas, and interactions. This ability is most notable in transformational leaders within organizations. An organization can benefit from Socratic questioning toward challenging the accuracy and completeness of thought. It also assists executives to clarify concepts and ask for or to give specific examples. Furthermore, it helps in making assumptions and beliefs that underlie opinions. It helps management to explore different viewpoints and acknowledge that they are equally valid. In this practice, managers listen to other points of view and imagine possible consequences of an idea and create circles around original questions. If the curiosity of employees is aroused, then not only are workers motivated to accomplish tasks, but they will also be better problem solvers regarding other organizational functions.

An executive or manager’s approach to thinking in any task can be “scientific” rather than emotional as evidenced by questions that seek credible sources, ask for clarification and request additional information prior to accepting or pursuing decision making. Critical thinking also enhances the ability to change based on facts, logic and evidence for the change. Usually critical thinking extends and improves anything within the organization. A critical thinker should be curious regarding various functions, In practicing critical thinking, one should be questioning, ask why, seek credible sources, appear relevant and focused, look for alternative explanations, be willing to change a position, be precise, be able to identify any biases, anticipate the next steps, be sensitive to others and employ strategies in a carefully reasoned direction.

Group meetings are an effective means of practicing and enhancing critical thinking skills. Committees and group assignments support critical thinking by focusing on discussions by building a cohesive team seeking alternative explanations, debating, and questioning options prior to final decisions. In group and committee meetings, participants should be encouraged to become focused thinkers who relate back to the main intent of the issues, questions, or discussion. They should learn how to withhold judgment of other group members when evidence is not enough and are eager to seek the evidence needed. The result is open-minded employees who consider other opinions and points of view. They will become more willing to change on a position when facts, logic, or evidence are enough or evident from group members. This skill would be applicable to their present and future organizations and prepare them for teamwork necessary toward reaching effective decisions. Organizational change takes place when a team setting environment utilizes the skills of critical thinking. Implementing the process of critical thinking, team judgment, analysis, interpretation, and inferences within a team-setting environment is crucial to successful organizational changes.

The virtual world continues to become the one of the leading sources of information to the largest percentage of the global population. It also offers a community environment where individuals are provided entertainment, social, educational, and communicational opportunities within the global digital world. Electronic media have expanded and accelerated information through the World Wide Web through sights and sounds with email, video and audio casts, conferencing, social networks, Blogs, Podcasts, and Streaming conveyed through iPads, computers, smartphones, tablets, and other hardware with new and emerging modes within the development stages. With our information explosion, critical thinking skills are more essential to cipher the informational explosion and determine what is fact or opinion. Therefore, critical thinking practices are necessary for sorting through the issues at hand, recognizing the most salient data while sifting through misleading, incorrect, uninformative, or irrelevant data.

Members of organizations are living in an informational world, therefore, executives, managers and employees must learn the most effective methods to incorporate critical thinking practices within their daily work environments. Executives and managers need to determine the accuracy and authority of documents, the objectivity and updates of the information presented, and the reliability and validity of the information. Although search engines have become the present-day gateway to information, education will continue to be the economic engine of a society attracting those with knowledge in providing innovation to the world or the global economy. Executives and employees must learn how to evaluate information obtained from our present global information and social media networks. Their analysis, reasoning, evaluation, and decision-making activities will be more crucial than any other time in history with the continued expansion of the internet and existing and new platform instruments, which allow everyone worldwide to seek any information through the more popular modes such as video streaming, informational clouds, and Skype. Media information will continue to expand and accelerate within the Information Age to all those who have access to global media. The thinking standards of critical thinking identified as clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, and fairness will be sorely needed to evaluate the vast amount of information available daily from those involved in all cultural, social, or economical strata everywhere. Everyone would need to know how to identify if the information submitted by those within and among all nations is accurate, reliable, valid, and supported.

To conclude, this virtual world has influenced institutions of higher learning in shifting to the emphasis of programs in critical thinking. Many educators have heard the response from organizational leaders and are now cultivating critical thinking within educational programs in educational institutions in face-to-face classes, seminars, and online classes as evidenced by many instructors, including me. In this multimedia global communication environment, future workers will need to communicate effectively in an ever-expanding and rapidly growing online world as they solve complex problems in business, industry, government, education, and societies, both locally and globally. Critical thinking contributes to the education of future managers by directing attention to issues of strategic advantage in reference to new markets. As indicated, critical thinking is the foundation of design thinking. Innovation is directed by understanding, direct observation, and interpretation. A discipline that uses sensibility and if matched to strategy, policy, and the outcome will result in an increase in value and opportunity in the organization. Critical thinking provides an approach to differentiation and competitive advantage. Lastly, critical thinking is strategic and can lead to new forms of value.

 

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