critical thinking

Critical Thinking at TCU Neeley: Consider all the Alternatives

People want answers and they want them fast. But we know that success in business and life depends on being intellectually curious, patient, introspective, creative, logical and humble. 

July 28,  2016

By Elaine Cole

[Excerpt from Neeley Magazine Summer 2016]  - “We are hardwired to make decisions as quickly and easily as possible, but we should always question assumptions, take a step back and get perspective,” Management Professor Abbie Shipp tells TCU MBA students. “Employers want it from you, and we here at TCU Neeley want it from you.”  

Critical thinking and decision-making prowess are top skills employers expect from MBAs, according to a 2013 survey by GMAC. In a survey by the American Association of Colleges and Universities, 93% of recruiters said the capacity to think critically, communicate clearly and solve problems is more important than any undergraduate major.

Shipp and Rob Rhodes, professor of professional practice in business law, are co-directors of TCU Neeley’s critical thinking initiative. In class after class and case after case, TCU Neeley students hone their critical thinking skills. The practice is deliberate, with specific exercises, full concentration and guided feedback.

“Critical thinking is challenging but it can be learned, and the best way to learn critical thinking is to practice, fail, see where your thinking is limited, and then try again,” Shipp said.

Practicing critical thinking isn’t about finding the right answers, it’s about raising students’ awareness of how they think.

“People have a tendency to analyze fast, come to immediate answers and then steadfastly reject any evidence that points to the contrary. A huge portion of my class is training students not to do that,” Rhodes, a former attorney, said. “They take what they have learned and apply it 15 to 20 times in every class to different scenarios to produce outcomes. They aren’t memorizing a definition but practicing how their knowledge is applied to the facts they are given.”

TCU Neeley faculty members devised a tool to help students hone their critical thinking skills: the FROG model: F – Frame the issue. R – Recognize possible approaches. O – Optimize the focus. G – Grow by reflecting back.

The FROG model helps students keep their brains from falling back into old patterns of thinking. It’s a meta-tool to encourage students to look at everything, to interact, ask questions and come up with solutions.

Blake Rustmann MBA ’16 said the FROG model was an asset to his Neeley & Associates consulting project for the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth. “The FROG model helped us define the scope of the project, recognize the different approaches we could take and construct a solution they could use to grow strategically.”

It also allowed Blake to demonstrate his critical thinking expertise to his internship employer, which he leveraged into a full-time offer.

Simply stated: critical thinking is critical to success.

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