Developing the Art of "Getting it right" by Geoff Cox

oday’s organisations: flatter, faster, more pressured, more accountable. This situation has created the worrying paradox that every member of the organisation carries more responsibility for ‘getting it right’ yet there is less resource for the scrutiny that protects these members from ‘getting it wrong’.

In these circumstances there is ever greater pressure on the individual to exercise the thinking skills that will spot flawed reasoning in the data that they receive, and detect equally flawed reasoning in the data that they generate. Critical Thinking and Logical Thinking are, more than ever, a personal skill set that needs to be employed in relation to every aspect of working life. Failure to have highly attuned personal filters that will detect misinformation (or disinformation) renders every individual vulnerable for not having spotted anomalies that could have a severe impact on the team and organisation, as well as the individual themselves.

Yet the decline in the extent to which Critical and Logical Thinking are routinely taught by educational institutions means that there is a generation who are entering the workplace without these vital thinking skills. At the other end of the age spectrum there may be people who have never been put into situations where the data that they generate is not scrutinised before it, or its consequences, are acted upon. If you’re a business leader this has to be a worrying situation, you are relying on a particular skill set being engaged across your whole organisation, yet it is a skill set that is generally poorly developed or utilised.

One solution is to apply ready-made digital technologies that analyse data and text to highlight potential errors or questionable statements. However, it could be suggested that these safeguards are primitive compared to the complexities of human thought, it will be many years before AI catches up with the sophistication of our nuanced patterns of language. It’s also worth pointing out that such solutions are treatment rather than cure, and surely it’s better to seek a simpler, preemptive solution? Why not invest in developing your organisation so that individuals can apply their own Critical and Logical Thinking so that problems are addressed at source, or at a very early stage before they can do serious harm?

Developing these vital thinking skills isn’t something that can be addressed by a paper based, or e-learning approach: it needs several cycles of challenge and practical engagement to attune the brain to spotting anomalies in a situation, ascertaining what’s wrong, and responding with a logical solution. In short it is very much the type of skills-development that experiential education is designed to address. So how would you choose the right type of experience to respond to the Critical and Logical Thinking learning outcomes you have identified?

The first step is to differentiate between Critical and Logical Thinking.

Critical Thinking tends to be an evaluative process: examining data to determine its veracity, as such it has a focus on breaking down information.

Logical Thinking tends to be a structuring process: building sequences of data so that they are coherent and accurate in relation to context and other data elements.

From an experiential development standpoint, Critical Thinking needs learning environments where external data, and data being generated within the learning process, needs to be evaluated on a repeat basis, often as part of a performance improvement initiative. In the RSVP Design catalog both Sequencer and Webmaster® are ideal tools to create this repetition in a way that is engaging, rather than boring. Webmaster® in particular, with the option of dividing the group into separate working teams, where each team develops their own ways of working, allowing them to evaluate not only their own methodology, but that of other teams to determine, by critical comparison, which team has the best solution.

Developing Logical Thinking experientially needs learning environments where individuals and groups need to be thinking in process terms, collecting data from their operation and thinking several steps ahead to achieve process efficiency. It should also be recognised that working in teams means that individuals with well-developed powers of logical thinking need to develop the influencing skills they need to persuade their colleagues to adopt a particular course of action.

Matrix offers a highly dynamic learning situation where thinking several process steps ahead is essential to success. It is also an activity that lends itself to multiple uses as the group moves from working within a set of operational restrictions, to redesigning the situation to achieve greater efficiency.

Counter Intelligence requires the group to logically build up a way of working that is fully compliant with multiple rules and restrictions. The process of sharing individual knowledge of these rules, discussing their implications, and finding a way to integrate them into working processes provides excellent learning for groups who need to operate in complex, regulated working situations.

Dr Geoff Cox