Life in organizations is not usually very rich in Critical Thinking. In fact, from all sectors and areas of activity, I do find the practice of ‘management’ the one that is more un-critical and more prone to the easy use of fallacies such as the post hoc fallacy: follow, this so this causes that (post hoc ergo propter hoc )
A sales training programme is followed by and increase performance in sales; it shows how great the programme is, can I have more please?. Next cycle performance goes down after similar training programme, the programme is not good, dated. I know this sounds and seems as a caricature but it is hard reality in many cases. People put two variables together and stop thinking.
Traditional management uses a strong input-out model. Do this, say that, things follow, all connected. That may or may not be the case, but simple critical thinking would at least force you to think of the world in multi-factor terms, with an interdependence of variables.
Nothing reflects this better than the common practice of firing a CEO when performance goes down, the same CEO that got performance up, and perhaps the only one who could lead to winning again. It is a false view and gross distortion of the concept of accountability. But this is a conversation for another day.
This tendency to create causal arguments from correlations or associations is of course not a prerogative of the practice of management. It’s there in life all the time. (But I would have thought that highly paid managers managing highly complex organizations with high numbers revenues, would be also high in critical thinking. I have my serious doubts)
Well respected anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901 – 1978), was an postwar advocate of the so called ‘swaddling thesis’ that claimed that the Russian children formed their character from this practice. Tying them tightly to cradle-boards when babies, the theory went, explained the ‘suspicious and despotic’ character of the Russian adult psyche and the Soviet policy. Believe me, this was not a theory sustained by a bunch of nuts, a category that would never have applied to Mead. It was mocked, of course, as ‘diaperology’, but just about it. Mead’s thinking was influential in forming official US foreign policy at the time. (Exotics at home, 1998, by Micaela di Leonardo)
Maybe an extreme, but we are we not full of them? The trouble with all these is that it is as easily done as dismissed. Many people tell me, don’t be silly, we don’t think that way, it’s a caricature. I wish. If you observe what is going on around you, you’ll find a lot of ‘diaperology thinking’ in the organization, in the way we treat people and practice management.