11.06.2007

The Thinking Process

As told in a previous post, I’m reading Managing Minds by Charles Allen, a major influence on the founders of TWI, particularly Job Instruction. In the context of vocational training and industry management, Allen and co-author Harry Tiemann dedicate a chapter to real versus pseudo thinking. Real thinking being a conscious effort and pseudo thinking classified two ways: 1) copying and 2) guessing. Allen and Tiemann explain pseudo thinking classifications through simple illustrations:
Guessing avoids the real thinking process and is no different than say flipping a coin. By guessing, we don’t necessarily consider the facts in a situation.

When we base our decisions on analogy: “it worked for them, so if we do something similar we will come out alright” we substitute copying for real thinking. Guessing and copying sound like gross oversimplifications in explaining the thinking process, but think this through in your own experience: how many series of meetings have you sat through where the final decision was “well, what have we got to lose?” or “it can’t be any worse than we are off now”, or “we don’t know, let’s just try it, we can change it later if we need to.”
The concept of copying something instead of thinking through a problem reminded me of a common occurrence today: “how many companies are literally copying the Toyota Production System?”

Of course sometimes we make a correct guess or get lucky when we copy another tactic or strategy. This leads us to believe that we did think it through properly and made the right decision. The real truth is that we could have made a better decision, or we are ignoring the consequences of the decision (lack thereof) we made. Often the latter is more destructive than we care to admit.
When we change without thinking through the process, we are confusing activity with progress. This is turn breeds discontent among the ranks, people become fatigued with the constant change and vague explanations as they try to adapt; change is difficult to sustain in this way.

Regardless of the consequences, this line of aimless thinking becomes habit. When something becomes habit it completely eliminates all conscious thinking. Any hope to change that persons habit is gone without somehow influencing his thinking, but since habit has replaced conscious thinking, we find little hope. Allen and Tiemann help us out here...

In Job Methods, the first question we ask when analyzing the job is “why”. I found it interesting that Allen and Tiemann conclude their chapter on the thinking process by suggesting that the only effective way to break a habit and instill conscious thinking is to ask the person “why” something must be done that way. This forces the person to answer consciously, not aimlessly which is a hallmark feature of habitual thinking.
I wonder if the founders of TWI found Allen to be influential in Job Methods as much as he was in Job Instruction.

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