An Essay on Critical Thinking
In the 1960’s, I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley School of Business, now known as the Haas Business School.
In November, 2014, at the Haas Business School’s 13th Annual Gala,a tribute was paid to the late Ralph Bahna in the form of a Leading Through Innovation Award. Attendees viewed a five-minute clip of Bahna’s address to new MBA students in 2012 emphasizing the importance of Critical Thinking. He said, “If a person can add another half hour or an hour in a week [to thinking], their power increases immensely.”
Ralph Bahna was one of America’s greatest multi-dimensional marketing geniuses, ever.Bahna was a graduate of the University of California Business School, now known as the Haas Business School. He put TransWorld Airlines on the map when he introduced business class to the aviation industry. He immeasurably transformed the cruise line industry by configuring ships to serve as a luxury vacation experience. Later, he co-founded Club Quarters, a line of private clubs launched in major hotels. Lastly, he hit a home run in joining Priceline as Chairman of the Board from 2004 until 2013. During that time, Priceline’s publicly traded stock price rose by 4,000 percent. Likely no other UC alumnus has been associated with a publicly owned corporation whose value has increased by such an incredible figure.
My idea to further enhance The Haas Business School’s Image
Recently, I wrote to Richard LYONS, the Dean of the Business School regarding my ideas to further enhance Haas’ image.
1: Refer to the School as a bastion of Critical Thinking. Haas’s curriculum fosters Critical Thinking which helps the students to better cope with the vicissitudes of life when they graduate.
2: At every orientation, Business School students would watch the aforementioned clip of Ralph Bahna’s lecture on Critical Thinking.
3: Each year, the Haas Business School could organize a one-of-a-kind lecture on Critical Thinking. The talk would feature a nationally known personage who exemplifies Critical Thinking. My first choice would be Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, who I would deem to be the country’s top multi-dimensional Critical Thinker. Other potential speakers could include the author/genius Michael Lewis who resides in Berkeley California, Malcolm Gladwell whose landmark book entitled "The Outliers" is still a best seller, or Nassim Taleb of “The Black Swan” fame. Majors donors to the the Haas Business School would be invited to have dinner with the speaker, and the national press would be encouraged to attend and report on the event.
4: An Academic Chair in Critical Thinking would be established at the Haas Business School. Each year, a nationally renown Critical Thinker would be appointed to teach a new course on this subject. The following topics could be among those covered:
1. Coping with The Pervasive Misuse of Statistics
2. Guarding Against the Ravages of Inflation
3. Red Flag Deviation Analysis: The Cases of Enron Corp and Bernard Madoff
4. The Futility of Most Major Predictions
5. Poor Judgment: Ways to Avoid It
6. The Stock Market: By Far the Best Way to Invest
CAVEAT: However, it is not easy at all to engage in successful Critical Thinking. Within this regard, there are three reasons why it's so difficult.
1. Common sense: Some people have a lack of common sense, whether in general or on a certain topic. In this case, they don't need to bother with Critical Thinking.
2. Bias: Everyone has biases. When you are Thinking Critically, it is important to suppress them in order to make a clear and rational judgement.
3. Information Overload: With the advent of the internet, it has become possible to access more information than ever before. Reproduced below from the January 20, 2015 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle is some interesting dialogue on this topic.
"Speaking to Bloomberg News at the Digital Life Design Technology Conference in Munich on January 19, hyper-connected executives said they were plagued by the same sense of data-overload, and dependency fears as many of their customers."
A reporter from Bloomberg interviewed the executives and philosopher Luc de Brabandere, an advisor to the consulting firm BCG. She asked the Munich attendees: "Is technology making us stupid?"
"The answer, for de Brabandere and the executives, was "not necessarily", though there was an acceptance that increasing ubiquity of smart phones and "always-on" social media was having a profound impact on how we think and relate to the world. If we, "remain hyper-connected, it will make us much less wise," was Arianna Huffington's response.
The February 10, 2015 edition of the San Francisco Examiner featured a headline article entitled “Life without tech? Students to try.” At the Convent of the Sacred Heart High School, during a three-day period, the school’s teachers sealed fifth -through 12th grade students’ electronics in a bag – from phones, to tablets, to laptops. It was also suggested that students opt out of some (but not necessarily all) of the following: tv, texting, social media, email, internet and videogames.
Ann Marie Krejcarek, president of schools at the Sacred Heart Convent, stated; “We always wanted to think about the balance needed in bringing technology forward.”
Dr. Stephen Karr, Director of the San Francisco Institute for Adolescents, has said that; “A lot of kids are on computers, it feels like 24/7. That’s terrible,” He continued; “A lot of kids are barricaded in their rooms. I have a practice that’s loaded with kids who are too saturated in technology. Many of them are in their room too much with the door closed.”
Addendum: Great Examples of the Consequences of Lack of Common Sense and Critical Thinking
Being a longtime student of political and military history, I find it fascinating to look back and observe the tremendous consequences that result from a lack of common sense and Critical Thinking. These events include:
1.The US long-term insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq
2.Ambassador Stevens travelling to Benghazi which was a terrorist hotspot.
3.Mitt Romney’s ill-fated 2012 Presidential Campaign.
4. Bridgegate: The closing of one of the busiest bridges in the world, the George Washington Bridge, located in New Jersey.
Life will always involve many critical decisions. My advice is, step back and try to be as unemotional as possible about the situation. Research the subject as much as you can before acting. Try not to be pressured into deciding before you have all the facts. If the facts show that your approach mimics the failed attempts of others, go back and find a new way to tackle the situation. In the words of the Roman historian Tacitus, “Truth is confirmed by inspection and delay; falsehood by haste and uncertainty.”
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Thornton Oglove is a well-known Wall Street veteran, the former publisher of The Quality of Earnings Report, and the author of the book "Quality of Earnings: The Investor's Guide to How Much Money A Company Is Really Making." He lives in San Francisco with his wife, Susan.