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Think critically in highly complex situations Essay

Introduction

To survive in such a multifaceted and diverse world we as people must possess the ability to think critically in highly complex situations. The world is an extremely challenging place, all of us are forced to adapt by constantly challenging existing principles and performing certain methods to ensure our growth both physically and mentally. Many claim that contemporary society needs a skill called critical thinking to adapt and survive. Critical thinking is a higher level of intellectual progression that makes use of diverse information, skills and attitudes in interpreting situations and confronting problems. Critical thinking is done by everyone, it is all around us, but how many of us actually understand the critical thinking model created by Browne and Keeley? This process involve the utilization of the ten step methodology presented in Browne and Keeley’s book called “Asking the Right Questions” (Browne & Keeley, 2011).

These steps are used to achieve a clearer understanding of the issues being evaluated. According to Brown and Keeley critical thinking is an organized intellectual process that an individual undergoes while using all the information that is available from the environment to analyze situations, solve problems, develop logical conclusions, evaluate probabilities, and formulate decisions (Browne & Keeley, 2011). Unfortunately, critical thinking is multifaceted and is not a simple process; rather it requires the ability for individuals make use of personal skills, perspectives and values to establish a frame of reference that would result to more actions or differing point of views (Browne & Keeley, 2011). Cliffside Holding Company of Massapequa (CHCM) is a company that has been in business for over 50 years (The Memo). This company has compiled and thought of a bigger plan to help the company in its growth and to help the company become more successful in the future years. An idea was proposed to start a leadership development training program for the junior executives so that they may grow in to higher position.

A Memo was created by the Vice President of human resources to show whether they support the idea that was proposed by Ms. Forsythe. The memo is to show facts from the Vice President why this program was not credible within their business. This paper demonstrates the application of the critical thinking and systems thinking models to analyze complex organizational issues. To illustrate the benefits of using such a model, one sample memo originating from a Cliffside Holding Company of Massapequa will be referenced(A. Ravaswami, personal communication, October 10, 2012).

What are the issues and conclusions?

The CHCM memo has one clear issue; whether to establish a leadership development program to prepare junior financial executives for future advancement into executive positions. Ms. Cynthia Castle emphasized that establishing a leadership development program would be a waste of time and money while also stating that Ms. Forsythe is not really concerned about developing leaders for Cliffside Holding Co. Instead, Ms. Forsythe has a personal agenda to discredit Ms. Castle and push theories of the Aspen Leadership institute (The Memo).

What are the reasons?

According to Brown and Keeley, reasons are explanations or rationales on why we should believe a certain thing (Browne & Keeley, 2011, p. 36). Ms. Castle stated that her reasoning for rejecting the proposal was based solely on facts. Ms. Castle stated that the total cost to CHCM would be $100,000.00 per year plus approximately the same amount for lost time on the job (The Memo). She argued that CHCM has been in business for over 50 years and there average growth rate is 12% per annum (The Memo). She also noted that none of the twelve senior executives attended a leadership development training and the company still remains prosperous (The Memo). Ms. Castle concluded since the company is prosperous and none of the executives attended leadership development training that the training would not help and just be a waste of the company money. Ms. Castle argued her personal belief as well, she stated “leaders are born not made” quoting famous economist Dr. Irwin Corey (The Memo). Ms. Castle specified that most if not all great leaders possess a tall physical stature.

She stated that all members of the senior staff are over six feet tall except for Ms. Forsythe (The Memo). Ms. Castle continued her argument that certain traits such as ambition, self-confidence, and intelligence cannot be learned as they are innate. Ms. Castle moved onto her next point that the only reason Ms. Forsythe is arguing for the leadership development program is to discredit her and is motivated by the liberal notion that all citizens of a free nation have the right to pursue education. She feels that once the company starts sending people for leadership training they will start getting numerous requests for expensive training that they cannot afford and that they should spend their money on recruitment. The proposal was rejected because of personal beliefs and the rivalry among corporate peers.

Which words or phrases are ambiguous?

According to Brown and Keeley ambiguity refers to the existence of multiple possible meaning for a word or phrase (Browne & Keeley, 2011, p.53). In the memo Ms. Castle mentioned some resources that justified her claim but also left a lot of ambiguity. Ms. Castle relied on the current success of the company to state that leaders are born not made; this is a very ambiguous statement. Ms. Castle argued that Ms. Forsythe has a personal agenda and really does not care about developing leaders at CHCM. She states the only reason she is advocating for the idea is that she might covet Ms. Castle’s job as VP of Human Resources, yet she provides no evidence to support either accusation.

Towards the end of her memo Ms. Castle stated that leadership programs are wasteful because money is not well-spent and left no evidence to support her claim. Ms. Castle left many vague statements throughout her memo and should have been addressed before moving forward. According to Brown and Keeley the reader must identify key words or phrases within the reasoning that might have alternative meaning. If the reader is unable to identify ambiguous words or phrases they may not be able to properly accept or reject a conclusion (Browne & Keeley, 2011).

What are the value and descriptive assumptions?

Throughout this memo there are a few conflicts and assumptions made by Ms. Castle. In the memo Ms. Castle argued that Ms. Forsythe has a personal agenda and really does not care about developing leaders at CHCM (The Memo). She states the only reason she is advocating for the idea is that she might covet Ms. Castle’s job as Vice President of Human Resources or is motivated by her liberal beliefs, yet she provides no evidence to support either accusation. Ms. Castle also assumed that all leaders possess a tall physical disposition which can be seen from the six leaders she referenced in her chart. Ms. Castle is conflicted between values. She does not want to cooperate with Ms. Forsythe and is making an assumption that a personal attack is being made. Given the definition of a descriptive assumption Ms. Castle believes a leader possesses a tall stature.

Referencing from her experience; all influential leaders have a tall stature. She provided a chart of six influential leaders and their respective height. The chart provided and the statement made is a descriptive assumption as she provides no viable evidence to support such a claim. According to Brown and Keeley both the descriptive and value assumptions are important to consider if the conversation on this issue is to move forward (Browne & Keeley, 2011). In general, the reader will want to decide how important each assumption is by reflecting on its impact on the reasoning. Are there any fallacies in the reasoning?

According to Brown and Keeley a fallacy is a reasoning trick that an author might use while trying to persuade one to accept a conclusion, also that fallacies severely damage an argument (Browne & Keeley, 2011). Within the memo Ms. Castle has many fallacies without the proper evidence to support her claims. Appeal to Probability assumes that because something could happen, it is inevitable that it will happen (Browne & Keeley, 2011). Ms. Castle assumes that once the company starts sending employees for leadership training, they will start getting numerous requests for expensive training that the company cannot afford. This is a possible outcome but there is no evidence that it will happen. Argument from Ignorance assuming that a claim is true or false because it has not been proven (Browne & Keeley, 2011). Ms. Castle assumes that the only reason Ms. Forsythe is advocating for the leadership development training is because she covets her position and is a diehard liberal. Neither of these claims has been proven true nor false and there is no evidence to support her conclusion.

Argument from Silence where the conclusion is based on the absence of evidence, rather than the existence of evidence (Browne & Keeley, 2011). Ms. Castle does not present valid evidence that directly supports her argument to not send employees to leadership development training. Red Herring error is a logic where a proposition is, or is intended to be misleading in order to make irrelevant or false inferences (Browne & Keeley, 2011). Ad hominem an attack, insult on the person rather than directly addressing the person’s reasons (Browne & Keeley, 2011). Ms. Castle believes that Ms. Forsythe has personal agenda and is motivated by bleeding heart liberal intentions, all while personally pushing the theories of the Aspen institute. Ms. Forsythe believes the company can benefit from leadership development program and instead of addressing her reasons Ms. Castle is personally attacking her. Ms. Forsythe views have also been easily distorted causing a false dilemma, commonly known as a Straw Attack. Straw Attack view of a person being easily distorted. Ms. Forsythe views and arguments for leadership development training have been distorted and are only being presented to the reader as a personal gain or belief.

How good is the evidence?

Overall the memo did not present sufficient reliable evidence to assist Ms. Castle in her argument. Ms. Castle provided evidence only through her own personal observations when she stated “our average growth is 12% per annum”, also that none of their twelve senior executives attended a leadership development training program and the company is still prosperous (The Memo). That’s was her evidence of whether the leadership development program was even necessary. There is no clear evidence to support Ms. Castle’s claim that since the company is successful the leadership development training is not necessary. A single experience or even an accumulation of personal experiences is not enough to give a representative sample of experiences leading us to suffer from a Hasty Generalization (Browne & Keeley, 2011).

Brown and Keeley defined Hasty Generalizations as drawing a conclusion about a large group based on experiences with only a few members of the group (Browne & Keeley, 2011). For example, Ms. Castle referred to six of the greatest leaders in U.S history and noted their heights while also referring to members of the senior staff being over 6 feet tall. Parts of this memo are filled with forms of evidence that are not hard facts, and the only rely on Ms. Castle’s personal experiences and observations. Ms. Castle did present any credible forms of evidence in her memo.

Are there rival causes?

An example of a rival cause can be identified when Ms. Castle refers to Ms. Forsythe not being concerned about the development of leaders rather she has a personal agenda to discredit her and personally push the theories of the Aspen institute. Ms. Castle does not provide clear evidence to support such a claim. Ms. Forsythe is clearly advocating for something she believes in and supports, she truly believes that leadership training can benefit the company. Another example of a rival cause is when Ms. Castle referred to the current state of the company and its success. Could it be possible that the company offers a valuable product and has certain members of the organization that drive the growth that are not leaders? Ms. Castle does not provide evidence that the success of the company is because of its leadership.

Are the statistics deceptive?

Ms. Castle provided a set of statistics when she referred to leaders possessing a tall physical stature. She provided a chart of 6 well known American leaders that possessed a height of 6 feet or more. The problem is Ms. Castle is only focusing on American leaders and is completely omitting leaders throughout the world that do not possess a tall physical stature. Ms. Castle also stated that the company has a growth rate of 12%. What factors are taken into account to define growth? Is the growth based solely on leadership? According to Brown and Keeley statistics are often provided to support the reasoning of an author but can be easily misused (Browne & Keeley, 2011). If used properly statistics can be highly persuasive. The statistics offered in this memo are deceptive and should be omitted from the argument, not enough information was provided.

What significant information is omitted?

Throughout this memo Ms. Castle omitted significant information to persuade the reader to accept her conclusion. For example, Ms. Castle never clearly explained why she believed Ms. Forsythe has a personal agenda against her personally and is motivated by liberal notions while pushing the theories of the Aspen institute. Ms. Castle never referenced Ms. Forsythe reasons for advocating the leadership development program. Ms. Castle omitted information when she made the argument that leaders possess a tall disposition, she only identified leaders in American history that were 6 feet or greater. Ms. Castle did not clarify her statement when she stated if we spend money on leadership development, we will not have enough money for recruitment (The Memo). Where are the facts to make such a claim? Ms. Castle omitted significant information that is valuable to the reader. According to Brown and Keeley when an author is trying to persuade you of something, they often leave out important information. This information is often used in assessing the worth of the conclusion. Without certain information the reader cannot draw a fair conclusion, therefore causing the reader to reject the conclusion (Browne & Keeley, 2011).

What reasonable conclusions are possible?

If the cost of leadership development training is too expensive and will put a constraint on CHCM’s budget they should not invest in leadership development training. 20 employees are to attend the leadership training at a cost of $5,000 per employee; the total cost to CHCM would be $100,000.00 per year (The Memo). If the company is growing at a 12% rate and remains prosperous, senior executives at CHCM may already effectively lead and have attended a form of leadership training. Additional training could be a waste of valuable time and money. Currently the company is growing at a 12% rate and is very successful. Some form of leadership must already exist within the organization to ensure this success. It may be true that senior executives may not benefit from the training program given the recent success of the company, but junior executives who do not have as much experience in leadership could receive added benefits to ensure the same amount of success in the future. Given the success of the company under senior executives, the company could benefit by sending all the less experienced junior executives to the leadership development program.


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