The United States as a country is losing its way. Many global businesses are losing their way. The educational system is losing its way. This is not the prelude to some political office campaign. This is a fact of life. We have become accustomed to becoming in essence, a nation of robots. By the nature of this attitude we are condemning our organizations to a period of a lack of innovation and making our businesses great.
When we are brought into this world we learn by experimenting. Think back to the first time you tried to touch a hot stovetop. The first time you touched it and got hurt. The second time you approached a new experience and you began by thinking about your options and whether you were putting your safety at risk. You entered the educational system and your teacher’s from the earliest stages began to stress the benefits of using your mental capacities to discover the answers to questions. Especially in the STEM subjects, the use of critical thinking skills becomes a necessary requirement for the resolution of these issues.
Fast forward to post educational system involvement where the workplace has changed the whole environment. Your organization has gone to a great expense of energy to develop your corporate mantra. In turn you expect everyone to fall in line with the wisdom from high and never question the edicts from the corner office. We tend to judge the success of an individual based on how they follow these edicts. You structure the annual performance review based on how well human capital assets perform based on the orders from the management. Failure is not tolerated so you demean any suggestion of a better way to do something. You want innovation and to reach Jim Collin’s Good to Great. But you don’t want to consider truly looking at the question we proposed a couple of weeks ago – What if?
The TLS Continuum requires you to set this model on its head. We start with the “T” in the TLS Continuum or the Theory of Constraints. Eliyahu Goldratt in the Goal suggested that the intent of the TOC is about people trying to understand what makes their world tick. It requires you to think logically and consistently about your problems and determine the relationship between actions and results. It requires you to return to the age of the young child at the stove who gets burned once and then considers his or her options when they see the hot stove again.
So what is the missing element in process improvement? That missing element is the use of critical thinking skills. The Critical Thinking Community defines it as that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. It means that we become more innovative through carefully taking a problem an analyzing why we have the problem and what is the cause and effect of the issue. When we have finished the analyzing we then assess the impact on the organization and then reconstruct the process with inclusion of our solutions. It does not mean that the boss says do this and like the robots we mentioned earlier, blindly follow. It means we need to take the time and effort to accept the problems as a starting point and then as a cross-functional team develop a solution for the problem based on careful consideration of all the factors before us.
The United States as a country is losing its way. Many global businesses are losing their way. The educational system is losing its way. This is not the prelude to some political office campaign. This is a fact of life. We have become accustomed to becoming in essence, a nation of robots. We have truly forgotten what it was like to be the child at the stove. We push innovation and improvement without the utilization of critical thinking skills. We somehow have migrated to the belief that there is only one way to perform a process and to question that because we critically looked at the process is a sign of insubordination. If we want to create an innovative organization we have to return to thinking like the child who is exploring the world for the first time. We need to return to using those critical thinking skills that our schools first taught us and then taught us that the road to success in business was to unlearn those same skills. Yes we have a talent shortage, a talent shortage of business men and women who know how to critically think about their organization’s and the impact on the customers and the marketplace.