Unit VIII Reflection Paper
BSL 4080 Creative Thinking and Problem Solving
Columbia Southern University
This paper will present ideas regarding how critical and creative thinking would assist in solving problems within a hypothetical organization. It will discuss how these ideas can drive positive strides toward the organization’s mission by changing at least one roadblock that is limiting or slowing progress within its ranks. This reflective paper will discuss approaches by leadership that support teamwork and how our faux law enforcement agency is able to overcome common barriers to creative thinking. Finally, it will close by relating what lessons can be learned via a hypothetical exercise such as this and how, though best practices, I can choose to apply these lessons toward real-world affiliations in my professional life.
Before we can embrace and fully appreciate the input of our organization’s critical thinkers, we must not limit ourselves to ideas or solutions solely from those who are the loudest and participate the most. It is often said that those decisions or changes within an organization that are coupled with buy-in from the troops are easiest to achieve and implement (Kouzes & Posner, 2007). An underlying understanding as to why a change needed to be made or how a decision is going to impact the core members is more easily accepted when those effected members took part in driving the change or decision. To better achieve a higher rate of participation that fosters a creative environment, we must first be aware of the barriers critical thinking. By sharpening our team’s critical thinking abilities, the members become more independent thinkers and less susceptible to narrow-minded individuals within the group who may attempt to dominate the discussion or push a particular agenda (Boss, 2017).
Boss further explains in Think; Critical Thinking and Logic Skills for Everyday Life (2017) that by understanding the three levels of thinking; experience, interpretation, and analysis we are able to recognize and overcome undue resistance brought up within the discussions. While healthy debate and exchange is vital to moving discussions forward in a positive manner, resistance is the use of an immature defense mechanism that is nonanalytic, impulsive, and/or rigid. When certain members do not want to be proven wrong or if they feel overwhelmed, they will likely deploy resistance such as this to move the needle away from themselves. The advanced supervisor will recognize this and be able to redirect the task(s) at hand toward the group. This action then relieves the anxiety the individual is experiencing and reacting to. The resistance is eliminated and positive strides can again be taken toward the shared goal.
Other leadership strategies for fostering a positive creative thinking atmosphere should not be underestimated nor overlooked. As Aadil Vora discussed during a recent TedTalk video, it is important to not only push ourselves and our subordinates to think outside the box, it is just as important to think from within the box (Tedx Talks, 2015). When the effective leader eliminates the limitations his/her team is facing, they are enabled to go in directions previously blocked or not attempted. Those roadblocks could be procedural, bureaucratic, territorial, or even physical and environmental. By providing members the ability to thrive in a place or fashion that was previously closed off to them, the proactive leader can better utilize untapped sources; all multiplied and on-point toward the same goal.
Bradford & Cohen’s 1983 Managing for Excellence points out that all future development demands direct communication. They explain that an open superior-subordinate relationship increases the communication flow in both directions; the manager explains what he/she is looking for in terms of achieving the departmental mission. The team member then produces avenues for getting there without fear of some sort of punishment if the mere idea is seen as ineffective or impossible. When these barriers to creative thinking are brought down, all sorts of differing ideas are possible. Some may be acted upon and some may not, but the point is the idea and free exchange of possibilities exists. If the communication is not open and only flows one way, the manager is, in essence, only managing him/herself. The superior’s annoyance of something not being done his or her way is exactly what limits the sharing of overall responsibility and team ownership.
In our hypothetical law enforcement agency, departmental heads have noticed a decrease in proactive officer activity and are looking for ways to increase it following complaints from citizens. The Chief’s office has received many calls complaining that officers are not pulling over speeders, just driving by drunks sleeping on the sidewalk, and watching people loiter around darkened corners at night which makes shoppers uncomfortable. In this all too often scenario, the typical response would be a directive to shift supervisors demanding x-amount of officer initiated activity logged before each officer’s end of shift. Officers not logging the requested activity would be first spoken to and then actions, to include discipline, could be imposed in a progressive fashion for future violations of this one-way directive. Many, if not most, of the officers would comply and increase their activity in response. Because they are technically being forced to do it this way, the chances of personnel complaints and even excessive force complaints go up. In addition, these officers who are not emotionally invested in the solution, will most likely curtail this proactivity once the sergeant reduces the pressure and things would again go back to some sort of normal thereafter; a normal that resulted in decreased activity and increased calls to the Chief.
A courageous and forward thinking supervisor would open the communication line and seek input from the officers as to why self-initiated activity had slowed to such a pace that led to the situation they find themselves in. The responses could prove to be enlightening and highlight the underlying issue. By incorporating the entire team into the solution, with assurance from the supervisor that the underlying issue(s) would also be addressed, positive moves forward can occur. Activity increases and the Chief can answer the complaints of the citizens. Moreover, by overcoming the traditional barriers, the buy-in leads to sustained productivity along with a sense of ownership of the problem; a pride in work ethic that realizes advantages bi-directionally. The officers are now proactive stakeholders in the solution as well as having their underlying issue(s) tended to by management.
Through communication and a shared vision, I can apply these tools in a real-world atmosphere to better understand, and work more closely with, those below me. By utilizing an entire team with shared goals and objectives, we can overcome multiple issues or singular problems as they arise (Bradford & Cohen, 1983). Through the realization that resistance can merely be a way of not communicating dissatisfaction, or even anxiety, I can better involve those displaying the same in varying ways. By pinpointing resources and not only thinking outside the box, but in-fact getting inside the box with my subordinates, I can eliminate those barriers limiting or blocking progress. In doing so, the department’s mission is not only in-sight, but on-target.
Boss, J. A. (2017). THiNK: Critical thinking and logic skills for everyday life (4th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
Bradford, D., & Cohen, A. R. (1983). Managing for Excellence. John Wiley & Sons: New York.
Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2007). The leadership challenge. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-
TEDx Talks. (2015, May 7). Trick your mind into being creative | Aadil Vora | TEDxNSU
[Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xWa3Ok2e94
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