Supervision is the act of overseeing, inspection or oversight. It can be defined as management by overseeing the performance or operations of a person or group. It can also be defined as the active administering and overseeing of all functions of a particular group of people. Functions of supervision can be categorized into 3;
- Administrative; involves the promotion and development of good standards of work; management of practice with the policies of an organization and assurance of a smooth running and efficient work force.
- Educational; involves the development of each individual worker in a manner which will steer them to realize their possibilities of usefulness.
- Supportive; involves the development and preservation of good working relationships within the work force.
A police supervisor is responsible for the day to day performance of a group of officers to which he/she is assigned.This is a person who has experience in the activities of the group and whose work is to guide the group towards achieving the police department’s goals and objectives and to ensure that all members of the team are productive. They also seek to solve problems that may arise. Because they are in direct contact with the operative officers, they must interpret, apply and make meaningful directives and requirements laid down by their own superiors. Essentially, the managerial aspect of the supervisors work is their responsibility of monitoring and improving other officers’ work. The effectiveness of these supervisors is determined by their capacity to advance the work of others.
Supervisors therefore make important contributions to the capacity of police department in order for them to achieve their objectives. The functions of supervisors have traditionally been to command and control but they are also expected to form and sustain work units with members who are really committed to the department and its goals. They are therefore key to accountability, performance and vitality within the police department.
Effective police supervision calls for both critical and creative thinking as the supervisors try to create a harmonious working environment within the organization while at the same time trying to solve problems and directing the officers’ efforts towards achieving the set objectives. The manner in which police supervisors address problems and other work related issues greatly influences the performance and well-being of a group or team.
Critical and Creative thinking comparisons
Thinking is the art or process of exercising the mind in order to make a decision or make a mental logical choice between options. Creative thinking is the ability to generate new ideas inside or across field of knowledge. It involves the individual or collective behaviors of incubation, insight, evaluation, elaboration and communication. It involves bringing together existing ideas into new concepts or configurations, developing new properties for already existing things or discovering something entirely new.
Creative thinking is a procedure that is used to come up with ideas which are unique, useful, were nonexistent and those that are worthy of more elaboration. Thinking creatively enables one to come near tasks, problems and situations with honesty to alternatives. Critical thinking on the other hand is reflective reasoning about beliefs or actions. Basically, it is a way of determining whether a certain claim is true or false.
As defined by The National Council for Critical thinking 1987, critical thinking is the disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing and assess information collected from or generated by inspection, experience, manifestation, reasoning or communication as a guide to belief and action. It is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which efforts to reason at the uppermost level of superiority in a fair minded manner. People thinking critically always attempt to live rationally and reasonably.
As defined by Edward Glaser, critical thinking involves an attitude of being disposed to consider in a thoughtful manner the problems that come up within the range of ones experiences. Also involves knowledge of the techniques of logical query and reasoning and some skills in applying these methods. Generally, it requires ability to recognize problems, find workable means of meeting these problems, collect applicable information, identify unstated assumptions and values, comprehend and use language with accuracy and clarity, interpret data, evaluate arguments, identify the existence of logical associations between propositions, draw warranted conclusions, test the conclusions arrived at and re-construct patterns of principle on the source of wider experience.
Critical thinking is therefore an important element in all professional fields including police supervision because it entails the watchful acquisition and elucidation of information and use of it to reach a well reasonable conclusion. Critical thinking will involve real analytical and methodical reasoning backed by data and other measures. It depends on facts that already exist, does not involve common sense and does not have room for wiggling out. It involves so many facts, so many figures, rules, regulations laws and big theories. This way a more rational or logical decision is reached.
In creative thinking, there are so many non-critical thoughts and many expressions that can be used. One can use more abstract venues or ideas in their own lives. Boundaries of creative thinking are unlimited and it is not locked on any set paradigm. It uses so many colorful and imaginative ways to express ideas and free flow of thoughts is encouraged . Critical thinking involves linear logic, like math. It is a way of stirring from one point to another and there is only one right answer to the starting point. It requires focus and deliberate effort and it cannot work during sleep. Creative thinking on the other hand is not linear. It flies around and eventually lands on a solution. One can sleep and still think creatively and wake up with a solution. Although it cannot be rushed, creative thinking can be prompted by various techniques and strategies like the ones discussed above.
Critical thinking and effective decision making
Police supervisors should use critical thinking skills on a daily basis to keep officers in line with the department’s goals and standards. It helps them to make decisions that are well thought out by analyzing specific situations, rational thoughts and observations and helps them find solutions in the most efficient and effective ways. For effective police supervision, various critical thinking skills may be used in order to come up with a good decision during problem solving. These may include;
Analytical skills; which supervisors use to help them look at the available information, are able to dissect it and come up or formulate solutions to problems. Clear cut decisions are made after dissecting and understanding situations, considering the likely solutions, constructing plans and increasing final resolutions for the benefit of the department.
Observation skills;the supervisor observes and reads the officers verbal and non-verbal communication as well as actions. For example frowning, smiling, or yawning. This way the supervisor can tell how well the officers are conversant with the information given.
Evaluating skills; these are used to keep track of progress on a job. The supervisor will consider the strengths and weaknesses of the officers and contrast the qualities of each individual so that they can make logical conclusions of what each one can handle. They also evaluate the progress of officers by following their day to day activities then comparing them to the departments’ goals and objectives.
Open mindedness; a supervisor will use critical thinking skills to evaluate junior staff and situations while at the same time also keeping an open mind regarding different points of view and opinions. This is by keeping discussions open as this will allow new ideas to emerge and will improve communication.
Creative thinking and decision making
In creative problem solving, the solution must solve the stated problem in a novel manner and it is reached independently. A solution is considered creative if components that are readily available are used. This means it will have characteristics such as using existing components without introducing anything new, use the problematic factor as the basis of the solution and involve a change of perspective. The techniques of creative problem solving may include;
Mental state shift, where a person’s mental state is shifted to one that fosters creativity; Problem reframing, which involves re-considering ones goals; Multiple idea facilitation, which aims at increasing the quantity of fresh ideas in trying to solve a problem; Inducing a change of perspective, that is, lead to a fresh perspective that causes a solution to become obvious.
Creative thinking is therefore described as thinking of many possibilities, thinking and experiencing in various ways, using different points of view, thinking of new and unusual possibilities and guiding in generating and selecting alternatives.
Critical thinking on the other hand is described as analyzing and developing possibilities to compare and contrast many ideas, refine and improve ideas, make effective and efficient decisions and provide a strong foundation for effective action.
What are the pros and cons of creative and critical thinking in decision making?
Critical thinking pros
It enables police supervisors to know how to separate facts from opinion, how to examine an issue from all side and how to make rational inferences without any bias. The officers have self-awareness to know the difference between rational thought based on careful consideration of issues rather than emotion.
Critical thinking promotes smartness and calmness among the police officers. They remain calm even in times of ambush enables them to determine when to react to an issue or not. They will approach everything with a healthy amount of skepticism. Police supervisors that lack this will assume that everything they hear is true.
Critical thinking is vital in time saving. If time is an important factor, police officers will consider the fastest method of achieving the goal. They will consider all options before acting on them via the most effective path.
Critical thinking comes up with a well thought out solution to a problem because all evidence and data is considered. It also brings in new ideas because when an issue comes up at the work place the police supervisors and officers will not make any assumptions before evaluating all the facts.
Critical thinking also fosters team work and promotes options. When police supervisors involve all members of the team in critical thinking more solutions to problems will come up.
Critical thinking may lead to undermining of authority because one may tend to question their superiors about certain issues at work. Also, sometimes officers will get caught in the sequential nature of critical thinking and exclude other forms of thinking. This is a disadvantage since creative thinking tends to produce invention and innovation. Also any conclusions have to be examined, tested and proven valid or otherwise hence may cause time waste.
Creative thinking pros
Creative thinking creates a curiosity pathway where the police supervisors and junior officers will be open to learning about a wide variety of issues. This way they enjoy learning about things they don’t know and question assumptions behind statements.
It also helps supervisors to identify problems where others have failed hence solving them.It also helps to develop a sense of self-worth and confidence that can give the police department a new outlook of things.
Creative thinking also promotes innovations and inventions bringing in new ideas to the police department. It also promotes better teamwork and team bonding as the members of the team brainstorm on certain issues. It also improves staff morale and happiness hence effective work.
There is a danger of generating too many ideas. This may be a disadvantage in terms of time management as the supervisor tries to compare all the ideas. They may also spend a lot of time on an idea to discover it is a dead end.
Creative thinking may also lead to similarities in design of work and decision making. There may also be a lack of ideas such that everyone will be worried about this lack of ideas that the opposite problem is ignored.
Critical and creative thinking versus employee performance and motivation
Critical thinking enables police supervisors to be critically aware of what is required of the work force by the police department’s policy and standards. They are always critically aware of the social context within which the junior officers live their lives. Both creative and critical thinking will enable the supervisors to be curious and analytical about the behaviors and actions of the people to whom they are providing service who in this case are members of the police force. It also enables the police supervisors to be analytical and ethical in the ways in which they handle officers personal issues, provide service or interventions in order to ensure they are of maximum effectiveness.
Good police supervisory work is dependent on rigorous and systematic thinking. Good supervision within such a positive organizational culture supports the development of analytical, critical and reflective thinking. Analysis should be ongoing throughout and research evidence can inform and enhance decision making.
Creative thinking and leadership style
In a busy work place such as the police department, time is limited. Supervisors are required to establish an environment that is conducive to creative thinking and problem solving. There are various leadership practices that foster creativity and include:
Intellectual challenge; where the supervisors can match the junior officers with the right problem solving experiences. These experiences will challenge them intellectually thus enhancing creativity because it supports expertise and intrinsic motivation.
Freedom to choose method; allows police supervisors to set up goals but should leave the team members to decide how to achieve them. Employees tend to be more creative when given the freedom to choose the method best for achieving a particular objective.
Supplying the right resources; they are important for enhancing creativity especially time and money. Setting time deadlines will trigger creative thinking because it’s a fair challenge. Groups also need to be funded to enhance creativity but it can also be achieved at little or no cost.
Effective design of work groups; they are likely to be creative when they are mutually supportive, have diverse backgrounds as well as perspectives. Cross fertilization of ideas will occur within the work force hence come up with various points of view and achieve creative solutions to problems.
Supervisory encouragement; police supervisors should strive to bring about creative problem solving so as to develop a safe environment that encourages officers. This may involve allowing them to challenge assumptions or to disagree with the leader. Whenever possible, supervisors should publicly commend creative thinking.
Organizational support; the entire police department including the managers and supervisors should encourage and support creative efforts. They should encourage information sharing and collaboration and this will lead to development of expertise needed for more opportunities of internal motivation.
Both critical and creative thinking should be employed for effective police supervision. While critical thinking will help to come up with the most rational solutions to a decision, creative thinking will open up the officer’s minds so that new ideas, inventions or innovations can be realized in the police department. Due to its characteristics, critical thinking affects decision making greatly where the police supervisors are asked to resolve a particular problem. It provides a useful method to evaluate all the solutions depending on available data. It appraises the relevance between hypotheses, their evidence and co-relation to the main problem. It is therefore a useful method to reach to a decision with a good level of confidence .
Creative thinking also plays a major role in decision making where innovative solutions are required. In this case the two processes can work together where the first one discovers new ideas while the second one tests the relevance of each idea logically. Critical thinking therefore gives the same level of importance to each theory hence all possible solutions are equally evaluated. This will result in better decisions, fewer mistakes and improve the level of collaboration among the police officers.
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