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Think Well & Prosper Critical Thinking: the Case for Staff Training ISBN First Edition: 9780991680634

Copyright 2013 by Steve Bareham and Summa Publishing Information in this book is provided for informational purposes, and it is sold with the understanding that neither the author, nor publisher, is engaged in rendering professional advice. Although the author and publisher have made every reasonable attempt to achieve complete accuracy, they assume no responsibility for content errors or omissions. Use information as you see fit and at your own risk. Your particular situation may closely parallel examples illustrated, but there may also be significant differences that require information and recommendations to be adjusted accordingly. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents
Reviews The Author Upfront: The Quest for Better Thinking Productive vs. Reproductive Thinking Productive Thinking is Better Hursons Productive Thinking Model Raising the Intellectual Bar for the Workforce Staff Training Impacts Global Competitiveness The Rest of the World Gives Chase Asians See the World Differently Improved Thinking Skills Boost Productivity What is Productivity? What the Best Employees Know How To Do Emotional Intelligence: Another Training Priority Understanding our Bio-computer Brain Beware the Green Light to Right Improving the Quality of Decisions & Plans The World is Complicated: Get Used to It! Thinking Skills & Processes Questionnaire What Many People Dont Know They Dont Know Decoding and Interpretation More Key Parts to Critical Thinking Analysis Analysing What Job Descriptions Can Do Reasoning and Reason Judgment and Evaluation Can We Infer that it is Reasonable to Assume? The Drawing of Inferences The Wise Man from Mount Inference What We Should Do When We Synthesize The Components of 8C Thinking Questions are the Engines of Thought Level 6 Questions Ensure Better Answers The Problem with Problem Solving Problem-Solving Strategies

Group Decision Making Nominal Group Technique Appendix A: Information Isnt Knowledge Appendix B: Characteristics of Competent Managers Acknowledgements A Critical Thinking Guide for Employees

Reviews

Your life and business IQ will increase as you examine and implement the ideas that flow from the distinctions provided in Think Well & Prosper.
Dr. R.D. Clarke, DDS, Professional Development Coordinator

"...innovative approach to critical thinking training...guides readers towards a much improved understanding of the thinking process...indispensable tool for administrators, educators, managers, and business people..."
Vi Kalesnikoff, Vice President (retired) Selkirk College

has helped me in my professional life and in my personal life, forcing me to think and process beyond basic levels that I used to think constituted normal thinking.
Jennifer Horsnell, Director of Sales, Tourism Kelowna

...has provoked students to think in new ways and adopt important meta cognitive skills that impact positively on their academic and career performance

Bob Falle, Chair, School of Hospitality & Tourism, Selkirk College

The Author

teve Bareham worked in management capacities in journalism, public relations, and marketing for 25 years before joining the teaching staff of a management school at Selkirk College in Canada. Steve has published 13 books, including The Last Resort, Harper Collins, Dont Get Caught in Risky Business, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, Meta-Marketing, EduServ, and the recent Think Well & Prosper I, HR in a Nutshell and PROGENETER I & II, through Summa Publishing. He received a National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) award for teaching and leadership excellence in institutions of higher education based largely on his research and teaching in the area of critical thinking as it applies in the business world.

Upfront: The Quest for Better Thinking

A
1. 2. 3. 4.

ny problem can be overcome, and every challenge can be met, IF you bring the right thinking skills to bear in the right sequence and then apply them rigorously.

When you break it down, there are four key reasons that we all want to think better in our lives and in our careers: to make consistently good decisions to solve problems to create and implement effective plans to anticipate outcomes of decisions and plans mentally, positives and negatives, to avoid costly real-world trial and error

Though the reasons for wanting to think better appear simple enough, we all know that doing each of them well is anything but. In fact, not thinking optimally is what plagues many of us throughout our lives. To think well means to think critically, and that translates pretty much automatically into better performance in life and at work. If youre a manager looking for an enormous competitive advantage, theres no surer way to get it than to create a dynamic learning and thinking environment for your staff. Doing that isnt as easy as buying a new software suite, but the modest complexity involved in shaping a high-performance workplace will also become a major, enduring strategic strength. If it was easy, everyone would do it. The good news is that learning critical thinking fundamentals and processes isnt that complicated. Any literate person of average intelligence who is willing to put in a bit of time is easily able to understand the sequences and processes. It follows, of course, that they then have to make a habit of

using them. Tools do no good if they never leave the toolbox. The problem is, most people dont know there are specific sequences and processes to put into the toolbox, so they keep doing what theyve always done, reminiscent of the well-known observation credited to Abraham Maslow: If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Lets face it, there are a lot of people out there armed with only hammers, people who dont make good decisions, who struggle to solve problems, who seem incapable of assembling workable plans and who are constantly blind-sided by negative consequences to actions that were obviously ill considered. Thats what this book attempts to change. It seeks to build a case that higher order thinking skills can provide the competitive edge needed to improve organizational performance. It also posits that a general improvement in the human resource brain trust also boosts the morale of all those involved. A workforce trained to think critically is a huge win-win-win on three fronts: people, profits, and productivity. Most importantly, if we can shape, change, and improve the way people think, we change more than organizational performance we change people's lives. In subsequent chapters, well examine where and why thinking often goes awry. Its not because people dont want to think better, they just dont know the steps, whats involved, and theyve never developed thinking habits that follow a structure designed to comprehensive and well reasoned. Improvements can occur quickly with focus, and when the change comes, results are remarkably better. In the pages that follow you will gain access to dozens of proven decisionmaking and problem-solving processes that can be readily adapted to suit any situation; there is no need to reinvent the wheel. The goal can be to improve on whats already known. Many of the ideas and approaches youll read about flow from my research and classroom experiences, but the book is also full of supportive arguments and quotes from others who have thought a lot about thinking. Plus, there are dozens of live Internet links to transport you instantly to a wealth of additional value-added information in videos and articles. There is no shortage of high quality training material available to boost critical thinking knowledge. If I succeed in persuading you that critical thinking is something every manager should build into staff training programs, you may want to investigate the books predecessor, Think Well & Prosper: A Critical Thinking Guide, that targets individuals (not managers) and that offers a myriad of how-tos which are appropriate for your staff to read about, to absorb, and to use.

Productive vs. Reproductive Thinking

"Most people's reasoning consists of finding reasons for going on believing as they already do."
James Henry Robinson

ealizing that people think differently is hugely important for managers. Its even more important to act on those differences. I suspect youre thinking that I just stated the obvious. Of course you know that people think differently! My point, though, is how they think differently. Michael Michalko, writing in The Creativity Post. correctly observes that most people think reproductively, i.e. they try to make todays decisions and to solve current problems based on their knowledge and experiences from the past. When confronted with problems, we fixate on something in our past that has worked before. excluding all other approaches, and we become arrogantly certain of the correctness of our conclusion. Ive seen this in the classroom for 20 years. People have very strong proclivities to repeat past actions and behaviors rather than exploring new ones that may work better. Its okay to use past actions and behaviors if they produced consistently superior results, but too many people cling to approaches that didnt and dont work well. In part, our reproductive thinking tendencies have roots far back in time when primitive people, often coping with life and death dangers and scarce resources, had to think, decide and act quickly. In an animalistic world where our reptilian brain ruled, survival required mental shortcuts, or heuristics, because there was literally no time for the luxury of detailed analysis and sober second thought about consequences and impacts.

In such act-and-react situations, heuristics can keep you alive and, indeed, some military training seeks to instill precisely that kind of thinking to reduce the negative effects of fear so that actions become automatic. Of course, bad heuristics can also get you killed. This may explain the demise of sub-branches of homo-sapien such as the Neanderthals. The theory goes that failure to adapt doomed them as the more intellectually advanced Cro-Magnon man dominated. Hominids evolved from an opportunistic lifestyle where survival meant capitalizing instantly on whatever resources came their way, to a more planned existence where agriculture and animal husbandry flourished, involvements dependent entirely on action and anticipation. Within a very few millennia, thinking critically allowed our species to move from caves to spaceships, but it doesnt mean weve left our more base thinking habits entirely behind. They are deeply seated in our psychology, and it takes focus and will to control them. Christophe Morin, in Springer Science, writes: The reptilian brain has developed over millions of years. It is pre-verbal, does not understand complex messages, and seeks pain avoidance over thrills. It is the part of the brain that makes us extremely selfish and drives our strong preference for mental shortcuts over long deliberations. The most powerful aspect of the reptilian brain is the fact that it is able to process visual stimuli without the use of the visual cortex. This is why we prefer images over words and experiences over explanations. Sound familiar? Shortcuts over long deliberationsimages over wordsexperiences over explanations. In the work world, bad short-cut heuristics can be made worse by time pressures and lack of knowledge about how to access and use mountains of information. Faced with too many options and unknowns, our desire to be rational can fall victim to a subconscious urge to simplify and get quickly to the end to answers and decisions.

We hate indecision, and we value speed. From early ages we are rewarded for fast answers, i.e. in elementary school snap quizzes, even in job interviews. Whenever were asked a question, we try to answer it instantly. Its the rare person who responds: Gee, I dont know, let me think about that, do some research, and get back to you tomorrow. Few people understand that they would be more successful if they approached thinking as an algorithmic process. Instead, energy is directed in a rush toward outcomes to decisions, plans, conclusions, and judgments. Quick results preoccupy the North American psyche. Herein lays the problem. When people hurry thinking because they dont know what they dont know, the fixation on decisions, plans, conclusions, and judgments means they move directly to the latter stages of thinking; they force answers without asking all the right questions. This is backwards thinking and responsible, in large part, for results that are rarely optimal. Thinking weaknesses are also attributable to the fact that critical thinking processes are not taught in 99 per cent of our schools they should be, but they arent. If you can find a school that teaches critical thinking, send your child there so he/she learns about thinking explicitly. Schools in North America teach every academic subject explicitly, most often through rote learning. We all love to hate rote learning, but it explains why we remember multiplication tables, the alphabet, dates in history, etc. Even physical education is taught explicitly, i.e. how to run a play on the basketball court. Explicit means to do something deliberately so there is no doubt as to intent: Explicit: ...fully revealed or expressed; without vagueness, implication, or ambiguity; no question as to intent. For some inexplicable reason, though, thinking processes and skills are expected to be picked up implicitly as though theyll magically leap into our brains. Implicit means: ...capable of being understood from something else, though unexpressed; implied, vague... Thinking skills are rarely picked up implicitly. Our heuristic approach is to filter, sift, sort, and prioritize information that fits with past experiences. We discard anything that doesnt fit because contemplating uncertainties would slow us down, and we shun deep analysis because that takes time and, god forbid, could lead to analysis paralysis! So, in many instances, when confronted by complexity, we fall back on base emotions and the desire to simplify so we can act. Marketers depend on this when they use brand recognition to tip us into buying it, rather than engaging in an analysis of, lets say, a different and perhaps better hardware or

software supplier. Once weve made decisions and judgments, they become cognitive anchors that provide comfort, and were loath to rethink them.

Productive Thinking is Better


deally, you want a management team and staff that welcome change and that enjoy the discovery of something new and better. What you do not want are people cemented to old ways of thinking and to preconceptions that are often suboptimal. Unfreeze the old and tired, create a new mold, and then refreeze the improved version. In contrast to reproductive thinker, critical thinkers routinely and habitually think productively. When faced with complex decisions or problems, good thinkers reframe, expending the time and energy to examine issues from all angles in search for optimal solutions based on now, not the past. Critical thinkers always conduct exhaustive research when its warranted so they benefit from others knowledge and then they adapt and evolve what they find to the unique situation. This is productive thinking and it generates superior results almost always compared to reproductive which is too often quick and dirty and only as innovative as one brain sans research can be.

Thinking Well and Intelligence Are Different


Its also important to note that thinking effectively has less to do with intelligence or IQ, than with deliberate intent and preparation. People with high IQs often score high in problem-solving ability in specific areas, i.e. math, language. People with higher IQs, however, are not necessarily better than other people at comprehending or solving challenges with which they are not familiar, say, musical problems or social problems or emotional problems. Some people are blessed with unusually super convoluted (lots of creases and crevices) brains, ala Albert Einstein, that seem particularly well suited to science studies. Einsteins brain, it was recently revealed, had parietal lobes that are extraordinarily asymmetrical and his somatosensory and motor cortices were greatly expanded in the left hemisphere. It is theorized, not proven, that these brain anomalies may account for Einsteins ability to pose questions and to then pursue answers entirely cognitively almost computer like until he found resolutions. Being born with a brain like that is out of our control, but the process of thinking effectively is a skill that can be learned and improved upon through practice. Research reveals that intellectual performance improves, and, as a result, so does workplace performance if you address or change: cognitive skills prerequisite skills social background and environment, and motivation and other affect variables (self-efficacy, self-esteem, perceptions of competence, and willingness to set high goals for achievement)

Formal training can make a company a lot of money, eliminate mistakes and avoid costly trial and error. So, the sooner we get over this fascination with the fallacy that everything can be made simple, the better. And, accepting, indeed embracing, complexity, is a must for anyone who really wants to develop the habit of routinely applying critical thinking skills. For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.
H. L. Mencken

Now, just in case Im freaking anyone out, just because things are complicated does not mean they cannot be comprehended by any literate person. You do not have to be a genius to be an excellent thinker. This means mere mortals, like me, can boost performance just by rigorously applying proven tools and processes. Indeed, there are many people with genius IQs who are not effective critical thinkers. Better to drive a metaphoric Volkswagen beetle brain proficiently than possess Porsche grey matter but manage it so badly that one smashes into things through life.

Online Article of Interest


Following is a link to an interesting article about the role that intuition (really past experiences that we mistakenly label as gut instincts) plays in our thinking and how we often invoke what weve done before instead of engaging in research when we have no substantive past knowledge on which to base actions. The psychological aspects of how we think are very important for managers to understand so staff can be prompted to go deep when theyre on the edge of their knowledge and skill levels. ANALYZE THIS: should you go with your head of your heart? http://www.elle.com/life-love/society-career/analyze-this-2

Yet the mind is not by nature adaptable to changes of the breadth and depth that we are facing. Rather, the mind is designed for habit, associating peace of mind with routine. The minds natural inclination is to reduce the new to the old, the complex to the simple, and everything as much as possible, to familiar, well-grooved patterns and habits. It is not natural for the human mind to continuously rethink its systems, its routines, its habits in fact, it is downright threatening."
Dr. Richard Paul Critical Thinking: How To Prepare Students for a Rapidly Changing World

Carlos Castaneda: "I was under the impression that my great flaw was to seek explanations." Don Juan: "No, your flaw is to seek conventional explanations, explanations that fit you and your world... You're after a reflection of your ideas."
The Teachings of Don Juan