The importance of critical thinking is becoming increasingly recognized, especially in business.
“Nearly all those surveyed (93 percent) say that ‘a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major,’” according to a national survey of business and nonprofit leaders by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
And MBA programs are being faulted for not responding better to this need. A survey last year of CEOs and senior executives found that employers wanted to see business schools focus more on the softer skills of students like critical thinking, the ability to execute a plan, and communication. “I need people who can change and improve things, not people who can sit around and apply models all day long,” said one executive.
(For some articles on the topic, please see below.)
My focus on the topic of critical thinking in business, about which I’ve taught, lectured, and written extensively, was the unexpected but (in hindsight) natural result from more than 30 years of studying business and philosophy, reporting and writing on business, working in various senior positions at a couple huge banks, and consulting with many and various start-ups and other corporations.
Whether applying the lessons of John Kenneth Galbraith’s book Money: Whence It Came, Where It Went and Plato’s Republic to the college course I took in Macroeconomics, or struggling to think of the most important couple questions to ask a bank chairman and how to sum up the fiscal crisis in just a few sentences, or working to design, market and sell products when expanding an international business – each of these called for the most rigorous critical thinking. I’ve not always succeeded as well as I wished. But it became clear over time that each of them shared parallels and similarities that could be developed, practiced and effectively taught.
These are skills needed for any business, whether as owner or employee, and in most ways they are not substantially different than any approach we need take to create a good life.
The task in workshops, lectures, classes or in writing has been to structure a means for taking others on this journey, not merely through static definitions and theory, but through examples and anecdotes to which they can relate practical applications so as to open their thinking and help them develop this skill.
Some related articles: