Critical Thinking and Decision Making Some believe that critical thinking skills and the ability to use intellectual decision-making skills, are the two main reasons that decide the successful business leader. Even though some people might think this is not true, others are beginning to find out that it is true. The fact that businesses are moving at speeds faster than ever proves this to be true. Being able to use and recognize critical thinking skills and intellectual decision-making, gives you the ability to know if your decision will be right today as well as tomorrow. In order to examine this, you have to look at the understanding of critical thinking and decision-making.
Critical thinking as defined in the dictionary is a type of critical analysis: disciplined intellectual criticism that combines research, knowledge of historical context, and balanced judgment (MSN Encarta Plus). Critical thinking as defined in the University of Phoenix: Readings In Critical Thinking is the "reacting with systematic evaluation to what you have heard and read. It also requires a set of skills and attitudes. These skills and attitudes are built around a series of critical questions. [... ] 1) The awareness of a set of interrelated critical questions.
2) The ability to ask and answer critical questions at appropriate times, and 3) the desire to actively use the critical questions" (3). The material for this course defines critical thinking in many different ways, yet it all points to the same thing. We must have the skills to take one's thinking apart thoroughly, to analyze each part, assess it for quality and then improve it. In order to do this you must first understand the parts of thinking or basics of reasoning.
These elements include purpose, question, information, inference, assumptions, point of view, concepts, and implications (Elder and Paul 34). We must take command of our thinking and use information in our thinking that is both relevant to the question we are dealing with and accurate. Understanding our own point of view and considering other viewpoints is a must to learning intellectual skills. Two important ways to accomplish this is learning to distinguish inferences from assumption. However, many confuse the two (Elder and Paul 34). Inference is a step of the mind, an intellectual act, by which one concludes that something is true in light of something else being true, or seeming to be true.
It can be accurate or inaccurate, logical or illogical, justified or unjustified. An assumption is something we take for granted or assume. Usually it is something we previously learned and do not question. It is part of our system of beliefs. We assume our beliefs to be true and use them to interpret the world about us (Elder and Paul 34). Therefore, we have a tendency to make inferences as we write.
We make inferences as to the clarity of what we are saying, what requires further explanation, and what has to be illustrated and what does not. We need to realize that the inferences we make are heavily influenced by our point of view and the assumptions we have made about people. Doing this allows us to become more open-minded. Then we can learn to broaden the scope for our outlook and see situations from more than one point of view (Elder and Paul 34).
As for decision-making, it is defined in the dictionary as "deciding on important matters: the process of making choices or reaching conclusions, especially on important political or business matters" (MSN Encarta Plus). Decision-making as defined in the University of Phoenix: Readings In Critical Thinking is "[... ] streams of choices. While each choice might be treated as a discrete event and each sub problem might be considered a discrete problem, the choices accumulate either by design or happen-stance.
At some point, the accumulation builds a momentum of its own that can sweep up even well intentioned decision makers" (119). Therefore, in order to understand decision-making we have to look at how the information and situations come to be known as problems. We do this by looking at the decision-making steps and styles. The first step in decision-making is framing the problem. You do this by identifying the problem, defining the criteria, goals and objectives, and then you have to evaluate the effects of the problem (University of Phoenix).
The second step is making the decision. You do this by identifying causes of the problem, framing alternatives, evaluating impacts of alternatives, and then you make the decision. The last step is evaluating the decision. This is merely looking at the measure of the impact and implementing the decision (University of Phoenix).
The first style in decision-making is the democratic style. "Democratic decision-making is when the leader gives up ownership and control of a decision and allows the group to vote. Majority vote will decide the action" (Leadership Management Development Center 1). The second style is the autocratic style.
"Autocratic decision making is when the leader maintains total control and ownership of the decision. The leader is also completely responsible for the good or bad outcome as a result of the decision. The leader does not ask for any suggestions or ideas from outside sources and decides from his or her own internal information and perception of the situation" (Leadership Management Development Center 1). The third style is collective participative. "Collective-participative decision making is when the leader involves the members of the organization.
Other perspectives of the situation are discovered because the leader deliberately asks and encourages others to participate by giving their ideas, perception, knowledge, and information concerning the decision. The leader maintains total control of the decision because, although outside information is considered, the leader alone decides. The leader is also completely responsible for the good or bad outcome as a result of the decision" (Leadership Management Development Center 2). The last style is consensus. "Consensus decision-making is when the leader gives up total control of the decision. The complete group is totally involved in the decision.
The leader is not individually responsible for the outcome. The complete organization or group is now responsible for the outcome. This is not a democratic style because everyone must agree and buy in on the decision. If total commitment and agreement by everyone is not obtained the decision become democratic" (Leadership Management Development Center 2). After looking at these steps and styles and defining which step and style is best, we can now make decisions that are in the best interest for everyone.
Managers often have to use these styles to complete intellectual assessments. This is why intellect is measured by problem solving questionnaires that require a manager to study information, and make decisions with the correct answer. As you can see decision-making and critical thinking go hand-in-hand. You cannot do decision-making without critical thinking skills. "It is impossible to teach staff everything you want them to know in terms of content, so shifting the emphasis to thinking skills may serve them better. Essentially, you want the staff to know the framework (goals / philosophy , policies, procedures, and participants) and then implement the program within that framework as safely as possible.
The primary sill in being able to accomplish that immense responsibility is the ability to make decisions in a wide variety of circumstances. More specifically, the ability to assess a situation critically (using judgment, not negativity), to generate appropriate alternatives, and then to make a decision as a result of critical thinking" (Powell 1). As pointed out by Gwynn M Powell, "Critical thinking may well be the primary skill that staff will have the opportunity to learn [... ]. By being intentional about discussing, planning, and implementing training that openly discusses and encourages the use of critical-thinking skills, you have an opportunity to empower staff with unique skills. These skills will not only help them do their jobs better but will help them with life decisions and future jobs" (3).
Therefore, being able to use and recognize critical thinking skills and intellectual decision-making, gives you the ability to know if your decision will be right today as well as tomorrow. Works Cited Elder, Linda, and Richard Paul. "Critical Thinking: Distinguishing Between Inference and Assumptions." Journal of Developmental Education 25. 3 (spring 2002): 34-35... Leadership management. 19 Jun.
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