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The earliest documentation of critical thinking are the teachings of Socrates recorded by Plato. Socrates established the fact that one cannot depend upon those in "authority" to have sound knowledge and insight. He demonstrated that persons may have power and high position and yet be deeply confused and irrational. He established the importance of asking deep questions that probe profoundly into thinking before we accept ideas as worthy of belief.
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Leading global excellence in procurement and supply
Critical Thinking Skills
David L Loseby MCIOB Chartered, FAPM, FCMI, FCIPS Chartered, FRSA provides an overview of critical thinking skills to
support your procurement career, critical thinking skills with origins from 500 BC into industry 4.0.
First Edition: September 2019.
CIPS members
can record
one CPD hour
This knowledge paper is supportive of Procurement professionals
operating at Managerial level of the CIPS Global Standard
Critical Thinking Skills
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Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinking skills is a rich concept that has its origins from 500 BC, with the term
“critical thinking” being more recognisable and researched in the mid-late 20th
You may have heard or come across the term in recent reports from a number of sources from journals,
research papers to management periodicals. In this knowledge paper I hope to be able to outline the
transdisciplinary concept of critical thinking, its origins and how and where this skill is being sought to develop
greater value for organisations.
The earliest documentation of critical thinking are the teachings of Socrates recorded by Plato. Socrates
established the fact that one cannot depend upon those in "authority" to have sound knowledge and insight.
He demonstrated that persons may have power and high position and yet be deeply confused and irrational.
He established the importance of asking deep questions that probe profoundly into thinking before we accept
ideas as worthy of belief.
In writing this I recognise that envisioning the concepts and approach of critical thinking is not easy but do
persevere as the rewards are great! In approaching this subject, I recommend this is read from start to finish
and then re-read to enable the knowledge acquirer the opportunity to review and critique their own thinking
and comprehension of the concepts and principles as the acquisition of the skill itself is by nature complex.
Therefore, defining what we mean by this may be a good starting point. Further, at every level, in an
organisation whether, public, private or third sector its use is relevant wherever there is a need to challenge
the current state of affairs and create new ways of working that enhance value to ideally all parties impacted
or touched. I will return to some of the more specific linkages at a later stage in this knowledge paper.
Setting out a clear definition of the critical thinking skills is paramount to gaining an understanding of what it
is we expect at all levels of the procurement and contracting community to acquire a core competency,
especially if we want to be effective and deliver a competitive advantage, irrespective of the sector we work
or serve in.
There are current commonly recognised four thinking concepts as a basis for coding the models being used;
Thinking processes (to include skills and strategies)
Metacognitive thinking
Thinking dispositions; and
Knowledge and learning (mindsets and beliefs)
Critical thinking essentially has two distinct components:
1. a set of information and belief generating and processing skills; and
2. the habit, based on intellectual commitment, of using those skills to guide behaviour.
It is therefore contrasted with:
A. the mere acquisition of and retention of information alone, because it involves a particular way in
which information is sought and treated;
B. the mere possession of a set of skills, because it involves the continual use of them; and
C. the mere use of those skills (as a performed linear exercise) without acceptance of their results.
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As outlined in another knowledge paper (soft skills: Behavioural procurement), we all have heuristics and
biases and as such need to have truly understood the impact and influence these may have on our thinking.
The idealistic approach is that of zero biases and a clear understanding of the heuristics gained through our
lives and career that are material to the considerations before us.
I will now turn to providing a definition from an evidenced source to complete the baseline of this skill;
Critical Thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skilfully conceptualising, applying,
analysing, synthesising, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation,
experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief or action. In its exemplary form, it
is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision,
consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth and fairness. ¹
¹ The National council for Excellence in Critical Thinking, Michael Scriven & Richard Paul, 8th Annual
International Conference on Critical Thinking and Education Reform, 1987.
This may all sound very complicated so perhaps time to try and simplify the skill and break it down from its
more recent popularity and centric area of education.
Setting out critical thinking concepts and approaches in a more visual way it can be seen as illustrated in the
figure 1 below;
Figure 1 – Principal contributors
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At its simplest level critical thinking should seek to;
Challenge held beliefs and assumptions
Provide diversification of thought
Providing thought and observation without bias
Reason though logic: don’t accept (but understand the why, how, what, where, when, etc.) a set
of data or information.
Context and considerations
In April 2019 Deloitte published their study entitled “Seasoned explorers: How experienced TMT organisations
are navigating AI Insights from Deloitte’s Sate of AI in the Enterprise, 2nd Edition”, which posed the question
why do high innovators value critical thinking skills more;
Seventy one percent (71%) of respondents strongly believed that autonomous technologies will augment the
efforts of human workers, while only twenty nine (29%) think that technologies will replace humans (for less
innovative organisations, the belief in augmentation is lower at 61%). While algorithms are getting better at
making recommendations and drawing conclusions, the uniquely human skills of judgement and critical
thinking are still essential for interpretation and final decision making. A clear parallel and signpost for
procurement to have these skills well developed and part of their offer to the business community.
Moving out of your comfort zone is the first step, secondly recognising that you do not have exclusivity to
how the world of business should work or operate. Engaging with all areas of the business, from all levels and
disciplines will help you begin to gain a richer understanding of the business and internalise what is being said
with an open mind.
Avoid the risk in meetings to dominate with how you see the outcome of the project and allow others to
share their views and opinions. As highlighted in another knowledge paper, soft skills: behavioural
procurement, avoid groupthink, by getting people to input independently and directly to you and aggregating
and anonymising the inputs in a coherent structured analysis.
Principle purpose(s)
In essence the procurement professional can bring new skills to the challenge of value creation and the role of
value architect in the guise of the CPO to procurement analyst and everything in between. Fostering the
ability to think critically, as opposed to simply following a process e.g. category management without
considering the potential and options of the outcome as an opportunity for innovation, creativity that has the
potential to transform into true competitive advantage. This should be a skill that will allow all procurement
functions to excel and inspire new approaches where developed and mature functions especially need to take
a different approach to what has preceded iteratively before. This will lead to more effective decision making,
which can be evidenced as well as creating new ways of working.
This knowledge paper intentionally addresses the shift from a theoretical framework to one that has a very
practical application ² and natural fit with the discipline of procurement.
² Duron, R., Limbach, B. & Waugh, W. (2006). Critical Thinking Framework for any Discipline. International Journal of
Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 17(2), 160-166.
Critical thinking by its nature is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest
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In essence the risks are not giving ourselves the time and to evaluate a category of spend or an opportunity
from all the different perspectives we can. Remember as a procurement professional we may choose to look
at the savings opportunity as an over simplified perspective, but clearly someone from marketing, data
security, data protection, legal and so forth will all have valid but different views of the same opportunity or
category of spend. It is this richness and diversity of thought that we are seeking to develop or achieve in
critical thinking.
Bloom’s taxonomy and a model for Procurement
The proposed framework and process of critical thinking development utilises the 21 Century Bloom’s
Taxonomy model (Bloom, 1971 and 1974). The model has been adopted and modified appropriately to guide
students’ work via six stages of critical thinking process:
Stage 1: Remembering;
Stage 2: Understanding;
Stage 3: Applying;
Stage 4: Analysing;
Stage 5: Evaluating; and
Stage 6: Creating
(Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001). The paper also argues that the delivery of Bloom’s taxonomy-based thinking
and analysis process in a business context will enable an individuals critical thinking.
The seminal work of Benjamin Bloom established a framework for categorising critical thinking (of educational
goals and objectives) into a hierarchical framework based on a level of critical thinking. The author developed
the so called Bloom’s Taxonomy model (Bloom et al., 1956) consisting of six levels of difficulty and complexity
of intellectual or cognitive skills as presented in Figure 2 below.
Figure 2: The Cognitive Domain and the Development of Critical Thinking Skills
In this hierarchical framework each stage of learning is a prerequisite for the next stage and, therefore,
mastery of a given stage of learning requires mastery of the previous stage. According to Figure 2, Bloom
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identified six levels of cognitive learning arranged from lower-order to higher-order of the learning domain,
moving from the simplest to the most complex in an in-depth coverage of each category: knowledge,
comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. This process determines that individuals must
master all steps in its recommended order to develop and master critical thinking skills. Later, the research on
critical thinking began to be progressed to augment this to set out the following from a scholastic perspective;
1. Knowledge: The remembering of previously learned material; this involves the recall of a wide range
of material, from specific facts to complete theories.
2. Comprehension: The ability to grasp the meaning of previously learned material; this may be
demonstrated by translating material from one form to another, interpreting material (explaining or
summarising), or by predicting consequences or effects.
3. Application: The ability to use learned material in new and concrete situations; this may include the
application of rules, methods, concepts, principles, laws, and theories.
4. Analysis: The ability to break down material into its component parts so that its organisational
structure may be understood; this may include the identification of the parts, analysis of the
relationships between parts, and recognition of the organisational principles involved.
5. Synthesis: The ability to put parts together to form a new whole; this may involve the production of a
unique communication (thesis or speech), a plan of operations (research proposal), or abstract
relations (scheme for classifying information).
6. Evaluation: The ability to judge the value of material for a given purpose;
Eventually, several models of critical thinking provided explanation and validation of the stages of inquiry
developed by Bloom that are necessary to develop critical reasoning skills. Further, Anderson and Krathwohl
(2001) revised the Bloom’s Taxonomy framework where Knowledge was replaced by Remembering, Synthesis
by Evaluating, and Evaluation by Creating, as set out in Figure2. Therefore a 21st Century version was adopted
and is now more commonly used as a taxonomy for use in business, see figure 3 below.
Figure 3: Bloom Taxonomy Model and 21 Century Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy Framework
Taking this into an organisational environment others have chosen to represent this in other ways to reflect
the way it needs to used and implemented to have meaning and context. One such organisation is the
Management Department at the United States Coast Guard Association (USCGA), see Figure 4 below.
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Figure 4: Critical Thinking Skills Process from First-year Level to Senior Level
The Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Skill
As contrast to Blooms taxonomy it is important to realise that there are other researchers and academics who
have developed other models and processes/approaches. One of these was Edward Glaser. He developed and
defined a critical thinking ability in 1941, that considers the following approach;
1. a wise attitude in considering problems;
2. knowledge of logical investigation;
3. skills in applying the methods of critical thinking. Watson-Glaser provides the view that critical
thinking is a skill set that strongly underlies individuals' success in learning.
For several years, Watson-Glaser has researched and developed critical thinking skills. This
development is based on encouragement in combining the attitudes, knowledge and skills that are formed
from critical thinking skills. The steps Watson-Glaser examine how students with critical thinking when they
solve a problem are described as follows:
1. Inference making: The ability to distinguish between true or false conclusions from the data given
2. Recognition of Assumptions: The ability to recognise an assumption of a statement given orally or
3. Deduction: The ability in determining a decision on the conclusion that must be followed from the
provided information.
4. Interpretation (induction): The ability to consider and decide whether the evidence and conclusions
obtained can be generalised.
5. Evaluation of arguments: The ability of to give more appropriate and relevant arguments through
specific questions of the given problem.
The steps above are a tool developed by Watson-Glaser that can be used widely in measuring and assessing
individuals' critical thinking skills in application. This instrument is considered to be a tool in assessing success
to improve critical thinking skills. After 85 years of development of Watson-Glaser's work with the trust of
several educational institutions and companies, Watson-Glaser introduced a change in their work namely
Watson-Glaser II. They transformed the five structures into three inseparable structures without reducing the
essence of need in the goal of critical thinking ability. Inference, deduction and interpretation that are
interconnected and can be contained and associated with the withdrawal of conclusion (draw conclusions).
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While recognition, assumptions and evaluation of arguments are as an independent factor. The model
proposed is outlined in figure 5 below;
Figure 5: RED Watson Glaser model.
The development of the RED model and the following indicators is expected to assist in measuring and
developing the critical thinking skills of individuals and groups. The final goals of the ability are to improve
professionalism and to perform as well as possible the individuals' learning both in their environment or
outside of the work environment or learning/development. The indicators Glaser referred to in his work are
set out in Figure 6 below;
Critical Thinking
Giving comments with the correct information
Responding and questioning an assumption
Collecting keys or problems as the further
Information and facts about the problem
The ideas or assumptions that support the
strategy or plan
Is there strong evidence to support the given
What are the ideas you can explore
What to know for the next plan
Analysing of arguments to evaluate, analyse
information objectively and accurately
Questioning the quality of supporting evidence
Being objective to sort through the validity in
drawing more accurate conclusions
Identifying each argument as strong or weak
Identifying relevance and irrelevance
Looking for similarities and differences
Identifying conclusions
Giving information through a list of decision-
Whether the certain conclusions should follow the
information in the given report
Defining the problem
Selecting criteria to create a solution
Formulating the possible alternatives
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Deciding what to do tentatively
What information still needs to be added
The results of the investigation which become as
specific findings
Interpreting the information found to draw a
Analysing how it will be done
How to interpret it
The reason to think that it is the right answer or
the accurate solution
Conclusion (inference)
Giving the best judgment with quality decisions
After evaluating all of the facts, what are the
possible conclusions
The evidence that leads to a conclusion
Is there any new evidence that will impact a
What are the conclusions that can be drawn?
The decision must be based on the given
Making generalisations
Making conclusions and hypotheses
Interpretation of the statement
Putting critical thinking skills into a procurement context
Any critical thinking approach as a formal exercise must be designed on a step-based critical thinking process.
Therefore, becoming increasingly complex in content by actively and sequentially addressing each of the
components adopted from the 21 Century Bloom’s taxonomy of higher-order thinking skills.
Having a clear purpose, scope and set of deliverables will be key to ensuring the structured and disciplined
approach necessary.
Using the example below of a category of spend such as an indirect category it will show how this might
manifest itself in a real world application at a high level.
List current
List special
criteria relevant
to the category
What are the
margin, overhead
tariffs, taxes, etc.?
benchmarks are in
place and agreed
across the
What is the
decision making
value adding
What is the
weighting of the
decision making
Prior business
Lessons learnt
from similar or
parallel categories
Linkages to vision,
strategy and
Think wider than
just the
stakeholder group
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personal objectives
Develop a clear
understanding of
the potential
suppliers and
service providers
from publicly
available sources
Explore insight
from non-direct
sources of media,
information and
intelligence about
potential vendors
and/or service
Current and future
opportunities and
risks for the sector
Explore insight
from non-direct
sources of media,
information and
intelligence about
potential vendors
and/or service
Current trading
and market
dynamics of feeder
markets and
economic factors
What is
considered of
value and highly
prized by the
provider and
immediate tiers of
the supply chain
What are
factors that may
influence the
List the qualitative
factors that could
influence the
outcome when
proposed as a
formal sign off or
Explore and
evaluate the
quantum of each
factor from the
qualitative factors.
Evaluate and
understand the
heuristics and
biases of the key
decision makers
that may have an
influence on the
decision making
Developing a
sense of the
attributes of
senior decision
makers which
may well be
critical at this
What activities or
areas may be
impacted such as
revenues, costs,
lead times, cash
flow, etc. as a
decision being
Is this an
opportunity to
insource or
outsource activity
Further, could this
supply or activity
be phased out or
Ensure there is
alignment on
assessments and
What are the
typical risks
applicable to the
category and the
What applications
in parallel
industries may
have applicability
in the context of
the supply or
service being
Are there any
potential” Black
Swan Events” to be
Make sense of the
current trends
and translate
them into
applicable to the
category under
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Document all the
both for and
against the
including non-
Verify and conform
how you will
present financial
and non-financial
data and
How can this align
with the way the
business presents
its data and
information so that
it is synonymous
with the business
Keep things in the
language of the
business not
What will the new
order or change of
vendor of service
provider impact
both directly and
What alignment
and adjustment
will be needed
outside the areas of
direct impact?
Stand back and
look at this from
the perspective of
every department
in the
The above is a very simplistic set of considerations, however, the more iterations and challenges you place on
your factors under consideration the better. The outcome may be the same supplier/vendor in the same
arrangements but that will be the exception rather than the normal outcome having applied yourself to a
critical thinking approach if done correctly.
As procurement professionals, contract managers or supplier relationship managers, we all have expectations
and are driven by outcomes (usually tangible ones).
As you will see the segmentation from a people perspective, but also a critical thinking lens can be considered
as an overlay to the known approaches in procurement, further it brings into play not just the people skills
(soft skills - the subject of another knowledge paper) but also the critical thinking skills.
The applications in an organisation are far and wide and can be applied at the category level to much wider
and larger scale issues, such as outsourcing, insourcing, innovation allied to new products, supply chain
reviews, value chain management through multiple tiers of supply as some real examples.
Figure 3: Sociotechnical ecosystem for Procurement (Loseby 2018)
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To reiterate a key perspective from the soft skills knowledge paper, it should be recognised that each
individual given the unique nature of their lifetime experiences, training, skills, etc. at a very simplistic level
will inevitably view each situation and decision differently. Looking closely at the factors that create to this
difference in us, I refer to what is known as “heuristics and biases” as defined in more detail below. This links
with earlier observations as to why two people or groups may not necessarily evaluate or view a situation the
Heuristics can generally be taken, in psychology terms, as simple, efficient rules by which people often
use to form judgments and make decisions. They are mental shortcuts that usually involve focusing on
one aspect of a complex problem and inherently ignore others.
Biases can be said to be the influencing factors or prejudices based on known limits of knowledge,
experience, etc. This also extends in economic terms to hindsight, status quo (keeping), bold and
conservative forecasts, etc.
In summary I will leave you with these final thoughts as considerations about competencies outside of the
technical toolbox for practitioners to reflect upon:
Making sense of big data requires critical thinking skills
AI and automation will only take us so far, but will be followed by critical thinking
Doing the same as before will not augment the profession or your standing within it!
CEO’s and other senior stakeholders see procurement as a blocker to innovation: Critical thinking
skills will reverse this perception.
The ten critical job skills of the future, according to McKinsey’s global chief learning officer in September
2017. According to Nick van Dam, global chief learning officer at McKinsey & Co., the rapid advancement (of
the fourth industrial revolution, as a coming wave of disruptive technology in fields like artificial intelligence,
machine learning, the mobile internet) will lead to massive job losses, as entire industries and companies and
the workers they employ cease to exist. Further, while digital competencies will be the foundation upon
which the job skills of the future are based, technological know-how will not be enough to compete
Citing World Economic Forum research, van Dam said the Top 10 skills that will be in demand in the near
future are:
Complex problem-solving
Critical thinking
People management
Coordinating with others
Emotional intelligence
Judgment and decision-making
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Service orientation
Cognitive flexibility
“It’s all about how we can do things differently,” van Dam said. “How can we come up with new products and
business models and use technology to work smarter? It’s all about ideation, and ideation is driven by
In short critical thinking skills are a critical and essential part of the (many) competencies that are necessary to
become a true procurement professional.
David L Loseby MCIOB Chartered, FAPM, FCMI, FCIPS Chartered, FRSA
Further Reading
For further reading on this subject the CIPS recommended publication by the author is now available, along
with other journal publications available in the public domain:
Soft skills for Hard Business: Loseby, D. L, Cambridge Academic Publishers, 2018, ISBN: 1903-499-93-3
Developing and Assessing Critical Thinking skills The International baccalaureate Project 2014 : Final Report
parts 1 & 2: Swartz, r. & McGuiness, C.
Cultivating Critical-Thinking Dispositions Throughout the Business Curriculum: Bloch, J. & Spataro, E. S.
Business and Professional Communication Quarterly 2014, Vol. 77(3) 249265
2014 by the Association for Business Communication DOI: 10.1177/2329490614538094
Edward M. Glaser. "Defining Critical Thinking". The International Centre for the Assessment of Higher Order
Thinking (ICAT, US)/Critical Thinking Community. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
A Brief History of the Idea of Critical Thinking". Retrieved 14 March 2018.
Solomon, S.A. (2002) "Two Systems of Reasoning," in Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive
Judgment, Govitch, Griffin, Kahneman (Eds), Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-79679-8; Thinking
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and Reasoning in Human Decision Making: The Method of Argument and Heuristic Analysis, Facione and
Facione, 2007, California Academic Press. ISBN 978-1-891557-58-3
Facione, P. 2007. Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It Counts 2007 Update
Mulnix, J. W. (2010). "Thinking critically about critical thinking". Educational Philosophy and Theory. 44 (5):
464479. doi:10.1111/j.1469-5812.2010.00673.x
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This study aims to examine the effect of the mathematical disposition of junior high school students on mathematical critical thinking skills. A quantitative approach with a correlational method used by researchers to examine both variables. Subjects were taken randomly in class. The subjects in this study were 32 students of class VIII in one of the Bandung junior high schools. The results of the study show that the mathematical disposition of junior high school students has a positive influence on mathematical critical thinking skills. Students with a positive disposition toward mathematical learning could interpret and not hesitate to express ideas. More than fifty percent of students who have a positive disposition were able to interpret and analyze the mathematical problem given. The teaching and learning process in this research is limited to circle material in junior high school and eighth grade in one of the junior high schools in Bandung city. There are still many other tendencies besides mathematical disposition, which enable students to have good critical thinking abilities, which affect student learning outcomes, one of that is students who have mathematical abilities that have been held since elementary school. This study shows that there was an influence of students ‘mathematical disposition on their ability to think critically so that to improve students’ critical thinking abilities, positive disposition abilities should be built. The ability to interpret and analyze students develop in line with passion and serious attention in learning, self-confidence, curiosity, and the courage to share opinions.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.