Top Post Series of 2019: Leading in Context Blog

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The Top Post Series for last year on the Leading in Context Blog this year reflected the challenges of applying ethical thinking and decision-making to complex problems.

This series answers the important question “How do we analyze and understanding the multiple connected variables in a changing context to make responsible choices? Today I’ll share a quote from each post in the series that will give you an overview of the topic.

Here’s the most popular Leading in Context Blog series of 2019 – 

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making  

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 1)

Complex issues just can’t be deconstructed and understood using shallow thinking. The meaningful insights are only found below the surface.

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 2)

“Without seeing the context – a broad and sweeping view of the issue we are discussing or trying to resolve and factors in the environment that affect it – we are just describing or trying to solve a SUBSET of the real issue.”

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 3)

“Complexity has become a way of life. To make ethical decisions, we must embrace it and incorporate it into our thinking processes. That means digging into issues until we understand their multiple dimensions, connections, and contradictions.”

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 4)

Treating everyone well means going beyond the superficial level, and beyond token gestures of concern, to offer the same high level of care and concern that we extend to our trusted groups.”

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 5)

“By embracing change, and “trimming our sails” to make incremental adjustments, we can stay in ethical waters as the tides and currents change.” 

The Complexity of Ethical Thinking and Decision Making (Part 6)

“Once you do the work to understand the context, you’re never done. Change is continuous. The ripple effect created by economic and social change in one time zone rapidly impacts life in another.”

This timely series includes the practical steps for upgrading ethical decision-making in your board rooms and training rooms this year. 

 

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Systems Thinking: Using the 5 Whys

By Linda Fisher Thornton

In my Applied Ethics Class last fall, I introduced my students to the Five Whys. This is a simple and valuable tool for getting to the root cause of problems. We may think we understand why something happened but when we “fix” whatever we think is the sole cause we don’t always get the intended result. The reason for that is that problems tend to have multiple causes. They happen in the context of multiple processes. Singling out one “cause” is rarely sufficient for understanding what really happened.

I’m sharing these resources to help you improve your thinking. Even if you are already familiar with the 5 Whys, you will find the video on the multiple causes of the sinking of the Titanic compelling.

Using the 5 Whys

First, review the Key Concepts of Systems Thinking and the Levels of Systems Thinking Maturity at Thwink.org. 

Second, watch this MindTools video on the 5 Whys and read the article which explains the origin of the method.

Third, learn about root cause analysis at Tableau.com, paying particular attention to the example of the 5 Whys.

Fourth, watch this Think Reliability video on How to Conduct a 5-Why. (Exploring Why the Titanic Sank)

How To Use This Technique

The 5 Whys is relevant in any setting where you need to fully understand why something happened. Use it when people come to you for help with problems. Share it with your project team. Use it to begin to unravel society’s biggest problems and identify solutions. Using the 5 Whys reveals a much more complex landscape than we can see with a “cause and effect” mentality.

Thwink.org shares Einstein’s insight on the kind of thinking we need: “A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels” — Albert Einstein. Using techniques like the 5 Whys will help us adapt in a world of increasing complexity and change. As our problems increase in complexity, so must our thinking.

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