Sunday, August 26, 2012

Critical Thinking - A Definition

Critical thinking is disciplined, self-directed thinking which uses point of view, purpose, questions, information, data, implications and consequences, assumptions, concepts, and interpretation and inference. When critical thinking skills are applied, I arrive at cogent, logically consistent, and empirically and experientially adequate conclusions or solutions.  According to Wikipedia, critical thinking can be traced in Western thought to the Socratic method of Ancient Greece and in the East, to the Buddhist kalama sutta and Abhidharma. The following YouTube video introduces Socrates, who wrote nothing of his background or philosophy (it was all documented by one of his most famous students – Plato).  His style of seeking the truth or the right course of action by questioning was credited with the beginning of critical thought in the West. As outlined in Wikipedia, his pupils learned to use critical thinking by ascertaining the right questions to determine whether claims to knowledge could be rationally justified with clarity and logical consistency.

An Introduction to Socrates

The point of critical thinking is to improve life (or the lives of others) by choosing the right thing to do, the best course of action, or the truth as best understood (truth being defined as that which adequately describes reality).

Over the course of this week in “virtual conversations” with several of my colleagues and professors, I have come to a couple of realizations to help me grow as a thinker. First, the use of material and perspectives that don’t fit neatly into my conclusions is vital to the process of critical thinking. These “out of my box” perspectives challenge the outcome by forcing me to consider other concepts that weren't in my realm of thought. As an example, in one of the “dialogs” on bias detection, one of my colleagues, Larry Taylor, suggested the use of Gestalt therapy as an approach. However, I have a bias against the use of perceptions and feelings as indicators of reality. The following YouTube video is an example of how perceptions are not always accurate.

Perceptions Can Fool!

After reading the material that Mr. Taylor included in his posting, in particular his reference to G. Yontef's work with Gestalt therapy, what I had not seen before because of my own bias, is that feelings and perceptions as a part of a larger system of thought do have their place in validating reality. Further, the larger system of concepts used by Yontef, Inclusion, Presence, Commitment to Dialog, and Living the Dialog are integral to Gestalt therapy and have a high degree of correspondence to the process we’re going through as a class to develop of our critical thinking capabilities. In thinking critically about thinking, biases and assumptions can be so subconscious that I don’t always see what needs to be challenged. Our dialog, as a class, is helpful to discover those areas. It’s a lesson that critical thinking can’t take place in the “box” of  just my own experiences and concepts.

The second realization is that questioning and self-adjustment are not “events” but part of a process for me. As an admirer of Dr. Edward Deming and his concepts around continuous improvement., I realized there is a strong correlation between his concepts and the critical thinking process of self-adjustment (as a response to questioning and reflection).  Dr. Deming proposed that quality comes not merely by inspection and sampling of particular steps of production, but through a commitment to a continuous process of quality improvement at the system level. He also pointed out that a “system” cannot understand itself.  Any transformation requires a view from outside. So it is with questioning and self-adjustment in the “system” of critical thinking. Questioning is facilitated by an “outside” view of my concepts, principles, and conclusions.  This process of transformation helps “[me] to pull away from [my] current practices and beliefs and move into [a] new philosophy without a feeling of guilt about the past."

The roles of questioning and self-adjustment in refining my thinking and getting to “quality” processes are outlined by Paul and Elder in their article Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life (Paul, R. & Elder, L. (2001).  They make a case for maturing as a critical thinker by using nine strategies in a fluid process of constant exercise, reflection, practicing, questioning and adjustment.  Among the tools they suggest using, Reshaping [My] Character, Dealing with [My] Ego, Redefining the Way [I] See Things, and Analyzing Group Influences in [My] Life, all intersect at the continuous improvement processes of questioning, reflection, and adjustment. 

Over the coming weeks, I will endeavor to use conscious efforts to get out of my “box”, and to solicit questions which, upon reflection and internalization, help me to adjust in ways that get to the best path forward.

Paul, R. & Elder, L. (2001). Modified from the book by Paul, R. & Elder, L. (2001). Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life. Retrieved from

Yontef, G. (1993). Awareness, dialog and process.  Gestalt therapy: An introduction. Retrieved from:

Wikipedia: Critical Thinking. Retrieved from

Wikipedia: W. Edwards Deming.  Retrieved from:

YouTube Febreze Commercials.

YouTube: Socrates - Encyclopedia Channel. Retrieved from

Sunday, August 12, 2012


My name is Mike Felix and I am a student in the doctoral program for Media Psychology at Fielding Graduate University. I currently work for a global telecommunications company and I reside in Dallas Texas. I’ve been married for 38 years and have three grown children and five grandkids. Whoever said “if I had known grandchildren were this muchfun, I’d have had them first”, was absolutely right!

I’d like to tell you a bit about myself and what got me to this point in my journey:

I’m the oldest of five kids, and while neither of my parents went to college, around our house, learning something new every day was a way of life. This philosophy would be a recurring theme in my career. For me, learning something new has always been about finding the best-in-class, being inquisitive, and learning from them. Early on in my career, I learned that to survive in the world of technology, one had to keep moving – embrace change, learn new things, acquire new skills, and find good mentors (when I graduated from engineering school, the personal computer had not yet been invented!). To further make the point on the need to adopt to change in the world of technology, here is a look at technology adoption as a function of the number of years to reach an audience of 50 million:

# of Years to Reach an Audience of 50 million

For more than 35 years, I have had a very successful career as a student of business, behavior, and technology. I have learned from and have been mentored by best-in-class: engineers and technologists, business executives and leaders, investment bankers, and an organizational psychologist. Along the way, each new season of learning brought an opportunity to reach back and bring forward relevant experiences and apply them in new ways. Several times, over the course of my career, I have “re-invented” myself by learning something new, applying it to a new horizon, and putting myself in a position to lead. And now that my experience counts for something, I mentor others by passing on what I’ve learned to help them succeed.

However, my interests in learning lie not only within the realm of business, but in my extra-curricular activities, as well.  I love to learn new ways to cook and new dishes to cook; I love to learn about wines from around the world, and; I love to learn playing guitar. While I wouldn't consider myself as "accomplished", I have been a session musician on two separate albums - guitars and harmonicas. I love good blues music, but am attracted to a wide range of genres.  I'm a sucker for almost any great guitar playing, and love to learn by emulating great guitarists – B.B. King, Robert Cray, Eric Clapton, and Mark Knopfler to name a few.  When I'm not exercising or reading, I am generally in my music studio, attempting to learn something new on the guitar.  I've found that no matter how good one believes they are, there's always so much more to learn!

My journey into media psychology began with a nudge and challenge from a dear friend in the field of media psychology. At the time, I was the president of an operating unit of a telecom company, taking the company through a couple of re-branding efforts over my nine years there (although I had taken two other companies through re-branding efforts in my early turn-around days, “social media” was not even a term of art in those days). I was able to see first-hand, the link between my behavior (and any of my employees’ behavior) and my (or their) personal brand, as well as the link between our collective personal brands and our corporate brand.

It was during this time that I developed an interest in understanding the intersection of corporate brands and the new media, and the interplay between the two. I have witnessed the last half decade give way to the meteoric rise in the use of social media and their under-lying enabling technologies. Even though this Youtube video is now 2 years old, it very well makes the point on the explosion of social media and their enabling technologies:


   Convergence: Trends in technology  (  Fall 2010)

Attempting to ride this rising tide, long-established brands are experimenting with and employing new media in an effort to move from being perceived as impersonal, monolithic brands and to re-establish themselves and re-connect as caring and personal brands – some, as a reflection of the collective “personal brands” of the people who work for them.  As the lines between entertainment and marketing, self-promotion and public relations, news and opinion, and personal and mass communications have become increasingly blurred, there has emerged a broadening horizon of causes and effects to explore. I want to be in a place that will provide the framework for me to be inquisitive, to discover and to gain new insights and understanding to the evolving world of corporate brands - where professors and colleagues will encourage me to find and ask the insightful questions.

While I don’t have professional experience in the field of psychology, nor am I a rabid user of social media (I'm a reluctant Facebook user and get most of my connections through LinkedIn and AT&T's internal social media site, “t-Space”), I have directed and deployed the use of social media in successful advertising and re-branding campaigns. That said, I believe that FGU’s reputation for the early recognition of the growing importance of media psychology to our society and culture, and its sustained leadership in this field, make this the right place and time for me to expand my horizons and will allow me an opportunity to once again learn from best-in-class. Having witnessed, first-hand, the work and passion of one Fielding’s faculty members, I’m confident that the Media Psychology program’s professors and faculty will challenge me to learn new things and, with the relevant pieces of my experience, help me apply them in new ways in the marketplace.