When I began my Master's degree program, I was inspired to encourage critical thinking and self-education... Then reality kicked in...
It is my experience that many business leaders do not want their staff members making independent decisions; then become frustrated when the staff is afraid to make a decision. I observed many situations like this in my daily work as well as stories related by others. Independent thought and critical thinking, to find answers (or even to cry out the emperor has no clothes), is a great asset to an organization; many seem to feel that this causes mistakes the company cannot afford. So, what do manager's do? They instill fear and highly restrictive procedures that thwart creative thought and eventually... fear of ever making a decision.
The Milgram Obedience Experiment, and the Stanford Prison experiment, teach us that the person to stand up and state this is 'wrong' is the exception...not the rule. The culture of an organization can breed either free thinking and discourse, or fear of reprisal.
In one experience, related to me, a manager stated that he didn't want his staff to "touch anything they shouldn't" and broke down the training into a manual a first grader would use. I am all for providing learners with information to help them be successful; but, when we break down the task to the nth degree we breed out their ability to reason and find answers themselves. They then become paralyzed and would rather ask and have someone else take responsibility for the decision. This slows progress and, in some situations, it could cost much more than just a few dollars off the bottom line.
Along with this corporate resistance to staff members making independent decisions, is the mentality that "training will fix it." If a corporation's staff is told what to do, and how to do, each piece of their job, they are going to have to understand that training will NOT always fix the problem.
Let's take a new application just downloaded from the app store, of your choice. Do you receive "training" on how to use your banking app? No, and this is about managing your money! Do you receive training on how to play Words with Friends? No. Sure, many of these applications do have links to rules or commonly asked questions, but they also assume that if you want to use these apps you will "figure it out." This is applied critical thinking. I have touted the brilliance of Jane McGonigal's book "Reality is Broken" time and time again. She speaks to how gaming creates critical thinking and if we embrace that paradigm shift and help staff members become empowered and able to understand the reasons behind the policies and procedures we follow each day.
Sure it is a leap to trust employees. However, the lack of trust, of employees, breeds contempt and fear. Those who feel valued and trusted will return the positive feelings through hard, and diligent, work.
Caryn Morgan, corporate trainer, obtained her Masters Degree in Adult Education and Training