In every organization, good critical thinking skills are significant. It gives an organization a chance of determining which arguments, claims and opinions are worth when making sound, ethical decisions. According to Barnes, critical thinking is the "systematic evaluation or formulation of beliefs, or statements, by rational standards" (2014). It involves learning how to sort out viewpoints that are well supported and those that aren't. In the business world, companies may have views on things such as rights of shareholders, corporate environmental accountability and constitutes of safe working place. They must therefore adopt positions that enhance critical thinking and refine skills of critical reasoning so as to creatively make good ethical decisions. The paper will, therefore, explore critical thinking in the study of business ethics.
Implications of Critical Thinking on Business Ethics
Critically thinking, ethical standards in business are systematic in that they involve the application of distinct procedures and methods. These procedures and methods may at one point involve very technical tools like the tools of formal logic to examine arguments. At other times, it may involve looking for specific eminent reasoning patterns such as fallacies which often human reason has been subjected to. To further understand strengths and weaknesses, systematic will also mean viewing carefully at arguments parts and how they are structured. Mahin (2017) point out that an argument is an interrelated set of claims designed to convince the audience of accepting a set of claims or point of view. It has two components one being a conclusion and the other being one or more premises. A conclusion is a claim that makes the audience accept while a premise is a reason provided to convince the audience accepts the conclusion. For instance, a conclusion can be made on how bribery is wrong and a premise provided is that bribery distorts markets. Additionally, a good ethical argument should have a premise that is plausible, relevant, and one that has sufficient support. A premise requires a factual premise where it explains facts of case one is looking into and an ethical premises where it brings some ethical principles to bear. Both factual and ethical premises must be reasonable and relevant to the audience in adding up sufficient support for the conclusion to be made (Howard, Tang & Austin, 2015). An argument in critical thinking can either be inductive or deductive since in very different ways it can fail or succeed. Some constructive arguments when planned can provide sufficient support and guarantee a conclusion while others can never fully guarantee the truth of their conclusions even when provided with strong and compelling evidence. This shows that critical thinking in business ethics means doing something beyond issues with a careful, systematic approach of making ethical decisions.
Critical thinking is also based on an implication of evaluation and formulation of beliefs. They may be from existing beliefs or in the construction of new ones. Beliefs just don't happen, but they are inherited from beliefs of our backgrounds including church, culture etc, and others we are accountable for building them (Barnes, 2014). Another implication is that of rational standards whereby certain views on the ethics of business need to be judged based on good reasons that support them. This shows that there must be a commitment in critically thinking about issues of those that have good reason to believe and not those merely believed by others as true.
Sources of Pitfalls in Ethical Reasoning
For a strong argument, basic ingredients are vital in providing good support for its conclusion. However, if one of the ingredient lack, it leads to pitfalls for ethical reasoning in business. One of the particular kinds of problem is fallacy which makes reasoning go astray (Lai, 2011). Fallacy can draw us especially when it looks superficially similar to other better kinds of argument or when they look simple to an extent they support conclusions that fit our biases or objectives. Here, fallacy may demonstrate itself in various ways such as straw man argument whereby it relies on premises utterly unrelated to the issue at hand. Ad Hominem argument is a fallacy that focuses on criticizing the person and not on the reasoning of that person. Argument from tradition is a fallacy since it considers the history of other people's beliefs and this is irrelevant since some may not be true. Another fallacy is an argument from popularity and the false dilemma that convinces a person into believing something known.
Cognitive biases are another source of the problem that involves patterns of faulty reasoning where human beings are the subject. Often, it is comforting to believe that one's thinking is clear and unbiased when making the choices but this is not usually the case. This is dangerous as the arguers are not aware of how biases affect their reasoning (Mingers, 2015). Cognitive biases manifest in various ways and one of them is through framing effect whereby the answer to the question is justified by how a question is framed. Although it is useful in marketing, it is dangerous in critical thinking. Confirmation bias is the natural tendency of remembering information that approves prior viewpoint that helps one in avoiding or forgetting information that might change one's mind. Although it can help in solving cognitive biases, it can lead to overconfidence which as a result leads to poor decision making. This is likely to be seen in managers when they seek input from employees that agree on their contemplating ethical controversial decision, and avoid input from those that are likely to challenge them. False consensus effect is an overestimation of other people's point of view and mostly occurs when managers in the upper hierarchy disagree with those below them (Howard et al., 2015). Lack of moral luck is another way cognitive bias manifests by attributing moral credit and blaming individuals due to events that aren't strictly speaking within their control. For instance, in a case where two managers engage in the same behavior puts an employee at same risk, but only one manager is judged harshly due to moral luck. However, to avoid those cognitive biases, an organization should avoid relying on intuition but try to seek on a range of points of view from different people in the organization.
In ethical decision making, critical thinking is an essential element that plays a large role in business ethics. At heart, the systematic approach evaluates and formulates good arguments in defense of certain beliefs or claims. In the world of business, almost everyone has an opinion and a belief about ethical issues. However, a challenge arises when it comes to applying those tools of critical thinking to support reasons that are acceptable to all involved people. All in all, business ethics should be taken beyond merely having opinions but in a critical thinking way, mobilize skills that enhance creative decision making.
Barnes, B. G. (2014). Critical thinking structures for business ethics.
Howard, L. W., Tang, T. L. P., & Austin, M. J. (2015). Teaching critical thinking skills: Ability, motivation, intervention, and the Pygmalion effect. Journal of Business Ethics, 128(1), 133-147.
Lai, E. R. (2011). Critical thinking: A literature review. Pearson's Research Reports, 6, 40-41.
Mahin, L. (2017). Critical thinking and business ethics. Business Communication Quarterly, 61(3), 74-78.
Mingers, J. (2015). Helping business schools engage with real problems: The contribution of critical realism and systems thinking. European Journal of Operational Research, 242(1), 316-331.
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