What Business Leaders Should Know About Logic

Aristotle Logic education can reduce or eliminate the most costly and difficult challenges facing modern organizations. Our goal at the CLBC is to incorporate logic training into business education at every level and across all disciplines. Here are 7 things every business leader should know about logic:

  1. Logic is not the opposite of emotion. People use the same patterns of reasoning when they follow their heads as when they follow their hearts. Logic helps people make better decisions regardless of their objectives and motivations. Learning logic may even increase emotional intelligence and self awareness by enabling people to reason more clearly.
  2. Logic can and should be used as a common language to communicate requirements between business professionals and IT. Logic allows business professionals to express ideas clearly and in their simplest meaningful form. Ambiguity and imprecision are not possible with logic. Using logic to express requirements improves every stage of the system development life cycle. This reduces costs and improves outcomes.
  3. Business schools and employers report significant deficiencies of critical-thinking skills among students and employees, despite a prolonged focus on critical thinking in business education. We believe this is due to the decline of logic education during the 20th century. Effective reasoning is essential for critical thinking, and logic is essential for effective reasoning. Critical thinking is impaired without training in logic, and most schools, including business schools, do not provide training in logic.
  4. Logic literacy among educated adults is at a 900-year low. For most of modern history logic was considered the starting point for all further learning. In fact, teaching logic was one of the main reasons universities were created in the first place. Unfortunately, logic today is seen as a niche, specialized subject that only a small fraction of educated people know anything about. The standard of logic as a required subject for everyone ended with the education reforms of the late 19th and early 20th century. It is obvious now that this was a mistake.
  5. Logic is not only important for human reasoning, it also provides the basic operating principles of computers. Computers don't decrease the value of logic literacy, they increase it -- just as the printing press increased the value of standard literacy. But that value cannot be achieved unless schools start teaching logic again.
  6. Logic, like reading, is easy to learn but it does not come naturally, or even from experience. It must be taught and practiced. It can be self-taught, but many aspects of logic are non-intuitive and for most people they are easier to learn with a good instructor.
  7. The Center for Logic and Business Communication offers business-focused logic training from highly-rated instructors with university teaching experience. Contact us for more information about logic training for business and IT professionals.

Peter Cardon appointed Director of the Center for Logic and Business Communication

cardonDr. Peter Cardon brings world-leading expertise to our organization as the Vice President of the Institute and the Director of our Center for Logic and Business Communication.

Pete is also the Academic Director of the MBA for Professionals and Managers program at the USC Marshall School of Business, and one of only 3 full professors in the largest and oldest business communication department in the US. He is a former president of the Association for Business Communication, and the author of a leading textbook on business communication.

Welcome from the Director

The Institute for Logic and the Public Interest has filled a crucial need for today's business students by forming the Center for Logic and Business Communication to provide resources and direction on logic education in business. My work as a business communication professor, author, and MBA academic director convinces me that logic education is critically important for business students. Competency in logic underpins effective problem solving and successful communication. More broadly, logic education supports better learning in all disciplines, better decision making in professional and personal contexts, and better public discourse. I look forward to working with the Center and Institute to promote the study of logic at every level of business education.

Peter Cardon, PhD
Professor, Department of Business Communication
Academic Director, MBA.PM Program
Marshall School of Business
University of Southern California

TLA+ as a Business Communication Tool

A number of university business school programs, including one at the USC Marshall School of Business, are in the process of integrating classical logic into their degree requirements. Our research indicates that training in logic has significant benefits for business education, and we recommend that it be incorporated at every level and across all disciplines. The benefits include improved communication, critical thinking, problem solving, and the ability to use a logic-based tool like TLA+ to communicate requirements for business systems.

TLA+ is a free tool that allows users to express requirements that are precise and complete. Requirements expressed using TLA+ can also serve as permanent documentation that is precise, complete, and easy to update when systems change. It allows testing to be completely automated. In one case a bug was found 35 steps deep. This degree of thoroughness is impossible with human testing.

Businesses save time and money with TLA+ because it shortens the requirements process and helps engineers improve the efficiency and performance of their code. One engineer reported a 10x reduction in code when developing an operating system for a European spacecraft. Others have reported significant increases in performance and stability. Amazon has used TLA+ in at least 14 major systems.

When a requirement is expressed using TLA+ engineers do not need to understand anything about business knowledge, so they can focus completely on the code. Long and frequent interviews with IT to hash-out requirements become unnecessary. Outcomes when using TLA+ are virtually guaranteed to be superior.

With theses astonishing benefits it may seem surprising that industry adoption of TLA+ has been slow. Few business professionals are even aware of TLA+, and few engineers have ever received a requirement expressed with it. There are 2 main reasons for its low rate of adoption:

  1. TLA+ requires knowledge of classical logic, and the vast majority of business professionals and software engineers have never studied logic.
  2. It also requires detailed knowledge of the system subject matter.

In most, and possibly all cases where TLA+ has been used successfully, the subject-matter experts were also the engineers who created the systems – as was the case with the Amazon systems and the European spacecraft mentioned previously.

With business-focused systems, however, the subject-matter experts are not engineers, they are business professionals. But there is no reason business professionals, particularly business analysts and program managers, cannot also use TLA+ to express requirements for their own systems. They already have the detailed subject matter knowledge, the only obstacle is that most business professionals have never studied classical logic either.

But that is easy to fix. Logic is fairly simple for most educated people to learn. The challenge is to express detailed and specialized business knowledge using the simple principles of logic. It is important to recognize that logic is not a specialized technical subject, it is a general liberal art that is usually taught as introductory material in the philosophy departments at universities and even most community colleges. This is the kind of logic TLA+ is based on. Leslie Lamport, the creator of TLA+, says that engineers can learn to use it in about 3 weeks. We think business professionals can do it in the same amount of time.

The rules and principles of logic are static -- they never change. They are the same for everyone in every situation. Business knowledge, on the other hand, is not static, and is not the same for everyone in every situation. It can be highly specialized and is not always easy to learn. It can sometimes take years. So instead of asking engineers to thoroughly understand every detail of a complex range of specialized business knowledge, it makes far more sense for certain business professionals to take a course in logic and spend a couple of weeks to learn TLA+. The investment needed is small, and the potential returns are enormous.

Logic and the Organization of Information

frickeAuthor: Martin Frické
Publisher:  Springer (2012)

This book is not for everyone, but everyone should know why it is important. The author believes that logic is fundamental to the field of information science, but few if any others in his field recognize this important fact. He opens with a quote from 1929: “That the study of classification extends into logic… should not deter the educated librarian…”, and he discusses how Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz envisioned the use of logic to organize information in the 17th century. But Frické notes that "The monumental and authoritative Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, Third Edition, 2009, does not have an entry for logic in its 6,856 pages" (p 121).

Modern information scientists do not recognize the value of logic in their field because few of them have ever studied it. Information managers should be able to rely on information scientists for guidance on how to use logic to organize information, but they cannot. Deficiency of logic education is the root cause of the most difficult and costly challenges facing modern enterprise organizations.

With the decline of logic education during the 20th century it has become possible to earn a degree in almost any subject, including a PhD in information science, information management, or even computer science, without taking even a single introductory course in logic. This incredible fact highlights the irony of an advanced society that could not have developed without logic as the cornerstone of its education, but that now no longer expects it to be studied or understood.

The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric

triviumAuthor: Sister Miriam Joseph
Publisher: Paul Dry Books; Reissue edition (2002)

This book was written by an English teacher and it is recommended by the distinguished artificial intelligence expert John Sowa. Sowa shared a story about teaching a graduate course in the computer science department at Stanford University. He said: "On the first day, I handed out the first homework assignment: Ten sentences in English, which the students were asked to translate to first-order logic (FOL). The sentences did not contain any problematical words or constructions. FOL was sufficient ... But only one person translated all ten sentences correctly. And he happened to be a recent PhD who was just auditing the course. The others were graduate students in either computer science or linguistics."

Knowledge of first-order logic was a prerequisite for this course. Sowa said any student who had gotten an A in the author's English class could have completed the assignment successfully. For most of modern history the trivium of logic, grammar and rhetoric was considered the starting point for education at every level, even grammar school. This centuries-long tradition came to an end with the education reforms of the early 20th century.

Applied Mathematics for Database Professionals

AM4DPAuthor: Lex de Haan and Toon Koppelaars
Publisher:  Apress (2007)

The title of this book is misleading. It is not about mathematics, it is about classical logic and set theory, which are usually taught as introductory topics at universities and and even most community colleges. This book teaches how to apply the simple principles of logic to the complex process of database design.

Logic provides the basic underlying principles behind the millions of databases that form the nervous system of modern commerce and management. But unfortunately the vast majority of database professionals have never studied logic, which co-author Toon Koppelaars discusses in his blog. Knowledge of logic does not come naturally or even from experience. It must be taught.

Logic was eliminated as a required subject in schools during the first half of the 20th century and computers were developed during the second half. But computers do not reduce the value of logic education, they increase it. And no activity relies more heavily on the practical application of logic than designing and querying databases. Deficiency of logic education is without doubt a significant factor in the most difficult and costly information management challenges facing modern organizations. These challenges could be reduced or eliminated by teaching basic principles of logic and how to apply them, which is what this book does.

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