Roles and relationships among working people are changing very fast as organizations make the difficult shift from authoritarianism to a democratic form of management. These dramatic changes mean that everyone has to develop new competencies. Some of these competencies apply to everyone (self-management, broad business understanding, knowledge of finance and economics, critical thinking, integrative communication skills, mutual learning capability, and flexible decision making as prerequisites for successful performance.)
Intelligent people are capable of independent action, and they have the necessary mental toughness to take charge and defend unpopular stands. Self-management, as an emotional intelligence component, brings a tenacious and effective form of behavior control into institutions: self-control. This competency can be observed in the prevailing attitudes and behaviors of today’s 18 to 35 year olds: balance between work and personal life, flexibility, credit for their ideas, achievements and results, involvement in decisions, increasing commitment to values, ideas and causes, networking and freedom of choice, willingness to change almost anything if pushed to do so by authority, diverse interests, high thirst for knowledge, increasing empowerment through direct access to information and technology such as the Internet.
On the other hand, one sad legacy about bureaucratic authoritarianism is the underdeveloped thinking skills at all levels within organizations. People in authority under the old rules are not often challenged. Instead of exploring and debating issues deeply and looking at them from a variety of perspectives, many executives instruct others to carry out their decisions. At the same time people lower in the organization, accustomed to fragmented jobs and limited decision making authority, either follow order, freeze, complain or criticize. It emerges a kind of tension between the bureaucratic tradition and the MTV generation. All groups within organizations should develop critical thinking skills.
There are four components of critical thinking: (1) Identifying and challenging assumptions behind ideas and actions. (2) Recognizing the influence of such things as history and culture on beliefs and actions. (3) Imagining and exploring alternatives and going beyond the obvious solutions. (4) Being appropriately skeptical about status quo solutions that claim to be the only truth and alternative. Democracy is the form of governance that creates the best conditions for critical thinking.
When people take part in decision processes and when they have the power, rights, and responsibilities needed for effective action, the quality of thinking is high. People must be able to defend their ideas, look for ways of integrating their own views with those of others, and seek solutions that are both technically sound and that others can commit to. There is no other way to develop the skills of critical thinking than by inviting people to dare to think.
Copyright 2002 QBS, Inc.