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Thursday, April 18, 2019

A Thinking Society

I have heard current international president Cathy Daugherty discuss the need for DKG to be a “thinking” Society and, frankly, I initially wondered what she meant by that comment. In an interesting article titled “What Makes a Thinking Organization” (2012), Kepner-Tregoe’s Director of Strategic Consulting, Sam Bodley-Scott, provided an interesting overview of the concept. He noted that organizations have a wealth of resources available nowadays—including impressive stores of data that can be mined for meaning. However, arguing for the importance of brainpower, Bodley-Scott noted, “But the simple truth is that whatever resources [organizations] have at their disposal, the only factor that will allow their deliberations to be more meaningful than yours is the speed and accuracy of their problem solving and decision making – in short, their ability to think.”

Bodley-Scott also explored the work of Daniel Kahneman (Thinking, Fast and Slow, 2011), who asserted that “our minds use two modes of thought: the automatic, instant, intuitive, involuntary responses provided by what he terms our ‘System 1’ thinking; and then the more controlled, effortful, analytical and considered thoughts supplied by our ‘System 2’ minds.” Clearly, System 1 thinking is easier than System 2 thinking, which makes it immediately more attractive--but its automaticity makes it vulnerable to the tendency to fall on past solutions for current problems. In DKG, in fact, such thinking may be at the root of the “But we’ve always done it this way” mindset that sometimes hinders change. System 1 thinking naturally gravitates to established rituals rather than to a difficult examination of issues and answers.

So, given the extraordinary wealth of brainpower available in DKG, shouldn’t we become more and more a thinking Society as opposed to a ritual-driven Society? Shouldn’t we elevate the focus of our efforts on personal and professional growth and education rather than obsessing over Society practices and routines? Shouldn’t we gather primarily to grow professionally and personally and to promote excellence in education—rather than to promote the Society and its rituals per se? When I founded DKG back in 1929, we did not have rituals or routines and were forced to engage in System 2 thinking to address the very real problems of women educators. Perhaps by returning to our roots as a thinking Society, we will keep forward moving ever.

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