Home > Digitalizacija > Critical thinking as employee competence

Fake it till you make it. Sounds familiar? Not this is not only happening during late night beer conversations. In today’s world flow of information is so big, that the main challenge is not to get them, but to qualify them. And not only that, with expansion of digitalisation, whole industry of information sharing changed in a way that development of control mechanism for information quality could not follow, but this expansion actually introduced strong breeding ground for individuals and groups that will use information manipulation for their own benefits.

And in this environment when time is one of main business resource, validation and qualification of information and inputs we receive either directly or indirectly, is usually defined as cost and is not used enough.

Today we are facing transition between authority based verification to public based verification. Before internet development, we had trusted sources of information (they were usually traditional media, institutions and direct human conversation), where we trust the source enough to trust also information received from them. Today our access to information is almost unlimited, we believe that so called trust based business model will reject anybody who will not provide correct information and as such model will regulate itself and provide correct information. Probably one of the reasons why manipulation about American elections, best restaurant in London that didn’t exist,…and other news manipulation could gain such reach.

This is all in line with leading capitalistic doctrine of self-regulated markets, it creates room for power elite to keep control. But does blind acceptance of served information really provide strongest base for workforce efficiency.

When IBM produce Watson to compete against human in “human activity” of playing quiz Jeopardy, this was Watson biggest challenge. To define with use of algorithms what is most probably right information and place it as humans would do through conversation, in this specific case as question. And since then capability of machines to use enormous data flows and research them only grow. And by improving capabilities of machine learning, use of mixed reality and development of IoT, machines are gaining upper edge on humans in their abilities of critical thinking and as such are gaining trust in business transactions. Let’s put a side slips like the last one, when Bot sold some crypto currencies not in line with expected activities and cost some money to its owners in general machines will gain trust more and more.

When we think about added value that employee can bring to our company, do we test them for their ability of critical thinking. During my study professor of sociology of media taught me that when you read newspaper and you see that the front page is full of sensational news, you should go on page two and forward to check what is the information that they are trying to cover with this sensational news. If we have capabilities to do that check and we have broad understanding and enough special knowledge to be able to do validation and qualification of inputs we are receiving, then we represent resource to company.

When we talk about industry 4.0, when we talk about moving from labour intensive activities to knowledge intense, when we talk about use of robots, artificial intelligence, smart data approach, we are giving machines role of creators of inputs. But in order for human to be in a position to use these inputs as tools for improvements in business processes and business results, we need competence of critical thinking, combined of course with drive to act upon it. We need this competence to use machine inputs correctly.

If you are browsing through public available data about business education you can find a lot of specialised learning about business and people interactions, but critical thinking is not there. You can argue that general education and personal development should take care of that, but we all tend to see things from our perspective. And if this perspective didn’t develop from our exit from formal education, this could represent some challenge in ever changing environment.

Just remember “mathematical joke”: An astronomer, a physicist and a mathematician are on a train in Scotland. The astronomer looks out of the window, sees a black sheep standing in a field, and remarks, “How odd. All the sheep in Scotland are black!” “No, no, no!” says the physicist. “Only some Scottish sheep are black.” The mathematician rolls his eyes at his companions’ muddled thinking and says, “In Scotland, there is at least one sheep, at least one side of which appears to be black from here, some of the time.”

In order not to stay inside mathematical or any other point of view and truly check what kind of colour are sheep in Scotland we need to develop, we need to improve our general and specialised knowledge, we need to learn other point of views and we need to be able to incorporate them into our decision process and by doing so we would keep competence of critical thinking at the highest level.

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