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Thinking-Is it happening at your organization?

In Dr. Cabrera Ted Talks (, he wants us to start thinking about thinking. It seems simple and obvious enough…just use your head and think! Doesn’t that seem like an automatic response? However, we aren’t necessarily encouraging critical thinking skills in our schools, workplaces and more broadly speaking in our culture. Think about these scenarios…

You buy your six year old a new Lego for his birthday. He ooh and aah as your little genius looks at the step by step instruction booklet (all in pictures) and builds the Epic Dragon Lego in record speed. And it says it is for Ages 8-14! Through this task, the little boy has gotten very good at looking at pictures and building as directed. He didn’t need creative or critical thinking skills as that had already been done for him by an employee at Lego headquarters.

We ask our children in our schools to memorize multiplication tables and history facts with the expectation that we give more and more content…not necessarily solving critical problems but memorizing relevant facts.

And of course, think about our organizations. We develop job descriptions that narrowly define employee’s responsibilities. We create organization charts and titles to place artificial boundaries within the system. And, many times we reward and promote complacency and mediocre performance rather than initiative and risk taking. The same parallel can apply to consulting services. We hire consultants who can come in and apply a canned product that may be very well packaged (think Lego!) but has no utility and no ability to critically solve your organizational problems.

Thinking implies that we gather information > analysis this information > package the information > produce an outcome that is meaningful. Dr. Cabrera suggests there are four necessary ingredients to encourage thinking:

1. Make critical distinctions 2. Think in terms of Parts and Wholes (Systems Thinking) so people can not only dissect ideas but also build up ideas. 3. Recognize relationships among ideas 4. Get multiple perspectives.

This four elements have tremendous applicability to our organizations. Think about the ideas that get created everyday within a functional group that has connectivity to other ideas in different areas. Or, the diversity of perspectives that is now emerging in our organizations from global, generational, regional influences. And, certainly, system thinking is such a critical imperative to the way business works today. Our leaders, HR and line, need to understand the whole as well as the part. Food for thought as you “think” about how thinking is getting done within your organization.

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