If you haven’t seen it, you really should check out the Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments. It’s about argumentative fallacies, and as the title implies it includes some lovely drawings to illustrate some key fallacies.
According to the preface, “This book is aimed at newcomers to the field of logical reasoning, particularly those who, to borrow a phrase from Pascal, are so made that they understand best through visuals.”
You can buy the book on Amazon but you can peruse it for free on the book’s website at the link above.
This piece from Forbes reports on the results of an employer survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE): The College Degrees And Skills Employers Most Want In 2015. One of the key questions NACE asks concerns the skills employers most value in new hires.
Topping the list are competency in:
- Critical thinking / problem solving
- Professionalism / work ethic
- Oral / Written Communications
The survey also notes that the employers surveyed are mostly looking for grads from engineering and business programs. Humanities grads are less desirable. But, interestingly, humanities programs (like philosophy and English) are traditionally thought of as the places to learn many of the ‘most-desired’ skills listed above.
The lesson for business students? Majoring in business is great, but make sure to take some courses that give you the valuable skills that typically come from studying the humanities — courses in critical thinking, ethics, and so on.
One of the things I point out to my students frequently is that business is a collaborative activity, and collaboration requires that we agree on objectives and methods. That can mean convincing your team-mates, your subordinates, or even your boss of the best course of action. That means you need to understand the mechanics of using argumentation and how to use it effectively for persuasion. That, in turn, requires critical thinking.
With regard to bosses, see this useful piece from Harvard Business Review: Getting the Boss to Buy In
It focuses on the notion of “issue selling” — in particular, selling your boss on a new idea.
Issue sellers who accomplish their goals, we found, look for the best ways, venues, and times to voice their ideas and concerns—using rhetorical skill, political sensitivity, and interpersonal connections to move the right leaders to action….
The article isn’t cast in terms of critical thinking, but the connection is there. Students of critical thinking should read this article and ask which of Susan Ashford and James Detert’s bits of advice require the application of the core skills of critical thinking.
Here’s a useful little piece on “What Actions or Behaviors Are Indicative of a Critical Thinker?”
Summarizing very briefly, the 4 key characteristics listed are:
- Clarifies Through Debate
- Asks Questions
- Gathers and Tests Information
- Reflects with Metacognition [i.e., thinking about thinking]
So, the test for the student of business: how specifically does each of these apply in the world of commerce?