This chapter assesses the use of a ‘critical’ approach, which guides business and management students through their research and writing journey. To be ‘critical’ is to adopt a questioning approach; this is ideally suited to the problem-solving inherent in the assignments students will tackle at university—and also to those assignments in their future work situations that need a questioning approach. The chapter begins by looking at what critical thinking entails. It then considers how a student can take an evaluative rather than descriptive approach to assignments. Finally, the chapter includes discussion about how assignments can be improved and advice on interpreting the feedback provided by lecturers.
Developing a Critical Approach
This chapter focuses on the role of thinking as a tool for critical thinking. System 1 thinking (fast thinking) is instinctive and automatic, while System 2 thinking (slow thinking) is deliberate and reasoned. System 1 thinking dominates (and should dominate) your daily life, linked to survival instincts and heuristics (rules of thumb). System 2, on the other hand, responds when System 1 does not or cannot because you face an unexpected or unfamiliar situation; to monitor System 1 thoughts and responses and intervene to modify them if necessary; and when you intentionally put yourself in unfamiliar situations in order to improve it—like undertaking a university degree. University is a key opportunity to improve thinking which requires appropriate motivation, faith, and ongoing practice. The PURR acronym can guide you in structured thinking sessions: prepare, undertake, record, return, and distract-to-focus activities can be useful during these sessions. Time and distraction are the most common obstacles to dedicated thinking. Cognitive bias, in particular subconscious bias, can also influence your thinking and understanding, and uncovering this is essential to reveal its impact.
Sarah Birrell Ivory
Becoming a Critical Thinker starts by considering what it is that makes someone a critical thinker and why critical thinking skills are worth developing. The text argues that there are many benefits to looking at the world through a critical lens. The book first defines critical thinking in direct relation to the university experience before proceeding to discuss the ways in which a learner can become more of a critical thinker. The second part of the book looks at the three aims of critical thinking: quality of argument, strength of evidence, and clarity of communication. The final part is about mastering the tools of critical thinking. There are five major tools that a good critical thinker should use: writing, reading, listening, speaking, and—perhaps obviously—thinking.
Introducing organizational behaviour
This chapter presents an overview of organizational behaviour. Organizational behaviour is fundamentally interested in people: how they are managed, motivated, and shaped by the world around them, and how they behave. To study organizational behaviour, therefore, is to study how and why things happen in workplaces and organizations. The chapter introduces the case study of the fictional Junction Hotel, which provides a more rounded picture of organizational life rather than just looking at organizational behaviour from the manager's viewpoint. It then identifies key underlying principles in examining issues of organizational behaviour: psychology, social psychology, sociology, anthropology, and political science. Finally, the chapter considers the importance of critical thinking and multiple perspectives in understanding organizational behaviour.
Critical Themes in Consulting
This chapter provides an overview of critical themes that give a deeper understanding and analysis of consultancy as a political and sociological phenomenon. It explains the history and importance of critical thinking and the role of consultants in developing the knowledge economy. It also assesses the extent to which consultants can be described as innovators and describes the professionalization of the consulting industry. The chapter explores the relationship between consultancy and the risks inherent in modern capitalism, including approaches academics have taken to explaining consulting identities. It considers consultancy as a contributor to the spread of neo-liberal forms of capitalism.
Graham Winch, Eunice Maytorena-Sanchez, and Natalya Sergeeva
Strategic Project Organizing places emphasis on the strategic and organizational aspects of projects and their leadership. Structured around the Three Domains model, it covers all the fundamental project management concepts, whilst guiding the reader through the organizational challenges of enabling positive change. Through the lens of strategic leadership, this text discusses how to respond proactively to threats, as well as seize opportunities, in order to advantageously change the socio-economic environment in an organization's favour. The text also explains the tools and techniques adopted during the process of organizational transformation. All chapters offer review and discussion-based questions to encourage critical thinking. Real life projects featured in the case studies include the Eden Project, the Thames Tideway Tunnel and the Berlin Brandenburg Airport. The text is made up of four parts. The first part looks at the core concepts of strategic project organization. The second part focuses on the Three Domains model. Then the next part is about the three interfaces: the governance, commercial, and resource interfaces. The final part looks at the core skills needed.
This chapter explores how writing can support the development of critical thinking skills. Writing-to-think aims to develop unformed early thoughts, spark possible lines of inquiry, and test out ideas. Writing is so effective in contributing to thinking because it is hard to do, because it requires you to express your thoughts with coherence and clarity, and because it allows you space and freedom to try out your voice. When writing-to-think, you must adopt two different personas: the writer and the critic, and never try to be both at the same time. The chapter also differentiates between free writing and direct writing. The two main obstacles to writing-to-think are confidence and time. Writing-to-reflect can be used to uncover and overcome obstacles you are facing in relation to this or other tools.
This chapter illustrates that the ability to effectively listen is a key tool not only within a university context, but also within your personal and professional life, and contribute to critical thinking. Where passive listening accepts the first and easiest meaning of what you hear, and rote listening aims simply to repeat what you hear, active listening is a cognitive process that aims to engage and improve your thinking. Active listening comprises hearing, comprehending, analysing, interpreting, and evaluating sounds. While recorded listening is increasingly available and can be useful, you must master ‘live listening’ in the pursuit of improved thinking and for your professional life beyond university. You should listen to lecturers and tutors, but it is also important to listen to your colleagues, and to those not speaking. Obstacles to active listening also include attention, distraction, and extended focus. However, not all listening should be active listening, even at university: empathetic listening has a place, especially in your relationships with others.
What is critical thinking?
This chapter examines what critical thinking is. Critical thinking actively and carefully evaluates the reasoning and evidence behind knowledge and arguments. In relation to approaches to knowledge, at an early stage humans seek ‘correct’ knowledge, at an intermediate stage they reject the ability to rank knowledge, and at a higher stage they evaluate knowledge to search for the best within the parameters available. Approaches to arguments see individuals as either followers who believe any arguments they hear, cynics who reject all arguments and evidence, and healthy sceptics who look to evaluate arguments based on underlying reasoning and evidence. Humans can be persuaded by pathos (appeals to emotion), ethos (the credibility of the source or speaker), or logos (the logic of the underlying argument). The chapter then looks at the revised taxonomy of cognitive processes and considers the concept of cognitive biases. As distinct from shallow or cynical thinkers, critical thinkers have a high-stage approach to knowledge; are healthy sceptics in relation to arguments looking to the underlying reasoning and evidence; are persuaded mostly by the logos of an argument; use the full spectrum of cognitive processes (especially higher-order); and try to avoid their own cognitive biases influencing their thinking.
Quality of Argument
This chapter focuses on the process of developing arguments, which is one of the key aims of critical thinking. Simple arguments comprise three elements: a claim, at least one premise, and a link between them. The claim is the ‘answer’ to the question, which some call the position, conclusion, or contention. Links can be either claim indicators or premise indicators and are extremely important to understanding the line of reasoning. Meanwhile, premises are reasons to support the claim: they should avoid being categorical, vague, or an appeal to emotion. Counter arguments can strengthen your argument either because you can rebut them, or because they demonstrate that you understand the complexity of a situation. Argument maps are a useful visual tool to approach the development of complex arguments in a structured way. The chapter then outlines the steps in developing an argument.
Strength of evidence
This chapter discusses evaluating the reliability of knowledge and the credibility of sources with the overall aim of identifying and using strong evidence as one of the key elements of critical thinking. Evidence is something tangible that determines your line of reasoning and supports your argument to make it more convincing. Sources need to be evaluated for their credibility based on expertise and vested interest, but you should also use independent verification through gatekeepers who assess the underlying knowledge. You can place various sources on a continuum from least to most credible, including blogs; agenda-driven news media; company websites; Wikipedia; consultants, think tanks, and NGO reports; respected and established news media; reputable organization reports; audited reports; and academic sources. To find academic sources of evidence, you should identify the leading textbook in your field and learn to use an academic journal database to identify key articles. Referencing is a standardized way of demonstrating your knowledge of the topic, demonstrating the credibility of your evidence, providing the reader with avenues to explore ideas further, and ensuring good academic practice by acknowledging the work of others and avoiding plagiarism.
Clarity of communication
This chapter addresses how clarity of communication is simultaneously the most important and the least important of the three aims of critical thinking. There are two main ways to communicate your thinking: written and spoken. As there is no ‘formula’ for either of them, both require practice to improve over time. Written communication is most common in the form of essays which require an academic writing style: neither too simple nor too complex, and neither informal nor ultra-formal. Academic conventions vary between disciplines but, in general, you should use topic sentences at the beginning of each paragraph to achieve a narrative that flows, use consistent terms, avoid the first person, and avoid subheadings. Introductory and concluding paragraphs are most important in essay composition to ensure arguments are clearly communicated. In formal oral presentations, you need to focus on the audience hearing and understanding your argument. This includes paying attention to voice, pace, tone, audience connection, complexity, structure, and visual aids. Nerves can impact your ability to effectively communicate spoken arguments, so you should use specific tactics to minimize this impact.
This chapter considers why reading at university is an essential tool in becoming a critical thinker, what it means to read actively, and how to become an effective active reader. Reading at university moves you beyond reading-to-know and into reading-to-think, which is known as active reading. Active reading comprises seeing, comprehending, analysing, interpreting, and evaluating to make meaning from text. Your own interpretation is necessary because a text has three different authors: the human author, the imagined author, and the reader as an author. Reading is an essential part of university in part because texts allow authors the time and space to develop complex, carefully constructed arguments and ideas which are well reasoned. The chapter then looks at selective reading; the CBD active reading strategy, which focuses on Context–Breadth–Depth; and note-taking. Obstacles to active reading include time and focus, reading ability and accuracy, and the style and difficulty of texts.