A colleague asked me how they can get better in their critical thinking skills.
Almost immediately I responded with these two strategies:
Learning is being willing to understand what you don’t know, and not pretending to know everything.
Discerning is being able to STOP and THINK about why something exists, rather than take things at face value or dismissing it altogether.
A great example of learning is our current medical professionals. They are working so hard to understand the current Covid-19 virus which is testing everything they know about virology, biology and psychology. And when/if the current vaccines prove effective and successful, there will be more to learn an the after-effects for decades to come.
An example of discerning is the training a correctional officer in a prison receives. They are trained to prevent distractions and being set up in such a way that when an inmate confronts them with an “urgent: matter or request, they stop and think about the situation around them and ensure they ascertain the facts before proceeding forward with any action.
Critical thinkers do this well. Their continued learning allows them to be more discerning and vice versa. And the simple action of stopping and really thinking through all the possibilities that something could be true or not before deciding if it is creates a separation of truly critical thinkers.
Critical thinking is not dissing any idea you don’t come up with. It’s the true measure of being wise, growing, and truly respectful of the input around you.
Make an effort to learn and discern all the time.
Today’s organizations have been able to adapt, and adopt, the following practices:
- Agile Process
- Virtual Workforce
Yet by and large, many organizations still have not adopted the most important need – embracing each employee’s voice.
When an organization wants to adapt to the changing times, they need to put their ears to the ground.
However, many companies and many leaders resist that, thinking that their superior knowledge (after all they’re the upper level leaders, right?), the focus groups, and the people furthest removed from the front line and the customer knows best. Unfortunately that could not be further form the actual truth.
In support of this assertion, a Gallup study showed that the following are needed to be recognized and completely adopted for true and effective change to occur:
- Every employee gets signals from their work environment — where the opportunities and barriers are, which risks they can take and which they can’t, who to go to for help and who to avoid.
- Individual contributor-level employees have the closest view of procedures and processes.
- If the signals workers receive tell them to go slow and deal with obstacles, agility is probably in trouble.
- Leaders need to create the conditions of an agile culture, including:
- Trial Tolerance
- Knowledge Sharing
- The simplest method for creating an agile culture is clearing away obstacles.
- Get rid of stupid rules and low-value activities and time wasters that diminish employee value and engagement.
- Silos should be dismantled to facilitate communication and collaboration.
- Allow employees to speak up about poor practices.
- Create a culture in which employees challenge more senior people about things like poor meeting culture, unclear assignments, over-analysis, etc.
- Ensure there are no repercussions, ramifications or retaliatory behaviors from leaders to ensure employees can give their input.
A well-designed review — one that includes stakeholders of all ranks — can identify obstacles to creating a real agile culture and show leaders how to clear them.
By giving employees a truly open voice, and not just the voice of the top performers or favorites, and also creating the cultural mechanisms to ensure that voice is heard and acted upon, a leader and a company can start to find themselves embracing the need to change and adapt to what the marketplace suggests.
Technology and process alone cannot do that. Only the organization with the right kind of leadership that wants to move forward and embrace the new workplace, not the old tired hierarchy that typically holds back otherwise valuable employees form helping move their company forward.
Employee voice matters, not just in the HR realm, but in the real world of business as well. Commitment to your people as your best and most valuable asset will enable growth across all levels.
Unconscious bias, as defined by the University of California, San Francisco is explained as follows:
“Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness.”
And while awareness of unconscious bias is creating much-needed steps in understanding our behaviors, we should also look at the other side of the coin.
Conscious, or explicit bias, is the deliberate and intentional bias or marginalizing of an individual or groups of individuals based on perceived differences. Or, as Georgetown University’s National Center for Cultural Competence describes:
“Conscious bias in its extreme is characterized by overt negative behavior that can be expressed through physical and verbal harassment or through more subtle means such as exclusion.”
The behaviors that comprise conscious bias are numerous, and can manifest in many ways such as:
- Assuming ill intent due to one’s social standing or lower level in an organization (“they’re not as educated as me”, “they don’t know what I know as a CFO, CPA, MBA”)
- Preferring one type of person other than another (gender, extrovert vs. introvert, the type of car they drive)
- Treating some people more favorably than others and pronouncing them at every opportunity
- Devaluing and degrading another individual to themselves or to others (publicly or privately, overtly or in a passive-aggressive manner)
- Not listening to someone bring up a legitimate concern regarding someone because the accused is in a higher level position, a friend off hours, or had a rough time previously which causes you to be sympathetic to them
- Believing you are the only one who knows the difference
While both biases are each extremely harmful in the short and long term, the difference is fairly simple.
Unconscious bias is a process throughout our entire lives that we can work on to be continually self-aware and others-aware. It’s the eternal pursuit of becoming better and better as imperfect human beings.
Conscious bias is a behavior that the perpetrator knows well enough that they’re committing. It takes a willing decision to arrest and change, but the process can be fairly quick by thinking fairly and correctly towards all others.
Being self-aware, and not allowing you to deceive yourself, is the only way to root out your biases. The first step, however, is always the conscious bias.