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Thursday, 25 October 2007

Business Leadership Classes Have Really Gone Downhill


I signed up for a self-improvement class at work a couple of weeks ago and took the class this week. It was called Mental Models. I won't name the company or the instructor as it would be too identifying for this blog. But some of these same comments will be reserved for the evaluation form that my company will send me in a few days. Heh Heh Heh.

The class was advertised as an introduction to critical thinking and problem solving. Instead, I was subjected to 2 days of pop psychology, brain teasers, attempts by the instructor to sell his Multilevel Marketing scam, and his bizarre right-wing political theories. There were good tidbits of information buried within the class and the instructor was very entertaining, but far too much time was taken up by the instructor with his pseudo-scientific garbage.

I decided to search the internet for the company and the class to get an idea of the subject material for the class, and any background for the owner of the company and the instructors. A couple of the higher up management people at my company are very fundamentalist Christians and I wanted to see if there would be any bias in the class and the company selected.

Wow! Looking at the bio of the owner of the company, his customers are companies that I recognized as having a very heavy fundy orientation, and lots of articles in religious magazines. This does not mean that I would be subjected to conversion attempts or anything. I simply wanted the guy's background so I could understand where he was coming from, as well as identifying any bias in the information taught. This is something that I always do before taking a class.

The first day of the class went pretty good, but he gave only a very rudimentary introduction to critical thinking. This consisted only of identifing facts versus interpretations of facts. Nothing that I didn't already know before taking the class. And that was it for critical thinking. No logic and logical fallacies, no identifying bias, no skepticism, and no determining the validity of data and facts. There was a lot missing from this topic. But he did teach a lot of good techniques for listening to others and conflict resolution on the first day of the class.

But, he inappropriately advertised (trolled) for his MLM in the class at the start of the first day. I just ignored it and the exaggeration's that usually accompany those who try to suck others in this type of scam in order to enrich themselves. The MLM had something to do with expensive vitamin supplements or some such nonsense.

Day 2 is where the weirdness started. First, we had an assignment to determine facts versus interpretation in the news. I gave an example if bias in differing coverage of the fires here between Fox News and NBC and CNN. Showing how Fox New's bizarre theory of Al Quaeda fires was off the wall and the other new stations had the coverage of accidental and arson files. No sooner than I mentioned the word "bias" as a factor in interpretation, the instructor cut me off and went to the next person. Well, I thought "Perhaps I'm just off topic and he only wanted cover facts versus interpretation, and not get into bias yet."

Then we had a break about an hour later. I came back from the restroom and the instructor was talking about Hillary Clinton having massive amounts of lesbian affairs. WTF did this have to do with critical thinking? All it showed was that he uncritically accepted rumors as fact, thus ruining his credibility to me. What was next? Reptoids in the White House basement? Twin Tower conspiracy theories? But this was only the start of the insanity that was to come in the afternoon.

After lunch, we had a couple of good exercises on talking out problems, resolving issues and identifying emotional points that could hinder problem solving. All well and good, until he made the remark about management authority. He said "Well, if you can't solve the problem or change something wrong, then just let management take care of it. Then you could just wash your hands of it and it would be someone else's fault."

Talk about authoritarianism in a nutshell. Just submit to authority and all would be well. It was all I could do not to roll my eyes and go take a restroom break or something. The instructor said something interesting in the previous day about anger and frustration being the result of violated values. Well, this advice certainly violated my values (integrity being a value I hold dear). It was yet another case of a fundamentalist Christian seeming to have a lower standard of ethics than my own. And what about other options? I can easily think of a few much better options: 1) call the company ethics or legal department, 2) alerting the customer (anonymously) or 3) quit.

But the highlight came in the last hour of the class and left me absolutely speechless. He started shilling The Secret of all things. That bunch of repackaged bullshit, pseudoscience, and prosperity gospel crap. That all we had to do was simply want something and it would be ours. If this wasn't a work class I would have challenged him by asking him "If I get cancer, then all I have to do is simply wish it away?" I left the class totally disgusted. He certainly won't get a good review from me.

But perhaps he was looking for suckers that would fall for his bullshit. If they would fall for The Secret, then perhaps they would fall for his MultiLevel Marketing scam. You know, I like being skeptical, it really helps you avoid getting taken advantage of. Perhaps I should of hung around to see who was getting sucked into the scam.

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