Discussion: View Thread

Training/teaching Critical Thinking Skills/Improved Judgement

  • 1.  Training/teaching Critical Thinking Skills/Improved Judgement

    Posted 03-16-2021 09:25

    Dear colleagues,


    I hope you are well and managing to re-balance life.  Has any of you had the chance to create or teach a course on how to improve accurate decision making regarding signals (e.g., differentiating false alarm from actual threat), helping professionals judge incoming information more logically, balancing caution and pragmatic aspects and to get better at separating facts from inference? I may have an opportunity to design and deliver training for a major multinational to a team that deals with detecting threats. The company wants these highly skilled professionals to be able to improve their judgement in various situations related to assessing information and its meaning and potential importance.


    More generally, I am intrigued by this area and, especially, with the challenge on how to identify relevant research in the area and convert it to teachable modules for graduate students or other audiences. I teach mostly in Masters in Management programs and, while these themes are close to my heart and I introduce them in between the lines when I teach organizational behaviour (or other management courses), I never designed a training that is focused on that, especially for experienced professionals, so I am curious to see if there are any materials out there.

         Thanks for any tips!



    Warm regards,




    Dr Jacob Eisenberg, Associate Professor

    A close up of a logoDescription automatically generated

    Tel:  +353-1-716 4774

    Email: Jacob.eisenberg@ucd.ie

    UCD Innovation Fellow 2021


  • 2.  RE: Training/teaching Critical Thinking Skills/Improved Judgement

    Posted 28 days ago
    Dear Jacob,

    I have been teaching courses on Critical Thinking and on Decision-Making both for professionals (executive MBA, executive education, in-house workshops) and students (undergrad, master). A while ago, when I started teaching, I focused on conveying the explicit knowledge, as much of it as possible, relying solidly on academic sources. In the meantime I learned that transferring explicit knowledge is easy, making the managers remember and apply it is harder. The key to that was to apply each concept, framework, or method, practically and repeatedly, both on situations provided by me (case studies), but mainly on their own situations.

    An example is my course on assumptions, in which I say that "hidden assumptions that are flawed are the cause of most failed projects; and the problem is not that we cannot assess the assumption as flawed, the problem is that we don't even know it's there" (this is also a bit in line with your topic, although such assumptions, if unidentified, are weaknesses, not threats). This has plenty of theoretical background from syllogisms and the Ancient Greeks to Gary Klein. All participants get it from the beginning, but each example and practical exercise increase their understanding (from Klein's 9 dots exercise and the story of Abraham Wald's holes in the planes to stories from the local business environment). But until they need to identify the hidden assumptions in their own business plans (I use pre-mortem, in successive rounds, starting with case studies and continuing with their own projects) their understanding is not deep enough to enact it in a month's time. So, lately, I build my modules backwards, from the behavior and habits that I need to encourage (e.g. identifying hidden assumptions in own projects), to practical activities that make explicit knowledge implicit (e.g. case studies - I use startup pitches), to theoretical foundations.

    Another topic that I am sure you already teach is cognitive biases, all with a managerial flavor. I teach it in two parts: a) the first, directed at them as fallible decision-makers, on how to avoid the traps (although heuristics are imho good, adaptive tools), and b) the second, directed at them as managers or future managers, on how can we use this knowledge for our companies (the second part is introduced by discussing the dilemma around Thaler's "nudging"  - is this kind of influence, even for a good purpose, moral?). What I found perplexing is that managers value much more the first part, when we discuss and then practice on their decisions which are influenced by loss aversion or sunk cost.

    I believe that, generally, for this kind of course, other topics that are suitable are the structure and analysis of arguments, fallacies, evidence-based management (with an emphasis on testing business ideas and assumptions). If you would like to see some of the topics that I teach, with their short description, please visit the platform I just created at https://thinkinginbusiness.com/ (I also write about this stuff) and go to "Tools" - https://thinkinginbusiness.com/thinking-and-deciding-tools/

    If I can be of assistance, please let me know!

    Have fun with it!

    Radu Atanasiu
    VU Amsterdam / Maastricht School of Management Romania

    Radu Atanasiu
    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam