How an MBA can Assist you in Becoming a Critical Thinker
Critical thinking is a term that is used quite often in the business world, yet few actually possess a firm understanding of what the phrase actually means. This leads to a myriad of confusing and difficult situations as individuals assume they are “thinking critically” when they are actually just worrying and making the problem worse.
Thus said, critical thinking can be thought of as a thinking strategy which allows individuals to identify and transcend their various biases in order to make the best decision possible. The curriculum and requirements of an MBA degree allow for the perfect environment for developing and expanding critical thinking skills, as students will be able to debate with different and similar methods of thought, perform various exercises in logic, understand that innovation can at times be uncomfortable, and gain extensive insight from their peers and professors. “One of the most important values of a rigorous MBA program is providing evidence-based applications of these important ideas along with skill-building techniques that have been tested and vetted by independent scholars of management,” Chester S. Spell, Ph.D., Professor of Management at Rutgers University, said.
Debate and Collaborate with Different Methods of Thought
One of the elements of successful critical thinkers is that they are able to step outside their biases in order to see problems or situations from a new angle. Yet this is not an easy skill to develop, for it often requires repeated testing and training. An MBA program provides both as students will be able to test their initial biases through debates and peer collaboration, as well as train and experiment with new ideas and thought structures.
From these collaborations, students will be able to acquire a better understanding of how various individuals approach and solve similar problems. “In my Organizational Behavior class this is one of the chapters we cover extensively through reading and demonstrations of its variations,” Dr. Spell said, “All critical in shaping everything from hiring decisions to negotiations and other fundamental business transactions.” With this insight, astute students will be able to create an arsenal of different problem solving methods. This versatility not only makes individuals talented critical thinkers, but also greatly increases their overall value as they will possess a variety of problem solving techniques, as oppose to just one or two.
Safety for Experimentation
Too often, individuals don’t experiment with new or different methods because they are too scared of the repercussions. This is completely understandable, for sometimes a single decision can make or break a company, team, or product.
Yet without this experimentation, individuals will become stuck regurgitating their past knowledge, influences, and assumptions. An MBA program provides a safe environment where students will have the space and freedom to test out new strategies without the pressure of appeasing their manager or boss.
In fact, most students will be encouraged to experiment and uncover the best method possible for solving problems. For example, exams often feature multi-layered questions where professors ask students to provide three or four different methods for solving a particular business problem or situation. Students will thus be required to think outside of their habits to show how there are multiple ways to effectively solve the same problem. “In addition, while doing all this experimenting together students network naturally and form a cohort that can last for a career,” Dr. Spell said. “The value of your cohort is one of the unsung heroes of graduate education.”
Through a diverse selection of professors and coursework, individuals will be exposed to a variety of different ideologies, methods, and qualities. From these experiences, students will be able to further expand their knowledge, which thus translates to more effective critical thinking skills. “Think of the classroom as a fertile garden where ideas are planted and nourished continually,” Dr. Spell said. “Critical thinking is ultimate harvest from that intellectual garden.”
For example, a professor may share an insight on how he or she has handled a common business situation in the past, or perhaps he or she might ask the class to share some ideas on how they might solve a particularly problem. Either way, upon listening to responses, students can uncover problem solving strategies that are more effective than their habitual biases or assumptions. Students can then use this knowledge to analyze the best possible problem solving method. Furthermore, astute critical thinkers will be able to quickly observe strategies and identify areas of both success and failure. From this, they can then segment the successes and create a personalized problem-solving method for whatever task is at hand.
Improve Overall Critical Thinking Skills
Through exams and assignments, students may be asked to not only answer or solve problems, but to also explain their rationale and reasoning. This explanation is an extremely valuable component of improving overall critical thinking skills, as it naturally asks students to remove themselves from their habitual choices and think critically about how they arrived at their conclusions.
From understanding how they arrived at their conclusions, students will be able to identify areas where they might base decisions off of weak or unsound logic. For instance, some assume that they utilize facts to inform their decision making process, but in critically examining their thinking process, they suddenly realize a few segments that, their feeling of logic notwithstanding, actually turn out to be based solely on bias and opinion.
As a whole, an MBA provides an unparalleled opportunity to improve critical thinking skills. Whether it is through debating and collaborating with professors and peers or expansion from identifying their own assumptions and biases, an MBA degree gives students the freedom to think differently without having to worry about risking their career. “The point should be made that crucial thinking is something that can only be developed in the ways described here- interaction with faculty and a peer group in a non-threatening environment- which is uniquely provided by the MBA program,“ Dr. Spell said. Therefore, if you are serious about not only succeeding in the business world, but also becoming an influential thought leader in the process, then consider getting your MBA degree today.
A Rutgers Masters of Business Administration online prepares you with the professional expertise to deliver results, positively impact outcomes in today’s increasingly complex global business landscape and further define yourself as a leader in the business world.
This article was created thanks to the insights of Chester S. Spell, Ph.D., Professor of Management at Rutgers University. Dr. Spell is an expert in behavioral health and well-being in organizations and has appeared in publications such as the Academy of Management Journal, the Journal of Applied Psychology, the Journal of Management, Personnel Psychology, and the Journal of Organizational Behavior.