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To make real change, organizations need to augment logical thinking with critical thinking.

Martin Mascarenhas

December 19, 2023

4 Min Read
Head with cogs inside, thinking
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COMMENTARY

Knowledge is power, but it is only as powerful as the way organizations implement what they've learned and the subsequent decisions they make. All too often there is a flaw in thinking that is both tactical and short term in that we don't approach problems from a holistic perspective, or we spend too little time considering alternative strategies. 

Let's take the pandemic as an example. IT departments put technology in place to deal with security because of the necessity to quickly facilitate remote working. The logical thinking behind this was that if you implement a tool that alerts you to a security problem, it will protect the business from a cyberattack. But implementing technology doesn't necessarily make the business more secure. The business is only protected if the security team acts upon alerts and there is a process that allows teams to assess whether an alert is a legitimate concern or a false alarm. In this case, you must also have the resources to deal with the volume of alerts the organization receives each day (which usually isn't small) and a strategic cybersecurity program to assess vulnerabilities and the level of risk to the business. Only if you think about the problem deeply enough do you know if it is a solid idea and, in our haste, we often don't give ourselves enough critical thinking time.

One great example of critical thinking is Fossil Future, a book by philosopher Alex Epstein. In the book, he talks about what should be considered when becoming carbon neutral, and the issues associated with power and energy. He was recently challenged by a US senator about his credentials and how, as a philosopher, his theories weren't based on science. Epstein replied that this was precisely why he was qualified to talk about the subject: because he was thinking differently about the problem. While I'm not debating whether Epstein's theories are right or wrong, what I do think is interesting is how he challenges the very act of thinking itself.

Looking Back

Back to COVID: Years after the pandemic began, do we think about our choices correctly so that we could assess our options well? In our IT environment, considering the time constraints and the haste to move to a remote set-up, did we go through the right thought processes? This is a great initiative for organizations to consider now, with the understanding that it's OK to have made mistakes as long as we learn from them and correct them now for the future.

Since the pandemic, people's workdays and the way we interact has changed. In our digitally structured world, it is all about outputs, data, KPIs, and "doing," and everyone is managed around these ideas. People and organizations may be making bad decisions as a result. Don't get me wrong: It's easier to work at home. Logically, I'm more productive than if I were to get in a car at 7 a.m. and drive for an hour to the office. However, the difference employees feel when they spend the day collaborating on decisions, receiving feedback, and adding value is huge. The emotional and spiritual energy they create as a team enhances performance, re-energizes individuals, and results in better decision making for their business, especially if the team is diverse in attitudes, experience, and cultures.

One last example. English football manager Gareth Southgate's success was achieved through his willingness to turn to football outsiders to help train his England team, one of whom was former Olympian Matthew Syed. Human psychology is such that we surround ourselves with people who think just like us. This is how England football thinking was set up for the past three decades. The idea is that if you get knowledgeable football men together, you'll find a way to win matches, which was not successful. The team needed an external perspective.

I would challenge that logical thinking must be augmented with critical thinking. I question whether the organization should resonate with people differently. There's a well-known quote: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." If we are going to achieve a better outcome, we need to stop doing what we've always done. And that is equally valid whether we are talking about football or technology.

About the Author(s)

Martin Mascarenhas

Head of New Enterprise and Business, Xalient

Martin Mascarenhas is an experienced businessman having held several director level positions in both IT infrastructure and software businesses. Martin now works to help customers achieve business goals through the implementation and support of the appropriate infrastructure to support those targets.

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