Practical Application: Overcoming Common Barriers to Critical Thinking

Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Critical thinking is a key component when making good business decisions. But sometimes circumstances and ways of thinking can prevent people from thinking critically. Reflect on the barriers to critical thinking with this scenario.

Critical Thinking: Barriers

Business decisions often require critical thinking, which involves making decisions and evaluations based on reason and analysis. However, many people face barriers to critical thinking, including:

  • Self-interested thinking, which occurs when your own needs and wants get in the way of objective analysis
  • Egocentrism, or focusing only on yourself and not taking other perspectives into account
  • In-group bias, which involves believing a group you belong to is better and deserves more than groups you do not belong to
  • Herd mentality, or going along to get along
  • Assumptions, which involve making generalizations and basing beliefs on non-objective realities.

Learn more about these stumbling blocks to critical thinking with the lesson Common Barriers to Critical Thinking. Once you feel comfortable with the different things that can prevent people from thinking critically, take a look at the scenario below to apply your understanding of those concepts.

Scenario: A Layoff Dilemma

Sanaa is the manager of the customer service team at a company that sells bicycles. Recently, the CEO called together the managers of the different departments in the company: human resources, sales, marketing, design, research and development, and customer service. During the meeting, the CEO informed the managers that the current budget is tight and at least two departments will have to lay off part of their workforce. However, the CEO doesn't want to decide which departments will be affected by the layoffs on his own.

The Managers' Task

Instead, the CEO asks Sanaa and the other managers to think critically about which departments should be subjected to layoffs, based on the current size of each department, the necessity of each department in terms of growing revenue for the company, and several other factors. He asks Sanaa and her colleagues to write individual reports explaining which departments they think should lay off employees and why.

Assumptions & Biases

Sanaa likes all of the employees that work for her, so she doesn't want to lay any of them off. Besides, she believes that customer service reps are the most important part of any company because they're key to keeping the customers happy. Sanaa knows that several other managers are going to suggest that research and development be cut back, and thinks it might be worth it to go along with them because it will reduce the chance that her department will end up on the chopping block. She also really likes the manager of the design department because they both went to the same college and belong to the same networking group.

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