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In addition to being a partial fulfillment of the requirements for Applied Business Environment BUS 5893, the paper also serves to demonstrate the authors comprehension of strategic management principles and theories learned throughout the Texas Woman's University eMBA program. Topics include critical thinking, problem solving, ethics, global perspective, and writing style. Definitions, discussion and examples are provided using scholarly references and/or the author's personal learning experiences used during the program coursework and professional career.
This paper contains my personal reflection and integration of the important business management concepts learned in the TWU eMBA program and how I have (or plan to) put them into practice in my professional career. Scholarly references, course textbooks, lecture notes, discussion boards and independent research are all used to summarize the knowledge I have gained.
The definition for critical thinking comes from the book Thought & Knowledge: An Introduction to Critical Thinking.
Critical thinking is the use of those cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome. It is used to describe thinking that is purposeful, reasoned, and goal directed-the kind of thinking involved in solving problems, formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making decisions, when the thinker is using skills that are thoughtful and effective for the particular context and type of thinking task (Halpern, 2003, p. 6).
While conducting my research for this section, it took me a long time to find just the right the content/theory/components/levels/steps, etc. that resonated with me. Finally I landed on Stephen Brookfield's book, Developing Critical Thinkers: Challenging Adults to Explore Alternative Ways of Thinking and Acting. He outlines the process of critical thinking as including these components:
Problem/goal identification: What is the real issue here?
Diagnosis: Given all the information we have, what's the best way to deal with this issue?
Exploration: How do we do what we decided on, and who will make it happen?
Action: Do it!
Reflection: Did it work? If so, how can it work better? If not, what went wrong, and how can we fix it? What have we learned here that might be valuable in the future?
Reflection leads you to the consideration of another problem or goal, and the cycle begins again (Brookfield, 1987).
After more searching, I found goals for critical thinking that were practical and easy to understand.
The goals of critical thinking include:
Truth: to separate what is true from what is false, or partially true, or incomplete, or slanted, or based on false premises, or assumed to be true because "everyone says so."
Context: to consider the context and history of issues, problems, or situations.
Assumptions: to understand the assumptions and purposes behind information or situations.
Alternatives: to create ways of approaching problems, issues, and situations that address the real, rather than assumed or imagined, factors that underlie or directly cause them -- even when those factors turn out to be different from what you expected. (University of Kansas, n.d.) http://ctb.ku.edu/en/tablecontents/sub_section_main_1120.aspx
Now with a definition, process and goals of critical thinking, I have a good foundation in which to reflect upon my learning.
What immediately came to mind was Managerial Decision Making BUS 5663.61 with Mr. Keith Yockey. In that course, I learned the six step decision making process. The point of going through this six point process is to make a decision that one can defend. It is based on a sequential and interconnected process.
The steps include:
Setting management objectives
Searching for alternatives
Comparing and evaluating alternatives
The act of choice
Implementing the decision
Follow-up and control
(source lecture handout ppt)
Professor Yockey had the class going through these steps numerous times. We analyzed scenarios from fun and simple, to complex in the assigned course work. By going through the process so many times, I truly believe these six steps are ingrained and will prove extremely useful in my professional career. Specifically, if I go through this process in my decision making and someone asks me why I am making a particular suggestion, I can fully support the decision. I believe this ability will surely make a positive impression on others.
While looking for inspiration to write this section, I found two compelling and germane quotes regarding this important topic.
Philosophical author Alfred Mander wrote, "Thinking is skilled work. It is not true that we are naturally endowed with the ability to think clearly and logically - without learning how, or without practicing (Mander, 1947).
In a collage essay, American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote:
"To think incisively and to think for one's self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half-truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction. The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically" (King, 1947).
I am using a problem solving definition which includes a two-step behavioral process and outlines the stages involved.
Problem solving was defined as a behavioral process which (a) makes available a variety of response alternatives for dealing with a problematic situation, and (b) increases the probability of selecting the most effective response from among these alternatives.
5 stages of problem solving were identified: (a) general orientation or "set," (b) problem definition and formulation, (c) generation of alternatives, (d) decision making, and (e) verification. ("Problem solving and behavior modification", 1971, p. 2).
However, in the book, Recognizing, defining, and representing problems, I found the following steps as out outline for effective problem solving. These steps use more friendly language which for me makes them more appealing.
Recognize or identify the problem.
Define and present the problem mentally.
Develop a solution strategy.
Organize his or her knowledge about the problem.
Allocate mental and physical resources for solving the problem.
Monitor his or her progress toward the goal.
Evaluate the solution for accuracy
(Pretz, Naples, & Sternberg, 2003, p.3).
Again, the 6 step decision making process learned in Managerial Decision Making BUS 5663.61 correlates nicely with the above steps. So I applaud Professor Yockey for teaching the process because it works for both the critical thinking process and in problem solving. Really the two concepts go hand-in-hand.
"Ethics is the critical study of standards for judging the rightness or wrongness of conduct." (Garvin, 1953, p. 2).
Ethical theories have been an interest of mine my entire adult life. In particular, I am fascinated by ethical issue in healthcare. I was so excited that my first class of the program was Business Ethics/Law BUS 5933 with Dr. Kurt Stanberry. Throughout the program his class has remained one of my top two favorites.
What I found most interesting in this course was the debate and discussion regarding the lack of ethics uncovered in the Enron scandal (class notes 1-21-12) and in the Ford Pinto safety fiasco (class notes 2-11-12).
It was also eye-opening to learn that most laws have an ethical component and it is the role of laws to force business into being ethical (class notes 1-21-12).
Additionally, we studied the topics of:
White collar crime
Products liability and tort reform
One particularly interesting class assignment involved the topic of whistleblowers. The discussion involved whether or not I believe the current whistleblower laws are adequate to protect employees and if I would be a whistleblower. Many students posted responses stating that of course they would because they are ethical people and so on. It was those replies that made me feel like not much time, effort and thoughtful consideration went into their posts.
It is one thing to listen, read, study, but assignments are so much meaningful to me when I am required to actually imagine myself in a difficult situation and share how I would react and why.
Additionally I was fortunate to also take Consumer Ethics BUS 5903.62 as one of my elective courses. It was in that class that I learned numerous ethical theories, including:
Ethic of Care
Dr. Urofsky presented several new theories, or lenses, every week. I was pleasantly surprised by the focus being so heavy on ethics and less on advertising. Often in Blackboard discussions, students would be presented with a situation and our post needed to explain what ethical lens we viewed the scenario through and why. It was incredibility interesting to read the other students posts to see how one scenario could be viewed in so many ways.
According to Dr. Urofsky, ethics is concerned with "the how and the what."
How should I act, think, be?
What is the good life?
Different ethical theories try reconcile the two questions above and view every situation is a unique way; different from the other theories. However, the theories have one thing in common. As stated by ethicists James Childress and Tom Beauchamp, "A well-developed ethical therapy provides a framework within which agents can reflect on the actability of actions and can evaluate moral judgments and moral character" (Beauchamp & Childress, 2001, p. 44).
The result of taking these ethics courses and other classes in the program is one of continued interest with the fascinating subject of ethics. Now when I learn about current business news or read political stories, I will view the story with my own ethical lens to delve deeper into my understanding of how I interpret behavior and conflict.
For the purpose of this paper, I will define international business as synonymous with the term globalization. Raisinghani (2012) defines globalization as "the shift toward a more integrated and interdependent world economy. Globalization has several facets, including the globalization of markets and the globalization of production (p. 6).
Several of the courses in this program had a global element to them, as it would be impossible to get away with not discussing business in our highly interconnected world. However, it was of course Global Business BUS 5923.62 where the bulk of my knowledge developed. The course content was very thorough and included the following topics:
Unique challenges of operating an international business
Issues that impact international businesses: political, cultural, legal and religious
Organizations that attempt to regulate internal business commerce
Foreign exchange and investment theories and practices
Awareness of international business strategic planning and implementation
(cite syllabus, 2012)
In Global Business, the assignment I most enjoyed was the team project presentation. The class divided into teams and each team was assigned a continent. My team received North America which had its obvious advantages and disadvantages. The assignment required a meticulous macro to micro analysis of the continent, ultimately deciding on the best country and developing a new business venture to present.
Many factors went into our research and consideration of each country in North America. Specifically, the syllabus noted "cultural considerations, economic conditions, governmental institutions, currency considerations and natural and human resources" (cite syllabus, 2012). After the presentation, the class voted on the best presentation and my team received second place - which translated into precious extra credit points for the course.
Global business issues were also covered in detail in Dr. Stanberry's Business Law and Ethics course BUS 5933. We spend a significant amount of time learning and discussing relevant topics such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA) prohibiting American businesses from paying bribes to foreign officials in any country. We learned this poses problems as bribery is concerned a legitimate business practice in many foreign countries (lecture notes 1-21-12).
Another relevant global business topic was fair trade and the lack of clarity surrounding internal oversight and trade laws (lecture notes 1-21-12). Intellectual property (IP) protection was another important topic given all the changes in technology and world wide access. We learned the United States closely guards and protects IP as we are n inventive and create nation. However in countries like Argentina, it is perfectly legal to manufacture and sell patented drugs at drastically reduced prices.
Recently several US laws have been introduced aimed at holding website owners and Internet Service Providers (ISP) responsible for allowing their site or network to provide access to copyrighted IP and counterfeit goods. (lecture notes 2-11-12).
In the Bloomberg article "Americans Won't Welcome Online-Piracy Crackdown" the author sums up the current state of the proposed legislation. He states "SOPA and PIPA are just the next steps in this larger enforcement agenda. Whatever happens to them, online enforcement will remain a very slippery slope, with attendant risks of censorship, surveillance, and the loss of due process. Because nothing in SOPA or PIPA is likely to stop piracy, there will be strong pressure to keep sliding" (Karaganis, 2012).
Simply stated, writing style is a "style of expressing yourself in writing" (Princeton University). In my personal correspondence I have a very informal style of writing. I take lots of shortcuts and use improper grammar writing similar to how one might actually verbally converse. At work, I am required to follow the Associated Press (AP) style guidelines in my writing. The rules for the AP editorial style are vast, thorough, and demanding. I am constantly looking up the correct way to reference a date, age, professional title, etc.
So it has been interesting for me to learn the American Psychological Association (APA) writing format. Whereas APA is focused on the exact way to present words, I find APA to mostly be concerned with strict formatting rules and proper citations. I am thankful for the tools in which I had access to in order to learn and properly use APA guidelines.
In particular, I found the "Sample APA Formatted Paper for the TWU School of Management" (Texas Woman's University, 2011) very helpful. I tried to follow it exactly and referred back to it often. When the Capstone BUS 5893 Blackboard opened, I immediately went to the course resources section and found the "APA Style Guide to Electronic References" (American Psychological Association, 2012) which has been essential for properly citing my references. I also found online citation creation tools and found them to be a great time saver for basic citations of books, websites, and journal articles.
It has my experience going throughout the program that only a few of my professors' required strict adherence the APA format. Although it was always included in the syllabus, it was rarely discussed or enforced, with a few exceptions. Dr. Gray's Global Business BUS 5923.62 was the first course where I really had to take the time to use APA formatting. Additionally he was the first professor who insisted on only using scholarly peer reviewed material. By far, Global Business was my most challenging class, but I also learned the most and enjoyed it the best.
In addition to learning how to follow the APA style guidelines, I received a valuable plagiarism refresher. When I attended new student orientation before my first class, I was given the book Plagiarism: A How-Not-To Guide for Students (Gilmore, 2009). I recall Dr. Horn stating very specifically no form of plagiarism would be tolerated and I took that to heart. Not that I would ever deliberately plagiarize, but I learned how easy it is to do by mistake, or ignorance.
The first assignment in Consumer Ethics BUS 5903.62 was to complete the TWU Library plagiarism tutorial (Texas Woman's University). It was even 4% of our final grade. I thought that was a great idea of Dr. Urofsky to have all students complete the tutorial and quiz as a mandatory assignment. I learned potential plagiarism hazards from the video tutorial that I had not previously understood.
In summary, I plan to incorporate the knowledge presented in the paper into my professional career and as applicable, in my personal life as well. As managers, students, parents, friends, etc. we are faced with decisions every day. I believe I will find Professor Yockey's six step decision making process the single most valuable tool I learned in the program.