Write 1050-1400-word personal response in which you compare and contrast the differing definitions of critical thought found in the pre-course readings. Additionally, provide a personal evaluation of how cognitive development, logic, and emotionality relate to your ability to think critically. Although this is a personal response paper, use third person and APA format in writing this response paper.
Critical Thinking in the Business
Braun, N. M. (2004, March/April). Critical thinking in the business
curriculum. Journal of Education for Business
, 79(4), Retrieved from ProQuest database on February 12, 2007.
The call to make improved critical thinking a national education goal is often heard in the business
world, where volumes of information must be reviewed daily for decision making. Business
educators are charged with accomplishing the task of improving critical thinking in business
school graduates. In this study, the author investigated the steps that business
educators are taking to improve critical thinking and the effectiveness of such methods. She summarizes common approaches to critical thinking development in the business
curriculum, reports on published results, and proposes additional efforts needed to accomplish this goal.
Decision making is a daily occurrence in the business
world. Time is of the essence, and both managers and workers must sift through a growing volume of information to make decisions. Yet in a survey by the consulting company Kepner-Tregoe, half of the workers and 44% of the managers surveyed reported that issues are not precisely defined before they are addressed (Kepner-Tregoe, 2000). Although limited decision-making time and an abundance of available information are concerns, according to Kepner-Tregoe CEO Quinn Spitzer, the real issue is the lack of critical thinking skills in the workplace (Pascarella, 1997). The ramifications of poor critical thinking in decision making are seen readily in the business
headlines. The Enron scandal revealed questionable ethics in financial reporting, but poor investment decisions also put the company on shaky financial ground (Zellner et al., 2001).
How can this deficiency in critical thinking for business
decision making be corrected? Professor Jerry Wind of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business
schools should really be teaching critical thinking more than anything else"("Q&A," 1996, p. S13).
The U.S. Department of Labor's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (1991) made the initial call to make critical thinking skills a fundamental requirement for competing in today's global economy. This report fueled support for the enhancement of critical thinking in college graduates as a national education goal (U.S. Department of Education, 1991). Other countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, have reiterated the priority for higher education to instill critical thinking as a core competency in college graduates (Pithers & Soden, 2000). It also has driven funding in Japan for a group dedicated to developing the Asian "public intellectual" (Thaitawat, 2001). Given the magnitude of need for critical thinking skills, I sought to address following questions:
1. What have business
educators and researchers done to date to improve the level of critical thinking in business
2. Is there evidence of improvement?
3. How should business
educators proceed in teaching critical thinking?
Critical Thinking Approaches in the Business
A review of current literature shows that critical thinking skills are taught in the business
curriculum from a number of perspectives. I categorize these approaches into three groups: problembased learning (case studies, "live" or applied projects),course-content-embedded learning (discussions, debates, guided questioning or scaffolding), and as an element underlying other pedagogies (critical theory
, critical reflection, critical systems thinking). All of these approaches have common features that I discuss.
concepts readily lend themselves to illustration through their practice in the business
world. The use of case studies, made popular by the Harvard Business
School MBA curriculum and the establishment of Harvard Business
School Publishing (HBSP), has long been a component of the business
curriculum. HBSP publishes case studies that document actual business
situations in detail and provide teaching notes for use with each case. Case studies readily illustrate particular business
concepts of interest, but business
faculty members also find case studies to be the most effective teaching method for developing critical thinking skills (McEwen, 1994; Pithers & Soden, 2000). Using case studies to teach business
students to think critically requires more than merely providing a case for students to read. Faculty members must model critical thinking and engage students in productive dialogue (Pithers & Soden, 2000). By following basic problem-solving steps, students develop analysis skills when pulling apart and understanding the case, hone their judgment skills by identifying and evaluating assumptions and alternatives, and develop synthesis skills as they reconstruct the scenario with the modifications (Lavitt, 1992). This approach builds critical thinking ability in a stepwise method as prescribed in Benjamin Bloom's 1956 Taxonomy of Education Objectives, outlined in Table 1. Students identify business
concepts illustrated in the case scenario, comprehend the dynamics of concept usage, and evaluate the results.
TABLE 1. Correlation of Bloom's Taxonomy, Problem-Solving Steps, and Critical Thinking Skills
A modification of the case study approach for developing critical thinking is hands-on experience. In the MBA curriculum at Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business
, student teams address actual corporate problems presented by company executives and work with company employees to analyze the situation and provide a recommendation ("Q&A," 1996). Muir (1996) reported on a similar approach in a business
communications course where students were assigned to communication consulting projects. Placing students into the workplace environment allows them "to identify and challenge assumptions and values in the anization, to highlight the context in which action and practices occur, and to explore alternatives to a given situation" (Muir, 1996, p. 77). Both approaches, case studies and actual problem-based learning, provide a framework within the business
curriculum for matching practical know-how with theoretical know-why.
A second approach to developing critical thinking skills is to embed their practice within the student's learning of course concepts. Techniques for critically exploring concepts and issues can include guided questioning, classroom discussions and debates, and group exercises in class. Key components to developing student critical thinking in these activities are active engagement of students, instructor modeling of critical thinking, and an emphasis on thought processes rather than simply concept learning (Katsioloudes & Tischio, 2001). Content-embedded critical thinking approaches often use Socratic dialogue or questioning to bring content alive and facilitate deeper learning of content (Celuch & Slama, 1999). For example, a marketing course can pose questions such as, "What are qualities of effective advertising? Why?" or "Evaluate three direct mail pieces in terms of criteria related to advertising deception and unfairness. Provide your reasoning" (Celuch & Slama, 1999, p. 136). Course content is balanced with these focused critical thinking exercises to reinforce concepts through the application of critical thinking skills (Celuch & Slama, 1999, 2000). This Socratic type of questioning is extended with the use of instructional scaffolding techniques, which are based on Vygotsky's zone of proximal development theory
, in which student thinking can be extended to a higher level of development through one-to-one coaching between teacher and student (Bruning, Schraw, & Ronning, 1999, p. 218). Scaffolding allows the instructor to provide selective hints or questions that direct student thinking into new areas and provide perspectives for critical thinking that students might not have pursued. This approach, although time consuming, also aids in developing the students' metacognitive awareness of their own thinking (Pithers & Soden, 2000).
An Element Underlying Other Pedagogies
Development of critical thinking ability in business
curriculum is also found as an element of other pedagogical approaches, including critical theory
, critical reflection, and critical systems thinking. These approaches have their own theoretical underpinnings and objectives yet overlap with critical thinking development in the application of basic skills. Critical theory
uses critical thinking skills within a framework constructed from its concepts of social constructs, power imbalance, and unequivocal commitment to change for societal good (Prasad & Caproni, 1997). Critical reflection emphasizes critical thinking as a commitment to questioning business
assumptions regarding their effect on social justice within the processes of power and the social fabric of institutional structures (Reynolds, 1999). Critical systems thinking applies critical thinking skills in its analysis and intervention for complex societal problem situations through a merger of social theory
and general systems thinking (Jackson, 2001). All of these "critical" approaches to the business
curriculum require the development and honing of critical thinking skills to identify and question assumptions, draw inferences about interrelationships in the practice of business theory
with regard to the larger scope of the environment, and make judgments on the tradeoffs between societal and individual values. An interdisciplinary capstone course for senior undergraduates in management at Warwick Business
School in the United Kingdom provides an example of how a composite of these critical theories
is used for critical thinking in the business
curriculum (Mingers, 2000). In Table 2, I describe the four aspects of the course approach and the critical thinking skills used. These aspects of the course's critical approach are carried out in a seminar structure, with student presentations and discussions of selected readings and real-life case studies. The only course lecture is the introductory session, in which the course approach and the critical aspects are explained and modeled through an initial case study.
TABLE 2. Critical Theories
as Interdisciplinary Capstone Course
Common Aspects and Issues in Critical Thinking Approaches
All of the critical thinking approaches found in the business
curriculum provide an explicit and intentional focus on critical thinking. Critical thinking requires effort; therefore development of critical thinking skills must be an explicit focus of the course for it to build students' mctacognitive awareness of their thought processes as well as hone basic skills (Halpern, 1998; Pithers & Soden, 2000). This explicit focus on critical thinking demands modeling of skills by the instructor and active learning activities for student practice of critical thinking. Classroom time is devoted to application of thinking skills in focused exercises, case studies or experiential projects, and group discussions. These activities use class time that traditionally has been dedicated to course content. Pithers & Soden (2000) addressed this issue with the suggestion that "first-year discipline-specific knowledge could be reduced to allow the students time to engage in activities which are likely to develop their thinking" (p. 246). This conclusion is reiterated by other business
educators (Celuch & Slama, 2000; McEwen, 1994).
A similar area that must be addressed in approaches for critical thinking development is the building of skill levels. It cannot be assumed that students possess fundamental critical thinking skills-such as identifying assumptions and assessing the validity of information-without practice and assessment of these skills prior to developing more complex skills (Wolcott, Baril, Cunningham, Fordham, & Pierre, 2002). Skill development also must be focused, intentional, and taught through methods such as course exercises using directed questions and assignments (Celuch & Slama, 1999) and scaffolding techniques that raise student thinking to a higher level (Pithers & Soden, 2000). These skillbuilding techniques exacerbate the previous issue of balancing classroom time between course content and critical thinking development. Yet time constraints impeding critical thinking in the workplace are even stronger (Pascarella, 1997), making the time spent on development of critical thinking in the classroom a valuable trade-off for both students and their future employers.
Assessment of Critical Thinking
Regarding the curriculum approaches reviewed, empirical assessment data on the success of techniques for developing critical thinking skills are minimal. In the evaluation of their student responses, Celuch and Slama (1999, 2000) used Richard Paul's universal intellectual standards for critical thinking. These standards, which were adopted by the Foundation for Critical Thinking, address clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, and significance. However, the measurements of success presented in that study are reflections of student course and instructor evaluations and self-evaluations for familiarity and ability with critical thinking skills pre- and postclass, rather than measurements of the increases in student learning. Similar results have been reported in a summary of critical thinking approaches for accounting students (Wolcott et al., 2002) in which the majority of empirical research "has been either descriptive (describing student characteristics) or relational (analyzing the degree of association among the educational environment, student characteristics, and educational outcomes)" (p. 87). Thus, the issue of evidence of improvement has not been addressed sufficiently; and we must question the value of continued efforts in critical thinking development without empirical assessment data for evaluation of results (Wolcott et al., 2002).
Although much progress has been made in critical thinking skills development within the business
curriculum, additional work is needed to address the transference of skills and the measurement of student improvement. The approaches found in the business
curriculum use a number of common practices: an explicit focus on the development of critical thinking skills, modeling of critical thinking, and active learning opportunities for students within the course content. Although it is crucial that critical thinking skills be explicitly developed in the process of acquiring the knowledge deemed as the objectives of education (Glaser, 1984), students can encounter difficulty in applying these skills in new contexts (Halpern, 1998). Critical thinking approaches need to teach students to identify the underlying characteristics of problem structures and should provide a multitude of learning opportunities in varying contexts to promote transference of skills (Halpern, 1998). Interdisciplinary courses such as the management capstone course at Warwick Business
School (Mingers, 2000) represent one method of providing exposure to criticat thinking outside of a student's specific discipline area. Such courses support the need for the crossfunctional expertise required of today's business
executives ("Q&A," 1996).
Measurement of critical thinking improvement, as with other current assessment movements in higher education, requires a focused commitment and effort toward identification of student learning outcomes and applicable assessment measures of those outcomes. Business
curriculum aimed at critical thinking skill development should identify specific skills being addressed, the standards applied to each skill, and acceptable evidence that reflects attainment of those standards. Although these requirements for assessment will place an additional burden on course time constraints, acquisition of empirical data on the effectiveness of the techniques used is crucial to improvement of students' thinking abilities. This assessment will require faculty members to rethink and prioritize concepts covered in the course, but it will be beneficial in the long run.
curriculum is making a contribution to achieving the national education goal for enhanced critical thinking in college graduates, but business
education must make a greater effort to effectively prepare business
executives who can handle the information volumes and fast-paced decision-making environments of the workplace. We must continue to hone and improve teaching approaches based on good assessment of results and expand student critical thinking opportunities across disciplinary boundaries. With a continued focus on critical thinking within the business
curriculum, we will produce the decision makers of tomorrow.
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Critical thinking and logical argument
Duplass, J. A. & Ziedler, D. L. (2002, September). Critical thinking and logical argument. Social Education, 66(5). Retrieved from Thomson Gale Database on February 15, 2007.
Critical thinking and logical argument are as crucial to a democratic nation today as they were to the Founding Fathers in 1700s. An analysis of the construction of arguments can be found in any university logic class and appears in various forms in the social sciences based on the work of Stuart Chase. Chase's writing and the publications of the Institute of Propaganda Analysis were an early attempt in the last century to prepare citizens to detect fallacious arguments in public policy issues. (1) While much attention has been paid by educators to critical thinking skills, little attention in social studies education has been given to logical and fallacious arguments that are an essential part of critical thinking.
Social studies classrooms offer opportunities for students to gather and evaluate evidence, analyze and critique other people's assertions, and speak or write in support of or in opposition to an opinion. The social studies teacher may act as an instructor, moderator, questioner, and devil's advocate.
Students bring to the classroom opinions and information that they glean from the popular culture. Content material for a discussion about current issues is readily accessible to students in the form of newspapers, weekly magazines, and television documentaries and newscasts. Students may feel like experts already, or they may feel overwhelmed by the available information on a topic. Either way, the teacher can help students select sources and then evaluate information through discussions with others who are also seeking accurate information and reliable sources.
Barry Beyer offers one of the dearest conceptualizations of critical thinking. Beyer's operations were derived from the literature of science, language arts, and social studies instruction and are presented here in order (roughly) from simple to complex: (2)
* distinguishing between verifiable facts and value statements;
* distinguishing relevant from irrelevant observations or reasons;
* determining the factual accuracy of a statement;
* determining the credibility of a source;
* identifying ambiguous statements;
* identifying unstated assumptions;
* detecting bias;
* identifying logical fallacies;
* recognizing logical inconsistencies in a line of reasoning;
* determining the overall strength of an argument or conclusion.
Critical thinking operations are perhaps best exemplified in the area of argumentation. (3) When students are engaged in making assertions, supporting and defending those claims through a well-developed line of reasoning, and judging the efficiency of counter arguments during discussions of social issues, they will be making use of the operations identified above. Failure to use these operations during discourse results in fallacious reasoning and flawed construction of ideas and opinions.
While fallacies contained in arguments have always been of concern to philosophers, social studies educators might do more to recognize and analyze the fallacious arguments of their students, making such errors an occasion for discussion. A few of the more-frequently encountered fallacies follow.
Attacking a person's character rather that the accuracy of his or her statements constitutes an ad hominem argument (argument to the man). Specifically, one commits this fallacy by either: (a) criticizing some personal aspect of the speaker unrelated to the topic, for example, how they look or where they grew up; or (b) pointing out some special circumstance or relationship that might exist between the speaker and the topic at hand, but which is not relevant to the validity of their statements. Examples: (a) "David's objection to the new standardized tests should be dismissed entirely, since he never knows what he is talking about." (b) "I can not take your argument about abortion too seriously. After all, you are a girl, and it's only natural that you are going to be biased."
Appeal to authority
Students commit this fallacy when they rely upon a person who has expertise in one field for advice in a field in which that person has no particular expertise. Example: "I just saw an actor speaking before the Senate about funding for Parkinson's disease. He has the disease, you know, and he said that a cure was right around the corner. Scientists just need more funding." The actor has intimate personal experience with the disease, but has no formal medical training, has not performed scientific research on the disease, and thus may have little knowledge on which to predict the rate of progress in that research.
Appeal to popularity
People commit this fallacy whenever they deem acceptable or true a particular claim because they believe that most other people deem it acceptable or true. Examples: "Everybody in the sixties took drugs, of course." "Welfare recipients? They are all cheats and lazy! Everyone knows that."
Begging the question (circular reasoning)
Students commit this fallacy whenever they include in the presses of an argument some form of the very same claim for which they are arguing. Example: "Black people are inferior to whites. Their average income is less." Another example: "Terrorists attack innocent people because they are evil-doers."
A speaker may assume that there are only two possible options, when, in fact, there are more than two. Example: "Well Bush's economics didn't work, so the Democrat's approach must be right."
The fallacy of equivocation occurs when there is a shift in the meaning of a word as it appears in different places within an argument. Example: "People are different in many ways. For example, people are not equal in height and physical strength. Some people act wisely, and some act stupidly. So the phrase, `All men are created equal' is just idealistic hogwash."
Superficially, this might sound like a plausible argument, but the speaker uses the word "equal" twice, and the astute listener could point out that in its initial occurrence, "equal" must mean something like "identical," while in its second occurrence it means something like "being entitled to the same rights." (Thomas Jefferson, of course, defines what he means by "equal" in the sentences following that phrase.)
Students commit this fallacy whenever they make or accept a generalization on the basis of a sample that is too small or not randomly selected. Example: "I don't think we should be spending tax dollars for AIDS research. The newspaper reported that there were only two cases of AIDS in our town last year. These numbers do not justify us spending money when much more money is needed for other health issues." Another example: "Asian Americans are great in math, like in my algebra class."
Drawing conclusions from a small set of measurements (or experiences) is a danger even for researchers, because what qualifies as acceptable evidence often differs across academic disciplines. (4) Students, therefore, become unclear about what constitutes sufficient or appropriate evidence. Higher education often produces graduates who think only within the framework of their chosen discipline. What is considered to be legitimate support for a thesis is different in various disciplines. Compare, for example, the discipline of archaeology with public opinion polling, or with public health. What level of confidence is needed before one makes a hypothesis about an ancient civilization? Predicts the winner of an election? Injects a healthy infant with a new vaccine?
Students may seek too little information to warrant a firm conclusion. Conversely, students may acquire voluminous amounts of information, but then unwittingly give equal weight to all statements without pausing to evaluate the quality of the data or the reliability of each source.
Students also tend to overemphasize the frequency of rare events that contain inherent shock value, but underestimate the occurrences of more common events. Another example of inadequate sampling is failure to attend to new evidence or revisit an opinion already held.
Finally, many students (and adults) lack a functional understanding of probabilistic and statistical information. There is a strong tendency for students to disregard base-rate information in favor of intuitive causal reasoning or anecdotal experience. (5)
There are many other rhetorical fallacies that could be discussed: "two wrongs make a right," "the straw man," "the slippery slope," as well as illegitimate appeals to emotions such as pity, fear, hate, greed, and pride. Students may be able to give examples of erroneous and deceptive statements that the class can then label and categorize. Peer pressure, for example, might be defined as a threat of exclusion from the group, and thus it is an attempt to manipulate others out of fear.
Typically, many students (particularly adolescents) exhibit forms of provincialism and are egocentric and ethnocentric in their reasoning. The ability to objectively evaluate statements is limited by their own group or societal viewpoint. (6) People of all ages have vested interests, and young people are no different.
Before analysis and criticism of another person's point of view, one has to listen carefully to what that person is saying. Open-mindedness is a virtue that is held in high regard by many, but it is difficult to practice, just as it is difficult for a human to account for an object that falls within the "blind spot" of the eye. Why are discussions with people who hold views that are different from one's own so valuable? Not only can we test the strength of their (and our own) reasoning and opinions, but we can keep watch for insights that we might never obtain on our own.
Among the more common instructional approaches used to help students make decisions concerning societal issues are values clarification, decision-making, and inquiry. Students are expected to construct logical arguments when participating in classroom discussions, when composing written assignments, and when participating in society as citizens. In courses that deal with science, technology, and society (STS) issues or current events, students are often asked to discuss a topic that is of direct concern to them, and maybe to simulate a difficult decision and explain the reasoning behind their decision.
The ultimate success of such instructional approaches is at least partially dependent on students' logical reasoning and argumentation skills. (7) But the skills needed for participation in reasoned debate are not innate in students. (8) Thus, it appears that students (and social studies teachers) could benefit from learning about argumentation, its strategies, and its pitfalls.
Use with Caution
Debate using formalized, grade-appropriate rules and forums can be implemented at the elementary school level, but with a caution! While debating offers skills in preparation, argument, counter argument, logical thinking, and questioning, it can also foment competitiveness while losing site of the importance for the search for truth by reason and collaboration.
Two websites at the University of Vermont offer articles, streaming video, topics, and techniques for both presentations and debates: Debate Central at debate.uvm.edu/watchnovicepolicyvideo.html, and The National Forensic League at debate.uvm.edu/NFL/rostrumlib.html. Also, check out The Philosophy Pages at www.philosophypages.com/lg/.
From James A. Duplass, Teaching Elementary Social Studies: What Every Teacher Should Know (New York: Houghton Mifflin, in press).
(1.) Stuart Chase, The Institute for Propaganda Analysis: The Fine Art of Propaganda (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1939); Guides to Straight Thinking. (New York: Harper, 1956).
(2.) B. K. Beyer, Developing a Thinking Skills Program (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1988).
(3.) S. Chase, The Tyranny of Words (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1986). S. E. Toulmin, R. Rieke, and A. Janik, An Introduction to Reasoning (New York: Macmillan, 1984).
(4.) B. Cerbin, "The Nature and Development of Informal Reasoning." Paper presented at the 12th National Institute on Issues in Teaching and Learning. Chicago, IL, 1988 (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 298 895).
(5.) A. Tversky, and D. Kahneman, "Evidential Impact of Base Rates," in D. Kahneman, P. Slovic, and A. Tversky, eds,. Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982); R. S. Nickerson, D. N. Perkins, E. E. and Smith, The Teaching of Thinking (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1985).
(6.) J. G. Kurfiss, Critical Thinking (Washington, DC: ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Reports, 1988).
(7.) C. Cornbleth, "Critical Thinking and Cognitive Processes," in W. B Stanley, ed., Review of Research in Social Studies Education 1976-1983 (Washington DC: National Council for the Social Studies. 1985); D. Oliver and J. Shaver, Teaching Public Issues in High School (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1966).; Ian Wright, Is That Right? Critical Thinking and the Social World of the Young Learner (Toronto, Canada: Pippin Teacher's Library, 2002).
(8.) R. J. Bady, "Students' Understanding of the Logic of Hypothesis Testing," Journal of Research in Science Teaching 16, no. 1 (1979): 61-65.
(9.) A longer version of this article appeared in the spring/summer 2000 issue of the International Journal of Social Education, published by the Indiana Council for the Social Studies.
RELATED ARTICLE: A global forum: Model UN.
In Model U.N., students step into the shoes of ambassadors from U.N. members states to debate current issues on the anization's vast agenda. Student "delegates" in Model U.N. prepare draft resolutions, plot strategy, negotiate with supporters and adversaries, resolve conflicts, and navigate the U.N.'s procedural rules--all in the interest of mobilizing "international cooperation" to resolve problems that affect many nations. In the U.S., 130 middle schools participate in Model U.N., or Global Classrooms, or both.
Before playing out their ambassadorial roles in Model U.N., students research global problems to he addressed, drawn from today's headlines. Model U.N., participants learn how the international community acts on its concerns about topics including peace and security, human rights, the environment, food and hunger, economic development, and globalization. Model U.N. delegates also look closely at the needs, aspirations, and foreign policy of the countries they will represent at the event. The insights they gain shape their exploration of history, geography, mathematics, culture, economics, and science.
For information about Model U.N. and the Global Classrooms program, contact United Nations Association of the United States of America, 801 Second Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10017, USA. Tel: 212 907-1300, Fax: 212 682-9185, e-mail: , website: www.unausa.
James A. Duplass is a professor of social studies education, and Dana L. Ziedler is an associate professor of science education, both in the Department of Secondary Education, College of Education, University of South Florida, in Tampa.
Gao, F., Li, M., & Nakamori, Y. (2003, January - February). Critical systems thinking as a way to manage knowledge. (Research Paper). Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 20(1). Retrieved from Thomson Gale database on February 16, 2007.
This paper is the first to introduce critical systems thinking into the present study of knowledge and its management. Our preliminary study showed two things about critical systems thinking. First, it provides comprehensive and creative insight into tackling the increasing complexity of human knowledge and knowledge management processes through the anic connection and division of knowledge systems. Second, it encourages the critical use of available methodologies in a coherent way to cope with corresponding subsystems or processes, which breaks down the complexity into convenient units. Based on critical systems thinking, we divided knowledge into two aspects: static substance knowledge and dynamic process knowledge. This division not only provides a concise theoretical framework but also allows knowledge managers and workers to clearly understand the gravity of their work and to selectively utilize well-established methodologies in the practice of knowledge-related activities. This paper serves as an introduction to an application of critical system thinking and total systems intervention in diversified human knowledge topics.
In the modern world anizations are faced with innumerable and multifaceted issues which cannot be captured in the minds of a few experts and solved with the aid of some super-method. It would be equally wrong to revert to a trial and error approach. We need to retain rigorous and formalized thinking, while admitting the need for a range of problem solving methodologies. Flood and Jackson, 1991.
Knowledge has been recognized as one of the most important factors in economic growth. In view of its nature, characteristics and function, knowledge is totally different from other traditional production factors. The traditional approaches and ways of thinking about managing production factors have ceased to be effective in managing knowledge. Knowledge theories
and practices, coming from different disciplines, make the term `knowledge' rich and multifaceted but more complex. Thus, knowledge and knowledge management call for new insights in dealing with complexity.
This paper is the first to introduce influential critical systems thinking (CST) into knowledge and its management. With profound philosophical underpinnings, CST could shed light on the fundamental issues of knowledge, knowledge creation and management that intensively involve people with a variety of ideas in an ever-changing environment. CST perfectly enables researchers and practitioners to view knowledge and its management in anizations as a holistic system, seek for resolutions with the spirit of pluralism and critically leverage the well-established tools (methodologies, methods, models and techniques from various fields). Total systems intervention (TSI), as a system of systems methodologies, suggests employing these tools as a whole. In short, CST and TSI can offer knowledge managers and workers a theoretical framework for creative thinking and a useful practical methodological tool in managing knowledge systems and in addressing diverse interests during the activities.
CRITICAL SYSTEMS THINKING AND TOTAL SYSTEMS INTERVENTION
CST: A Philosophical Underpinning
CST, derived from social theory
(1) and system thinking itself, was developed in the early 1980s (Jackson, 2001). At that time systems theorists reflected upon existing systems methodologies and their philosophies and created CST and TSI as a synthesis of these philosophies and methodologies. CST was `propelled by an internal logic and by the responses it made to challenges from outside' (Jackson, 2000). Throughout the 1990s, the reflection of systems thinking, as an interactive process of theories
and practices on the diversity of competing theories
and the ever-changing social reality, required more tolerances on subjective observations and critical judgments on plural pragmatic approaches, which process could be considered as a starting point for research in the tangled knowledge field. The three theoretical commitments in CST are (1) critical awareness, (2) emancipation or improvement and (3) pluralism (Jackson, 2000).
Critical awareness encourages observing and thinking critically and consciously at both theoretical and practical levels. It requires exploring the research object and approach as well as background, for example, why the object was chosen as a research target, how the approach was developed, based on what hypotheses were discussed, and what their limitations, strengths and weaknesses were. Social awareness, as another aspect of critical awareness, requires actors not only to think directly about clients and other stakeholders, but also to pay attention to nature, community and society. It asks for giving full consideration to the social consequences of using different systems methodologies, decision-making and action. Critical awareness importantly affects the quality of work and working process while considering the interests of each stakeholder.
Emancipation is one of the three cognitive interests in Habermas's theory
. CST sought philosophical support from the spirit of emancipation and embraced `much broader dedication to human improvement' (Flood and Jackson, 1991) in circumstances for all individuals to realize their potential in their contributions to the whole human being and to improving their own conditions. Putting emancipation or local improvement on the agenda, critical system thinkers have to holistically consider humanity or the ethical and moral dimension. In dealing with methodology, it encourages the use of specifically emancipatory systems methodologies suitable for coercive contexts.
In the inception, complementarism at a theoretical level and complementarism at a methodological level were constitutive parts of CST. Afterward, the idea toward a coherent pluralism in system thinking was advocated by Jackson, interpreted in the broadest sense as the combinative use of different methodologies, methods and techniques in applied disciplines. First, it is the spirit of times that props up the use of methodologies adhering to different paradigms, and constantly encourages appreciating and respecting the diversity of theoretical findings. The complexity and dynamics of reality in the real world requires practitioners to improve their ability to tolerate wide-ranging opinions in their practices. Second, the richness in the methodological studies avails the combination of methodologies, methods, perspectives and approaches developed in separate disciplines based on variety of philosophies.
The nature of pluralism in critical system thinking, however, does not mean picking and mixing methodologies in a pragmatic way by compromising the idiosyncratic observations and principles. In problem contexts, system thinkers have to make active interventions in changing an operation while in process toward the desired direction with appropriate methodological backup and sensible combinations of methodologies. TSI was devised in the service of the end, although it also needs to be used by users critically in addressing specific problem situations (Jackson, 2000).
Once the variety of ways in intervening in and seeking for improving problem situations is fully appreciated, we agree that there does not exist one approach fit for all situations or one way of thinking to tackle everything; each has its strengths and weaknesses in addressing specific problems and issues in different contexts and with different aspects. The critical awareness incorporating social awareness reminds researchers of rethinking their research objects, ways of thinking, models, approaches and tools employed in a critical, reiterative and conscious way; complementarity among methodologies allows researchers to tackle multifaceted problems more effectively and efficiently and create their own toolkits in the way of system of systems methodologies.
TSI: A System of Systems Methodologies
TSI, developed by Flood and Jackson (1991), has critical systems thinking as its underpinning philosophy. The three phases in TSI were labelled creativity, choice and implementation (Jackson, 2000). In the creativity phase, the appreciations on different views of the anizations and their problems are to gather `the broadest possible critical look at the problem situation but gradually to focus down on those aspects most crucial to the anization at that point in its history' (Jackson, 2001). The task during the creativity phase is to use systems metaphors as anizing structures to help managers and other stakeholders think creatively about their enterprises or problem situations. Different metaphors focus attention on different aspects of a research object's functioning. The outcome from the creativity phase is a set of crucial issues and concerns, highlighted by particular metaphors that then become the basis for a choice of appropriate systems intervention methodology. After the crucial problems are identified, the task during the choice phase is to choose an appropriate systems-based intervention methodology or set of methodologies to address the problem situation as revealed by the examination conducted in the creativity phase. The tools provided by TSI to help with this phase are the system of systems methodologies and, derived from that, knowledge of the particular strengths, limitations and weaknesses of different systems methodologies. The task during the implementation phase is to use a particular systems methodology or systems methodologies to arrive at and implement specific proposals. The result of this stage is coordinated change brought about in those aspects of the anization currently most vital for its efficient, effective and ethical functioning. A summary of this three-phase meta-methodology of TSI (2) is shown in Table 1.
CST and TSI were introduced into management science in such a way that problem contexts were assumed to be six: mechanical-unitary, mechanical-pluralist, mechanical-coercive, systemic-unitary, systemic-pluralist and systemic-coercive. Given the grid of problem contexts, systems methodologies were classified into different groups according to the different problem contexts. TSI advocates combining metaphors, the system of systems methodologies and knowledge of the individual systems approaches in an interactive manner that is deemed to be particularly powerful and fruitful. In addition, TSI uses a range of systems metaphors to encourage creative thinking about anizations and their problems. These metaphors are linked by a framework (i.e. the system of systems methodologies (SOSM)) to various systems approaches, so that once agreement is reached about which metaphors are most relevant to an anization's concerns and problems, an appropriate systems-based intervention methodology or set of methodologies can be employed. The choice of an appropriate systems methodology will guide problem solving in a way that ensures that it addresses what the main concerns are of the particular anization involved (Midgley, 2000).
As CST reconstructed systems thinking upon the foundation of pluralism, it makes users respect the strengths of the various trends in systems thinking and diversity of theories
and methods; consequently, based on a review of strengths, limitations and weaknesses of the theories
and methods, intervention is made by using them in a cohesive and sophisticated manner; as a result, the effectiveness of the methodologies and tools is improved in a variety of complex and dynamic circumstances. To apply CST and TSI into anizational knowledge management, first we have to recognize the specific meanings of knowledge in different disciplines and, second, we have to classify it into different dimensions and select appropriate methods to `manage' knowledge.
KNOWLEDGE INTERPRETATIONS IN VARIOUS FIELDS
Knowledge management is not a new topic to anizations. One example of a systematic study of knowledge in anizations is R&D activity and its management. However, overwhelming attention to knowledge-oriented research activities and parallel activities did not appear until the early 1990s in catering for the challenges of the `knowledge society' (Drucker, 1969, 1993; Bell, 1973; Toffler, 1990). Even though academics and practitioners agree on the importance of knowledge in economic activities, they are of divergent opinion concerning the content and interpretation of the term `knowledge'. People discuss the same term but differ in their interpretations of this rich word that shapes the diverse ways of thinking and subsequent principles of action. They are all supported by their philosophical underpinnings and sophisticated theories
, even those involving conflict, which enrich human understanding of knowledge but inevitably increase the difficulty of mastering it. In the following sections, we re-examine the meaning of knowledge in a general sense, in philosophy, social theory
and the discipline of information technology (IT).
General Definition of Knowledge
Most people intuitively relate knowledge to science (natural sciences, social sciences and humanities). In dictionaries, `science' is simply explained as knowledge. In the Concise Oxford Dictionary (8th edition) `science' is defined as `(1) a branch of knowledge conducted on objective principles involving the systematized observation of and experiment with phenomena, esp. concerned with the material and functions of the physical universe; (2) systematic and formulated knowledge, esp. of a specified type or on a specified subject or the pursuit or principles of this; (3) an anized body of knowledge on a subject'. In the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (3rd edition), `science' is explained as `knowledge about the world, especially based on examination and testing, and on facts that can be proved'. When people talk about knowledge, they often explicitly or implicitly mean science. However, in view of contemporary knowledge science, science is one of the special kinds of knowledge that are systematic, formulated, anized or proved, based on logic or experiments and articulated in words, scientific formulae, data, codified procedures or universal principles. Moreover, it can be communicated and shared among individuals.
In the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (3rd edition), `knowledge' is defined as: `(1) what a person knows: the facts, information, skills, and understanding that one has gained, esp. through learning or experience; (2) the state of being informed about something; awareness'. From this definition, knowledge is what the knower knows. It closely relates to the knower and no human judgment is involved. In the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English, `knowledge' is defined as: `(1) (a) awareness or familiarity gained by experience (of a person, fact, or thing); (b) a person's range of information (is not within his knowledge) (2) (a) a theoretical or practical understanding of a subject, language, etc. (has a good knowledge of Greek) (b) the sum of what is known (every branch of knowledge); (3) Philos. true, justified belief; certain understanding, as opposite to opinion'. In this explanation knowledge contains broad meanings. It includes not only what the knower knows (awareness, familiarity, a person's range of information, which all depend on the knower and no judgment is made about them) but also what is known by others (theoretical or practical understanding of a subject, language and the sum of what is known, which is not merely what is known by others but should be theoretical especially to some branch), as well as `true, justified belief; certain understanding, as opposite to opinion'. It extends knowledge from what a person knows to what others know. In Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, `knowledge' is defined as: `(1) (a) the fact or condition of knowing something with a considerable degree of familiarity gained through experience of or contact or association with the individual or thing so known (a thorough knowledge of life and its problems); (b) acquaintance with or theoretical or practical understanding of some branch of science, art, learning, or other area involving study, research, or practice and the acquisition of skills (knowledge of advanced mathematics); (2) (a) the fact or condition of being cognizant, conscious, or aware of something (the knowledge that it was really important); (b) the particular existent range of one's information or acquaintance with facts: the scope of one's awareness: extent of one's understanding; (3) the fact or condition of apprehending truth, fact, or reality immediately with the mind or senses: perception, cognition (intellective knowledge); (4) the fact or condition of possessing within mental grasp through instruction, study, research, or experience one or more truths, facts, principles, or other objects of perception: the fact or condition of having information or of being learned or erudite (a man of great knowledge); (5) the sum total of what is known: the whole body of truth, fact, information, principles or other objects of cognition acquired by mankind (adding to the vast store of knowledge)'. This definition emphasizes a considerable degree of familiarity and understanding to what the knower knows and connects knowledge with mental processes.
From the above examination, we can discern that there exist many different perceptions of the term `knowledge'. Knowledge could be just what is known without any judgment. Knowledge to some knower is just what he knows; its extension to others should attach some objective or subjective judgment. Although some people still think merely knowing is not enough but a considerable degree of familiarity and understanding to what is known also should be considered, one thing is certain: knowledge has a much broader, deeper and richer meaning than science or information. Knowledge does not only mean scientific knowledge but also experience, skills, understanding, learning, awareness, familiarity, information and facts people have. However, if we accept the concept of knowledge in this wide viewpoint when we discuss knowledge and knowledge management, we take the risk of capturing nothing but overly general descriptions. Knowledge as both means and tools of production in creating wealth in the knowledge society should have more accurate meanings in it to businesses
Knowledge in Philosophy
The philosophical inquiry of knowledge in the West is known as `epistemology'. Epistemology, or the theory
of knowledge, is concerned with how we know what we know and what justifies us in believing what we know. There are the three major aspects concerned: the nature of knowledge; the origin of knowledge; and the reliability of knowledge. Western philosophers generally agree that knowledge is `justified true belief', which can be obtained by reasoning in terms of rational, logic, mind deduction (such as Plato and Descartes (3)) or by empirical induction from sensory experiences (Aristotle, 1928, and Locke (4)), or by synthesis of the two (Kant; Hegel; Marx; (5) Russell, 1961, 1989). Philosophers tried to pursue something called the `truth' that is objective. They also saw knowledge as an entity that can be captured, categorized, stored and learned. It is separated from any individual being as an inanimate `thing' or `object'. Nevertheless, knowledge (i.e. `justified true belief') is in essence a kind of belief, which is true (or which people believe is true) because it has been justified in some way by some means via reasoning or sensory experience to the extent of human ability.
Another important strand of knowledge theory
was developed by Michael Polanyi. He argued that knowledge is inherently personal. Polanyi (1962) called attention to the necessity of deriving theories
from facts rather than facts from theories
. He claimed that `knowing what' and `knowing how' are interdependent. In his words, `neither is ever present without the other' (Polanyi, 1983). Polanyi said:
I am looking at Gestalt as the outcome of an
active shaping of experience preformed in
the pursuit of knowledge. This shaping and
integrating I held to be the great and indispensable
tacit power by which all knowledge
is discovered and, once discovered, is held to
Polanyi divided human knowledge into two dimensions: explicit knowledge (written and formalized) and tacit knowledge (the action related and unformulated) (Polanyi, 1959). The tacit dimension of knowledge is the most important knowledge an individual has, but it cannot be articulated. Focusing on human's capacity to think, he declared that the opinion that scientists hit on discoveries merely by trying everything that crosses their minds follows from an inability to recognize a human's capacity for anticipating the approach of `hidden' truth (Polanyi, 1983). To some person with less education in physics, a statement of scientific knowledge like a law in physics makes no sense. It makes sense only to those who have the ability to understand what the law expresses. Polanyi insisted that knowledge is not gained by an objective flow of events and the necessary outcome of a determined scientific endeavour, but is grounded in such human conditions as the sense of beauty and passion. What Polanyi taught here is that in reality all knowledge has an ineradicably personal element. Polanyi's insight on tacit knowledge uncovered the mystery of discovery, invention and creation by knowledge agents and emphasized the agents' capacity of thinking, doing or acting. His argument on personal knowledge shed light on our systems thinking for knowledge management. As the capacity of thinking and doing can be realized only after action, the process of thinking or doing is that of knowledge generation and application, which makes the process of action imperative in acquiring knowledge. His thoughts provided the theoretical origin for valuing knowledge workers' work.
To sum up, in philosophy there are two different dimensions in knowledge: one relates to the scientific, logical or objective dimension; another to the subjective dimension. For the objective dimension, knowledge is like a `thing' or `object' that can be articulated, captured and stored, but only certain people with enough capacities can fully understand its subjective dimension, that is, the meaning that the `thing' or `object' represents. Since the ability to perceive is inseparable from applying that ability to perceiving action, it is reasonable to consider the subjective aspect of knowledge as process knowledge. Since all knowledge is understood as a kind of belief, the different elements embedded in knowledge allow some knowledge (such as knowledge in natural sciences) to transcend culture, value and national boundaries and to be wholly perceived; however, knowledge closely related to culture, value and ethics can only be shared within certain groups, races or countries.
Knowledge in Social Theory
Daniel Bell (1973) defined `knowledge' in a broader sense as `a set of anized statements of facts or ideas, presenting a reasoned judgment or an experimental result, which is transmitted to others through some communication medium in some systematic form' or in general meaning as `which is objectively known, an intellectual property, attached to a name and a group of names and certified by copyright or some other form of social recognition'. He added that knowledge involves new judgments (i.e. research and scholarship) or new combinations of older judgments (i.e. textbook and teaching), which makes theoretical knowledge more important as it can be translated into many varied circumstances. Bell argued that the post-industrial society is a knowledge society for two major reasons: one is that `the sources of innovation are increasingly derivative from research and development (and more directly, there is a new relation between science and technology because of the centrality of theoretical knowledge)', another is `the weight of the society, measured by a large proportion of GNP and a large share of employment, is increasingly in the knowledge field'. Stehr (1994) termed `knowledge' as a capacity for social action, a condition for the possibility of social action, which indicates strongly that the material realization and implementation of knowledge depend on or are embedded within the context of specific social and intellectual conditions. He expressed that his book Knowledge Societies was `written in response to the fundamental observation that contemporary science is not merely, as was once widely thought, the key and solution to the mysteries and miseries of the world, but is the becoming of aworld. ... Our world is increasingly produced by science and our understanding of these transformations increasingly relies on ideas generated in science'. The terms `science' and `scientific' have to include not only the natural sciences but also the social sciences and humanities. When social theorists talk about the relationship of knowledge to economic growth or its influence on social and cultural aspects, knowledge usually means scientific knowledge and its implementation, called technology, usually in the form of technological artefacts (Adorno, 1973; Merton, 1973; Lane, 1966).
Knowledge in nature has fundamental differences from other production factors. It is return increasing rather than return diminishing. Stehr (1994) said `if sold, knowledge, ideas, and information enter other domains and yet remain within the domain of their producer. Knowledge does not have zero-sum qualities. Knowledge is a public good, when revealed, knowledge does not lose its influence'. As a kind of asset in economy, scarcity is an important feature that at some degree decides its economic value. It is for these reasons that knowledge in contemporary scientific enterprise now and in the scientific community in the past cannot be exactly the same. Drucker (1969) asserted that:
Knowledge as normally conceived by the
`intellectual' is something very different from
`knowledge' in the context of `knowledge
society' or `knowledge work' ... knowledge,
like electricity or money, is a form of energy
that exists only when doing work. The
emergence of the knowledge economy is not,
in other words, part of `intellectual history' as
it is normally conceived. It is part of the
`history of technology', which recounts how
man puts tools to work.
Drucker defined `knowledge' as information that `changes something or somebody either by becoming grounds for action, or by making an individual or an institution capable of different and more effective action' (Drucker, 1989). Knowledge in the knowledge economy is effective knowledge or `specialized knowledge', knowledge workers with specialized knowledge are doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, chemical engineers, computer technicians, software designers, analysts in clinical labs, manufacturing technologists and paralegals (Drucker, 2001).
Knowledge in Information Technology
In the IT area knowledge is regarded as a kind of information, and knowledge management is just a higher level of information management. To most researchers and practitioners, knowledge is `reasoning about information and data to actively enable performance, problem-solving, decision-making, learning, and teaching' (Beckman, 1997); `information that has been anized and analyzed to make it understandable and applicable to problem-solving or decision-making' (Turban, 1992); or `a fluid mix of framed experiences, values, contextual information, and expert insight' (Davenport, 1997; Davenport and Prusak, 1998). In an information perspective, Boisot (1998) defined knowledge as `a capacity that is built on information extracted from data or the set of expectations that an observer holds with respect to an event'. (6) He put his object or issue into a platform of `information-space (I-space)' and focused on information through abstraction, codification and diffusion that brings out the extent to which knowledge assets and physical assets substitute for each other in economic processes. In this way, corporate culture and anizational processes are connected with information environment; for this reason, the economic value of knowledge assets is discussed in the face of information goods. In short, creating knowledge implies a process of generating insights through extracting information from data. Earl (1994) took Skandia and Shorko as examples because they are well known for building knowledge-based strategies enabled by IT. Knowledge was viewed as `what we know, or what we can accept we think we know and has not yet been proven invalid, or what we can know' at the three levels: science (accepted law, theory
and procedure); judgment (policy rules, probabilistic parameters and heuristics); and experience (which is no more than transactional, historical and observational data to be subjected to scientific analysis or judgmental
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