Critical Thinking in the Work Environment No less than the great American philosopher John Dewey would advise reading a single paragraph, not a whole book. This time he says, “Taste it, try it for yourself” (Dimnet, 1996). Actually, Dewey is giving an advice on critical thinking. This doesn’t mean thinking of many things, mostly day-to-day concerns, and becoming worn out thinking. Rather, he meant musing easily with curiosity and enjoyment. This is unlike taking a stressful class test in which we dig into our rote memory of facts and figures.
Dewey’s “try for yourself” means simply that these thoughts are our own. Among the synonyms of the word “think” are chew things over, mull over, guess, and feel. Try the simple but deep words of Hamlet, “To be or not to be. ” Stop to think, ask yourself: “What is he saying? To be? Does it mean to live? Maybe so. Not to be? To die, possibly take one’s own life? ” Continue mulling, guessing, feeling the thoughts of the troubled young Hamlet.
As you mull over Hamlet’s famous words in a calm, relaxed situation, you’ll come up from your seat and say: “Great how enjoyable, I’m thinking! Sadly most humans have not and are not thinking at all. Think of the centuries of past history in which the mass populace of Europe have been enslaved by their despotic masters. All were simply copycats of their parents and parents’ parents who followed the sacred tradition of the Holy Roman Empire in which emperors and Popes ruled over their lives and souls.
The inquisitions, the Crusades, and selling of indulgences. Luckily in the 16th century, people began to think. Erasmus led humanists and challenged such church practices as fasting, relic-worshipping, confession and burning of heretics. He attacked dogma demanding that these be as “few as possible, leaving opinion free on the rest. ” (Simon, 1972). Soon Martin Luther made his thoughts public and ignited the Reformation. The following 17th century would be the formative era for science. Galileo, Descartes, Spinoza, Voltaire were among the foremost thinkers in what is called the Age of Reason.
Through the centuries, human thought will break bondages to humanity and introduce dramatic changes in politics, medicine, science and technology as we have them today. In the field of work and business, critical thinking is crucial to success. While nine out of ten people may prefer to be employed and follow work instructions, the successful entrepreneur is one who thinks of making it on his own. The word criticism is rooted in the word “to judge. ” The business innovator should mull over his product or service, his market, resources and strategies.
Among the top 23 executives featured in the Wall Street Journal was Joyce Hall, founder of Hallmark cards, Inc. (Martin, 1975). Hallmark is the best loved trade names in American business, but it all began with a critical thought. At age 15, Joyce was working full-time selling picture postcards, a craze in early 1900s. But he and his brothers soon got together and thought of being on their own, selling a variety of stationery items. Out of curiosity, Joyce was intrigued by the greeting card which in those days were expensive as these were lacey and heavily engraved.
Joyce tinkered over the idea of making greeting cards which the ordinary person can afford. He looked about and found a bank which could lend him an initial capital of $25,000. Desiring an image of quality, Joyce hired artists and editors. He also corrected setbacks to sales and devised and implemented new management methods such as organizing a good sales force, devising fixtures to display his cards in quality locations, and using advertising to promote the Hallmark brand.
From a breakeven retail business, Hallmark began to have an annual sales of $400 million. More liberated thinking generated other Hallmark businesses such as in non-card items stationery, candles, jigsaw puzzles, also real estate and the Hallmark television series. Critical thinking took Joyce’s brainchild to the hundred millions holdings of the Hall family today. References Dimnet, E. (1996). The Art of Thinking. Greenwich, Connecticut: Fawcett Premiere Book.
Martin, P. (1975) The Possible Dream. NY: Dow Jones Books. Simon, E. (1972). The Reformation. Nederland: Time-Life International.