Book Reviews


If you ever care to pay little attention to the job ads, you will probably find that “critical thinking” is a commonly used phrase in the job requriment section. With that said, we can be better of if we are more critical, or at least appreciate a critical mindset.

I have been actually reading a book Asking the Right Question-A Guide to Critical Thinking, written by M. Neil Browne and Stuart M. Keeley. And starting from today, I will be jotting down some notes of the book here so that anyone who happens to drop by could have the chance to get more understanding of critical thinking and how we make critical thinking our own.

I do this simply because:

  • Critical thinking is essential for personal development and career success;
  • This book is a great one on the issue in question;
  • Not everyone got the chance to read this book;
  • Not everyone like reading;
  • …and most obviously: I love sharing.

The notes will be chapter based and you could expected at least 14 parts in this series. Be patient here, coz it worths.

OK. Here we go with part 1: The Benefit of Asking the Right Questions

1. What is critical thinking and the appropriate way to ask questions?
Critical thinking consists of an awareness of a set of interrelated critical questions, plus the ability and willingness to ask and answer them at appropriate times.

By our questions, we are saying to the person: I am curious; I want to know more; help me. This request shows respect for the other person. The point of your questions is that you need help to have a deeper understanding or appreciation of what is being said.

2. Two information process approaches

– The Sponge Approach

Just buy whatever was heard lately, without examination;

– The Panning-for-Gold Approach

The process of panning for gold provides a model for active readers and listeners as they try to determine the worth of what they read and hear.

Either of them makes sense in certain situations. There is no absolute right or wrong. And when we talk about critical thinking, we are more likely to be thinking in the panning for gold approach.

3. Sense of Critical thinking

We bring lots of personal baggage to every decision we make—experiences, dreams, values, training, and cultural habits. However, if you are to grow, you need to recognize these feelings, and, as much as you are able, put them on a shelf for a bit. Only that effort will enable you to listen carefully when others offer argument that threaten or violate your current beliefs.

Remember: Emotional involvement should not be the primary basis for accepting or rejecting a position.

Therefore, there are two level of critical thinking:

– Weak-sense critical thinking

If you approach critical thinking as a method for defending your initial beliefs or those you are paid to have, you are engaged in weak-sense critical thinking.

– Strong-Sense Critical Thinking

Strong-Sense critical thinking requires us to apply the critical questions to all claims, including our own.

Weak-sense critical thinking is the use of critical thinking to defend our current beliefs. Strong-sense critical thinking is the use of the same skills to evaluate all claims and beliefs, especially your own.

In a nutshell, to be thinking critically, asking the right questions listed below:
  1. What are the issues and the conclusions?
  2. What are the reasons?
  3. Which words or phrases are ambiguous?
  4. What are the value conflicts and assumptions?
  5. What are the descriptive assumptions?
  6. Are there any fallacies in the reasoning?
  7. How good is the evidence?
  8. Are there rival causes?
  9. Are the statistics deceptive?
  10. What significant information is omitted?
  11. What reasonable conclusions are possible?
Until next time, keep thinking critically!
Jeff Wang
28 August 2009
What We Can Imagine, What We Can Achieve!
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Good to Great is definitely a great book that worths reading, and for several times. The book is very inspiring and the wisdom shared with Jim Collins is full of surprise, yet logically make sense.

Good is the enemy of great.

Undaunted Curiosity
People often ask, “What motivates you to undertake these huge research projects?” It’s a good question. The answer is, “Curiosity.” There is nothing I find more exciting than picking a question that I don’t know the answer to and embarking on a quest for answers. It’s deeply satisfying to climb into the boast, like Lewis and Clark, and head west, saying, “We don’t know what we’ll find when we get there, but we’ll be sure to let you know when we get back.”

We don’t know what we’ll find when we get there, but we’ll be sure to let you know when we get back.

Cool! Yet the result really matters, the happiness and growth could occurs when we are in the quest for it.
If we do not go ahead JUST simply due to the fact that we are not sure things will go as we expected, then we are not going to have big breakthrough.

Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strength. When you go through hardship and decide not to surrender, that is strength.

I love this quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Curiosity makes discovery happen!
Hardship makes growth happen!
Struggle makes strength happen!
Jeff Wang
5 Jun, 2009
I happened to read something called “Do it wrong the first time” this morning. Believe it or not, it’s “do it WRONG”, rather than “do it RIGHT”. Sounds weird, huh? Indeed, that’s what makes this short passage about business writing so interesting to me.

The short passage from the book The McGRAW-HILL 36-Hour Course Business Writing and Communication is about how to write more effective. It’s about “Prototype comes first, final product the second”. When speaking of writing, most of us try to skip the prototype stage and go right to the final product. We edit carefully as we write, pausing every few words to check spelling or punctuation or grammar.

I have to say that it is totally ineffective, though someone may argue that this is because they are chasing for perfection from start to finish. Actually, there is no need to argue here since I support the pursuit of perfection too. Chances are that in doing so, you may have to delete some crafted sentences when you realize that there might be a better way to present it. Thus the time for honing the words, tuning the tones, and the like, are wasted. The more effective, and practical way is to come up with the prototype, the draft first, and then the final product could be further developed. It’s not about deliberately do it “WRONG”, it is about we don’t usually do it right the first time—Do It Wrong the First Time.

Fail faster, succeed sooner”. That makes sense, right? Learn not to be careful.

The inspiration it brought to me is that we don’t need a perfect product, (indeed, we cannot, either), when we decide to start our own business. Sometimes we are just too careful to do something, and that’s why we cannot make it happen. The market itself will feedback us the strength and weakness of the product, and that’s how we move forward.

So…Wrong, fail, not careful, are all fine.

Jeff Wang
Mar 4, 2009

Cracking The McKinsey Mind_Part Six: Managing Your Team

 

6.      Managing Your Team

 

6.1          Selection

a.           Getting the mix right.

b.           Recruiting McKinsey-style.

c.           Consider not just demonstrated ability, but potential ability.

d.           Appreciate the value of diversity.

e.           Apply structure to recruiting efforts.

 

 

6.2          Communication: Keep the information flowing

a.           Remember that you have two ears and only one mouth.

b.           It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.

c.           Overcommunication is better than undercommunication.

 

6.3          Bonding

a.           Take your teams temperature to maintain morale.

b.           A little team bonding goes a long way.

c.           Spend time together (but not too much)

 

6.4          Development

a.           Set high expectation.

b.           Evaluate regularly, and make it balanced.

 

Team management is often more of an art than a science.

 

Keep crackin’

Jeff Wang Best

24 Feb, 2009

The book Six Thinking Hats is indeed a very good one to unveil the skill of thinking methods.

Here below is a brief introduction of fuction of each hats:

White Hat
White is neutral and objective. The white hat is concerned with objective facts and figures.

Red Hat
Red suggests anger (seeing red), rage and emotions. The red hat gives the emotional view.

Black Hat
Black is somber and serious. The black hat is cautious and careful. It points out the weaknesses in an idea.

Yellow Hat
Yellow is sunny and positive. The yellow hat is optimistic and covers hope and positive thinking.

Green Hat
Green is grass, vegetation and abundant, fertile growth. The green hat indicates creativity and new ideas.

Blue Hat
Blue is cool, and it is also the colour of the sky, which is above everything else. The blue hat is concerned with control, the organization of the thinking process and the use of the other hats.

You could find a good summary of this book at: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/716000/Six-Thinking-Hats-Information-Sheet

Keep thinkin’

Jeff Wang
15 February 2009

The book Six Thinking Hats  is indeed a very good one to unveil the skill of thinking methods.

Here below is a brief introduction of fuction of each hats:

White Hat

White is neutral and objective. The white hat is concerned with objective facts and figures.

 

Red Hat

Red suggests anger (seeing red), rage and emotions. The red hat gives the emotional view.

 

Black Hat

Black is somber and serious. The black hat is cautious and careful. It points out the weaknesses in an idea.

 

Yellow Hat

Yellow is sunny and positive. The yellow hat is optimistic and covers hope and positive thinking.

 

Green Hat

Green is grass, vegetation and abundant, fertile growth. The green hat indicates creativity and new ideas.

 

Blue Hat

Blue is cool, and it is also the colour of the sky, which is above everything else. The blue hat is concerned with control, the organization of the thinking process and the use of the other hats.

 

You could find a good summary of this book at: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/716000/Six-Thinking-Hats-Information-Sheet

 

Keep thinkin’

Jeff Wang

15 February 2009

 Cracking The McKinsey Mind_Part Two: Designing The Analysis

 

2.      Designing the Analysis

 

2.1          The McKinsey Way

a.           Find the key drivers.

Drill down to the core of the problem instead of picking apart each and every piece.

b.           Look at the big picture.

c.           Don’t boil the ocean.

Work smarter, not harder.

d.           Sometimes you have to let the solution come to you.

 

2.2          Lesson learned and implementation illustration

a.           Let your hypothesis determine you analysis.

b.           Get your analytical priorities straight.

c.           Forget about absolute precision.

We don’t need to have the perfect model. We just need to have something that’s better than what we have today. Let’s go out and make some money, and then we can continue to make it better over time.

d.           Triangulate around the tough problems


2.3          Implementation Guidance

For each issue or subissue, you should list the following elements:

a.           Your initial hypothesis as to the answer

b.           The analyses that must be done to prove or disprove that hypothesis, in order of priority

c.           The data necessary to perform the analysis

d.           The likely sources of the data (e.g., Census data, focus groups, interviews)

e.           A brief description of the likely end product of each analysis

f.            The person responsible for each end product (you or a member of your team)

g.           The due date for each end product

 

Issue/Hypothesis

Analyses

Data Sources

End Product

Responsibility

Due Date

Can we implement the

necessary changes to the

production process? Yes

 

 

 

 

 

Does the new process require special facilites? No

Technical Specifications

Articles, Interviews

Chart

Tom

3-Jun

 

List of facilities that meet new criteria

Facilities management, interviews

List

Tom

5-Jun

If it does require special facilities, can we acquire them? Yes

Map of “facilities gap”

Facilities management, thrum-mat line supervisors, interviews

Chart

Belinda

7-Jun

 

Souces of required facilities/equipment

Operations, trade publications

List

Belinda

7-Jun

 

Costs to fill gaps

Operations, contractors, publications

Table

Belinda

10-Jun

 

Effect on project rate of return

Finance department, prior analysis

Spreadsheet

Terry

12-Jun

Keep crackin’
Jeff Wang Best
31 Dec, 2008

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