Bloom’s Taxonomy, a descriptive learning model introduced by Benjamin Bloom in 1949 to define levels of the cognitive domain of learning, is utilized by educators to help them understand the intellectual level at which students are capable of working. By understanding this information, teachers can establish critical thinking expectations of their students. 

But what is the cognitive capacity for critical thinking across business organizations? After all, adults learn in much the same way as students. Whether in an educational or business setting, constant learning takes place. The term “critical thinking” is bantered throughout many organizations as something they desire, but defining expectations often stops there. Businesses who desire to grow their capacity for critical thinking and learning must understand the expectations they set through their organizational culture. 

The below diagram, when translated to a business setting, could be described in a manner that drives information management, meeting agendas, and decision making. Examining each of the levels from the perspective of private industry helps provide additional clarity, particularly when considered through the idea of a person’s overall level of responsibility. 

Consider each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy:

Knowledge experts are experts at finding information for the organization. Their ability to collect information, capture it, and share it with others plays an essential role in keeping the organization informed of trends, updates, and measures of performance. In a world where data analystics plays an important role in measuring success, the knowledge expert is on the frontline.

Comprehension experts are often the managers of the knowledge experts. While the knowledge expert collects the data or collates it from a data collection service, the comprehension expert builds the data tables that help the organization look at the data in a meaningful way. They see the data first through the lens of the organization, understand its importance, and place it in a chart or diagram that translates it into meaning. When those monthly KPI’s come in, these folks first bring it to the attention of others. In smaller organizations, comprehension and knowledge experts are often the same person.

Application experts use the data to solve problems. If a company had a control room where new information was used to make small implementation corrections, these would be the teammates who adjust the dials. They see the data, understand its use with the help of the comprehension expert, and help the company address problems to get pointed in the right direction. Like comprehension and knowledge experts, application experts reside at the management level or below in the organization.

Analysis experts are managers. They see the data that is collected, assimilate the translation of the comprehension expert, see the course corrections of the application expert, and assess if the corrections will have the desired effect or if there may actually be bigger problems others need to know. They look for positive trends to allow the company to leverage opportunity, and negative trends that indicate the possibility the team may need to consider changes in the current course of action. They are empowered to make the changes they deem necessary based on their experience and expertise.

Synthesis experts stay above the wave tops of the daily problems of an organization. While the application experts make small adjustments to organizational procedures and methods, and analysis experts keep an eye on trends, the synthesis experts stay focused on the future and the vision of the senior leaders of the organization. At this level of the organization, synthesis experts are the lowest level where small adaptations in the marketplace may cause them to take pause before moving forward. They trust the analysis, comprehension, and knowledge experts to make the small adjustments to the direction of the company to keep things moving in the correct direction. They rarely look at the raw data but if they do, it is only briefly to use their expertise to validate the decisions of those below them. They examine everything that is happening internally to the team, externally in the marketplace, and the direction the company is headed. They have the unique ability to bring it all together and synthesize ideas about how the future will play out.

Evaluation experts are the most senior leaders of a company. They are responsible for the strategic decision making of the organization and have the authority to make the decisions. No one else in the company carries this authority. They must ensure they focus on this level of decision-making, evaluating ideas, solving strategic problems, and making important judgement calls. They must be careful to not do the job of anyone below them in the pyramid, because no one else can do their job. If they get trapped into a meeting discussing the analysis of data, they may be doing the organization a disservice because that means no one is focused on their unique prevue.

Synthesis and evaluation experts make strategic decisions for the company. These decisions require laser focus because no one else has the expertise, responsibility, and authority to judge those types of decisions. While the direction and types of decisions vary based on the conditions, things decision makers must consider include decisions on the formulation of new ideas, the implementation of new directions, and determining the consequences of organizational decisions. These types of decisions are made by only the senior leaders of an organization who have the ability to remain focused on the long-term vision of the organization.

Bloom’s Taxonomy provides a useful method to consider the important and unique role of decisions at varying levels of an organization. In a world where data analytics has risen as an important tool that informs decisions, the responsibility of senior leaders to consider all possible outcomes and remain focused on the long-term strategy and vision of the company remains on their shoulders. Understanding the striation of data management, processing, and decision making in the modern business world can help senior leaders focus their time and energy at the appropriate levels, delegate data management and decision making authorities, and ensure they manage their time and energy to make strategic decisions only they can make.