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Overcoming Obstacles to Critical Thinking in Your Organization

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Learn how to recognize and overcome bureaucracy, office politics, and preconceived notions in your efforts to achieve constructive critical thought, both personally and throughout your organization.
This chapter is from the book


Living a human life, as we have seen, entails a variety of relationships and membership in a variety of human groups. Both the relationships and the groups to which we belong typically have a profound influence on our thinking, our emotions, and our desires. In Chapter 11, we considered the broadest implications of this fact, especially the implications of sociocentrism, a term that highlights group-dominated thinking in human life. In this chapter, we will focus somewhat more narrowly, on the problem of thinking effectively and working for change in corporate and other organizational structures.

To think effectively in corporate and organizational settings, it is helpful to consider the logic of these structures and explicitly face the questions one should ask when operating within them. The more we understand the logic of our circumstances, the more effectively we can act.

Here is our plan. We will deal with the logic of organizational structures in some detail first, approaching their potential transformation from a number of different standpoints, including that of three predictable obstacles: the struggle for power, group definitions of reality, and bureaucracy. We will also look at the problem of "misleading success" as well as the relation between competition, sound thinking, and success. We will spell out some essential questions each of us should ask when working within a corporate or organizational setting. Following that, toward the end of the chapter, we will analyze six hypothetical cases illustrating some of the ways critical thinking might be applied to decision-making in a corporate or organizational setting. We will close the chapter with a list of conditions essential for success in facilitating a culture of critical thinking. The conditions we list suggest ways that an organization or corporation can begin to organize itself for long-range success through the use of critical thinking.

There are a number of factors we must take into account in thinking our way through organizational and corporate structures, factors that interact in different ways in different settings. Often we lack some of the vital facts we need to make sound decisions and must therefore judge in terms of probabilities rather than certainties. Often we cannot answer all the questions we would like to answer. In any case, critical thinking does not guarantee us the truth—rather, it affords us a way to maximize our best chance for it.

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