March 29, 2006

News & Opinion: Prepared Mind World Tour #4 - Challenging

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 3:40 PM – Filed under: Leadership & Strategy

Greetings to all you Prepared Minds from Bill and Jeanie:
This is the fourth of eight blogs that we will post to give more insights into the skills needed to prepare for your future. Comments are appreciated.
BE PREPARED TO CHALLENGE: We are pretty comfortable at challenging others' thoughts and decisions. Were sure that many authority figures (bosses, coaches, legislators, generals, etc.) are intellectual wimps and that we could do their job better than they. Sometimes were right. However, were often judging based on our biases, not our own ability to think well.
So how can you assess your ability to think and, consequently, challenge yourself to improve? Try using Benjamin Blooms levels of cognitive ability. (Bloom was a U of C professor who studied thought processes that are used in learning. Google him to learn more.) Bloom concluded that there are six levels of thought. Moving from the lowest to the highest they are: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. At what level is your thinking? Try the following example and then create some of your own.
Most of us know that General Motors is in a world of hurt, so let's use their problem to understand the levels of thinking and to test our thinking.
  • Knowledge can you recall specific information? What are the products and services provided by GM?

  • Comprehension can you state a problem in your own words? What is the major problem faced by GM and its unions?

  • Application can you apply concepts to the work place or to your "real world?" How has the labor contract trapped both parties? How does this apply to your workplace?

  • Analysis can you distinguish between facts and inferences? How is the labor situation at Ford different from the labor situation at GM?

  • Synthesis can you put the parts together to form a whole, with emphasis on proposing alternative solutions? Can you design an organizational structure and new social contract that is agreeable to both management and unions?

  • Evaluation can you judge and evaluate actions and outcomes based on a defined set of criteria? What would you do to "fix" GM?

Maybe it was unfair to test your thinking about GM? What if I asked a similar set of questions about the war in Iraq? (Most of us hate it; but do we understand it?) What about your companys strategy? (Why think about it? Im sure they have everything under control.) And then there are your views of your local school system. (Im sure its broken, but they need to fix it without raising taxes. Its not my problem) Hmmmm.
Going back to my rant about Reasoning (March 14th), I now challenge all of us to move up the scale of Blooms levels of thought. We have plenty of knowledge and most of us a pretty good at comprehension. However, if my view of the world is representative of reality, we are sorely lacking in the widespread capability of the higher levels of this taxonomy. The world of sound bites and factoids is a sterile world when it comes to good examples of the skills needed to synthesize and evaluate.
Please comment with your views of the world. I need more data to analyze.
[If you missed the first three Prepared Mind stops, here they are: Observing, Reasoning, Imagining]
[UPDATE: The next step of the tour can be found here.]