Critical Thinking and Humanism in Business

If you have a job, your job is to solve a problem. Solving problems effectively requires critical thinking skills.

All business are in the business of solving customers problems. People are hired to work for the company to help the company better solve these problems and to solve the problems that prevent the staff from solving the customer’s problems.

Eventually companies get big enough where they need to hire HR professionals to solve the problems that come with having people on payroll. Like how to pay people efficiently and make sure they get the benefits the company provides and to correct paychecks that have errors. HR also has to ensure that all paperwork is in compliance and that people are legally allowed to work for the company to preemptively ensure that legal problems aren’t created through ignorance of the law. Eventually companies get big enough that they also need to hire HR professionals dedicated to dealing with the problems of employee relations, which is a fancy way of saying, interpersonal problems that can cause legal liability for the company if not dealt with properly.

Since every aspect of a business is related to solving a problem, learning how to solve problems is an essential skill for any job. This is why critical thinking is so important.

A humanistic approach to business is a way of understanding the interrelated nature of the problems we are solving and the people for who and with whom we are working. We are never simply solving one problem. All the problems of the company are related. We don’t want to fix one problem and create another problem if we can avoid it.

Humanistic business management is a holistic way of viewing the business of business. Critical thinking is central to this approach because it is impossible to weigh all the various elements at play unless you know how to think clearly.

Critical thinking is useful precisely because it requires the challenging of assumptions. The question why – why are we doing things this way? What exactly are we trying to accomplish? What else and who else is impacted by this decision? By asking these questions we can see the big picture and how our piece of the puzzle relates to everything else that is going on within the company.

It is mind expanding. Like viewing the complexity of the cosmos within the inter-dependent web of employees that is your company.  I find this connected and yet holistic viewpoint inspiring and motivating.  And while it make seem like a lot to take in, by taking the time to think about how things work together, you actually are able to gain a clarity that helps focus on the problems that really matter.

Critical Thinking and Humanism in Business. It’s a powerful combination.

Up and Down

There are no guarantees in life and that’s ok.

I grew up in CA which has wonderful peaches. We had a peach tree in our yard.  I live in FL now and I have a problem. Getting CA peaches isn’t always possible. We get peaches from Chile and FL and GA and sometimes CA and the quality is never consistent.  We will have a run of good juicy of my goodness wonderful peaches and then suddenly, the only peaches you can buy are mealy.  Buying peaches here is a gamble. It’s frustrating.

Why am I telling you this? Because it’s a good metaphor for life.  Dr. Suess has a wonderful story – “Oh the Places You Will Go.”  You will see great sights, except when you don’t, because sometimes you won’t.

There are no guarantees in life. Sometimes you will soar and everything will be great. Other times, you can’t catch a break. I’m almost 50 now. I realize women aren’t supposed to admit that. But I’ve had my share of ups and downs.

It’s easy to want to hide the downs. You don’t want to bring other people down. So we pretend we are ok, when we really aren’t.  We also pretend we are ok in the hopes that our luck will change. Even though we can’t be guaranteed that it will. Or when it will.

I don’t feel the need to hide my downs anymore. When I lost my first child, I didn’t want to go to my 20th high school reunion. My brother encouraged me to go and told me, at this point, everyone has experienced a tragedy. And he was right.  We all have our ups and downs and our downs are nothing to be ashamed of.

In fact, the more honest you are about your downs, the more your friends and family can help you get the help you need.

What does it mean to be a manager?

A humanistic perspective on the business of management.

For me, management is a support function. It’s about helping ensure that a team of workers is able to work together to get their job done and to solve whatever problem they have been hired to solve.

Because let’s face it, if you didn’t have a problem that needed to be fixed and if that problem didn’t require a human’s intelligence to be applied to fixing it, you wouldn’t need to hire someone to do that job. It all comes down to problem solving. Even if you have hired someone to sweep the floor, there is a reason you need the floor swept and that reason is that if it isn’t swept, you will have a problem.

The people we hire are there to fix problems. The job of the manager is to make sure the people who are fixing the problems have the tools, training and support they need so that they can fix the problems they have been hired to fix.  This is a very humanistic conception of management.

The manager in this framework isn’t bossy. They aren’t telling people what to do. They are a support person who helps them team do their job.  Kind of like an engineer who keeps a train running. A manager is important, but not more important that those that are doing the actual work.  Sure, sometimes that means the manager has to tell the employees what problems to fix and to help them prioritize which problems get fixed first, but prioritizing tasks is a strategic coordinating function rather than a bossy boss function. 

Ideally, a humanistic manager works with their team collaboratively. It’s not a top down or bottom up role. It’s more of a coordinators role. It’s about communication. What needs to get done, how are we going to do it, what does staff need to do the job and so forth. The best managers are the best communicators.

The problem is that most people who become managers never receive training on what exactly it is they are supposed to be doing. So they wing it. They do what they think a manager should do based on what they have experienced in the past. They may even try to emulate a manger they saw in a movie once.  Who knows what they think a manager does. It may surprise you.

It is no longer acceptable to manage people as if they were expendable cogs in a machine that can be replaced. A dictatorial style of management is abusive and will expose your company to an amazing amount of potential litigation and high turnover. Humanistic management is becoming the norm for a reason. It’s a more effective and humane way of organizing people towards a common cause or whatever it is your staff are supposed to be doing.

Learn the Principles of Humanistic Management -

Being Awesome Using Science

Are you awesome?  Most of us are not – except in our own heads. But that shouldn’t stop you from being the glittery ball of awesomeness you think you are.

Barking Up the Wrong Tree has great posts about the science of life.  Recently, they had a post about the science of being awesome. See:  It’s called the Lazy Way to an Awesome Life.

Friends Matter

It turns out that your friends matter. First, having friends makes you happier.  More than money does.  So make a point to make time for your friends.

The 2nd thing is the quality of your friends. Don’t just hang out with anyone. Hang out with awesome people. Your friends influence you and their friends, even if you never meet them influence you by virtue of the fact, they are influencing your friends.

What you want are supportive optimistic caring friends. You want to steer away from jerkish and selfish friends. The more people you are around who want to be awesome, the more likely you will become awesome too – it’s a habit that is reinforced by your social network.

Finally, introduce your friends to your friends. One thing I have always been proud of is that my friends like my other friends. When I get them together, they like each other. Why – because I have awesome friends. I don’t have a lot of friends, but those I have are all good people.

But the other reason for introducing your friends is that it helps to grow and support your other friends. Different people have different friendships. Some people have lots of friends, some don’t. What you want to ensure, since your friend’s friends influence you, is that those on the outside of the social network actually are fully supported by the social network. All that supporting, makes everyone stronger and more supported and more happy.  Call it karma if you will but modeling the supportive friend network you want will help encourage more supportive friends.

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