Critical Thinking Getting To The Right Decision For Cil 2010

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Session C202, Rebecca Jones (Dysart & Jones Associates) & Deb Wallace (Harvard Business School), look at the basics of critical thinking, the difference this productive dialogue has on decision-making …

Session C202, Rebecca Jones (Dysart & Jones Associates) & Deb Wallace (Harvard Business School), look at the basics of critical thinking, the difference this productive dialogue has on decision-making & how HBS Baker Library uses this approach.

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  • We all get stuck in our ways – we do, & our organizations do….
  • It demonstrates clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.
  • Is there anything more costly for our organizations? our customers? our careers? us?
  • In fact I would go so far as to say our whole profession is dependent on our ability to demonstrate and teach critical thinking.
  • Organizations, like people, can get set in their ways. Relying on established ways of working and solving problems not only stifles innovation but can lead to a lack of perspective and moments of delusion. Here are three ways to help your organization snap out of unhelpful patterns: Challenge rationalizations. Every organization has shared explanations for doing things the way they do. Poke holes in those rationalizations and ask the question: why is this standard practice?Expose faulty either/or thinking. False dichotomies can set up irrational choices about how to work. Don't let A or B be the only options, propose C or D as a new way of working.Focus on the long-term. Emphasis on the short term can trap you into current practice. Help your colleagues pull back, see the big picture, and understand not only short-term gains but long-term consequences.Today's Management Tip was adapted from "Keeping Your Colleagues Honest" by Mary C. Gentile.
  • Framing – SHOULD occur at the outset of the problem-solving or decision-making – cuz it is all about defining the question that needs to be addressed – framing the task and the process – answer How am I framing this? Are there other ways to frame it? Is our frame shaping our solution? Is a win/win frame possible?
  • Anchoring – the order in which we receive information can distort our judgment. Important to be conscious of your anchors and avoid letting irrelevant anchors distort your judgment. Ask – what are we focusing on? What others should we be considering? Example:
  • Sunk cost fallacy – a rational decision considers only current assets (no wishful thinking) and is based on future consequences, respects laws of probability when consequences are uncertain.
  • These two basic dimensions of behavior define five different modes for responding to conflict situations:Competing is assertive and uncooperative -- an individual pursues his own concerns at the other person's expense. This is a power-oriented mode in which you use whatever power seems appropriate to win your own position -- your ability to argue, your rank, or economic sanctions. Competing means "standing up for your rights," defending a position which you believe is correct, or simply trying to win.Accommodating is unassertive and cooperative -- the complete opposite of competing. When accommodating, the individual neglects his own concerns to satisfy the concerns of the other person; there is an element of self-sacrifice in this mode. Accommodating might take the form of selfless generosity or charity, obeying another person's order when you would prefer not to, or yielding to another's point of view.Avoiding is unassertive and uncooperative -- the person neither pursues his own concerns nor those of the other individual. Thus he does not deal with the conflict. Avoiding might take the form of diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue until a better time, or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation.Collaborating is both assertive and cooperative -- the complete opposite of avoiding. Collaborating involves an attempt to work with others to find some solution that fully satisfies their concerns. It means digging into an issue to pinpoint the underlying needs and wants of the two individuals. Collaborating between two persons might take the form of exploring a disagreement to learn from each other's insights or trying to find a creative solution to an interpersonal problem.Compromising is moderate in both assertiveness and cooperativeness. The objective is to find some expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties. It falls intermediate between competing and accommodating. Compromising gives up more than competing but less than accommodating. Likewise, it addresses an issue more directly than avoiding, but does not explore it in as much depth as collaborating. In some situations, compromising might mean splitting the difference between the two positions, exchanging concessions, or seeking a quick middle-ground solution. Each of us is capable of using all five conflict-handling modes. None of us can be characterized as having a single style of dealing with conflict. But certain people use some modes better than others and, therefore, tend to rely on those modes more heavily than others -- whether because of temperament or practice. Your conflict behavior in the workplace is therefore a result of both your personal predispositions and the requirements of the situation in which you find yourself. The Conflict Mode Instrument is designed to measure this mix of conflict-handling modes.
  • Integration – didn’t exist until FY07. Integration projection for FY10 – limited by resources for Develop and Revise (Develop – 500 hours) mainly Enhance projects projected. Course support – 18 Professors, 2 PMP, 7 Senior Lecturers, 2 Assoc, 2 Assistants, 1 Adjunct, 1 Visiting Professor.Organize the School’s priority information - IM – 2800 records, Leadership website – 4, Exec Ed (Program Finder) – 1756, Exec Ed Topics – 4193, American Capitalism – 1405, Agribusiness – 120, Economic Crisis – 238; Centennial assets catalog – 175. Web services – FY09 – 1 Intranet (Collaboration, MySites, Departmental sites); iTRAC – 3 projects; Maintenance – 50+, Other (Web) – 20; Most work for Marketing (1615 hours); KLS (1474 hours); Admin (1050 hrs – includes maintenance); Alum (827 hours); MBA (517 hours); Leadership (293 hours) Move to electronic – FY09 – represents data purchases for faculty up until March 12, 2009; FY10 does not include Faculty purchases. Continued investment in electronic. Paper represents serials (some contractual issues, some still in paper) Notice growth in electronic-based products – can do even more with new technologies although there will be a need for custom development. (web parts). IM – 35,348 unique visitors; ave. of 490 unique visitors per week. Linked to by,,, OPMeBaker big hit – idea of developing a version for each long program (?)Global – 2/3rd of research requests have a global requirements – Q1 -96/Q2- 173 (BRS); Stronger ties with colleagues in Europe and in Asia. Unknown what we should/should not do with China. Some work in Latin America but reduced focus in FY09. Stronger partnership with Research Centers. Still think there is a lot we could be doing to support the work of the Research Centers. Looking at building China knowledge base as go-to place for business research on China. Faculty knowledge/reach – Working Knowledge Visitor growth is slowing (about 2M unique visitors a year); increased number of email subscribers (up 51.5% in three years); international up a bit (1%); important revenue lead for HBP; used as selling point for corporate relationships with Exec Ed (HP e.g.); now sliced specifically for the initiatives; picked up by other media. Added Economic Crisis site – unique visitors so far 41,593 – linked to by,, Wikipedia,,; Inside HBS (for HBS only – 822 unique visitors) ; starting stakeholder analysis on WK (Steering Committee – Paul Gompers, Valerie P., Brian K, Jean C)- think of it in context of larger issue of faculty dissemination


  • 1. Critical Thinking
    Getting to the right decision
    Rebecca Jones, Dysart & Jones Associates,
    Deb Wallace, Managing Director, Baker Library Services Knowledge and Library Services, Harvard Business School,
  • 2. Let’s explore:
    What good critical thinking is
    Why it’s important for our decision-making & problem-solving
    Identify & avoiding traps, trips & landmines that foil our decision-making…..maybe even disarming them?
    Harvard’s experience
    Characteristics required
    www.dysartjones.comfor slides & worksheets
    Deb Wallace & Rebecca Jones 4/12/2010
  • 3. “in making decisions, you may be at the mercy of your mind’s strange workings….”
    Hammond, Keeney & Raiffa, The Hidden Traps in Decision Making, Harvard Business Review, January 2006
  • 4. Critical Thinking: formal definition
    “ the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.”
    Critical Thinking as Defined by the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking, 1987A statement by Michael Scriven & Richard Paul at the 8th Annual International Conference on Critical Thinking and Education Reform,
    Summer 1987}. Last accessed May 31, 2009
  • 5. Critical thinking is really about
    Decision-making & problem-solving
    Productive dialogue
  • 6. Implicit that we can’t make decisions alone or in a vacuum
    The decisions & problems we face are increasingly complex
    It’s hard, and it’s worth it
  • 7. Good Critical Thinking
    Raises the right questions – clearly & precisely
    Focuses on the real problem or decision to be taken
    Gathers & assesses relevant information
    Uses abstract ideas to interpret info effectively
    Develops well-reasoned conclusions & solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards
    Relies on recognizing & assessing assumptions, implications, &consequences
    Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems
  • 8.
  • 9. Critical, not criticize
  • 10. Why?
    • For our customers
    • 11. Designing meaningful services
    • 12. For our organizations
    • 13. Planning, negotiating, managing & relationship building
    • 14. For ourselves, and our professional credibility
    • 15. Aware & factor in our :
    • 16. tendencies & assumptions
    • 17. perceptions & selections based on conditioning, beliefs and desires, focus, emotions
    • 18. reconstructive memory affected by time, what we want to remember, and after-acquired information and suggestion.
    • 19. Confident in our:
    • 20. knowledge
    • 21. ability to reason
  • “Set in our ways” won’t move us forward
    “Naming” the process at first makes it legitimate to:
    • Challenge usual practices
    • 22. Rethink what has been thought
    • 23. Expand the emphasis from short-term fixes to long-term fusion
    Wake up call
  • 24. Common Decision Traps
    Status quo
    Sunk cost fallacy
    Information gathering traps
    Overconfidence bias
    Confirmation bias
    False cause
    Based on the work of Michael B. Metzger, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
  • 25. Framing
    Put the frame up first
    May clarify status-quo, anchor & sunk-costs
    The questions we ask very often determines the type answers we get
    To avoid this:
    Don’t accept the first frame – or queston
    “re-frame” or look at the issue from different perspectives, particularly from customer or stakeholder perspectives
  • 26. Status-quo
    Like it or not, tendency is to perpetuate what we already know – like it or not
    Psychologically risky
    “breaking from the status quo means taking action, and when we take action, we take responsibility, thus opening ourselves to criticism and to regret.”
    Hammond, Keeney, Raiffa
    To avoid this:
    Focus on the real goals & ask how status quo helps move towards them
    Evaluate vs. all other alternatives IN TERMS OF THE FUTURE
    Ask outsiders to review your evaluations
    Kennedy & Jones, 2009
  • 27. Anchoring
    What we hear or see first influences our subsequent thinking
    Past statistics & trends, an article, a colleague’s comment
    The order in which we receive info distorts our judgment
    To avoid:
    Be aware
    Purposefully use different starting points
    As you gather other people to discuss the issue, try to limit the information you give them
    Clarity what each of your base assumptions are
    Keep coming back to the issue on which you are focusing
    Kennedy & Jones, 2009
  • 28. Sunk cost
    People want to justify past decisions, regardless of how present & future change the situation
    Some cultures reinforce this by punishing decisions that haven’t turned out as planned
    To avoid:
    Consciously set aside past investments
    a rational decision is based on current assets & future consequences
    Stop “sinking” costs into “sunk” costs
    Reward turn-arounds & “try’s”
    Kennedy & Jones, 2009
    “When you find yourself in a hole, the best thing you can do is stop digging.”
    Warren Buffet
  • 29. Mary Lee Kennedy
    Reaching clarity means wading through confusion
    Know your own conflict handling style
    Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument
  • 30. Harvard Business School’s experience
  • 31. We educate leaders who make a difference in the world.
    We support Harvard Business School’s mission by
    enabling the creation and exchange of ideas, expertise and information
  • 32. Deliver the greatest possible value to KLS’s customers by integrating our expertise and resources in support of their teaching, learning, and research.
    Build and enrich a knowledge and information ecosystem that delivers what the customer needs when they need it, seamlessly.
    Be the “trusted advisor” for HBS in knowledge, information and learning practices/
    KLS Enduring Goals
  • 33.
  • 34. Exercising Good Judgment
    Capability Development
    Modeling Best Practice
    Road Maps
    Performance Management
    Project Management
    Team Norms
    Opportunity Management
    After Action Reviews
  • 35. Customer Service Standards
    Service Delivery Agreements
    Customer Relationship Management
    Exceptions Management
    Strategic Alignment
    Employee Engagement
    Balanced Score Cards
    Job Descriptions/Work Designs
    All Day; Every Day
  • 36. Disagreement must be incited & managed
    Once conflict becomes too intense people shut down
    Organizational culture must encourage questioning, especially of decision-makers’ assumptions & propositions
    Manage carefully – it’s new
  • 37. Communication skills
    Self-awareness & self-acceptance
    Curious, interested & questioning
    Admits lack of valid information or understanding
    Assesses & evaluates information & propositions for their value on the issue at hand
    Critical characteristics
  • 38. Awareness
    Discipline your decision-making to uncover thinking errors & prevent judgment errors
    Trying it
    What’s critical?
  • 39. If you’re interested, try:
    The Critical Thinking Community
    • Kramer, R. M., A. E. Tenbrunsel, and M. H. Bazerman, eds. Social Decision Making: Social Dilemmas, Social Values, and Ethical Judgments. Routledge, in press.
    • 40. Bazerman, Max, and D. Moore. Judgment in Managerial Decision Making. 7th ed. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2008.
    • 41. Milkman, Katherine L., Max H. Bazerman, and Dolly Chugh. "How Can Decision Making Be Improved?" Perspectives on Psychological Science (in press). Abstract
    • 42. Raiffa, Howard, John S. Hammond, and Ralph L. Keeney. "The Hidden Traps in Decision Making." HBR Classic. Harvard Business Review 84, no. 1 (January 2006).
    • 43. Hammond, John S., III, Ralph L. Keeney, and Howard Raiffa. Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1998. (Paperback: Broadway Books, 2002;
    Thank you