Tagged: decision-making

The art of critical thinking

albertEntrepreneurs need to make decisions, create strategies, plan projects and constantly face risks in order to manage day-to-day business challenges. In a global business environment, alertness and the right pace is the key to success. Critical thinking is the most important skill needed by entrepreneurs that can help them move ahead consistently and diligently.

The fundamental aspect of critical thinking is a clear and rational thinking process involving critique. The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defines critical thinking as the “intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.”

When you think through a business problem, your thought process is naturally motivated by biases, such as your point of view and your assumptions about the situation. Such ideas and biases affect your reasoning. If you let your biases drive your thought process and overlook blind spots in your logical thinking, you’ll unintentionally make decisions filled with flaws.

So what is the right method?

Here is a step-by-step process that can help you get better in critical thinking:

1. Knowledge or insight: The first step is to ask the right questions that can help deep understanding about the problem. The questions in this stage should be open-ended to allow the chance to discuss and explore main reasons. At this stage, two main questions need to be addressed: What is the problem? And why do we need to solve it?

2. Understanding: At this step you understand the material read, heard or seen. In understanding, you make the new knowledge that you have acquired your own by relating it to what you already know. The better you are involved with the information, the better you will understand it. The best way to know if you have understood and comprehended something is by defining what you have read or heard into your own words.

3. Application: This is the step where you build a linkage between the information, your understanding and resources available. An example would be to use Mind maps to analyze the situation, build a relation between it and the core problem, and determine the best way to move forward and take action.

4. Analysis: This is the stage when you deep dive into the problem and divide it into smaller sections or workable actions, so that you have a clear understanding of how ideas are ordered, related, or connected to other ideas and steps.

5. Synthesis: At this stage you put it all together. A decision should be formed about how to solve the problem and the initial routes to follow to take this decision into action. Synthesis involves the ability to put together the parts you analyzed with other information to create a solution.

6. Get going and take action: The result of critical thinking should be transferred into clearly defined actionable steps. If the decision involves a specific project or team, a plan of action could be implemented to ensure that the solution is adopted and executed as planned.

Last but not the least; it is highly recommended that you consider implications of your options and decisions. Every choice and action has consequences, and you can improve your decision-making by anticipating what those might be. In order to do that, try to look at the problem from all different viewpoints and angles and repeat the above steps if needed.

How important is your DATA?

DATAAn entrepreneur should be comfortable with and knowledgeable about the data that leads their organization. It is always important to know if the data that you work with, governs you or do you govern it!

We all have a notion that numbers (DATA) speak for themselves, but are we actually sure about the facts we are looking at?

The data litmus test – Answer “yes” or “no” to the following statements:

– When I receive a report, the first thing I do is scan through all the data to see what the report is telling me.
– I make sure my presentations and papers are full of charts, graphs, and tables.
– I diligently read all the reports that I receive, in order to figure out the answers.
– I use standard, corporate reports to make decisions and take actions.

If you answered “yes” to more than three of these statements, you would be surprised that you might not be as effective as you think, and therefore your DATA is governing you.

A good business owner would thoroughly understand their businesses and the story that is unfolding within it. They combine their understanding and intuition with data to create a complete overall objective. Well, good entrepreneurs would always know that DATA is just one of the many inputs used to make effective decisions and take action.

Here are a few tips to govern your data:

1. Never look at your data blindly: Always use a question or hypothesis to guide your search.

2. Try to build your own reports: Most corporate reports are created by someone whose job is to make reports, not run your business. Those reports are often generic and not geared toward the decisions and actions you must take.

3. Ask the right questions: There is no such thing as an absolute, “right,” or “complete” set of data. Ensure that you’ve asked the right questions and that your data leads to a logical solution.

4. Deduce and recommend. Figure out what the data means and share that. The sooner you can get to passing along a recommendation or interpretation, the faster you will move to decisions and actions.

5. Never forget the big picture. Any data you look at is just a piece of the full story. Instead of looking at the data in isolation, figure out how it ties to the bigger picture of your business.

Last but not the least, never be bias with your DATA and try to keep it in check. Use your bias to generate questions rather than determine answers. At the end of the day it is all about leading your data correctly, rather than letting your data lead and make decisions for you.

Social engineering is the art of psychological manipulation

Social engineeringSocial engineering in its most basic form is described as the art of psychological manipulation. It is generally associated with the context of security where a person is manipulated to perform a certain action or divulge confidential information. It could also be something as simple as breach of trust, confidence trick or a simple fraud.

There are many forms of social engineering and are generally associated with human decision-making. These acts typically occur when “bugs in the human hardware,” are exploited in various combinations to create an attack.

Here are a few to watch out for:

Phishing:

By far the most popular social engineering technique, it is an act of fraudulently obtaining private information. Usually, the phisher sends an e-mail that appears to come from a legitimate business—a bank, or credit card company—requesting “verification” of information and warning of some dire consequence if it is not provided. The e-mail usually contains a link to a fraudulent web page that seems legitimate—with company logos and content—and has a form requesting everything from a home address to an ATM card’s PIN.

Pretexting:

It is the act of creating and using an invented scenario (the pretext) to engage a victim in a way that increases the chance the victim will reveal information or perform certain actions. It most often involves some prior research or setup and the use of this information for imitation (e.g., date of birth, Social Security Number, etc) to establish legitimacy in the mind of the targeted victim. This technique is used to fool a business into disclosing customer information as well as by private investigators to obtain telephone records, utility records, banking records and other information directly from company service representatives.

Baiting:

This technique has been widely used in developed and underdeveloped countries. It uses physical media and relies on the curiosity or greed of the victim. Typically, the attacker leaves a malware infected floppy disk, CD ROM, or USB flash drive in a location sure to be found (elevator, bathroom , sidewalk, parking lot), gives it a legitimate looking and simply waits for the victim to use the device.

Tailgating:

This act involves an attacker, seeking entry to a restricted area secured by unattended, electronic access control, e.g. by RFID card, simply walks in behind a person who has legitimate access, hence the term “tail” gating.

With the coming of technology and systems, it is highly important for all entrepreneurs to secure their business and day-to-day transactions from such acts of confidence tricking and fraud. As a business, have you educated your employees recently on what information is safe to divulge and to whom they can divulge it? Understanding social engineering techniques can help you develop a plan for how to protect your business. Recognize the signs and protect yourself before it is too late!