Critical Thinking and Innovation – The New High Ranking Skills at the Workplace

critical thinking vs innovation

“For CEOs today, it’s all about achieving growth and efficiency through innovation.  It’s not about product innovation so much anymore as about innovating business models, process, culture and management.”  ~ Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO

You might attribute critical thinking and innovation as a strong skill set for leaders within an organization, but that’s an expectation from employees of the 21st century. Many employers are making it known that for a talented candidate to join their org they are seeking people who are driven by critical thinking and innovation. You don’t need to be in a leadership position to be an outstanding contributor. Learn to become an innovative leader  within your team, find opportunities to think out of the box, and thrive and shine at your current work.

What does critical thinking  mean?

Critical thinking by some is being cited as the number 1 workplace skill you must work on now. In an interesting analysis by TalentLens titled   Critical Thinking Means Business : Learn to Apply and Develop the NEW #1 Workplace Skill  By Judy Chartrand, Ph.D., Heather Ishikawa, MA, & Scott Flander

“When more than 400 senior HR professionals were asked in a survey to name the most important skill their employees will need in the next five years, critical thinking ranked the highest – surpassing innovation or the application of information technology. Such a response reflects how the nature of work – and the skills required – have been changing dramatically.”

According to a Pearson’s Research Report by Emily R. Lai :

“Critical thinking includes the component skills of analyzing arguments, making inferences using inductive or deductive reasoning, judging or evaluating, and making decisions or solving problems. Background knowledge is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for enabling critical thought within a given subject. Critical thinking involves both cognitive skills and dispositions.”

Biran Tracy in a relevant article 7 Qualities of Creative Thinkers says:

“The most important part of  creative thinking is your ability to generate ideas. .. Every single time you originate a new idea, write it down, make a plan for its implementation through creative thinking and then take action, you are behaving like a genius.”

Now that you’ve heard from the experts what critical thinking really means; what does it mean to you or how will you define it?

How can you showcase such qualities?

Though it is not always possible to come up with some exemplary examples on how you have used critical thinking in your past job or career but if you are reading it now, it certainly is a good idea to try it now and it might prove useful in the future. How has critical thinking and action helped you solve a problem or come up with a better solution for a project you’ve worked on.

What does innovation  mean?

Looking around for the appropriate definitions of innovation here’s what I’ve found that really talks to me:

Quoting :

Everyone can innovate. Innovation generally refers to renewing, changing or creating more effective processes, products or ways of doing things. For businesses, this could mean implementing new ideas, creating dynamic products or improving your existing services. Innovation can be a catalyst for the growth and success of your business, and help you adapt and grow in the marketplace. Being innovative does not mean inventing; innovation can mean changing your business model and adapting to changes in your environment to deliver better products or services. Successful innovation should be an in-built part of your business strategy and the strategic vision, where you create an environment and lead in innovative thinking and creative problem solving.

No one can tell how to be innovative, there’s no better solution than what Leonardo Da Vinci told us hundreds of years ago:

“Stand still and watch the patterns, which by pure chance have been generated: Stains on the wall, or the ashes in a fireplace, or the clouds in the sky, or the gravel on the beach or other things. If you look at them carefully you might discover miraculous inventions.”

What does innovation mean to you or have you seen it implemented at your workplace?

Top 10 Skills for the successful 21st century worker – An Infographic via Univ of Phoenix

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What is innovation?

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When you think of innovation, what springs to mind? Maybe it’s a flashy new gadget—but don’t be mistaken. There’s much more to the world of innovation, which extends far beyond new products and things you’ll find on a store shelf.

Get to know and directly engage with senior McKinsey experts on innovation.

Marc de Jong is a senior partner in McKinsey’s Amsterdam office, Laura Furstenthal is a senior partner in the Bay Area office, and Erik Roth is a senior partner in the Stamford office.

If products alone aren’t the full story, what is innovation? In a business context, innovation is the ability to conceive, develop, deliver, and scale new products, services, processes, and business models for customers.

Successful innovation delivers net new growth that is substantial. As McKinsey senior partner Laura Furstenthal  notes in an episode of the Inside the Strategy Room podcast , “However you measure it, innovation has to increase value and drive growth.”

As important as innovation is, getting it right can be challenging. Over 80 percent of executives surveyed  say that innovation is among their top three priorities, yet less than 10 percent report being satisfied with their organizations’ innovation performance. Many established companies are better operators than innovators , producing few new and creative game changers. Most succeed by optimizing existing core businesses.

Why is innovation important in business?

Some companies do succeed at innovation. Our research considered how proficient 183 companies were at innovation, and compared that assessment against a proprietary database of economic profit  (the total profit minus the cost of capital). We found that companies that harness the essentials of innovation see a substantial performance edge that separates them from others—with evidence that mastering innovation can generate economic profit that is 2.4 times higher than that of other players .

Learn more about our Strategy & Corporate Finance  practice.

How can leaders decide what innovations to prioritize?

Successful innovation has historically occurred at the intersection of several elements, which can guide prioritization efforts. The three most important elements are the who, the what, and the how :

  • An unmet customer need (the ‘who’): Who is the customer and what problem do they need to solve? Are macrotrends such as automation driving changes in customer needs?
  • A solution (the ‘what’): Is the solution compelling and can it be executed?
  • A business model that allows for the solution to be monetized (the ‘how’): How will the solution create value? What is the business model?

Successful innovation requires answers to each of these questions.

An example from inventor and businessman Thomas Edison helps illustrate the concept. “In every case, he did not just invent the what, he also invented a how,” says Furstenthal in a conversation on innovation . “In the case of the light bulb, he created the filament and the vacuum tube that allowed it to turn on and off, and he developed the production process that enabled mass production.”

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How do organizations become better innovators.

McKinsey conducted research into the attributes and behaviors behind superior innovation performance , which were validated in action at hundreds of companies. This research yielded eight critical elements  for organizations to master:

  • Aspire: Do you regard innovation-led growth as critical, and have you put in place cascaded targets that reflect this?
  • Choose: Do you invest in a coherent, time- and risk-balanced portfolio of initiatives, and do you devote sufficient resources to it?
  • Discover: Are your business, market, and technology R&D efforts actionable and capable of being translated into winning value propositions?
  • Evolve: Do you create new business models that provide defensible, robust, and scalable profit sources?
  • Accelerate: Do you develop and launch innovations quickly and effectively?
  • Scale: Do you launch innovations at the right scale in the relevant markets and segments?
  • Extend: Do you create and capitalize on external networks?
  • Mobilize: Are your people motivated, rewarded, and organized to innovate repeatedly?

Of these eight essentials, two merit particular attention : aspire and choose . Without these two elements, efforts may be too scattershot to make a lasting difference. It’s particularly crucial to ensure that leaders are setting bold aspirations and making tough choices when it comes to resource allocation and portfolio moves. To do so successfully, many leaders will need to shift their mindsets or management approaches.

What are examples of successful innovators?

Real-world examples of successful innovation, related to some of the eight essentials listed , can highlight the benefits of pursuing innovation systematically :

  • Mercedes-Benz Group invested extensively in digitizing its product development system. That allowed the company to shorten its innovation cycles significantly , and its capabilities for personalizing cars have improved, even as assembly efficiency rose by 25 percent.
  • Gavi, a public–private partnership founded to save children’s lives and protect their health by broadening access to immunization, used nonfinancial targets to help drive its innovation efforts —and this helped the organization broaden its aspiration for impact in a way that was bold, specific, measurable, and time bound.
  • Lantmännen, a large Nordic agricultural cooperative, faced flat organic growth. Leadership created a vision and strategic plan  connected to financial targets cascaded down to business units and product groups. Doing so allowed the organization to move from 4 percent annual growth to 13 percent, on the back of successfully launching several new brands.
  • The information services organization RELX Group brought discipline to choosing its innovation portfolio  by running ten to 15 experiments in each customer segment in its pipeline every year. It selects one or two of the most successful ideas from the portfolio to continue.
  • International insurance company Discovery Group mobilized the organization around innovation  by creating incentives for a thousand of the company’s leaders using semiannual divisional scorecards. Innovation isn’t a choice; it’s a requirement and a part of the organization’s culture.

These examples aren’t necessarily what you may think of when you imagine disruptive innovation—which calls to mind moves that shake up an entire industry, and might be more associated with top tech trends  such as the Bio Revolution . Yet these examples show how committing to innovation can make a sizable difference.

How can my organization improve the volume and quality of new ideas?

Steps to help aspiring innovators  get started include the following:

  • Hold collision sessions: Cross-functional groups gather in a structured process to think through the intersection of unmet customer needs, technology trends, and business models, bringing creativity and specificity to the process of idea generation. Then, a venture panel considers these ideas and iterates on them, prioritizing what to do.
  • Challenge orthodoxies: Participants gather and describe beliefs that are common but that prevent the organization from innovating for customers. Examples of these orthodoxies include statements such as “budgets are limited” or “we don’t have the digital capabilities to pull it off.” Once the orthodoxies are laid out, teams brainstorm after being prompted to consider if the opposite of the statement were true.
  • Make analogies to other industries: A team might create a list of companies with unique value propositions. Then, they systematically apply these value propositions to their ideas to see if the analogy can create new sources of value or fresh opportunities.
  • Apply constraints: Rather than searching for blue-sky ideas, tighten the constraints on an idea’s business or operating model and explore potential new solutions. What if you served only one type of customer? What if the only channel you could access was online?

In the words of chemist Linus Pauling, “The way to get to good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.”

What is an innovation portfolio?

An innovation portfolio  is a thoughtfully curated bundle of potentially innovative initiatives, with clear aspirations and required resources defined for each. Managing the portfolio this way helps find new opportunities and determine the appropriate number and mix of initiatives, including the following:

  • confirming the total value of the portfolio needed
  • evaluating existing innovation projects based on incremental value delivered, risk, and alignment with strategic priorities
  • getting comfortable saying “no” to stop projects that are dilutive, and resisting the siren song of incremental initiatives that are unlikely to pay for themselves
  • reallocating resources—including competencies and skills—to new initiatives or to current ones that additional support can accelerate or amplify
  • identifying portfolio gaps and defining new initiatives to close them

How to measure innovation?

One way to measure innovation is to look at innovation-driven net new growth, which we call the “green box.”  This phrase refers to how you quantify the growth in revenue or earnings that an innovation needs to provide within a defined timeframe. This concept can help clarify aspirations and influence choices on the innovation journey.

While many imagine that innovation is solely about creativity and generating ideas, at its core, innovation is a matter of resource allocation . To put it another way: it’s one thing to frame innovation as a catalyst for growth, and another to act upon it by refocusing people, assets, and management attention on the organization’s best ideas.

The green box can help to solidify a tangible commitment  by defining the value that a company creates from breakthrough and incremental innovation, on a defined timeline (say, five years), with quantifiable metrics such as net new revenue or earnings growth. Crucially, the green box looks at growth from innovation alone, setting aside other possible sources such as market momentum, M&A, and so forth. And once defined, the growth aspiration can be cascaded into a set of objectives and metrics that the company’s various operating units can incorporate into its individual innovation portfolios.

It’s useful to note that some organizations may find that measures not solely financial in nature are more appropriate or relevant. For instance, metrics such as the number of subscribers or patients—or customer satisfaction—can resonate. What’s critical is selecting a metric that is a proxy for value creation. A large US healthcare payer , for example, looked to spur innovation that would improve patient satisfaction and the quality of care.

Separate from the concept of the green box, two simple metrics  can also offer surprising insight about innovation vis-à-vis the effectiveness of an organization’s R&D spending. Both of these lend themselves to benchmarking, since they can be gauged from the outside in, and they offer insight at the level of a company’s full innovation portfolio. The two R&D conversion metrics are as follows:

  • R&D-to-product conversion: This metric is calculated by looking at the ratio of R&D spending (as a portion of sales) to sales from new products. It can show how well your R&D dollars convert to actual sales of new products—and it might reveal that spending more doesn’t necessarily translate into stronger performance.
  • New-products-to-margin conversion: This metric considers the ratio of gross margin percentage to sales from new products. It can indicate how new-product sales contribute to lifting margins.

While no metric is perfect, these may offer perspective that keeps the focus squarely on returns from innovation and the value it creates—often more meaningful than looking inward at measures of activity, such as the number of patents secured.

How do you create a high-performing innovation team?

Innovation is a team sport. Experience working with strong innovators and start-ups has helped identify ten traits of successful innovation teams . Those fall into four big categories: vision , or the ability to spot opportunities and inspire others to go after them; collaboration , which relates to fostering effective teamwork and change management (for instance, by telling a good innovation story ); learning or absorbing new ideas; and execution , with traits that facilitate snappy decision making even when uncertainty arises.

Being strategic about the composition of an innovation team can help minimize failures and bring discipline to the process.

What innovation advice can help business leaders?

One broad piece of advice centers on creating a culture that accounts for the human side of innovation . When people worry about failure, criticism, or the career impact of a wrong move, it can keep them from embracing innovation. In a recent poll, 85 percent of executives say fear holds back their organization’s innovation efforts often or always—but there are ways to overcome these barriers .

Additionally, the Committed Innovator podcast and related articles share perspectives from leading experts who have helped their organizations tackle inertia and unlock bold strategic moves. If you are looking for words of wisdom, their insights can help spark inspiration to innovate:

  • Naomi Kelman, CEO, Willow . “Creating a safe environment for innovation is really what you need to do to get the greatness out of the people who work with you, which is ultimately what drives growth.”
  • Safi Bahcall, author, Loonshots . “Most of the important breakthroughs failed many times before they succeeded. That is where ‘fail fast’ goes wrong. Most companies are too impatient.”
  • Amy Brooks, chief innovation officer, National Basketball Association . “You can use data or examples to convince people about what is working in the market or what other industries are doing. We like to share best practices within our own leagues and within sports, but we also pay attention to every other industry that sells to consumers.”
  • Tanya Baker, global leader, Goldman Sachs Accelerate . “If someone knowledgeable thinks what you are doing is a bad idea, make sure they have a seat at the table. Put them on your board; make them one of your advisers so you don’t have any blind spots.”
  • Neal Gutterson, former chief technology officer, Corteva . “[A] key skill is being able to hold two divergent thoughts and approaches in your brain and in your team at the same time. The great companies will be ambidextrous innovators, able to disrupt themselves in the future while serving the core [business] today.”
  • Anjali Sud, CEO, Vimeo . “What keeps me up at night is execution and, within that, focus. Because when you are in a market like ours, at a time like now, the opportunity is huge. We are this nimble, fast-growing, fast-moving company, and everywhere I look I see opportunity. But am I providing enough focus for my teams so that we can truly be great at something? You don’t want to miss a big boat, and it’s hard sometimes to say no to valid, exciting ideas that could be transformative.”

For more in-depth exploration of these topics, see McKinsey’s insights on Strategy & Corporate Finance . Learn more about McKinsey’s Growth & Innovation  work—and check out innovation-related job opportunities if you’re interested in working at McKinsey.

Articles referenced include:

  • “ Fear factor: Overcoming human barriers to innovation ,” June 3, 2022, Laura Furstenthal , Alex Morris, and Erik Roth
  • “ Innovation—the launchpad out of crisis ,” September 15, 2021, Laura Furstenthal  and Erik Roth
  • “ The innovation commitment ,” October 24, 2019, Daniel Cohen, Brian Quinn, and Erik Roth
  • “ Fielding high-performing innovation teams ,” January 17, 2019, Matt Banholzer , Fabian Metzeler, and Erik Roth
  • “ Taking the measure of innovation ,” April 20, 2018, Guttorm Aase, Erik Roth , and Sri Swaminathan
  • “ The eight essentials of innovation ,” April 1, 2015, Marc de Jong , Nathan Marston, and Erik Roth

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Want to know more about innovation?

Related articles.


Fear factor: Overcoming human barriers to innovation

The innovation commitment

The innovation commitment


The eight essentials of innovation

  • 4.2 Creativity, Innovation, and Invention: How They Differ
  • Introduction
  • 1.1 Entrepreneurship Today
  • 1.2 Entrepreneurial Vision and Goals
  • 1.3 The Entrepreneurial Mindset
  • Review Questions
  • Discussion Questions
  • Case Questions
  • Suggested Resources
  • 2.1 Overview of the Entrepreneurial Journey
  • 2.2 The Process of Becoming an Entrepreneur
  • 2.3 Entrepreneurial Pathways
  • 2.4 Frameworks to Inform Your Entrepreneurial Path
  • 3.1 Ethical and Legal Issues in Entrepreneurship
  • 3.2 Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Entrepreneurship
  • 3.3 Developing a Workplace Culture of Ethical Excellence and Accountability
  • 4.1 Tools for Creativity and Innovation
  • 4.3 Developing Ideas, Innovations, and Inventions
  • 5.1 Entrepreneurial Opportunity
  • 5.2 Researching Potential Business Opportunities
  • 5.3 Competitive Analysis
  • 6.1 Problem Solving to Find Entrepreneurial Solutions
  • 6.2 Creative Problem-Solving Process
  • 6.3 Design Thinking
  • 6.4 Lean Processes
  • 7.1 Clarifying Your Vision, Mission, and Goals
  • 7.2 Sharing Your Entrepreneurial Story
  • 7.3 Developing Pitches for Various Audiences and Goals
  • 7.4 Protecting Your Idea and Polishing the Pitch through Feedback
  • 7.5 Reality Check: Contests and Competitions
  • 8.1 Entrepreneurial Marketing and the Marketing Mix
  • 8.2 Market Research, Market Opportunity Recognition, and Target Market
  • 8.3 Marketing Techniques and Tools for Entrepreneurs
  • 8.4 Entrepreneurial Branding
  • 8.5 Marketing Strategy and the Marketing Plan
  • 8.6 Sales and Customer Service
  • 9.1 Overview of Entrepreneurial Finance and Accounting Strategies
  • 9.2 Special Funding Strategies
  • 9.3 Accounting Basics for Entrepreneurs
  • 9.4 Developing Startup Financial Statements and Projections
  • 10.1 Launching the Imperfect Business: Lean Startup
  • 10.2 Why Early Failure Can Lead to Success Later
  • 10.3 The Challenging Truth about Business Ownership
  • 10.4 Managing, Following, and Adjusting the Initial Plan
  • 10.5 Growth: Signs, Pains, and Cautions
  • 11.1 Avoiding the “Field of Dreams” Approach
  • 11.2 Designing the Business Model
  • 11.3 Conducting a Feasibility Analysis
  • 11.4 The Business Plan
  • 12.1 Building and Connecting to Networks
  • 12.2 Building the Entrepreneurial Dream Team
  • 12.3 Designing a Startup Operational Plan
  • 13.1 Business Structures: Overview of Legal and Tax Considerations
  • 13.2 Corporations
  • 13.3 Partnerships and Joint Ventures
  • 13.4 Limited Liability Companies
  • 13.5 Sole Proprietorships
  • 13.6 Additional Considerations: Capital Acquisition, Business Domicile, and Technology
  • 13.7 Mitigating and Managing Risks
  • 14.1 Types of Resources
  • 14.2 Using the PEST Framework to Assess Resource Needs
  • 14.3 Managing Resources over the Venture Life Cycle
  • 15.1 Launching Your Venture
  • 15.2 Making Difficult Business Decisions in Response to Challenges
  • 15.3 Seeking Help or Support
  • 15.4 Now What? Serving as a Mentor, Consultant, or Champion
  • 15.5 Reflections: Documenting the Journey
  • A | Suggested Resources

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Distinguish between creativity, innovation, and invention
  • Explain the difference between pioneering and incremental innovation, and which processes are best suited to each

One of the key requirements for entrepreneurial success is your ability to develop and offer something unique to the marketplace. Over time, entrepreneurship has become associated with creativity , the ability to develop something original, particularly an idea or a representation of an idea. Innovation requires creativity, but innovation is more specifically the application of creativity. Innovation is the manifestation of creativity into a usable product or service. In the entrepreneurial context, innovation is any new idea, process, or product, or a change to an existing product or process that adds value to that existing product or service.

How is an invention different from an innovation? All inventions contain innovations, but not every innovation rises to the level of a unique invention. For our purposes, an invention is a truly novel product, service, or process. It will be based on previous ideas and products, but it is such a leap that it is not considered an addition to or a variant of an existing product but something unique. Table 4.2 highlights the differences between these three concepts.

One way we can consider these three concepts is to relate them to design thinking. Design thinking is a method to focus the design and development decisions of a product on the needs of the customer, typically involving an empathy-driven process to define complex problems and create solutions that address those problems. Complexity is key to design thinking. Straightforward problems that can be solved with enough money and force do not require much design thinking. Creative design thinking and planning are about finding new solutions for problems with several tricky variables in play. Designing products for human beings, who are complex and sometimes unpredictable, requires design thinking.

Airbnb has become a widely used service all over the world. That has not always been the case, however. In 2009, the company was near failure. The founders were struggling to find a reason for the lack of interest in their properties until they realized that their listings needed professional, high-quality photographs rather than simple cell-phone photos. Using a design thinking approach, the founders traveled to the properties with a rented camera to take some new photographs. As a result of this experiment, weekly revenue doubled. This approach could not be sustainable in the long term, but it generated the outcome the founders needed to better understand the problem. This creative approach to solving a complex problem proved to be a major turning point for the company. 7

People who are adept at design thinking are creative, innovative, and inventive as they strive to tackle different types of problems. Consider Divya Nag , a millennial biotech and medical device innovation leader, who launched a business after she discovered a creative way to prolong the life of human cells in Petri dishes. Nag’s stem-cell research background and her entrepreneurial experience with her medical investment firm made her a popular choice when Apple hired her to run two programs dedicated to developing health-related apps, a position she reached before turning twenty-four years old. 8

Creativity, innovation, inventiveness, and entrepreneurship can be tightly linked. It is possible for one person to model all these traits to some degree. Additionally, you can develop your creativity skills, sense of innovation, and inventiveness in a variety of ways. In this section, we’ll discuss each of the key terms and how they relate to the entrepreneurial spirit.

Entrepreneurial creativity and artistic creativity are not so different. You can find inspiration in your favorite books, songs, and paintings, and you also can take inspiration from existing products and services. You can find creative inspiration in nature, in conversations with other creative minds, and through formal ideation exercises, for example, brainstorming. Ideation is the purposeful process of opening up your mind to new trains of thought that branch out in all directions from a stated purpose or problem. Brainstorming , the generation of ideas in an environment free of judgment or dissension with the goal of creating solutions, is just one of dozens of methods for coming up with new ideas. 9

You can benefit from setting aside time for ideation. Reserving time to let your mind roam freely as you think about an issue or problem from multiple directions is a necessary component of the process. Ideation takes time and a deliberate effort to move beyond your habitual thought patterns. If you consciously set aside time for creativity, you will broaden your mental horizons and allow yourself to change and grow. 10

Entrepreneurs work with two types of thinking. Linear thinking —sometimes called vertical thinking —involves a logical, step-by-step process. In contrast, creative thinking is more often lateral thinking , free and open thinking in which established patterns of logical thought are purposefully ignored or even challenged. You can ignore logic; anything becomes possible. Linear thinking is crucial in turning your idea into a business. Lateral thinking will allow you to use your creativity to solve problems that arise. Figure 4.5 summarizes linear and lateral thinking.

It is certainly possible for you to be an entrepreneur and focus on linear thinking. Many viable business ventures flow logically and directly from existing products and services. However, for various reasons, creativity and lateral thinking are emphasized in many contemporary contexts in the study of entrepreneurship. Some reasons for this are increased global competition, the speed of technological change, and the complexity of trade and communication systems. 11 These factors help explain not just why creativity is emphasized in entrepreneurial circles but also why creativity should be emphasized. Product developers of the twenty-first century are expected to do more than simply push products and innovations a step further down a planned path. Newer generations of entrepreneurs are expected to be path breakers in new products, services, and processes.

Examples of creativity are all around us. They come in the forms of fine art and writing, or in graffiti and viral videos, or in new products, services, ideas, and processes. In practice, creativity is incredibly broad. It is all around us whenever or wherever people strive to solve a problem, large or small, practical or impractical.

We previously defined innovation as a change that adds value to an existing product or service. According to the management thinker and author Peter Drucker , the key point about innovation is that it is a response to both changes within markets and changes from outside markets. For Drucker, classical entrepreneurship psychology highlights the purposeful nature of innovation. 12 Business firms and other organizations can plan to innovate by applying either lateral or linear thinking methods, or both. In other words, not all innovation is purely creative. If a firm wishes to innovate a current product, what will likely matter more to that firm is the success of the innovation rather than the level of creativity involved. Drucker summarized the sources of innovation into seven categories, as outlined in Table 4.3 . Firms and individuals can innovate by seeking out and developing changes within markets or by focusing on and cultivating creativity. Firms and individuals should be on the lookout for opportunities to innovate. 13

One innovation that demonstrates several of Drucker’s sources is the use of cashier kiosks in fast-food restaurants. McDonald’s was one of the first to launch these self-serve kiosks. Historically, the company has focused on operational efficiencies (doing more/better with less). In response to changes in the market, changes in demographics, and process need, McDonald’s incorporated self-serve cashier stations into their stores. These kiosks address the need of younger generations to interact more with technology and gives customers faster service in most cases. 15

Another leading expert on innovation, Tony Ulwick , focuses on understanding how the customer will judge or evaluate the quality and value of the product. The product development process should be based on the metrics that customers use to judge products, so that innovation can address those metrics and develop the best product for meeting customers’ needs when it hits the market. This process is very similar to Drucker’s contention that innovation comes as a response to changes within and outside of the market. Ulwick insists that focusing on the customer should begin early in the development process. 16

Disruptive innovation is a process that significantly affects the market by making a product or service more affordable and/or accessible, so that it will be available to a much larger audience. Clay Christensen of Harvard University coined this term in the 1990s to emphasize the process nature of innovation. For Christensen, the innovative component is not the actual product or service, but the process that makes that product more available to a larger population of users. He has since published a good deal on the topic of disruptive innovation, focusing on small players in a market. Christensen theorizes that a disruptive innovation from a smaller company can threaten an existing larger business by offering the market new and improved solutions. The smaller company causes the disruption when it captures some of the market share from the larger organization. 17 , 18 One example of a disruptive innovation is Uber and its impact on the taxicab industry. Uber’s innovative service, which targets customers who might otherwise take a cab, has shaped the industry as whole by offering an alternative that some deem superior to the typical cab ride.

One key to innovation within a given market space is to look for pain points, particularly in existing products that fail to work as well as users expect them to. A pain point is a problem that people have with a product or service that might be addressed by creating a modified version that solves the problem more efficiently. 19 For example, you might be interested in whether a local retail store carries a specific item without actually going there to check. Most retailers now have a feature on their websites that allows you to determine whether the product (and often how many units) is available at a specific store. This eliminates the need to go to the location only to find that they are out of your favorite product. Once a pain point is identified in a firm’s own product or in a competitor’s product, the firm can bring creativity to bear in finding and testing solutions that sidestep or eliminate the pain, making the innovation marketable. This is one example of an incremental innovation , an innovation that modifies an existing product or service. 20

In contrast, a pioneering innovation is one based on a new technology, a new advancement in the field, and/or an advancement in a related field that leads to the development of a new product. 21 Firms offering similar products and services can undertake pioneering innovations, but pioneering the new product requires opening up new market space and taking major risks.

Entrepreneur In Action

Pioneering innovation in the personal care industry.

In his ninth-grade biology class, Benjamin Stern came up with an idea to change the personal care industry. He envisioned personal cleaning products (soap, shampoo, etc.) that would contain no harsh chemicals or sulfates, and would also produce no plastic waste from empty bottles. He developed Nohbo Drops , single-use personal cleansing products with water-soluble packaging. Stern was able to borrow money from family and friends, and use some of his college fund to hire a chemist to develop the product. He then appeared on Shark Tank with his innovation in 2016 and secured the backing of investor Mark Cuban . Stern assembled a research team to perfect the product and obtained a patent ( Figure 4.6 ). The products are now available via the company website.

Is a pioneering innovation an invention? A firm makes a pioneering innovation when it creates a product or service arising from what it has done before. Pokémon GO is a great example of pioneering innovation. Nintendo was struggling to keep pace with other gaming-related companies. The company, in keeping with its core business of video games, came up with a new direction for the gaming industry. Pokémon GO is known worldwide and is one of the most successful mobile games launched. 22 It takes creativity to explore a new direction, but not every pioneering innovation creates a distinctly new product or capability for consumers and clients.

Entrepreneurs in the process of developing an innovation usually examine the current products and services their firm offers, investigate new technologies and techniques being introduced in the marketplace or in related marketplaces, watch research and development in universities and in other companies, and pursue new developments that are likely to fit one of two conditions: an innovation that likely fits an existing market better than other products or services being offered; or an innovation that fits a market that so far has been underserved.

An example of an incremental innovation is the trash receptacle you find at fast-food restaurants. For many years, trash cans in fast-food locations were placed in boxes behind swinging doors. The trash cans did one job well: They hid the garbage from sight. But they created other problems: Often, the swinging doors would get ketchup and other waste on them, surely a pain point. Newer trash receptacles in fast-food restaurants have open fronts or open tops that enable people to dispose of their trash more neatly. The downside for restaurants is that users can see and possibly smell the food waste, but if the restaurants change the trash bags frequently, as is a good practice anyway, this innovation works relatively well. You might not think twice about this everyday example of an innovation when you eat at a fast-food restaurant, but even small improvements can matter a lot, particularly if the market they serve is vast.

An invention is a leap in capability beyond innovation. Some inventions combine several innovations into something new. Invention certainly requires creativity, but it goes beyond coming up with new ideas, combinations of thought, or variations on a theme. Inventors build. Developing something users and customers view as an invention could be important to some entrepreneurs, because when a new product or service is viewed as unique, it can create new markets. True inventiveness is often recognized in the marketplace, and it can help build a valuable reputation and help establish market position if the company can build a future-oriented corporate narrative around the invention. 23

Besides establishing a new market position, a true invention can have a social and cultural impact. At the social level, a new invention can influence the ways institutions work. For example, the invention of desktop computing put accounting and word processing into the hands of nearly every office worker. The ripple effects spread to the school systems that educate and train the corporate workforce. Not long after the spread of desktop computing, workers were expected to draft reports, run financial projections, and make appealing presentations. Specializations or aspects of specialized jobs—such as typist, bookkeeper, corporate copywriter—became necessary for almost everyone headed for corporate work. Colleges and eventually high schools saw software training as essential for students of almost all skill levels. These additional capabilities added profitability and efficiencies, but they also have increased job requirements for the average professional.

Some of the most successful inventions contain a mix of familiarity and innovation that is difficult to achieve. With this mix, the rate of adoption can be accelerated because of the familiarity with the concept or certain aspects of the product or service. As an example, the “videophone” was a concept that began to be explored as early as the late 1800s. AT&T began extensive work on videophones during the 1920s. However, the invention was not adopted because of a lack of familiarity with the idea of seeing someone on a screen and communicating back and forth. Other factors included societal norms, size of the machine, and cost. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that the invention started to take hold in the marketplace. 24 The concept of a black box is that activities are performed in a somewhat mysterious and ambiguous manner, with a serendipitous set of actions connecting that result in a surprisingly beneficial manner. An example is Febreeze, a chemical combination that binds molecules to eliminate odors. From a black box perspective, the chemical engineers did not intend to create this product, but as they were working on creating another product, someone noticed that the product they were working on removed odors, thus inadvertently creating a successful new product marketed as Febreeze.

What Can You Do?

Did henry ford invent the assembly line.

Very few products or procedures are actually brand-new ideas. Most new products are alterations or new applications of existing products, with some type of twist in design, function, portability, or use. Henry Ford is usually credited with inventing the moving assembly line Figure 4.7 (a) in 1913. However, some 800 years before Henry Ford, wooden ships were mass produced in the northern Italian city of Venice in a system that anticipated the modern assembly line.

Various components (ropes, sails, and so on) were prefabricated in different parts of the Venetian Arsenal, a huge, complex construction site along one of Venice’s canals. The parts were then delivered to specific assembly points Figure 4.7 (b) . After each stage of construction, the ships were floated down the canal to the next assembly area, where the next sets of workers and parts were waiting. Moving the ships down the waterway and assembling them in stages increased speed and efficiency to the point that long before the Industrial Revolution, the Arsenal could produce one fully functional and completely equipped ship per day . The system was so successful that it was used from the thirteenth century to about 1800.

Henry Ford did not invent anything new—he only applied the 800-year-old process of building wooden ships by hand along a moving waterway to making metal cars by hand on a moving conveyor ( Figure 4.7 ).

Opportunities to bring new products and processes to market are in front of us every day. The key is having the ability to recognize them and implement them. Likewise, the people you need to help you be successful may be right in front of you on a regular basis. The key is having the ability to recognize who they are and making connections to them. Just as those ships and cars moved down an assembly line until they were ready to be put into service, start thinking about moving down the “who I know” line so that you will eventually have a successful business in place.

The process of invention is difficult to codify because not all inventions or inventors follow the same path. Often the path can take multiple directions, involve many people besides the inventor, and encompass many restarts. Inventors and their teams develop their own processes along with their own products, and the field in which an inventor works will greatly influence the modes and pace of invention. Elon Musk is famous for founding four different billion-dollar companies. The development processes for PayPal , Solar City , SpaceX , and Tesla differed widely; however, Musk does outline a six-step decision-making process ( Figure 4.8 ):

  • Ask a question.
  • Gather as much evidence as possible about it.
  • Develop axioms based on the evidence and try to assign a probability of truth to each one.
  • Draw a conclusion in order to determine: Are these axioms correct, are they relevant, do they necessarily lead to this conclusion, and with what probability?
  • Attempt to disprove the conclusion. Seek refutation from others to further help break your conclusion.
  • If nobody can invalidate your conclusion, then you’re probably right, but you’re not certainly right.

In other words, the constant underlying Musk’s decision process is the scientific method. 25 The scientific method , most often associated with the natural sciences, outlines the process of discovering an answer to a question or a problem. “The scientific method is a logical organization of steps that scientists use to make deductions about the world around us.” 26 The steps in the scientific method line up quite nicely with Musk’s decision-making process. Applying the scientific method to invention and innovation makes sense. The scientific method involves becoming aware of a problem, collecting data about it by observing and experimenting, and coming up with suggestions on how to solve it.

Economists argue that processes of invention can be explained by economic forces. But this hasn’t always been the case. Prior to 1940, economic theory focused very little on inventions. After World War II, much of the global economy in the developed world needed to be rebuilt. New technologies were developing rapidly, and research and development investment increased. Inventors and economists alike became aware of consumer demand and realized that demand can influence which inventions take off at a given time. 27 However, inventors are always up against an adoption curve. 28

The Rogers Adoption Curve was popularized through the research and publications of the author and scientist Everett Rogers . 29 He first used it to describe how agricultural innovations diffused (or failed to) in a society. It was later applied to all inventions and innovations. This curve illustrates diffusion of an innovation and when certain people will adopt it. First is the question of who adopts inventions and innovations in society: The main groups are innovators, early adopters, early and late-majority adopters, and “laggards” (Rogers’s own term). 30 The innovators are the ones willing to take a risk on a new product, the consumers who want to try it first. The early adopters are consumers who will adopt new inventions with little to no information. Majority adopters will adopt products after being accepted by the majority. And finally, laggards are often not willing to readily adopt change and are the hardest to convince to try a new invention. 31

Rogers’s second way of looking at the concept is from the point of view of the invention itself. A given population partially or completely adopts an invention or rejects it. If an invention is targeted at the wrong population or the wrong population segment, this can dramatically inhibit its chances of being adopted widely. The most critical point of adoption often occurs at the end of the early adoption phase, before the early majority steps in and truly confirms (or not) the diffusion of an invention. This is called the diffusion chasm (though this process is usually called the diffusion of innovations , for our purposes, it applies quite well to new inventions as we define them here).

The diffusion curve depicts a social process in which the value of an invention is perceived (or not) to be worth the cost ( Figure 4.9 ). Early adopters generally pay more than those who wait, but if the invention gives them a perceived practical, social, or cultural advantage, members of the population, the popularity of the invention itself, and marketing can all drive the invention over the diffusion chasm. Once the early majority adopts an innovation (in very large numbers), we can expect the rest of the majority to adopt it. By the time the late majority and the laggards adopt an innovation, the novelty has worn off, but the practical benefits of the innovation can still be felt.

Inventors are constantly trying to cross the diffusion chasm, often with many products at a time. Crossing the diffusion chasm is a nearly constant concern for business-focused or outcomes-focused inventors. Inventors put many of their resources into an invention during the innovation and early adoption stages. Inventions may not turn a profit for investors or the inventors themselves until they are well into the early majority stage of adoption. Some inventors are pleased to work toward general discovery, but most in today’s social and cultural context are working to develop products and services for markets.

One shortcoming of the diffusion of innovations model is that it treats inventions and innovations as though they are finished and complete, though many are not. Not all inventions are finished products ready for market. Iterative development is more common, particularly in fields with high levels of complexity and in service-oriented ventures. In the iterative development process, inventors and innovators continuously engage with potential customers in order to develop their products and their consumer bases at the same time. This model of business learning, also known as the science of customer development, is essential. 32 Business learning involves testing product-market fit and making changes to an innovation or invention many times over until either investment funding runs out or the product succeeds. Perhaps the most accurate way to summarize this process is to note that many inventions are hit-or-miss prospects that get only a few chances to cross the diffusion chasm. When innovators follow the build-measure-learn model (discussed in detail in Launch for Growth to Success ), they try to work their way across the diffusion chasm rather than making a leap of faith.

Work It Out

The safety razor was an innovation over the straight razor. Safety razor blades are small enough to fit inside a capsule, and the location and type of handle was altered to suit the new orientation of handle to blade ( Figure 4.10 ). Most contemporary razors are themselves innovations on the safety razor, whether they have two, three, four, or more blades. The method of changing razor blades has evolved with each innovation on the safety razor, but the designs are functionally similar.

The electric razor is a related invention. It still uses blades to shave hair off the face or body, but the blades are hidden beneath a foil or foils. Hairs poke through the foils when the razor is pressed against the skin, and blades moving in various directions cut the hairs. Although electric razors use blades as do mechanical razors, the new design and the added technology qualified the electric razor as an invention that offered something new in the shaving industry when Jacob Schick won the patent for a shaving machine in 1930. 33 Still other innovations in the shaving genre include gender-specific razors, beard trimmers, and, more recently, online clubs such as Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s Shave Club .

Think about the conceptual difference between innovation and invention. Is the safety razor a pioneering innovation or an incremental one? What makes the electric razor an invention, as we define it here? What makes it stand out as a leap from previous types of razors? Do you think the electric razor is a “sure thing”? Why or why not? Consider the availability of electricity at the time the first electric razors were being made. Why do you think the electric razor made it over the diffusion chasm between early adopters and early majority adopters? Do you think the electric razor was invented iteratively with small changes to the same product in response to customer preferences? Or did it develop in a series of black box inventions, with each one either diffusing or not?

  • 7 “How Design Thinking Transformed Airbnb from Failing Startup to Billion Dollar Business.” First Round Review . n.d.
  • 8 “Divya Nag, 26.” Fortune . n.d.
  • 9 Rikke Dam and Teo Siang. “Introduction to the Essential Ideation Techniques Which Are the Heart of Design Thinking.” Interaction Design Foundation . April 2019.
  • 10 Dawn Kelly and Terry L. Amburgey. “Organizational Inertia and Momentum: A Dynamic Model of Strategic Change.” Academy of Management Journal 34, no. 3 (1991): 591–612.
  • 11 Ian Fillis and Ruth Rentschler. “The Role of Creativity in Entrepreneurship.”  Journal of Enterprising Culture  18, no. 1 (2010): 49–81.
  • 12 P. F. Drucker. Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Practices and Principles . New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1986.
  • 13 P. F. Drucker. Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Practices and Principles . (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1986), 35.
  • 14 P. F. Drucker. Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Practices and Principles . New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1986.
  • 15 Blake Morgan. “5 Fresh Examples of Customer Service Innovation.” Forbes . July 17, 2017.
  • 16 Tony Ulwick. “Reinventing Innovation for 25 Years.” Strategyn . n.d.
  • 17 Chris Larson. “Disruptive Innovation Theory: What It Is & 4 Key Concepts.” Harvard Business School . November 15, 2016.
  • 18 Rosamond Hutt. “What Is Disruptive Innovation?” World Economic Forum . June 25, 2016.
  • 19 Lloyd Waldo. “What’s a Pain Point? A Guide for Startups.” StartupYard Seed Accelerator . December 1, 2016.
  • 20 Abdul Ali, Manohar U. Kalwani, and Dan Kovenock. “Selecting Product Development Projects: Pioneering versus Incremental Innovation Strategies.”  Management Science  39, no. 3 (1993): 255–274.
  • 21 Abdul Ali. “Pioneering versus Incremental Innovation: Review and Research Propositions.”  Journal of Product Innovation Management  11, no. 1 (1994): 46–61.
  • 22 JV Chamary. “Why ‘Pokémon GO’ Is the World’s Most Important Game.” Forbes . February 10, 2018.
  • 23 Morten Thanning Vendelø. “Narrating Corporate Reputation: Becoming Legitimate through Storytelling.”  International Studies of Management & Organization  28, no. 3 (1998): 120–137.
  • 24 Thomas J. Fitzgerald. “For the Deaf: Communication without the Wait.” The New York Times . December 18, 2003.
  • 25 Abby Jackson. “Elon Musk Uses This 6-Step Process to Make Decisions.” Business Insider . November 16, 2017.
  • 26 Joan Whetzel. “Formula for Using the Scientific Method.” Owlcation . February 11, 2017.
  • 27 N. Rosenberg. “Science, Invention and Economic Growth.”  The Economic Journal  84, no. 333 (1974): 90–108.
  • 28 Everett M. Rogers.  Diffusion of Innovations , 5th ed. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010.
  • 29 John-Pierre Maeli. “The Rogers Adoption Curve & How You Spread New Ideas Throughout Culture.” The Political Informer . May 6, 2016.
  • 30 Everett M. Rogers.  Diffusion of Innovations , 5th ed. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010.
  • 31 Wayne W. LaMorte. “Diffusion of Innovation Theory.” September 9, 2019.
  • 32 Eric Ries. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses . Largo, Maryland: Crown Books, 2011.
  • 33 “Jacob Schick Invents the Electric Razor.” Connecticut History . May 13, 2017.

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Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a widely accepted educational goal. Its definition is contested, but the competing definitions can be understood as differing conceptions of the same basic concept: careful thinking directed to a goal. Conceptions differ with respect to the scope of such thinking, the type of goal, the criteria and norms for thinking carefully, and the thinking components on which they focus. Its adoption as an educational goal has been recommended on the basis of respect for students’ autonomy and preparing students for success in life and for democratic citizenship. “Critical thinkers” have the dispositions and abilities that lead them to think critically when appropriate. The abilities can be identified directly; the dispositions indirectly, by considering what factors contribute to or impede exercise of the abilities. Standardized tests have been developed to assess the degree to which a person possesses such dispositions and abilities. Educational intervention has been shown experimentally to improve them, particularly when it includes dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring. Controversies have arisen over the generalizability of critical thinking across domains, over alleged bias in critical thinking theories and instruction, and over the relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking.

2.1 Dewey’s Three Main Examples

2.2 dewey’s other examples, 2.3 further examples, 2.4 non-examples, 3. the definition of critical thinking, 4. its value, 5. the process of thinking critically, 6. components of the process, 7. contributory dispositions and abilities, 8.1 initiating dispositions, 8.2 internal dispositions, 9. critical thinking abilities, 10. required knowledge, 11. educational methods, 12.1 the generalizability of critical thinking, 12.2 bias in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, 12.3 relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking, other internet resources, related entries.

Use of the term ‘critical thinking’ to describe an educational goal goes back to the American philosopher John Dewey (1910), who more commonly called it ‘reflective thinking’. He defined it as

active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions to which it tends. (Dewey 1910: 6; 1933: 9)

and identified a habit of such consideration with a scientific attitude of mind. His lengthy quotations of Francis Bacon, John Locke, and John Stuart Mill indicate that he was not the first person to propose development of a scientific attitude of mind as an educational goal.

In the 1930s, many of the schools that participated in the Eight-Year Study of the Progressive Education Association (Aikin 1942) adopted critical thinking as an educational goal, for whose achievement the study’s Evaluation Staff developed tests (Smith, Tyler, & Evaluation Staff 1942). Glaser (1941) showed experimentally that it was possible to improve the critical thinking of high school students. Bloom’s influential taxonomy of cognitive educational objectives (Bloom et al. 1956) incorporated critical thinking abilities. Ennis (1962) proposed 12 aspects of critical thinking as a basis for research on the teaching and evaluation of critical thinking ability.

Since 1980, an annual international conference in California on critical thinking and educational reform has attracted tens of thousands of educators from all levels of education and from many parts of the world. Also since 1980, the state university system in California has required all undergraduate students to take a critical thinking course. Since 1983, the Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking has sponsored sessions in conjunction with the divisional meetings of the American Philosophical Association (APA). In 1987, the APA’s Committee on Pre-College Philosophy commissioned a consensus statement on critical thinking for purposes of educational assessment and instruction (Facione 1990a). Researchers have developed standardized tests of critical thinking abilities and dispositions; for details, see the Supplement on Assessment . Educational jurisdictions around the world now include critical thinking in guidelines for curriculum and assessment.

For details on this history, see the Supplement on History .

2. Examples and Non-Examples

Before considering the definition of critical thinking, it will be helpful to have in mind some examples of critical thinking, as well as some examples of kinds of thinking that would apparently not count as critical thinking.

Dewey (1910: 68–71; 1933: 91–94) takes as paradigms of reflective thinking three class papers of students in which they describe their thinking. The examples range from the everyday to the scientific.

Transit : “The other day, when I was down town on 16th Street, a clock caught my eye. I saw that the hands pointed to 12:20. This suggested that I had an engagement at 124th Street, at one o’clock. I reasoned that as it had taken me an hour to come down on a surface car, I should probably be twenty minutes late if I returned the same way. I might save twenty minutes by a subway express. But was there a station near? If not, I might lose more than twenty minutes in looking for one. Then I thought of the elevated, and I saw there was such a line within two blocks. But where was the station? If it were several blocks above or below the street I was on, I should lose time instead of gaining it. My mind went back to the subway express as quicker than the elevated; furthermore, I remembered that it went nearer than the elevated to the part of 124th Street I wished to reach, so that time would be saved at the end of the journey. I concluded in favor of the subway, and reached my destination by one o’clock.” (Dewey 1910: 68–69; 1933: 91–92)

Ferryboat : “Projecting nearly horizontally from the upper deck of the ferryboat on which I daily cross the river is a long white pole, having a gilded ball at its tip. It suggested a flagpole when I first saw it; its color, shape, and gilded ball agreed with this idea, and these reasons seemed to justify me in this belief. But soon difficulties presented themselves. The pole was nearly horizontal, an unusual position for a flagpole; in the next place, there was no pulley, ring, or cord by which to attach a flag; finally, there were elsewhere on the boat two vertical staffs from which flags were occasionally flown. It seemed probable that the pole was not there for flag-flying.

“I then tried to imagine all possible purposes of the pole, and to consider for which of these it was best suited: (a) Possibly it was an ornament. But as all the ferryboats and even the tugboats carried poles, this hypothesis was rejected. (b) Possibly it was the terminal of a wireless telegraph. But the same considerations made this improbable. Besides, the more natural place for such a terminal would be the highest part of the boat, on top of the pilot house. (c) Its purpose might be to point out the direction in which the boat is moving.

“In support of this conclusion, I discovered that the pole was lower than the pilot house, so that the steersman could easily see it. Moreover, the tip was enough higher than the base, so that, from the pilot’s position, it must appear to project far out in front of the boat. Moreover, the pilot being near the front of the boat, he would need some such guide as to its direction. Tugboats would also need poles for such a purpose. This hypothesis was so much more probable than the others that I accepted it. I formed the conclusion that the pole was set up for the purpose of showing the pilot the direction in which the boat pointed, to enable him to steer correctly.” (Dewey 1910: 69–70; 1933: 92–93)

Bubbles : “In washing tumblers in hot soapsuds and placing them mouth downward on a plate, bubbles appeared on the outside of the mouth of the tumblers and then went inside. Why? The presence of bubbles suggests air, which I note must come from inside the tumbler. I see that the soapy water on the plate prevents escape of the air save as it may be caught in bubbles. But why should air leave the tumbler? There was no substance entering to force it out. It must have expanded. It expands by increase of heat, or by decrease of pressure, or both. Could the air have become heated after the tumbler was taken from the hot suds? Clearly not the air that was already entangled in the water. If heated air was the cause, cold air must have entered in transferring the tumblers from the suds to the plate. I test to see if this supposition is true by taking several more tumblers out. Some I shake so as to make sure of entrapping cold air in them. Some I take out holding mouth downward in order to prevent cold air from entering. Bubbles appear on the outside of every one of the former and on none of the latter. I must be right in my inference. Air from the outside must have been expanded by the heat of the tumbler, which explains the appearance of the bubbles on the outside. But why do they then go inside? Cold contracts. The tumbler cooled and also the air inside it. Tension was removed, and hence bubbles appeared inside. To be sure of this, I test by placing a cup of ice on the tumbler while the bubbles are still forming outside. They soon reverse” (Dewey 1910: 70–71; 1933: 93–94).

Dewey (1910, 1933) sprinkles his book with other examples of critical thinking. We will refer to the following.

Weather : A man on a walk notices that it has suddenly become cool, thinks that it is probably going to rain, looks up and sees a dark cloud obscuring the sun, and quickens his steps (1910: 6–10; 1933: 9–13).

Disorder : A man finds his rooms on his return to them in disorder with his belongings thrown about, thinks at first of burglary as an explanation, then thinks of mischievous children as being an alternative explanation, then looks to see whether valuables are missing, and discovers that they are (1910: 82–83; 1933: 166–168).

Typhoid : A physician diagnosing a patient whose conspicuous symptoms suggest typhoid avoids drawing a conclusion until more data are gathered by questioning the patient and by making tests (1910: 85–86; 1933: 170).

Blur : A moving blur catches our eye in the distance, we ask ourselves whether it is a cloud of whirling dust or a tree moving its branches or a man signaling to us, we think of other traits that should be found on each of those possibilities, and we look and see if those traits are found (1910: 102, 108; 1933: 121, 133).

Suction pump : In thinking about the suction pump, the scientist first notes that it will draw water only to a maximum height of 33 feet at sea level and to a lesser maximum height at higher elevations, selects for attention the differing atmospheric pressure at these elevations, sets up experiments in which the air is removed from a vessel containing water (when suction no longer works) and in which the weight of air at various levels is calculated, compares the results of reasoning about the height to which a given weight of air will allow a suction pump to raise water with the observed maximum height at different elevations, and finally assimilates the suction pump to such apparently different phenomena as the siphon and the rising of a balloon (1910: 150–153; 1933: 195–198).

Diamond : A passenger in a car driving in a diamond lane reserved for vehicles with at least one passenger notices that the diamond marks on the pavement are far apart in some places and close together in others. Why? The driver suggests that the reason may be that the diamond marks are not needed where there is a solid double line separating the diamond lane from the adjoining lane, but are needed when there is a dotted single line permitting crossing into the diamond lane. Further observation confirms that the diamonds are close together when a dotted line separates the diamond lane from its neighbour, but otherwise far apart.

Rash : A woman suddenly develops a very itchy red rash on her throat and upper chest. She recently noticed a mark on the back of her right hand, but was not sure whether the mark was a rash or a scrape. She lies down in bed and thinks about what might be causing the rash and what to do about it. About two weeks before, she began taking blood pressure medication that contained a sulfa drug, and the pharmacist had warned her, in view of a previous allergic reaction to a medication containing a sulfa drug, to be on the alert for an allergic reaction; however, she had been taking the medication for two weeks with no such effect. The day before, she began using a new cream on her neck and upper chest; against the new cream as the cause was mark on the back of her hand, which had not been exposed to the cream. She began taking probiotics about a month before. She also recently started new eye drops, but she supposed that manufacturers of eye drops would be careful not to include allergy-causing components in the medication. The rash might be a heat rash, since she recently was sweating profusely from her upper body. Since she is about to go away on a short vacation, where she would not have access to her usual physician, she decides to keep taking the probiotics and using the new eye drops but to discontinue the blood pressure medication and to switch back to the old cream for her neck and upper chest. She forms a plan to consult her regular physician on her return about the blood pressure medication.

Candidate : Although Dewey included no examples of thinking directed at appraising the arguments of others, such thinking has come to be considered a kind of critical thinking. We find an example of such thinking in the performance task on the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+), which its sponsoring organization describes as

a performance-based assessment that provides a measure of an institution’s contribution to the development of critical-thinking and written communication skills of its students. (Council for Aid to Education 2017)

A sample task posted on its website requires the test-taker to write a report for public distribution evaluating a fictional candidate’s policy proposals and their supporting arguments, using supplied background documents, with a recommendation on whether to endorse the candidate.

Immediate acceptance of an idea that suggests itself as a solution to a problem (e.g., a possible explanation of an event or phenomenon, an action that seems likely to produce a desired result) is “uncritical thinking, the minimum of reflection” (Dewey 1910: 13). On-going suspension of judgment in the light of doubt about a possible solution is not critical thinking (Dewey 1910: 108). Critique driven by a dogmatically held political or religious ideology is not critical thinking; thus Paulo Freire (1968 [1970]) is using the term (e.g., at 1970: 71, 81, 100, 146) in a more politically freighted sense that includes not only reflection but also revolutionary action against oppression. Derivation of a conclusion from given data using an algorithm is not critical thinking.

What is critical thinking? There are many definitions. Ennis (2016) lists 14 philosophically oriented scholarly definitions and three dictionary definitions. Following Rawls (1971), who distinguished his conception of justice from a utilitarian conception but regarded them as rival conceptions of the same concept, Ennis maintains that the 17 definitions are different conceptions of the same concept. Rawls articulated the shared concept of justice as

a characteristic set of principles for assigning basic rights and duties and for determining… the proper distribution of the benefits and burdens of social cooperation. (Rawls 1971: 5)

Bailin et al. (1999b) claim that, if one considers what sorts of thinking an educator would take not to be critical thinking and what sorts to be critical thinking, one can conclude that educators typically understand critical thinking to have at least three features.

  • It is done for the purpose of making up one’s mind about what to believe or do.
  • The person engaging in the thinking is trying to fulfill standards of adequacy and accuracy appropriate to the thinking.
  • The thinking fulfills the relevant standards to some threshold level.

One could sum up the core concept that involves these three features by saying that critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking. This core concept seems to apply to all the examples of critical thinking described in the previous section. As for the non-examples, their exclusion depends on construing careful thinking as excluding jumping immediately to conclusions, suspending judgment no matter how strong the evidence, reasoning from an unquestioned ideological or religious perspective, and routinely using an algorithm to answer a question.

If the core of critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking, conceptions of it can vary according to its presumed scope, its presumed goal, one’s criteria and threshold for being careful, and the thinking component on which one focuses. As to its scope, some conceptions (e.g., Dewey 1910, 1933) restrict it to constructive thinking on the basis of one’s own observations and experiments, others (e.g., Ennis 1962; Fisher & Scriven 1997; Johnson 1992) to appraisal of the products of such thinking. Ennis (1991) and Bailin et al. (1999b) take it to cover both construction and appraisal. As to its goal, some conceptions restrict it to forming a judgment (Dewey 1910, 1933; Lipman 1987; Facione 1990a). Others allow for actions as well as beliefs as the end point of a process of critical thinking (Ennis 1991; Bailin et al. 1999b). As to the criteria and threshold for being careful, definitions vary in the term used to indicate that critical thinking satisfies certain norms: “intellectually disciplined” (Scriven & Paul 1987), “reasonable” (Ennis 1991), “skillful” (Lipman 1987), “skilled” (Fisher & Scriven 1997), “careful” (Bailin & Battersby 2009). Some definitions specify these norms, referring variously to “consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends” (Dewey 1910, 1933); “the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning” (Glaser 1941); “conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication” (Scriven & Paul 1987); the requirement that “it is sensitive to context, relies on criteria, and is self-correcting” (Lipman 1987); “evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations” (Facione 1990a); and “plus-minus considerations of the product in terms of appropriate standards (or criteria)” (Johnson 1992). Stanovich and Stanovich (2010) propose to ground the concept of critical thinking in the concept of rationality, which they understand as combining epistemic rationality (fitting one’s beliefs to the world) and instrumental rationality (optimizing goal fulfillment); a critical thinker, in their view, is someone with “a propensity to override suboptimal responses from the autonomous mind” (2010: 227). These variant specifications of norms for critical thinking are not necessarily incompatible with one another, and in any case presuppose the core notion of thinking carefully. As to the thinking component singled out, some definitions focus on suspension of judgment during the thinking (Dewey 1910; McPeck 1981), others on inquiry while judgment is suspended (Bailin & Battersby 2009, 2021), others on the resulting judgment (Facione 1990a), and still others on responsiveness to reasons (Siegel 1988). Kuhn (2019) takes critical thinking to be more a dialogic practice of advancing and responding to arguments than an individual ability.

In educational contexts, a definition of critical thinking is a “programmatic definition” (Scheffler 1960: 19). It expresses a practical program for achieving an educational goal. For this purpose, a one-sentence formulaic definition is much less useful than articulation of a critical thinking process, with criteria and standards for the kinds of thinking that the process may involve. The real educational goal is recognition, adoption and implementation by students of those criteria and standards. That adoption and implementation in turn consists in acquiring the knowledge, abilities and dispositions of a critical thinker.

Conceptions of critical thinking generally do not include moral integrity as part of the concept. Dewey, for example, took critical thinking to be the ultimate intellectual goal of education, but distinguished it from the development of social cooperation among school children, which he took to be the central moral goal. Ennis (1996, 2011) added to his previous list of critical thinking dispositions a group of dispositions to care about the dignity and worth of every person, which he described as a “correlative” (1996) disposition without which critical thinking would be less valuable and perhaps harmful. An educational program that aimed at developing critical thinking but not the correlative disposition to care about the dignity and worth of every person, he asserted, “would be deficient and perhaps dangerous” (Ennis 1996: 172).

Dewey thought that education for reflective thinking would be of value to both the individual and society; recognition in educational practice of the kinship to the scientific attitude of children’s native curiosity, fertile imagination and love of experimental inquiry “would make for individual happiness and the reduction of social waste” (Dewey 1910: iii). Schools participating in the Eight-Year Study took development of the habit of reflective thinking and skill in solving problems as a means to leading young people to understand, appreciate and live the democratic way of life characteristic of the United States (Aikin 1942: 17–18, 81). Harvey Siegel (1988: 55–61) has offered four considerations in support of adopting critical thinking as an educational ideal. (1) Respect for persons requires that schools and teachers honour students’ demands for reasons and explanations, deal with students honestly, and recognize the need to confront students’ independent judgment; these requirements concern the manner in which teachers treat students. (2) Education has the task of preparing children to be successful adults, a task that requires development of their self-sufficiency. (3) Education should initiate children into the rational traditions in such fields as history, science and mathematics. (4) Education should prepare children to become democratic citizens, which requires reasoned procedures and critical talents and attitudes. To supplement these considerations, Siegel (1988: 62–90) responds to two objections: the ideology objection that adoption of any educational ideal requires a prior ideological commitment and the indoctrination objection that cultivation of critical thinking cannot escape being a form of indoctrination.

Despite the diversity of our 11 examples, one can recognize a common pattern. Dewey analyzed it as consisting of five phases:

  • suggestions , in which the mind leaps forward to a possible solution;
  • an intellectualization of the difficulty or perplexity into a problem to be solved, a question for which the answer must be sought;
  • the use of one suggestion after another as a leading idea, or hypothesis , to initiate and guide observation and other operations in collection of factual material;
  • the mental elaboration of the idea or supposition as an idea or supposition ( reasoning , in the sense on which reasoning is a part, not the whole, of inference); and
  • testing the hypothesis by overt or imaginative action. (Dewey 1933: 106–107; italics in original)

The process of reflective thinking consisting of these phases would be preceded by a perplexed, troubled or confused situation and followed by a cleared-up, unified, resolved situation (Dewey 1933: 106). The term ‘phases’ replaced the term ‘steps’ (Dewey 1910: 72), thus removing the earlier suggestion of an invariant sequence. Variants of the above analysis appeared in (Dewey 1916: 177) and (Dewey 1938: 101–119).

The variant formulations indicate the difficulty of giving a single logical analysis of such a varied process. The process of critical thinking may have a spiral pattern, with the problem being redefined in the light of obstacles to solving it as originally formulated. For example, the person in Transit might have concluded that getting to the appointment at the scheduled time was impossible and have reformulated the problem as that of rescheduling the appointment for a mutually convenient time. Further, defining a problem does not always follow after or lead immediately to an idea of a suggested solution. Nor should it do so, as Dewey himself recognized in describing the physician in Typhoid as avoiding any strong preference for this or that conclusion before getting further information (Dewey 1910: 85; 1933: 170). People with a hypothesis in mind, even one to which they have a very weak commitment, have a so-called “confirmation bias” (Nickerson 1998): they are likely to pay attention to evidence that confirms the hypothesis and to ignore evidence that counts against it or for some competing hypothesis. Detectives, intelligence agencies, and investigators of airplane accidents are well advised to gather relevant evidence systematically and to postpone even tentative adoption of an explanatory hypothesis until the collected evidence rules out with the appropriate degree of certainty all but one explanation. Dewey’s analysis of the critical thinking process can be faulted as well for requiring acceptance or rejection of a possible solution to a defined problem, with no allowance for deciding in the light of the available evidence to suspend judgment. Further, given the great variety of kinds of problems for which reflection is appropriate, there is likely to be variation in its component events. Perhaps the best way to conceptualize the critical thinking process is as a checklist whose component events can occur in a variety of orders, selectively, and more than once. These component events might include (1) noticing a difficulty, (2) defining the problem, (3) dividing the problem into manageable sub-problems, (4) formulating a variety of possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, (5) determining what evidence is relevant to deciding among possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, (6) devising a plan of systematic observation or experiment that will uncover the relevant evidence, (7) carrying out the plan of systematic observation or experimentation, (8) noting the results of the systematic observation or experiment, (9) gathering relevant testimony and information from others, (10) judging the credibility of testimony and information gathered from others, (11) drawing conclusions from gathered evidence and accepted testimony, and (12) accepting a solution that the evidence adequately supports (cf. Hitchcock 2017: 485).

Checklist conceptions of the process of critical thinking are open to the objection that they are too mechanical and procedural to fit the multi-dimensional and emotionally charged issues for which critical thinking is urgently needed (Paul 1984). For such issues, a more dialectical process is advocated, in which competing relevant world views are identified, their implications explored, and some sort of creative synthesis attempted.

If one considers the critical thinking process illustrated by the 11 examples, one can identify distinct kinds of mental acts and mental states that form part of it. To distinguish, label and briefly characterize these components is a useful preliminary to identifying abilities, skills, dispositions, attitudes, habits and the like that contribute causally to thinking critically. Identifying such abilities and habits is in turn a useful preliminary to setting educational goals. Setting the goals is in its turn a useful preliminary to designing strategies for helping learners to achieve the goals and to designing ways of measuring the extent to which learners have done so. Such measures provide both feedback to learners on their achievement and a basis for experimental research on the effectiveness of various strategies for educating people to think critically. Let us begin, then, by distinguishing the kinds of mental acts and mental events that can occur in a critical thinking process.

  • Observing : One notices something in one’s immediate environment (sudden cooling of temperature in Weather , bubbles forming outside a glass and then going inside in Bubbles , a moving blur in the distance in Blur , a rash in Rash ). Or one notes the results of an experiment or systematic observation (valuables missing in Disorder , no suction without air pressure in Suction pump )
  • Feeling : One feels puzzled or uncertain about something (how to get to an appointment on time in Transit , why the diamonds vary in spacing in Diamond ). One wants to resolve this perplexity. One feels satisfaction once one has worked out an answer (to take the subway express in Transit , diamonds closer when needed as a warning in Diamond ).
  • Wondering : One formulates a question to be addressed (why bubbles form outside a tumbler taken from hot water in Bubbles , how suction pumps work in Suction pump , what caused the rash in Rash ).
  • Imagining : One thinks of possible answers (bus or subway or elevated in Transit , flagpole or ornament or wireless communication aid or direction indicator in Ferryboat , allergic reaction or heat rash in Rash ).
  • Inferring : One works out what would be the case if a possible answer were assumed (valuables missing if there has been a burglary in Disorder , earlier start to the rash if it is an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug in Rash ). Or one draws a conclusion once sufficient relevant evidence is gathered (take the subway in Transit , burglary in Disorder , discontinue blood pressure medication and new cream in Rash ).
  • Knowledge : One uses stored knowledge of the subject-matter to generate possible answers or to infer what would be expected on the assumption of a particular answer (knowledge of a city’s public transit system in Transit , of the requirements for a flagpole in Ferryboat , of Boyle’s law in Bubbles , of allergic reactions in Rash ).
  • Experimenting : One designs and carries out an experiment or a systematic observation to find out whether the results deduced from a possible answer will occur (looking at the location of the flagpole in relation to the pilot’s position in Ferryboat , putting an ice cube on top of a tumbler taken from hot water in Bubbles , measuring the height to which a suction pump will draw water at different elevations in Suction pump , noticing the spacing of diamonds when movement to or from a diamond lane is allowed in Diamond ).
  • Consulting : One finds a source of information, gets the information from the source, and makes a judgment on whether to accept it. None of our 11 examples include searching for sources of information. In this respect they are unrepresentative, since most people nowadays have almost instant access to information relevant to answering any question, including many of those illustrated by the examples. However, Candidate includes the activities of extracting information from sources and evaluating its credibility.
  • Identifying and analyzing arguments : One notices an argument and works out its structure and content as a preliminary to evaluating its strength. This activity is central to Candidate . It is an important part of a critical thinking process in which one surveys arguments for various positions on an issue.
  • Judging : One makes a judgment on the basis of accumulated evidence and reasoning, such as the judgment in Ferryboat that the purpose of the pole is to provide direction to the pilot.
  • Deciding : One makes a decision on what to do or on what policy to adopt, as in the decision in Transit to take the subway.

By definition, a person who does something voluntarily is both willing and able to do that thing at that time. Both the willingness and the ability contribute causally to the person’s action, in the sense that the voluntary action would not occur if either (or both) of these were lacking. For example, suppose that one is standing with one’s arms at one’s sides and one voluntarily lifts one’s right arm to an extended horizontal position. One would not do so if one were unable to lift one’s arm, if for example one’s right side was paralyzed as the result of a stroke. Nor would one do so if one were unwilling to lift one’s arm, if for example one were participating in a street demonstration at which a white supremacist was urging the crowd to lift their right arm in a Nazi salute and one were unwilling to express support in this way for the racist Nazi ideology. The same analysis applies to a voluntary mental process of thinking critically. It requires both willingness and ability to think critically, including willingness and ability to perform each of the mental acts that compose the process and to coordinate those acts in a sequence that is directed at resolving the initiating perplexity.

Consider willingness first. We can identify causal contributors to willingness to think critically by considering factors that would cause a person who was able to think critically about an issue nevertheless not to do so (Hamby 2014). For each factor, the opposite condition thus contributes causally to willingness to think critically on a particular occasion. For example, people who habitually jump to conclusions without considering alternatives will not think critically about issues that arise, even if they have the required abilities. The contrary condition of willingness to suspend judgment is thus a causal contributor to thinking critically.

Now consider ability. In contrast to the ability to move one’s arm, which can be completely absent because a stroke has left the arm paralyzed, the ability to think critically is a developed ability, whose absence is not a complete absence of ability to think but absence of ability to think well. We can identify the ability to think well directly, in terms of the norms and standards for good thinking. In general, to be able do well the thinking activities that can be components of a critical thinking process, one needs to know the concepts and principles that characterize their good performance, to recognize in particular cases that the concepts and principles apply, and to apply them. The knowledge, recognition and application may be procedural rather than declarative. It may be domain-specific rather than widely applicable, and in either case may need subject-matter knowledge, sometimes of a deep kind.

Reflections of the sort illustrated by the previous two paragraphs have led scholars to identify the knowledge, abilities and dispositions of a “critical thinker”, i.e., someone who thinks critically whenever it is appropriate to do so. We turn now to these three types of causal contributors to thinking critically. We start with dispositions, since arguably these are the most powerful contributors to being a critical thinker, can be fostered at an early stage of a child’s development, and are susceptible to general improvement (Glaser 1941: 175)

8. Critical Thinking Dispositions

Educational researchers use the term ‘dispositions’ broadly for the habits of mind and attitudes that contribute causally to being a critical thinker. Some writers (e.g., Paul & Elder 2006; Hamby 2014; Bailin & Battersby 2016a) propose to use the term ‘virtues’ for this dimension of a critical thinker. The virtues in question, although they are virtues of character, concern the person’s ways of thinking rather than the person’s ways of behaving towards others. They are not moral virtues but intellectual virtues, of the sort articulated by Zagzebski (1996) and discussed by Turri, Alfano, and Greco (2017).

On a realistic conception, thinking dispositions or intellectual virtues are real properties of thinkers. They are general tendencies, propensities, or inclinations to think in particular ways in particular circumstances, and can be genuinely explanatory (Siegel 1999). Sceptics argue that there is no evidence for a specific mental basis for the habits of mind that contribute to thinking critically, and that it is pedagogically misleading to posit such a basis (Bailin et al. 1999a). Whatever their status, critical thinking dispositions need motivation for their initial formation in a child—motivation that may be external or internal. As children develop, the force of habit will gradually become important in sustaining the disposition (Nieto & Valenzuela 2012). Mere force of habit, however, is unlikely to sustain critical thinking dispositions. Critical thinkers must value and enjoy using their knowledge and abilities to think things through for themselves. They must be committed to, and lovers of, inquiry.

A person may have a critical thinking disposition with respect to only some kinds of issues. For example, one could be open-minded about scientific issues but not about religious issues. Similarly, one could be confident in one’s ability to reason about the theological implications of the existence of evil in the world but not in one’s ability to reason about the best design for a guided ballistic missile.

Facione (1990a: 25) divides “affective dispositions” of critical thinking into approaches to life and living in general and approaches to specific issues, questions or problems. Adapting this distinction, one can usefully divide critical thinking dispositions into initiating dispositions (those that contribute causally to starting to think critically about an issue) and internal dispositions (those that contribute causally to doing a good job of thinking critically once one has started). The two categories are not mutually exclusive. For example, open-mindedness, in the sense of willingness to consider alternative points of view to one’s own, is both an initiating and an internal disposition.

Using the strategy of considering factors that would block people with the ability to think critically from doing so, we can identify as initiating dispositions for thinking critically attentiveness, a habit of inquiry, self-confidence, courage, open-mindedness, willingness to suspend judgment, trust in reason, wanting evidence for one’s beliefs, and seeking the truth. We consider briefly what each of these dispositions amounts to, in each case citing sources that acknowledge them.

  • Attentiveness : One will not think critically if one fails to recognize an issue that needs to be thought through. For example, the pedestrian in Weather would not have looked up if he had not noticed that the air was suddenly cooler. To be a critical thinker, then, one needs to be habitually attentive to one’s surroundings, noticing not only what one senses but also sources of perplexity in messages received and in one’s own beliefs and attitudes (Facione 1990a: 25; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001).
  • Habit of inquiry : Inquiry is effortful, and one needs an internal push to engage in it. For example, the student in Bubbles could easily have stopped at idle wondering about the cause of the bubbles rather than reasoning to a hypothesis, then designing and executing an experiment to test it. Thus willingness to think critically needs mental energy and initiative. What can supply that energy? Love of inquiry, or perhaps just a habit of inquiry. Hamby (2015) has argued that willingness to inquire is the central critical thinking virtue, one that encompasses all the others. It is recognized as a critical thinking disposition by Dewey (1910: 29; 1933: 35), Glaser (1941: 5), Ennis (1987: 12; 1991: 8), Facione (1990a: 25), Bailin et al. (1999b: 294), Halpern (1998: 452), and Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo (2001).
  • Self-confidence : Lack of confidence in one’s abilities can block critical thinking. For example, if the woman in Rash lacked confidence in her ability to figure things out for herself, she might just have assumed that the rash on her chest was the allergic reaction to her medication against which the pharmacist had warned her. Thus willingness to think critically requires confidence in one’s ability to inquire (Facione 1990a: 25; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001).
  • Courage : Fear of thinking for oneself can stop one from doing it. Thus willingness to think critically requires intellectual courage (Paul & Elder 2006: 16).
  • Open-mindedness : A dogmatic attitude will impede thinking critically. For example, a person who adheres rigidly to a “pro-choice” position on the issue of the legal status of induced abortion is likely to be unwilling to consider seriously the issue of when in its development an unborn child acquires a moral right to life. Thus willingness to think critically requires open-mindedness, in the sense of a willingness to examine questions to which one already accepts an answer but which further evidence or reasoning might cause one to answer differently (Dewey 1933; Facione 1990a; Ennis 1991; Bailin et al. 1999b; Halpern 1998, Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001). Paul (1981) emphasizes open-mindedness about alternative world-views, and recommends a dialectical approach to integrating such views as central to what he calls “strong sense” critical thinking. In three studies, Haran, Ritov, & Mellers (2013) found that actively open-minded thinking, including “the tendency to weigh new evidence against a favored belief, to spend sufficient time on a problem before giving up, and to consider carefully the opinions of others in forming one’s own”, led study participants to acquire information and thus to make accurate estimations.
  • Willingness to suspend judgment : Premature closure on an initial solution will block critical thinking. Thus willingness to think critically requires a willingness to suspend judgment while alternatives are explored (Facione 1990a; Ennis 1991; Halpern 1998).
  • Trust in reason : Since distrust in the processes of reasoned inquiry will dissuade one from engaging in it, trust in them is an initiating critical thinking disposition (Facione 1990a, 25; Bailin et al. 1999b: 294; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001; Paul & Elder 2006). In reaction to an allegedly exclusive emphasis on reason in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, Thayer-Bacon (2000) argues that intuition, imagination, and emotion have important roles to play in an adequate conception of critical thinking that she calls “constructive thinking”. From her point of view, critical thinking requires trust not only in reason but also in intuition, imagination, and emotion.
  • Seeking the truth : If one does not care about the truth but is content to stick with one’s initial bias on an issue, then one will not think critically about it. Seeking the truth is thus an initiating critical thinking disposition (Bailin et al. 1999b: 294; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001). A disposition to seek the truth is implicit in more specific critical thinking dispositions, such as trying to be well-informed, considering seriously points of view other than one’s own, looking for alternatives, suspending judgment when the evidence is insufficient, and adopting a position when the evidence supporting it is sufficient.

Some of the initiating dispositions, such as open-mindedness and willingness to suspend judgment, are also internal critical thinking dispositions, in the sense of mental habits or attitudes that contribute causally to doing a good job of critical thinking once one starts the process. But there are many other internal critical thinking dispositions. Some of them are parasitic on one’s conception of good thinking. For example, it is constitutive of good thinking about an issue to formulate the issue clearly and to maintain focus on it. For this purpose, one needs not only the corresponding ability but also the corresponding disposition. Ennis (1991: 8) describes it as the disposition “to determine and maintain focus on the conclusion or question”, Facione (1990a: 25) as “clarity in stating the question or concern”. Other internal dispositions are motivators to continue or adjust the critical thinking process, such as willingness to persist in a complex task and willingness to abandon nonproductive strategies in an attempt to self-correct (Halpern 1998: 452). For a list of identified internal critical thinking dispositions, see the Supplement on Internal Critical Thinking Dispositions .

Some theorists postulate skills, i.e., acquired abilities, as operative in critical thinking. It is not obvious, however, that a good mental act is the exercise of a generic acquired skill. Inferring an expected time of arrival, as in Transit , has some generic components but also uses non-generic subject-matter knowledge. Bailin et al. (1999a) argue against viewing critical thinking skills as generic and discrete, on the ground that skilled performance at a critical thinking task cannot be separated from knowledge of concepts and from domain-specific principles of good thinking. Talk of skills, they concede, is unproblematic if it means merely that a person with critical thinking skills is capable of intelligent performance.

Despite such scepticism, theorists of critical thinking have listed as general contributors to critical thinking what they variously call abilities (Glaser 1941; Ennis 1962, 1991), skills (Facione 1990a; Halpern 1998) or competencies (Fisher & Scriven 1997). Amalgamating these lists would produce a confusing and chaotic cornucopia of more than 50 possible educational objectives, with only partial overlap among them. It makes sense instead to try to understand the reasons for the multiplicity and diversity, and to make a selection according to one’s own reasons for singling out abilities to be developed in a critical thinking curriculum. Two reasons for diversity among lists of critical thinking abilities are the underlying conception of critical thinking and the envisaged educational level. Appraisal-only conceptions, for example, involve a different suite of abilities than constructive-only conceptions. Some lists, such as those in (Glaser 1941), are put forward as educational objectives for secondary school students, whereas others are proposed as objectives for college students (e.g., Facione 1990a).

The abilities described in the remaining paragraphs of this section emerge from reflection on the general abilities needed to do well the thinking activities identified in section 6 as components of the critical thinking process described in section 5 . The derivation of each collection of abilities is accompanied by citation of sources that list such abilities and of standardized tests that claim to test them.

Observational abilities : Careful and accurate observation sometimes requires specialist expertise and practice, as in the case of observing birds and observing accident scenes. However, there are general abilities of noticing what one’s senses are picking up from one’s environment and of being able to articulate clearly and accurately to oneself and others what one has observed. It helps in exercising them to be able to recognize and take into account factors that make one’s observation less trustworthy, such as prior framing of the situation, inadequate time, deficient senses, poor observation conditions, and the like. It helps as well to be skilled at taking steps to make one’s observation more trustworthy, such as moving closer to get a better look, measuring something three times and taking the average, and checking what one thinks one is observing with someone else who is in a good position to observe it. It also helps to be skilled at recognizing respects in which one’s report of one’s observation involves inference rather than direct observation, so that one can then consider whether the inference is justified. These abilities come into play as well when one thinks about whether and with what degree of confidence to accept an observation report, for example in the study of history or in a criminal investigation or in assessing news reports. Observational abilities show up in some lists of critical thinking abilities (Ennis 1962: 90; Facione 1990a: 16; Ennis 1991: 9). There are items testing a person’s ability to judge the credibility of observation reports in the Cornell Critical Thinking Tests, Levels X and Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005). Norris and King (1983, 1985, 1990a, 1990b) is a test of ability to appraise observation reports.

Emotional abilities : The emotions that drive a critical thinking process are perplexity or puzzlement, a wish to resolve it, and satisfaction at achieving the desired resolution. Children experience these emotions at an early age, without being trained to do so. Education that takes critical thinking as a goal needs only to channel these emotions and to make sure not to stifle them. Collaborative critical thinking benefits from ability to recognize one’s own and others’ emotional commitments and reactions.

Questioning abilities : A critical thinking process needs transformation of an inchoate sense of perplexity into a clear question. Formulating a question well requires not building in questionable assumptions, not prejudging the issue, and using language that in context is unambiguous and precise enough (Ennis 1962: 97; 1991: 9).

Imaginative abilities : Thinking directed at finding the correct causal explanation of a general phenomenon or particular event requires an ability to imagine possible explanations. Thinking about what policy or plan of action to adopt requires generation of options and consideration of possible consequences of each option. Domain knowledge is required for such creative activity, but a general ability to imagine alternatives is helpful and can be nurtured so as to become easier, quicker, more extensive, and deeper (Dewey 1910: 34–39; 1933: 40–47). Facione (1990a) and Halpern (1998) include the ability to imagine alternatives as a critical thinking ability.

Inferential abilities : The ability to draw conclusions from given information, and to recognize with what degree of certainty one’s own or others’ conclusions follow, is universally recognized as a general critical thinking ability. All 11 examples in section 2 of this article include inferences, some from hypotheses or options (as in Transit , Ferryboat and Disorder ), others from something observed (as in Weather and Rash ). None of these inferences is formally valid. Rather, they are licensed by general, sometimes qualified substantive rules of inference (Toulmin 1958) that rest on domain knowledge—that a bus trip takes about the same time in each direction, that the terminal of a wireless telegraph would be located on the highest possible place, that sudden cooling is often followed by rain, that an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug generally shows up soon after one starts taking it. It is a matter of controversy to what extent the specialized ability to deduce conclusions from premisses using formal rules of inference is needed for critical thinking. Dewey (1933) locates logical forms in setting out the products of reflection rather than in the process of reflection. Ennis (1981a), on the other hand, maintains that a liberally-educated person should have the following abilities: to translate natural-language statements into statements using the standard logical operators, to use appropriately the language of necessary and sufficient conditions, to deal with argument forms and arguments containing symbols, to determine whether in virtue of an argument’s form its conclusion follows necessarily from its premisses, to reason with logically complex propositions, and to apply the rules and procedures of deductive logic. Inferential abilities are recognized as critical thinking abilities by Glaser (1941: 6), Facione (1990a: 9), Ennis (1991: 9), Fisher & Scriven (1997: 99, 111), and Halpern (1998: 452). Items testing inferential abilities constitute two of the five subtests of the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (Watson & Glaser 1980a, 1980b, 1994), two of the four sections in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005), three of the seven sections in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005), 11 of the 34 items on Forms A and B of the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (Facione 1990b, 1992), and a high but variable proportion of the 25 selected-response questions in the Collegiate Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017).

Experimenting abilities : Knowing how to design and execute an experiment is important not just in scientific research but also in everyday life, as in Rash . Dewey devoted a whole chapter of his How We Think (1910: 145–156; 1933: 190–202) to the superiority of experimentation over observation in advancing knowledge. Experimenting abilities come into play at one remove in appraising reports of scientific studies. Skill in designing and executing experiments includes the acknowledged abilities to appraise evidence (Glaser 1941: 6), to carry out experiments and to apply appropriate statistical inference techniques (Facione 1990a: 9), to judge inductions to an explanatory hypothesis (Ennis 1991: 9), and to recognize the need for an adequately large sample size (Halpern 1998). The Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005) includes four items (out of 52) on experimental design. The Collegiate Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017) makes room for appraisal of study design in both its performance task and its selected-response questions.

Consulting abilities : Skill at consulting sources of information comes into play when one seeks information to help resolve a problem, as in Candidate . Ability to find and appraise information includes ability to gather and marshal pertinent information (Glaser 1941: 6), to judge whether a statement made by an alleged authority is acceptable (Ennis 1962: 84), to plan a search for desired information (Facione 1990a: 9), and to judge the credibility of a source (Ennis 1991: 9). Ability to judge the credibility of statements is tested by 24 items (out of 76) in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005) and by four items (out of 52) in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005). The College Learning Assessment’s performance task requires evaluation of whether information in documents is credible or unreliable (Council for Aid to Education 2017).

Argument analysis abilities : The ability to identify and analyze arguments contributes to the process of surveying arguments on an issue in order to form one’s own reasoned judgment, as in Candidate . The ability to detect and analyze arguments is recognized as a critical thinking skill by Facione (1990a: 7–8), Ennis (1991: 9) and Halpern (1998). Five items (out of 34) on the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (Facione 1990b, 1992) test skill at argument analysis. The College Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017) incorporates argument analysis in its selected-response tests of critical reading and evaluation and of critiquing an argument.

Judging skills and deciding skills : Skill at judging and deciding is skill at recognizing what judgment or decision the available evidence and argument supports, and with what degree of confidence. It is thus a component of the inferential skills already discussed.

Lists and tests of critical thinking abilities often include two more abilities: identifying assumptions and constructing and evaluating definitions.

In addition to dispositions and abilities, critical thinking needs knowledge: of critical thinking concepts, of critical thinking principles, and of the subject-matter of the thinking.

We can derive a short list of concepts whose understanding contributes to critical thinking from the critical thinking abilities described in the preceding section. Observational abilities require an understanding of the difference between observation and inference. Questioning abilities require an understanding of the concepts of ambiguity and vagueness. Inferential abilities require an understanding of the difference between conclusive and defeasible inference (traditionally, between deduction and induction), as well as of the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. Experimenting abilities require an understanding of the concepts of hypothesis, null hypothesis, assumption and prediction, as well as of the concept of statistical significance and of its difference from importance. They also require an understanding of the difference between an experiment and an observational study, and in particular of the difference between a randomized controlled trial, a prospective correlational study and a retrospective (case-control) study. Argument analysis abilities require an understanding of the concepts of argument, premiss, assumption, conclusion and counter-consideration. Additional critical thinking concepts are proposed by Bailin et al. (1999b: 293), Fisher & Scriven (1997: 105–106), Black (2012), and Blair (2021).

According to Glaser (1941: 25), ability to think critically requires knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning. If we review the list of abilities in the preceding section, however, we can see that some of them can be acquired and exercised merely through practice, possibly guided in an educational setting, followed by feedback. Searching intelligently for a causal explanation of some phenomenon or event requires that one consider a full range of possible causal contributors, but it seems more important that one implements this principle in one’s practice than that one is able to articulate it. What is important is “operational knowledge” of the standards and principles of good thinking (Bailin et al. 1999b: 291–293). But the development of such critical thinking abilities as designing an experiment or constructing an operational definition can benefit from learning their underlying theory. Further, explicit knowledge of quirks of human thinking seems useful as a cautionary guide. Human memory is not just fallible about details, as people learn from their own experiences of misremembering, but is so malleable that a detailed, clear and vivid recollection of an event can be a total fabrication (Loftus 2017). People seek or interpret evidence in ways that are partial to their existing beliefs and expectations, often unconscious of their “confirmation bias” (Nickerson 1998). Not only are people subject to this and other cognitive biases (Kahneman 2011), of which they are typically unaware, but it may be counter-productive for one to make oneself aware of them and try consciously to counteract them or to counteract social biases such as racial or sexual stereotypes (Kenyon & Beaulac 2014). It is helpful to be aware of these facts and of the superior effectiveness of blocking the operation of biases—for example, by making an immediate record of one’s observations, refraining from forming a preliminary explanatory hypothesis, blind refereeing, double-blind randomized trials, and blind grading of students’ work. It is also helpful to be aware of the prevalence of “noise” (unwanted unsystematic variability of judgments), of how to detect noise (through a noise audit), and of how to reduce noise: make accuracy the goal, think statistically, break a process of arriving at a judgment into independent tasks, resist premature intuitions, in a group get independent judgments first, favour comparative judgments and scales (Kahneman, Sibony, & Sunstein 2021). It is helpful as well to be aware of the concept of “bounded rationality” in decision-making and of the related distinction between “satisficing” and optimizing (Simon 1956; Gigerenzer 2001).

Critical thinking about an issue requires substantive knowledge of the domain to which the issue belongs. Critical thinking abilities are not a magic elixir that can be applied to any issue whatever by somebody who has no knowledge of the facts relevant to exploring that issue. For example, the student in Bubbles needed to know that gases do not penetrate solid objects like a glass, that air expands when heated, that the volume of an enclosed gas varies directly with its temperature and inversely with its pressure, and that hot objects will spontaneously cool down to the ambient temperature of their surroundings unless kept hot by insulation or a source of heat. Critical thinkers thus need a rich fund of subject-matter knowledge relevant to the variety of situations they encounter. This fact is recognized in the inclusion among critical thinking dispositions of a concern to become and remain generally well informed.

Experimental educational interventions, with control groups, have shown that education can improve critical thinking skills and dispositions, as measured by standardized tests. For information about these tests, see the Supplement on Assessment .

What educational methods are most effective at developing the dispositions, abilities and knowledge of a critical thinker? In a comprehensive meta-analysis of experimental and quasi-experimental studies of strategies for teaching students to think critically, Abrami et al. (2015) found that dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring each increased the effectiveness of the educational intervention, and that they were most effective when combined. They also found that in these studies a combination of separate instruction in critical thinking with subject-matter instruction in which students are encouraged to think critically was more effective than either by itself. However, the difference was not statistically significant; that is, it might have arisen by chance.

Most of these studies lack the longitudinal follow-up required to determine whether the observed differential improvements in critical thinking abilities or dispositions continue over time, for example until high school or college graduation. For details on studies of methods of developing critical thinking skills and dispositions, see the Supplement on Educational Methods .

12. Controversies

Scholars have denied the generalizability of critical thinking abilities across subject domains, have alleged bias in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, and have investigated the relationship of critical thinking to other kinds of thinking.

McPeck (1981) attacked the thinking skills movement of the 1970s, including the critical thinking movement. He argued that there are no general thinking skills, since thinking is always thinking about some subject-matter. It is futile, he claimed, for schools and colleges to teach thinking as if it were a separate subject. Rather, teachers should lead their pupils to become autonomous thinkers by teaching school subjects in a way that brings out their cognitive structure and that encourages and rewards discussion and argument. As some of his critics (e.g., Paul 1985; Siegel 1985) pointed out, McPeck’s central argument needs elaboration, since it has obvious counter-examples in writing and speaking, for which (up to a certain level of complexity) there are teachable general abilities even though they are always about some subject-matter. To make his argument convincing, McPeck needs to explain how thinking differs from writing and speaking in a way that does not permit useful abstraction of its components from the subject-matters with which it deals. He has not done so. Nevertheless, his position that the dispositions and abilities of a critical thinker are best developed in the context of subject-matter instruction is shared by many theorists of critical thinking, including Dewey (1910, 1933), Glaser (1941), Passmore (1980), Weinstein (1990), Bailin et al. (1999b), and Willingham (2019).

McPeck’s challenge prompted reflection on the extent to which critical thinking is subject-specific. McPeck argued for a strong subject-specificity thesis, according to which it is a conceptual truth that all critical thinking abilities are specific to a subject. (He did not however extend his subject-specificity thesis to critical thinking dispositions. In particular, he took the disposition to suspend judgment in situations of cognitive dissonance to be a general disposition.) Conceptual subject-specificity is subject to obvious counter-examples, such as the general ability to recognize confusion of necessary and sufficient conditions. A more modest thesis, also endorsed by McPeck, is epistemological subject-specificity, according to which the norms of good thinking vary from one field to another. Epistemological subject-specificity clearly holds to a certain extent; for example, the principles in accordance with which one solves a differential equation are quite different from the principles in accordance with which one determines whether a painting is a genuine Picasso. But the thesis suffers, as Ennis (1989) points out, from vagueness of the concept of a field or subject and from the obvious existence of inter-field principles, however broadly the concept of a field is construed. For example, the principles of hypothetico-deductive reasoning hold for all the varied fields in which such reasoning occurs. A third kind of subject-specificity is empirical subject-specificity, according to which as a matter of empirically observable fact a person with the abilities and dispositions of a critical thinker in one area of investigation will not necessarily have them in another area of investigation.

The thesis of empirical subject-specificity raises the general problem of transfer. If critical thinking abilities and dispositions have to be developed independently in each school subject, how are they of any use in dealing with the problems of everyday life and the political and social issues of contemporary society, most of which do not fit into the framework of a traditional school subject? Proponents of empirical subject-specificity tend to argue that transfer is more likely to occur if there is critical thinking instruction in a variety of domains, with explicit attention to dispositions and abilities that cut across domains. But evidence for this claim is scanty. There is a need for well-designed empirical studies that investigate the conditions that make transfer more likely.

It is common ground in debates about the generality or subject-specificity of critical thinking dispositions and abilities that critical thinking about any topic requires background knowledge about the topic. For example, the most sophisticated understanding of the principles of hypothetico-deductive reasoning is of no help unless accompanied by some knowledge of what might be plausible explanations of some phenomenon under investigation.

Critics have objected to bias in the theory, pedagogy and practice of critical thinking. Commentators (e.g., Alston 1995; Ennis 1998) have noted that anyone who takes a position has a bias in the neutral sense of being inclined in one direction rather than others. The critics, however, are objecting to bias in the pejorative sense of an unjustified favoring of certain ways of knowing over others, frequently alleging that the unjustly favoured ways are those of a dominant sex or culture (Bailin 1995). These ways favour:

  • reinforcement of egocentric and sociocentric biases over dialectical engagement with opposing world-views (Paul 1981, 1984; Warren 1998)
  • distancing from the object of inquiry over closeness to it (Martin 1992; Thayer-Bacon 1992)
  • indifference to the situation of others over care for them (Martin 1992)
  • orientation to thought over orientation to action (Martin 1992)
  • being reasonable over caring to understand people’s ideas (Thayer-Bacon 1993)
  • being neutral and objective over being embodied and situated (Thayer-Bacon 1995a)
  • doubting over believing (Thayer-Bacon 1995b)
  • reason over emotion, imagination and intuition (Thayer-Bacon 2000)
  • solitary thinking over collaborative thinking (Thayer-Bacon 2000)
  • written and spoken assignments over other forms of expression (Alston 2001)
  • attention to written and spoken communications over attention to human problems (Alston 2001)
  • winning debates in the public sphere over making and understanding meaning (Alston 2001)

A common thread in this smorgasbord of accusations is dissatisfaction with focusing on the logical analysis and evaluation of reasoning and arguments. While these authors acknowledge that such analysis and evaluation is part of critical thinking and should be part of its conceptualization and pedagogy, they insist that it is only a part. Paul (1981), for example, bemoans the tendency of atomistic teaching of methods of analyzing and evaluating arguments to turn students into more able sophists, adept at finding fault with positions and arguments with which they disagree but even more entrenched in the egocentric and sociocentric biases with which they began. Martin (1992) and Thayer-Bacon (1992) cite with approval the self-reported intimacy with their subject-matter of leading researchers in biology and medicine, an intimacy that conflicts with the distancing allegedly recommended in standard conceptions and pedagogy of critical thinking. Thayer-Bacon (2000) contrasts the embodied and socially embedded learning of her elementary school students in a Montessori school, who used their imagination, intuition and emotions as well as their reason, with conceptions of critical thinking as

thinking that is used to critique arguments, offer justifications, and make judgments about what are the good reasons, or the right answers. (Thayer-Bacon 2000: 127–128)

Alston (2001) reports that her students in a women’s studies class were able to see the flaws in the Cinderella myth that pervades much romantic fiction but in their own romantic relationships still acted as if all failures were the woman’s fault and still accepted the notions of love at first sight and living happily ever after. Students, she writes, should

be able to connect their intellectual critique to a more affective, somatic, and ethical account of making risky choices that have sexist, racist, classist, familial, sexual, or other consequences for themselves and those both near and far… critical thinking that reads arguments, texts, or practices merely on the surface without connections to feeling/desiring/doing or action lacks an ethical depth that should infuse the difference between mere cognitive activity and something we want to call critical thinking. (Alston 2001: 34)

Some critics portray such biases as unfair to women. Thayer-Bacon (1992), for example, has charged modern critical thinking theory with being sexist, on the ground that it separates the self from the object and causes one to lose touch with one’s inner voice, and thus stigmatizes women, who (she asserts) link self to object and listen to their inner voice. Her charge does not imply that women as a group are on average less able than men to analyze and evaluate arguments. Facione (1990c) found no difference by sex in performance on his California Critical Thinking Skills Test. Kuhn (1991: 280–281) found no difference by sex in either the disposition or the competence to engage in argumentative thinking.

The critics propose a variety of remedies for the biases that they allege. In general, they do not propose to eliminate or downplay critical thinking as an educational goal. Rather, they propose to conceptualize critical thinking differently and to change its pedagogy accordingly. Their pedagogical proposals arise logically from their objections. They can be summarized as follows:

  • Focus on argument networks with dialectical exchanges reflecting contesting points of view rather than on atomic arguments, so as to develop “strong sense” critical thinking that transcends egocentric and sociocentric biases (Paul 1981, 1984).
  • Foster closeness to the subject-matter and feeling connected to others in order to inform a humane democracy (Martin 1992).
  • Develop “constructive thinking” as a social activity in a community of physically embodied and socially embedded inquirers with personal voices who value not only reason but also imagination, intuition and emotion (Thayer-Bacon 2000).
  • In developing critical thinking in school subjects, treat as important neither skills nor dispositions but opening worlds of meaning (Alston 2001).
  • Attend to the development of critical thinking dispositions as well as skills, and adopt the “critical pedagogy” practised and advocated by Freire (1968 [1970]) and hooks (1994) (Dalgleish, Girard, & Davies 2017).

A common thread in these proposals is treatment of critical thinking as a social, interactive, personally engaged activity like that of a quilting bee or a barn-raising (Thayer-Bacon 2000) rather than as an individual, solitary, distanced activity symbolized by Rodin’s The Thinker . One can get a vivid description of education with the former type of goal from the writings of bell hooks (1994, 2010). Critical thinking for her is open-minded dialectical exchange across opposing standpoints and from multiple perspectives, a conception similar to Paul’s “strong sense” critical thinking (Paul 1981). She abandons the structure of domination in the traditional classroom. In an introductory course on black women writers, for example, she assigns students to write an autobiographical paragraph about an early racial memory, then to read it aloud as the others listen, thus affirming the uniqueness and value of each voice and creating a communal awareness of the diversity of the group’s experiences (hooks 1994: 84). Her “engaged pedagogy” is thus similar to the “freedom under guidance” implemented in John Dewey’s Laboratory School of Chicago in the late 1890s and early 1900s. It incorporates the dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring that Abrami (2015) found to be most effective in improving critical thinking skills and dispositions.

What is the relationship of critical thinking to problem solving, decision-making, higher-order thinking, creative thinking, and other recognized types of thinking? One’s answer to this question obviously depends on how one defines the terms used in the question. If critical thinking is conceived broadly to cover any careful thinking about any topic for any purpose, then problem solving and decision making will be kinds of critical thinking, if they are done carefully. Historically, ‘critical thinking’ and ‘problem solving’ were two names for the same thing. If critical thinking is conceived more narrowly as consisting solely of appraisal of intellectual products, then it will be disjoint with problem solving and decision making, which are constructive.

Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives used the phrase “intellectual abilities and skills” for what had been labeled “critical thinking” by some, “reflective thinking” by Dewey and others, and “problem solving” by still others (Bloom et al. 1956: 38). Thus, the so-called “higher-order thinking skills” at the taxonomy’s top levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation are just critical thinking skills, although they do not come with general criteria for their assessment (Ennis 1981b). The revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy (Anderson et al. 2001) likewise treats critical thinking as cutting across those types of cognitive process that involve more than remembering (Anderson et al. 2001: 269–270). For details, see the Supplement on History .

As to creative thinking, it overlaps with critical thinking (Bailin 1987, 1988). Thinking about the explanation of some phenomenon or event, as in Ferryboat , requires creative imagination in constructing plausible explanatory hypotheses. Likewise, thinking about a policy question, as in Candidate , requires creativity in coming up with options. Conversely, creativity in any field needs to be balanced by critical appraisal of the draft painting or novel or mathematical theory.

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Mapping the Relationship Between Critical Thinking and Design Thinking

  • Published: 02 February 2021
  • Volume 13 , pages 406–429, ( 2022 )

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  • Jonathan D. Ericson   ORCID: 1  

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Critical thinking has been a longstanding goal of education, while design thinking has gradually emerged as a popular method for supporting entrepreneurship, innovation, and problem solving in modern business. While some scholars have posited that design thinking may support critical thinking, empirical research examining the relationship between these two modes of thinking is lacking because their shared conceptual structure has not been articulated in detail and because they have remained siloed in practice. This essay maps eleven essential components of critical thinking to a variety of methods drawn from three popular design thinking frameworks. The mapping reveals that these seemingly unrelated modes of thinking share common features but also differ in important respects. A detailed comparison of the two modes of thinking suggests that design thinking methods have the potential to support and augment traditional critical thinking practices, and that design thinking frameworks could be modified to more explicitly incorporate critical thinking. The article concludes with a discussion of implications for the knowledge economy, and a research agenda for researchers, educators, and practitioners.

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Ericson, J.D. Mapping the Relationship Between Critical Thinking and Design Thinking. J Knowl Econ 13 , 406–429 (2022).

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Critical Thinking and Innovation – Ask The Expert Series 1-4

Critical Thinking and Innovation – Ask The Expert Series 1-4

Critical thinking and innovation.

“Education is not the learning of facts, but training the mind to think.”  Albert Einstein

In this next Ask The Expert series, we examine Creativity and Critical Thinking: top skill sets that can aid one’s ability to innovate.  So how does one critically think and be creative to innovate?  According to an article written by David Whitney: Critically Thinking Innovation 1

Successful innovators think critically and act strategically. Although the ability to solve problems can rely heavily on an innovator’s creativity, a deeper look at the innovation process shows that creativity is one of many variables found in the equation of successful innovation. The innovation process consists of a series of steps — some before and others after creative thinking occurs; so, where — and how — does critical thinking fit into the process of critically thinking innovation?

The platform asks Mr. Surajit Dhar , a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and Certified Practicing Management Consultant (PMC) on some of the methods, tools, and processes that can aid an organization and its employees in their innovation and productivity projects.  Surajit has been involved in productivity and innovation projects with the Engineering Design & Manufacturing sector for more than 2 decades.

Q1.  What tips or tools would you recommend to boost a team’s or an individual’s creativity to deliver innovative problem-solving in their work environment?

From my experience, it would be important to first identify and select a Facilitator who will lead the team.  This Facilitator needs to have at least 15 years of relevant industrial experience so that they can coach the team toward problem-solving.  To ensure that the entire process can be unbiased with contributions from different perspectives which is critical for creative and innovative ideas and solutions to surface, an external Facilitator would be preferred.

The next most important step is for the Facilitator to aid the team to write the Problem Statement. The Problem Statement should contain information such as

1. When did the problem occur?

2. What is the organization’s exposure, damage or how many products or customers are affected/impacted?

3. Are there any preliminary information on why this has happened?

4. What is the severity of the problem?

5. Is it really a problem? Or it’s just a specification issue and not a functional issue or both?

With all the above addressed during the problem definition phase, it’ll be easier to break up the problem into bite-size bits and utilize available tools such as Kaizen Management, Six Sigma, etc to problem solve.

Q2.  How does one up their ability to develop critical thinking to solve complex problems in today’s everchanging environment?

To solve complex problems in today’s context, too simplistics an approach may not be effective.  We should definitely utilize Business Data Analytics and Predictive Analysis based on past history or big data to solve problems in today’s complex and everchanging environment.

To up one’s ability to develop critical thinking to solve complex problems, one needs to develop skills & knowledge in the following areas:

1. Ability to capture relevant data including the ability to identify the right information so that there is clean input data.

2. Ability to analyze the data, preferably using the relevant Statistical Tools.

The following is how we look at a problem in the Engineering Design & Manufacturing sector:

If the problem is the output and is a dependant variable, say “Y”.

Then, there can be many factors (“X’s) that can influence the output “Y”.

Thus, we need to understand Basic Transfer Function Y=f(X).

In layman terms, this means that when we look at a problem, we will need to examine and investigate all the factors and variables that may have caused the problem.  Only after analyzing the problem from all these ‘Data or Factors’, we will know the root cause of the problem that has been identified.  As this conclusion is data-driven, the confidence level that it is the most likely root cause will be very high.

Q3.  How can the Kaizen management system help a company build their team’s creativity and innovation skills deemed critical in this disruptive environment?

After the initial problem identifying phase mentioned in Q1’s answer, the experienced facilitator can then utilize the Kaizen management system to problem solve.  The basics of the Kaizen methodology is to slice the “big problem” into smaller pieces or different phases.  Each smaller piece then becomes a mini-project.  It is important that the duration to complete each of these mini-projects does not take too long.  Most times, it should not exceed 2 weeks.

With a short duration and motivation to succeed, the probability of success of such mini-projects is very high. Once the success rate is high, motivation & confidence level of employees gets a boost.  Thus, it’ll benefit in building the team’s confidence, creativity and innovation skills step by step, in the long run.

The Kaizen management system is a company-wide initiative and should involve all the employees in an organization.


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Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

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Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings.

Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful details to solve problems or make decisions. Employers prioritize the ability to think critically—find out why, plus see how you can demonstrate that you have this ability throughout the job application process. 

Why Do Employers Value Critical Thinking Skills?

Employers want job candidates who can evaluate a situation using logical thought and offer the best solution.

 Someone with critical thinking skills can be trusted to make decisions independently, and will not need constant handholding.

Hiring a critical thinker means that micromanaging won't be required. Critical thinking abilities are among the most sought-after skills in almost every industry and workplace. You can demonstrate critical thinking by using related keywords in your resume and cover letter, and during your interview.

Examples of Critical Thinking

The circumstances that demand critical thinking vary from industry to industry. Some examples include:

  • A triage nurse analyzes the cases at hand and decides the order by which the patients should be treated.
  • A plumber evaluates the materials that would best suit a particular job.
  • An attorney reviews evidence and devises a strategy to win a case or to decide whether to settle out of court.
  • A manager analyzes customer feedback forms and uses this information to develop a customer service training session for employees.

Promote Your Skills in Your Job Search

If critical thinking is a key phrase in the job listings you are applying for, be sure to emphasize your critical thinking skills throughout your job search.

Add Keywords to Your Resume

You can use critical thinking keywords (analytical, problem solving, creativity, etc.) in your resume. When describing your  work history , include top critical thinking skills that accurately describe you. You can also include them in your  resume summary , if you have one.

For example, your summary might read, “Marketing Associate with five years of experience in project management. Skilled in conducting thorough market research and competitor analysis to assess market trends and client needs, and to develop appropriate acquisition tactics.”

Mention Skills in Your Cover Letter

Include these critical thinking skills in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, mention one or two of these skills, and give specific examples of times when you have demonstrated them at work. Think about times when you had to analyze or evaluate materials to solve a problem.

Show the Interviewer Your Skills

You can use these skill words in an interview. Discuss a time when you were faced with a particular problem or challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking to solve it.

Some interviewers will give you a hypothetical scenario or problem, and ask you to use critical thinking skills to solve it. In this case, explain your thought process thoroughly to the interviewer. He or she is typically more focused on how you arrive at your solution rather than the solution itself. The interviewer wants to see you analyze and evaluate (key parts of critical thinking) the given scenario or problem.

Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully and focus on the skills listed by the employer.

Top Critical Thinking Skills

Keep these in-demand critical thinking skills in mind as you update your resume and write your cover letter. As you've seen, you can also emphasize them at other points throughout the application process, such as your interview. 

Part of critical thinking is the ability to carefully examine something, whether it is a problem, a set of data, or a text. People with  analytical skills  can examine information, understand what it means, and properly explain to others the implications of that information.

  • Asking Thoughtful Questions
  • Data Analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Questioning Evidence
  • Recognizing Patterns


Often, you will need to share your conclusions with your employers or with a group of colleagues. You need to be able to  communicate with others  to share your ideas effectively. You might also need to engage in critical thinking in a group. In this case, you will need to work with others and communicate effectively to figure out solutions to complex problems.

  • Active Listening
  • Collaboration
  • Explanation
  • Interpersonal
  • Presentation
  • Verbal Communication
  • Written Communication

Critical thinking often involves creativity and innovation. You might need to spot patterns in the information you are looking at or come up with a solution that no one else has thought of before. All of this involves a creative eye that can take a different approach from all other approaches.

  • Flexibility
  • Conceptualization
  • Imagination
  • Drawing Connections
  • Synthesizing


To think critically, you need to be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments and merely analyze the information you receive. You need to be objective, evaluating ideas without bias.

  • Objectivity
  • Observation

Problem Solving

Problem-solving is another critical thinking skill that involves analyzing a problem, generating and implementing a solution, and assessing the success of the plan. Employers don’t simply want employees who can think about information critically. They also need to be able to come up with practical solutions.

  • Attention to Detail
  • Clarification
  • Decision Making
  • Groundedness
  • Identifying Patterns

More Critical Thinking Skills

  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Noticing Outliers
  • Adaptability
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Brainstorming
  • Optimization
  • Restructuring
  • Integration
  • Strategic Planning
  • Project Management
  • Ongoing Improvement
  • Causal Relationships
  • Case Analysis
  • Diagnostics
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Business Intelligence
  • Quantitative Data Management
  • Qualitative Data Management
  • Risk Management
  • Scientific Method
  • Consumer Behavior

Key Takeaways

  • Demonstrate that you have critical thinking skills by adding relevant keywords to your resume.
  • Mention pertinent critical thinking skills in your cover letter, too, and include an example of a time when you demonstrated them at work.
  • Finally, highlight critical thinking skills during your interview. For instance, you might discuss a time when you were faced with a challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking skills to solve it.

University of Louisville. " What is Critical Thinking ."

American Management Association. " AMA Critical Skills Survey: Workers Need Higher Level Skills to Succeed in the 21st Century ."

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Innovation and Critical Thinking

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By the end of reading this presentation you should be able to: Build a culture that promotes innovation & creativity Become familiar with different styles of thinking and identify your personal preferences Learn how to find out what you don’t know—and solve the real problem Challenge existing approaches to workplace issues The importance of structured and critical thinking. With my regards, Prof. Samaneh

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Teaching Innovation and Problem Solving

Business leaders are calling for workers who can solve problems and innovate solutions, but how can educators teach such abstract skills? After all, isn't every problem unique? Doesn't every solution differ? Yes. But the fundamental tools of problems solving are common to all situations, and they can be taught. The two most important mental tools are critical thinking and creative thinking.

critical thinking vs innovation

Critical thinking is convergent. It focuses intently on a topic, paying careful attention to logic and rules. Critical thinking breaks a subject into its parts and investigates how the parts relate to each other: categorizing, sequencing, comparing, ranking. It is in-the-box thinking.

critical thinking vs innovation

Creative thinking is divergent. It sees a topic as a whole and imagines it as an analogy for something else: envisioning, improvising, riffing, wondering. Creative thinking reaches out to explore possibilities and defies convention and rules. It is out-of-the-box thinking.

Teaching Both Types

Just as students can learn specific strategies for convergent, analytical thinking, they can learn specific strategies for divergent, expansive thinking. Once students have gained these specific mental strategies, they can combine their critical and creative thinking to solve problems.

Problem solving starts with critical thinking—analyzing a problem—and then shifts to creative thinking—imagining solutions. To plan a solution requires more critical thinking, while applying the solution is a creative process. By shifting back and forth between the two types of thinking, students eventually arrive at a solution that works.

Problem-Solving Process

critical thinking vs innovation

Rob King Explains Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, and Problem Solving

In the following video, Rob King, author of Inquire: A Student Handbook for 21st Century Learning,  explains how to teach critical and creative teaching and how to combine them in problem solving.

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Creativity Is Not Innovation (But You Need Both)

Table of contents.

critical thinking vs innovation

“Creativity” and “innovation” are two words that are constantly thrown around in brainstorming sessions, corporate meetings and company mission statements . There’s no question that these values are highly prized in the fast-paced modern workplace, but do leaders who use the terms truly know the difference between them?

What is creativity?

Creativity is the ability to think in new ways and apply fresh perspectives to old problems. Shawn Hunter, author of Out Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes (Wiley, 2013), defines creativity as “the capability or act of conceiving something original or unusual.” It is a critical skill in business that enables people to adapt and create unique approaches that may be even better suited than tried-and-true methods. 

Types of creativity

Arne Dietrich, associate professor of psychology and chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, conducted research into creativity that segments it into four types: deliberate and emotional, deliberate and cognitive, spontaneous and emotional, and spontaneous and cognitive.

People can experience each of the four types of creativity. Especially for knowledge workers like researchers, lawyers and doctors, deliberate and cognitive creativity may manifest while on the job. Spontaneous and emotional creativity may show itself during an artistic pursuit or during down time off the clock.

Deliberate and cognitive creativities use focused attention and formed connections between information stored in the brain and rely on the prefrontal cortex, while emotional and spontaneous creativities stem from the amygdala and tend to be more instinctive. People who are good at taking insights derived from each type of creativity excel at thinking outside the box and applying new approaches to their work.

Creativity is the spontaneous development of new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking. Creativity is a necessary prerequisite for innovation, but they are not the same thing.

What is innovation?

Innovation is applied creativity, in which the spark of a new idea is turned into a novel solution or process. Hunter weighs in with his own definition: “Innovation is the implementation or creation of something new that has realized value to others.” 

Innovation is realized most vividly in the form of a tool, physical benefit or aid that solves a problem or creates an advantage. These tools are not limited to humans – for example, birds and monkeys use sticks to pull food out of tight locations. So, innovation is far more possible for different species under different conditions and environments.

Types of innovation

Doblin, a global innovation firm that helps leading organizations find human-centered solutions to business problems, created the Ten Types of Innovation framework as a way to identify transformational opportunities, specifically in business. Based on research of over 2,000 successful innovations, Doblin outlined three broad categories: business model, product and marketing.

  • Business model: Internally focused, these configuration innovations analyze how an organization operates and creates revenue. These can be higher-risk, as they sometimes change fundamental decisions on which businesses are built. Business model innovations are best pursued when owners and operators identify oversaturated markets, low customer satisfaction and outdated technology.
  • Product: Nearly always tangible, product innovations make existing material goods better in some way or result in the creation of an entirely new product. It’s the most common form of innovation; famous examples include smartphones, fidget spinners, wireless headphones and foot-massaging insoles.
  • Marketing: Marketing innovation creates new markets or increases existing market share. Marketing innovations are new, positively-disruptive ways for brands to talk to and engage with their consumers. Not only can marketing innovation introduce a new way of connecting with the public, but it can be as simple as promoting an existing product for a different use than what was first intended.

An innovation makes a demonstrable, often disruptive difference in a product, service or industry. It is a fundamentally new, tangible shift and departure from the conventional.

Why are innovation and creativity important?

Creativity and innovation are important in business because each contributes to a dynamic evolution that prevents companies from stagnating and enables them to stay competitive in an ever-changing marketplace. While they are not the same, creativity can lead to innovation, so understanding each as two sides of the same coin is critical for business leaders.

Creativity precedes innovation

Creativity is the novel step of being the first to identify that something might be possible. Business leaders frequently interchange creativity and innovation without understanding what separates the two.

“Creativity isn’t necessarily innovation,” Hunter said. “If you have a brainstorming meeting and dream up dozens of new ideas, then you have displayed creativity, but there is no innovation until something gets implemented.”

Hunter noted that many leaders emphasize generating creativity on demand instead of building the conditions that enable ongoing creative thinking, which can ultimately lead to innovative developments. 

To boost creativity in your organization, consider giving employees flexibility within their workday to try out new things or explore different avenues of thinking. Create a company culture where thinking outside the box is encouraged and rewarded in order to spur your most creative thinkers to do their best work.

Innovation is applied creativity

Innovation is the action of putting things into practical reality, despite challenges and resistance, rather than just contemplating. It takes creative thinking, planning and implementation of new ideas to constitute innovation.

“Innovation isn’t a mysterious black box,” he said. “It can be simple small tweaks to existing processes, products or interactions. And by focusing on the process [of innovation], and not the heroically creative individual, we can build innovation at scale.”

A good example of innovation profiled on CNBC by Karen Gilchrist was Sergey Petrossov. He saw a need for a software tool to connect luxury jets that aren’t being used with travelers willing to share trips with each other. All the pieces of that market existed, but it was Petrossov who built the bridge between the two via software to create a whole new company, JetSmarter.

In other words, an innovative process is replicable and scalable; a creative individual is not. Petrossov was one of a kind in realizing what was needed to create a new market, but his software code was easily repeatable by other programmers once written. Once leaders learn the difference between creativity and innovation, they can work on inspiring both among their team members – and building a culture that supports these values.

How do you develop creativity and innovation?

Developing creativity and innovation in your organization means granting employees permission to try new approaches within the context of their current roles. This starts with company leadership and buy-in for attempting new things.

“While leaders can foster innovation, the organization as a whole must also support innovation through the makeup of its culture and the way it designs its processes,” Hunter said. “Sometimes the best way to spark innovation is by allowing activity within the organization that deviates from the norm but that may lead to positive outcomes.”

Part of the issue is getting people to imagine and develop new visions of what could be. Creativity is often associated with art and culture, but it’s not required to be Leonardo da Vinci. What matters is that a person is willing to imagine new possibilities outside of norms. This is where the idea that can be acted on starts. Consider crowdsourcing ideas to generate even more possibilities to consider. 

The harder part, of course, is taking that great idea and translating it into a physical or technical prototype. When creative ideas that could lead to innovation surface, it’s up to company leadership to dedicate enough resources to support the development of the new process or product. Without investment, creative ideas remain just that; but when enough support is provided by the company, it can become a hugely successful innovation.

The Starbucks Frappuccino as a successful innovation

As an example of the importance of investment before innovation, Hunter cited the birth of Starbucks’ now-popular Frappuccino drink. The Frappuccino was the culmination of a license for creative thinking and investment from company leadership, following a false start in which that investment was absent.

In the early 1990s, the staff at a Santa Monica-based Starbucks invented a new drink and asked an executive to propose the product to headquarters, where it was ultimately rejected. The creative idea died on the vine because company leadership refused to invest resources.

Later, though, the same store invented the Frappuccino, and this time company leadership was on board. The same executive asked the staff to begin making and selling the drink to local customers as a proof of concept. It quickly became a hit, and the management group implemented the successful idea companywide once its value was proven.

“The Frappuccino turned out to be one of Starbucks’ most popular and profitable drinks,” Hunter said. “And, according to [Starbucks’ then-vice president of sales and operations] Howard Behar, it happened because someone was allowed, and even encouraged, to experiment with a new product that deviated from the company’s core product line.”

Creativity and innovation are key in entrepreneurship

Together, creativity and innovation involve rocking the boat. Entrepreneurship depends every day on creation and innovation to create unique opportunities, market disruption and new revenue streams. While tried-and-true processes and products exist for a reason, it is important to periodically shake things up and try new approaches. After all, who knows what the next groundbreaking innovation may be?


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  • What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples

What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples

Published on May 30, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan . Revised on May 31, 2023.

Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment .

To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources .

Critical thinking skills help you to:

  • Identify credible sources
  • Evaluate and respond to arguments
  • Assess alternative viewpoints
  • Test hypotheses against relevant criteria

Table of contents

Why is critical thinking important, critical thinking examples, how to think critically, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about critical thinking.

Critical thinking is important for making judgments about sources of information and forming your own arguments. It emphasizes a rational, objective, and self-aware approach that can help you to identify credible sources and strengthen your conclusions.

Critical thinking is important in all disciplines and throughout all stages of the research process . The types of evidence used in the sciences and in the humanities may differ, but critical thinking skills are relevant to both.

In academic writing , critical thinking can help you to determine whether a source:

  • Is free from research bias
  • Provides evidence to support its research findings
  • Considers alternative viewpoints

Outside of academia, critical thinking goes hand in hand with information literacy to help you form opinions rationally and engage independently and critically with popular media.

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critical thinking vs innovation

Critical thinking can help you to identify reliable sources of information that you can cite in your research paper . It can also guide your own research methods and inform your own arguments.

Outside of academia, critical thinking can help you to be aware of both your own and others’ biases and assumptions.

Academic examples

However, when you compare the findings of the study with other current research, you determine that the results seem improbable. You analyze the paper again, consulting the sources it cites.

You notice that the research was funded by the pharmaceutical company that created the treatment. Because of this, you view its results skeptically and determine that more independent research is necessary to confirm or refute them. Example: Poor critical thinking in an academic context You’re researching a paper on the impact wireless technology has had on developing countries that previously did not have large-scale communications infrastructure. You read an article that seems to confirm your hypothesis: the impact is mainly positive. Rather than evaluating the research methodology, you accept the findings uncritically.

Nonacademic examples

However, you decide to compare this review article with consumer reviews on a different site. You find that these reviews are not as positive. Some customers have had problems installing the alarm, and some have noted that it activates for no apparent reason.

You revisit the original review article. You notice that the words “sponsored content” appear in small print under the article title. Based on this, you conclude that the review is advertising and is therefore not an unbiased source. Example: Poor critical thinking in a nonacademic context You support a candidate in an upcoming election. You visit an online news site affiliated with their political party and read an article that criticizes their opponent. The article claims that the opponent is inexperienced in politics. You accept this without evidence, because it fits your preconceptions about the opponent.

There is no single way to think critically. How you engage with information will depend on the type of source you’re using and the information you need.

However, you can engage with sources in a systematic and critical way by asking certain questions when you encounter information. Like the CRAAP test , these questions focus on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

When encountering information, ask:

  • Who is the author? Are they an expert in their field?
  • What do they say? Is their argument clear? Can you summarize it?
  • When did they say this? Is the source current?
  • Where is the information published? Is it an academic article? Is it peer-reviewed ?
  • Why did the author publish it? What is their motivation?
  • How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence? Does it rely on opinion, speculation, or appeals to emotion ? Do they address alternative arguments?

Critical thinking also involves being aware of your own biases, not only those of others. When you make an argument or draw your own conclusions, you can ask similar questions about your own writing:

  • Am I only considering evidence that supports my preconceptions?
  • Is my argument expressed clearly and backed up with credible sources?
  • Would I be convinced by this argument coming from someone else?

If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • ChatGPT vs human editor
  • ChatGPT citations
  • Is ChatGPT trustworthy?
  • Using ChatGPT for your studies
  • What is ChatGPT?
  • Chicago style
  • Paraphrasing


  • Types of plagiarism
  • Self-plagiarism
  • Avoiding plagiarism
  • Academic integrity
  • Consequences of plagiarism
  • Common knowledge

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.

Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

Critical thinking skills include the ability to:

You can assess information and arguments critically by asking certain questions about the source. You can use the CRAAP test , focusing on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

Ask questions such as:

  • Who is the author? Are they an expert?
  • How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence?

A credible source should pass the CRAAP test  and follow these guidelines:

  • The information should be up to date and current.
  • The author and publication should be a trusted authority on the subject you are researching.
  • The sources the author cited should be easy to find, clear, and unbiased.
  • For a web source, the URL and layout should signify that it is trustworthy.

Information literacy refers to a broad range of skills, including the ability to find, evaluate, and use sources of information effectively.

Being information literate means that you:

  • Know how to find credible sources
  • Use relevant sources to inform your research
  • Understand what constitutes plagiarism
  • Know how to cite your sources correctly

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search, interpret, and recall information in a way that aligns with our pre-existing values, opinions, or beliefs. It refers to the ability to recollect information best when it amplifies what we already believe. Relatedly, we tend to forget information that contradicts our opinions.

Although selective recall is a component of confirmation bias, it should not be confused with recall bias.

On the other hand, recall bias refers to the differences in the ability between study participants to recall past events when self-reporting is used. This difference in accuracy or completeness of recollection is not related to beliefs or opinions. Rather, recall bias relates to other factors, such as the length of the recall period, age, and the characteristics of the disease under investigation.

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Exploring the Difference: Creative Thinking vs. Critical Thinking

Annie Walls

Annie Walls

Creative thinking and critical thinking are two distinct cognitive processes that play important roles in problem-solving and decision-making. While creative thinking involves generating innovative ideas and solutions, critical thinking involves analyzing and evaluating information to make reasoned judgments. Both types of thinking have their unique characteristics and benefits. In this article, we will explore the difference between creative thinking and critical thinking, and how they can be applied in various contexts.

Key Takeaways

  • Creative thinking involves generating new ideas and solutions.
  • Critical thinking involves analyzing and evaluating information to make reasoned judgments.
  • Creative thinkers are characterized by their curiosity, open-mindedness, and willingness to take risks.
  • Critical thinkers are characterized by their skepticism, logical reasoning, and attention to detail.
  • Creative thinking can lead to innovation and breakthroughs.

Understanding Creative Thinking

Defining creative thinking.

Creative thinking is the ability to think outside the box and generate innovative ideas. It involves breaking free from conventional ways of thinking and exploring new possibilities. Creativity is the key element in creative thinking , as it allows individuals to come up with unique and original solutions to problems.

Creative thinking is not limited to artistic endeavors; it can be applied to various aspects of life, including problem-solving, decision-making, and even everyday tasks. It requires an open mind, a willingness to take risks, and the ability to see things from different perspectives.

In order to foster creative thinking, it is important to create an environment that encourages experimentation and exploration. This can be done by providing opportunities for brainstorming, encouraging collaboration, and embracing failure as a learning opportunity.

Here are some techniques that can enhance creative thinking:

  • Mind mapping: A visual tool that helps organize thoughts and generate new ideas.
  • Divergent thinking: Generating multiple solutions to a problem.
  • Analogical thinking: Drawing connections between unrelated concepts.
Tip: Embrace curiosity and embrace the unknown. Be open to new experiences and ideas, and don't be afraid to take risks.

Characteristics of Creative Thinkers

Creative thinkers possess a unique set of characteristics that set them apart from others. They have the ability to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions to problems. Imagination plays a crucial role in their thought process, allowing them to envision possibilities that others may not see. They are open-minded and willing to explore different perspectives, which helps them generate fresh ideas. Creative thinkers are also comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty, as they understand that these conditions can lead to breakthroughs. They are not afraid to take risks and are willing to challenge the status quo.

Benefits of Creative Thinking

Creative thinking offers numerous benefits that can enhance various aspects of life. One of the key advantages of creative thinking is the ability to generate innovative ideas and solutions. Creativity allows individuals to think outside the box and come up with unique approaches to problems. This can lead to breakthroughs and advancements in various fields.

Another benefit of creative thinking is its impact on personal growth and self-expression. By engaging in creative activities, individuals can explore their inner thoughts and emotions, allowing for self-discovery and self-reflection. Creative pursuits such as painting, writing, or playing an instrument can serve as outlets for self-expression and can contribute to overall well-being.

In addition, creative thinking can foster collaboration and teamwork. When individuals approach problems with a creative mindset, they are more likely to seek input and ideas from others. This promotes a collaborative environment where diverse perspectives are valued and innovative solutions are developed.

Furthermore, creative thinking can enhance problem-solving skills. By thinking creatively, individuals are able to consider multiple perspectives and explore alternative solutions. This can lead to more effective problem-solving and decision-making processes.

Overall, creative thinking offers a range of benefits, from generating innovative ideas to fostering collaboration and enhancing problem-solving skills.

Techniques for Enhancing Creative Thinking

In order to enhance creative thinking, there are several techniques that can be employed:

  • Mind Mapping : This technique involves visually organizing ideas and concepts in a non-linear manner, allowing for connections and associations to be made.
  • Brainstorming : This popular technique involves generating a large number of ideas in a short amount of time, without judgment or evaluation.
  • Divergent Thinking : This approach encourages exploring multiple possibilities and perspectives, thinking outside the box, and avoiding conventional solutions.
Tip: When using these techniques, it is important to create a supportive and non-judgmental environment that encourages free thinking and idea generation.

By utilizing these techniques, individuals and teams can unlock their creative potential and generate innovative ideas to drive growth and success.

Exploring Critical Thinking

critical thinking vs innovation

Defining Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is essentially a questioning, challenging approach to knowledge and perceived wisdom. It involves ideas and information from an objective perspective, analyzing and evaluating them to form well-reasoned judgments and decisions. It goes beyond accepting information at face value and encourages a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Critical thinkers are curious, open-minded, and willing to consider different perspectives. They are skilled at identifying biases and assumptions, and they strive to make logical and evidence-based conclusions.

Characteristics of Critical Thinkers

Critical thinkers possess several key characteristics that set them apart:

  • Analytical Skills : Critical thinkers are adept at analyzing information and breaking it down into its component parts. They can identify patterns, evaluate evidence, and draw logical conclusions.
  • Open-mindedness : Critical thinkers are willing to consider different perspectives and are open to changing their beliefs or opinions based on new evidence or information.
  • Skepticism : Critical thinkers approach information with a healthy dose of skepticism. They question assumptions, challenge authority, and seek evidence to support or refute claims.
Tip: Critical thinkers actively engage in critical reflection, constantly questioning their own thinking and seeking to improve their reasoning abilities.

Benefits of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking has numerous benefits that can positively impact various aspects of life. It enhances problem-solving skills, allowing individuals to analyze complex situations and make informed decisions. Analytical thinking is a key component of critical thinking, enabling individuals to break down problems into smaller parts and examine them from different perspectives. This approach helps in identifying potential biases and assumptions, leading to more objective and rational decision-making.

In addition, critical thinking promotes effective communication . By critically evaluating information and arguments, individuals can articulate their thoughts and ideas more clearly and persuasively. They can also identify logical fallacies and inconsistencies in others' arguments, enabling them to engage in meaningful and constructive discussions.

Furthermore, critical thinking fosters creativity and innovation . By questioning assumptions and challenging conventional wisdom, individuals can generate new ideas and approaches. Critical thinkers are more open to exploring alternative solutions and are willing to take risks in order to achieve better outcomes.

Developing Critical Thinking Skills

Developing critical thinking skills is essential for success in both personal and professional life. It involves the ability to analyze information objectively, evaluate arguments and evidence, and make informed decisions. Here are some strategies that can help enhance your critical thinking skills:

  • Ask Questions: One of the key aspects of critical thinking is asking thoughtful and probing questions. This helps you gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter and challenges assumptions.
  • Seek Different Perspectives: To develop critical thinking skills, it is important to consider multiple viewpoints and perspectives. This allows you to evaluate arguments from different angles and make well-rounded judgments.
  • Practice Problem-Solving: Critical thinking involves problem-solving skills. Engaging in activities that require you to analyze and solve problems can help sharpen your critical thinking abilities.
  • Reflect on Your Thinking: Take time to reflect on your own thinking process. Consider the biases, assumptions, and logical fallacies that may be influencing your thoughts and decisions.
  • Continuous Learning: Critical thinking is a skill that can be developed and improved over time. Engage in continuous learning, read diverse perspectives, and challenge your own beliefs and assumptions.

By incorporating these strategies into your daily life, you can enhance your critical thinking skills and become a more effective problem solver and decision-maker.

Comparing Creative and Critical Thinking

critical thinking vs innovation

Different Approaches to Problem Solving

When it comes to problem solving, creative thinking and critical thinking take different approaches. Creative thinkers often rely on their imagination and intuition to generate unique and innovative solutions. They think outside the box and are not afraid to take risks. On the other hand, critical thinkers approach problem solving in a more analytical and logical manner. They carefully analyze the problem, gather information, and evaluate different options before making a decision.

Role of Imagination and Logic

The role of imagination and logic in creative and critical thinking is crucial. Imagination allows us to think outside the box, explore new possibilities, and come up with innovative ideas. It is the fuel that ignites creativity and helps us see beyond the obvious. On the other hand, logic provides the framework for organizing and analyzing information, making rational decisions, and solving problems systematically. It helps us evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of our ideas.

When it comes to problem-solving, a balance between imagination and logic is essential. While imagination helps generate unique and unconventional solutions, logic ensures that these solutions are practical and viable. By combining the two, we can approach problems with a structured yet imaginative mindset, finding innovative solutions and making connections that others may overlook.

In summary, imagination and logic are two sides of the same coin when it comes to creative and critical thinking. They complement each other and work together to enhance our ability to think creatively and critically.

Balancing Intuition and Analysis

When it comes to problem-solving, finding the right balance between intuition and analysis is crucial. Intuition allows us to tap into our subconscious knowledge and make quick decisions based on gut feelings. On the other hand, analysis involves a systematic and logical approach to gather and evaluate information. Both intuition and analysis have their strengths and weaknesses, and leveraging both can lead to more effective problem-solving.

To strike a balance between intuition and analysis, consider the following:

  • Trust your instincts: Pay attention to your gut feelings and initial reactions, as they can provide valuable insights.
  • Gather and evaluate data: Take the time to gather relevant information and analyze it objectively.
  • Seek different perspectives: Engage with others who have different viewpoints to challenge your assumptions and broaden your thinking.
Tip: Remember that finding the right balance between intuition and analysis is a dynamic process. It requires practice and reflection to develop a nuanced approach to problem-solving.

Collaboration and Individuality in Thinking

Collaboration and individuality are two key aspects of thinking that play a crucial role in both creative and critical thinking. While collaboration allows for the exchange of ideas and perspectives, individuality brings unique insights and approaches to the table. Collaboration fosters a sense of teamwork and encourages diverse thinking, which can lead to innovative solutions. On the other hand, individuality allows individuals to think independently and bring their own creativity and expertise to the problem-solving process.

In order to effectively balance collaboration and individuality in thinking, it is important to create an environment that values both. This can be achieved by promoting open communication and active listening, where team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions. Additionally, providing opportunities for individual reflection and brainstorming can help stimulate creativity and encourage unique perspectives.

To further enhance collaboration and individuality in thinking, organizations can implement strategies such as group brainstorming sessions , where team members can collectively generate ideas and build upon each other's thoughts. This encourages collaboration while also allowing individuals to contribute their own unique insights. Another strategy is to assign individual tasks within a larger project, giving team members the opportunity to work independently and bring their own creative solutions to the table.

In summary, collaboration and individuality are both essential components of thinking that contribute to creative and critical thinking processes. By fostering a balance between collaboration and individuality, organizations can harness the power of teamwork and individual creativity to drive innovation and problem-solving.

In the article section of my website, I would like to discuss the topic of 'Comparing Creative and Critical Thinking'. Creative thinking and critical thinking are two essential cognitive skills that play a significant role in problem-solving, decision-making, and innovation. While creative thinking involves generating new ideas, thinking outside the box, and exploring different perspectives , critical thinking focuses on analyzing, evaluating, and questioning information to make informed judgments. Both types of thinking are crucial in today's fast-paced and complex world. By understanding the differences and similarities between creative and critical thinking, individuals can enhance their problem-solving abilities and foster a culture of innovation. If you want to learn more about the power of creative thinking and how it can transform your business, visit th website, Creativity Keynote Speaker James Taylor - Inspiring Creative Minds .

In conclusion, both creative thinking and critical thinking are essential skills that complement each other in problem-solving and decision-making. While creative thinking allows for innovative ideas and out-of-the-box solutions, critical thinking provides the necessary analysis and evaluation to ensure the feasibility and effectiveness of those ideas. Flexibility is a key aspect of creative thinking, enabling individuals to adapt and explore different perspectives, while accuracy is a fundamental element of critical thinking, ensuring logical reasoning and evidence-based conclusions. By harnessing the power of both creative and critical thinking, individuals can enhance their problem-solving abilities and make well-informed decisions in various aspects of life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between creative thinking and critical thinking.

Creative thinking involves generating new ideas, possibilities, and solutions, while critical thinking involves analyzing, evaluating, and making reasoned judgments.

Can someone be both a creative thinker and a critical thinker?

Yes, individuals can possess both creative and critical thinking skills. They can use creative thinking to generate ideas and critical thinking to evaluate and refine those ideas.

Which is more important, creative thinking or critical thinking?

Both creative thinking and critical thinking are important and complement each other. Creative thinking generates new ideas, while critical thinking helps evaluate and implement those ideas effectively.

How can I enhance my creative thinking skills?

You can enhance your creative thinking skills by engaging in activities that stimulate your imagination, such as brainstorming, mind mapping, and exploring new perspectives.

What are some techniques for developing critical thinking skills?

Techniques for developing critical thinking skills include analyzing arguments, evaluating evidence, questioning assumptions, and considering different perspectives.

Is creative thinking limited to artistic pursuits?

No, creative thinking is not limited to artistic pursuits. It can be applied to various fields and industries, including problem-solving in science, business, technology, and more.

critical thinking vs innovation

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Adaptive or innovative: what kind of thinker are you?

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Mark Rowland - Thinking Style.jpg

How you – and the people around you – think matters to the success of your project. There’s a reason why some people embrace certain changes while others resist them, or why an energising role for one person drains another.

So many factors in a project ride or die on your cognitive style more than skills, project controls or governance. People can be broadly divided into two camps when it comes to their thinking style: adaptive or innovative.

Adaptive thinkers

Adaptive thinkers tend to produce fewer ideas, but their ideas are well thought-through, relevant and safe for immediate use. They have a high success rate due to the thorough analysis that’s gone into them.

They enjoy routine and prefer work that requires precision, a methodical approach and attention to detail. Adaptive thinkers welcome change that improves the current paradigm or systems – i.e. ‘doing the same things better’.

They stick within the rules when solving problems and rarely challenge them. They seek consensus and look to maintain continuity and stability in groups. They welcome clarity of group norms and are prudent with authority.

Within organisations, they play an integral role in managing current systems, but in periods of radical change, struggle to regroup established roles.

Innovative thinkers

Innovative thinkers tend to produce a lot of ideas that are less thought-through. Some may be radical, possibly risky, but they accept the risk of failure for ideas – they’ll always have more of them.

They prefer varied work that avoids routine and enables tangential thinking. They like to look at the big picture and rarely obsess over the detail. They welcome change and are happy to break with the current paradigm or systems. They alter, break or challenge rules and norms to solve problems.

In settled groups they can be a catalyst. They’re comfortable with speaking up and are ready to criticise authority when necessary and appropriate.

In organisations, innovative thinkers play an integral role in managing radical change but struggle to apply themselves in times of stability.

How to manage thinking styles

These thinking styles sit on a sliding scale, measured by the Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory (KAI). Adaptive and innovative thinkers can break with their tendencies if motivated to do so. But people at different ends of the scale can inevitably clash if it’s not managed well .

“The KAI style range is over 100 points,” says Paul Erricker, director of The Project Academy and project management performance coach. “However, a difference of just 20 points between individuals or groups can produce predictable collaboration issues.”

He remembers an example from his coaching, where things were getting increasingly tense between a project leader and their technical team. The team were resisting the implementation of new technology that, as far as the project leader was concerned, was straightforward and low risk.

“What was radical to the technology team was seen as the industry norm to the leader. The KAI team coaching revealed that the leader was more innovative in KAI style, whereas all of the senior technical function team were medium-high adaptors. The KAI coaching ultimately eased this ‘style tension’, enabling the parties to better understand each other’s perspectives.”

That is the key to managing thinking styles; understanding your own and that of your team. “Both adaptors and innovators run the risk of perceiving their different behaviours as a matter of competence level, not personal thinking style,” says Ericker. “This is dangerous, as collaboration breakdown can quickly follow.

Adaptors may falsely judge innovators as sloppy, careless, reckless, inconsiderate of rules and group norms, and distracted from the task at hand. Innovators may falsely judge adaptors as stuck in the weeds, slow to embrace change, unnecessarily inflexible and closed to new ideas. But once project teams understand their style differences, the diversity of the team becomes respected and used to great advantage.”

Paul Ericker goes into KAI in more detail in the Spring edition of Project journal  available free to all APM members .

Image: MaDedee/

Mark Rowland

Mark Rowland is a senior writer on the Project editorial team. He has worked as a business journalist and editor for 15 years, and has won awards for his writing and editing. He has also worked in project and product management, overseeing the launch and continuous development of new websites and publications.  Project  is the official journal of the Association for Project Management (APM).

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  • Innovation & Critical Thinking

Because organizations must innovate to stay alive in today's highly competitive marketplace, organizations need employees who can channel their creativity and innovation toward organizational challenges and goals.   The Innovation and Critical Thinking Certificate is comprised of four courses. It first helps you become re-acquainted with your own stores of creativity and innovation. Next, you are given a set of tools that allow you to leverage your creativity to identify and solve organizational problems. One activity then asks you how you might look at a problem from a different angle to produce a more creative result; others walk you through the process of using analogies or replacement techniques to invent creative solutions to problems.

Each 3 to 5 hour, self-paced course in this program offers an assortment of interactive exercises, videos, selected readings, case studies, and self-assessments that will engage you and help you apply your newly discovered creativity in the workplace.

Upon successful completion, you can download a printable certificate of completion for this online program. This certificate has no textbooks or prerequisites.

Students who complete the Innovation and Critical Thinking Certificate are awarded a total of 22 CPEs (1 Technical; 21 Non-Technical) and 2.2 CEUs.

The Innovation and Critical Thinking certificate consists of 4 courses, each taking approximately 3 to 5 hours to complete. Students have four months to complete the certificate. 

The four courses are:

  • Creativity in Teams and Organizations
  • Innovation in Teams and Organizations
  • Introduction to Critical Thinking
  • Personal Creativity

In this certificate program, students will learn how to do the following:

  • Explain the connection between creativity and innovation
  • Outline the five factors for creative teams
  • Use team creative tools such as brainstorming, Discussion 66, anonymous idea generation, and visioning
  • Explain the importance of diversity in team creativity
  • Describe techniques for prototyping new ideas
  • Explain how to overcome creative barriers for teams and organizations
  • Describe ways to make teams and organizations more open to creativity and innovation
  • Outline the key factors for an innovative organization
  • Discuss the barriers to innovation
  • Explain the differences between incremental, semi-radical, and radical innovation
  • Describe internal innovation tools such as idea champions, idea incubators, new venture teams and skunk works
  • Explain the process of moving from idea to commercialization
  • Discuss the issues surrounding innovation in the public sector
  • Define critical thinking, reasoning, and logic
  • Ask appropriate questions for critical thinking
  • Understand the process of systemic problem-solving
  • Identify and overcome barriers to critical thinking
  • Articulate common reasoning fallacies
  • Understand critical thinking as it pertains to the workplace
  • Describe the basis of personal creativity
  • Explain the uses of creative tools
  • Distinguish between vertical and lateral thinking
  • Employ creative tools like SCAMPER, random input, mind mapping, and DO IT
  • Describe the key characteristics of personal creativity
  • Assess the issues surrounding measuring creativity

This certificate offers an assortment of interactive exercises, selected readings, quizzes and self-assessments. Upon completion, learners are given a summary of what they've learned for quick reference while at work.

This program has an "Ask the Expert" feature, which submits your questions directly to an expert in the field you are studying. Questions are answered within 3 business days.

This certificate requires no textbooks or prerequisites. There are some downloadable materials which students can save during the program to access for further use.

Quizzes and Testing

  • There are quizzes and tests throughout the course with exercises and scenarios for students to answer and self-assess their learning. Students are required to complete all content elements in the course and earn at least a 70% average test score to earn their certificate.
  • As a non-credit program, students earn a complete/incomplete status.  Letter grades are not issued, nor recorded by Duke Continuing Studies.


All registrants must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Possess word processing and internet skills
  • Be fluent in the English language (including reading and writing)
  • Be familiar with how online programs work and be comfortable using them
  • Be computer literate, have reliable internet access and a valid email account (Please note personal email accounts are preferred as they are less likely to be blocked by fire walls and spam filters)
  • Meet the computer technical requirements specifications

Admission is discretionary. The office of Duke Continuing Studies, Professional Certificate Programs, requires students be a least 18 years of age and meet minimum suitability standards. Students are not matriculated Duke University students and university student privileges do not apply to Continuing Studies students.

Duke Continuing Studies reserves the exclusive right, at its sole and absolute discretion, to withhold registration or require withdrawal from the program of any student or applicant.

Certificate Requirements In order to earn a certificate of completion from Duke Continuing Studies, students are required to achieve an average test score of 70% and to complete all content elements in the course within 4 months (120 days).

Technical Requirements

  • Windows XP SP2 or newer
  • Mac OS 10.4.11 or higher
  • Linux/Unix (any recent version)
  • 1 Ghz or faster CPU
  • sound card and headphones or speakers (some assignments have audio components)
  • Microsoft Office 97 (or newer) or comparable office suite such as Open Office (free download available at )
  • Adobe Flash Player 9 or greater (free download available at )
  • Adobe Reader/Acrobat Reader 7.0 or greater (free download available at )

Web Browser

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 or greater
  • Firefox 3.6 or greater ( free download available )
  • Netscape, Safari, Opera, Chrome, and other web browsers may work, however may not render all features of the course(s)
  • Cookies must be enabled
  • JavaScript must be enabled
  • Reliable internet connection
  • E-mail account (to be able to register and to receive e-mail from the system regarding registration, course status, etc.)


Registration is ongoing; therefore students can begin the program when it is convenient for them! 

Registration is not available June 24 - June 30 annually due to the close of the fiscal year for the university.

Note: our enrollment system is a separate system from that used for your online training, and therefore, access to the online training is not an automated process upon your registration. Please be aware that there may be a time delay of up to 5 business days before you receive the email with your access to the online program. This delay will not affect your allotted completion time for the program.  Please check your spam/junk folder because sometimes the access emails end up there.

Enrollment steps 

  • Register for the program using the links provided above.
  • Receive an email within five business days from our program partner MindEdge containing details about how to access the program’s web portal.
  • Log-in and begin coursework.  Students will have 4 months to complete their coursework from the date they receive their program access.

Registration Methods

  • Register Online  using a credit card with our secure, real-time registration system. Add the course to your shopping cart and follow the instructions for checking out.
  • Register by Phone  at 919-684-6259 during our business hours (Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 5:00pm EST).

Is this program offered online only?

Yes, this program is exclusively offered online and is self-paced. No classroom programs are currently available for Innovation and Critical Thinking.

Who should take this course?

This course is designed for adult learners interested in exploring and expanding their personal and professional creativity.

Do I have to log on a certain times on certain days?

No, these courses are completely self-paced, allowing students to schedule the courses work as they so desire within the allotted access time.

When is registration open?

Students may register between July 1 and June 23 each year. Registration is not available from June 24 - June 30 annually due to the close of the fiscal year for the university.

After registering, when will students receive additional program details?

Within 5 business days of enrollment (excluding Duke holidays), students will receive an email from our program partner MindEdge with web access information.

Is access to a computer required during this program?

This is an exclusively online program and access to a reliable computer is required for the duration of the program.

How long do students have access to each online course?

Students will have access to all courses within the certificate for four months (120 days) from the date in which they receive program access.

How long does the course take to complete?

Each of the four courses of the certificate is estimated to take about 3-5 hours to complete. However, completion time will vary by student.

Are extensions granted to students who request them?

No. Sufficient time to complete coursework has been given, and therefore no extensions will be granted. If a certificate program is not finished and a student wants to re-enroll to complete it, he or she will have to purchase the program again and restart the training from the beginning.

What are the technical requirements for this program?

See the Requirements section above.

How do students ask questions?

Each course has an "Ask the Expert" feature, which submits your questions directly to an expert in the field you are studying. Questions are answered within 3 business days.

What do students do if there are technical issues while completing the course?

Students should contact the Program Manager via email to troubleshoot technical issues. Students will receive a response within 3 business days (excluding Duke holidays).

How do students earn a certificate of completion from Duke Continuing Studies?

Students who complete the program with an average minimum score of 70% within the given time frame and pay tuition in full (upon registration) will receive a certificate of completion from Duke Continuing Studies. The certificate is downloadable after the course is completed. Students will be able to download the certificate for up to six months after completing the course.

Will these courses count for credits or degrees?

No. These courses are not applicable to a degree.

What is the refund policy for these courses?

There are no refunds given for online courses.

Tuition: $299

Duke employee discount.

  • $30 off the fee of $299; Duke employee pays fee of $269
  • Student must register and pay tuition in full prior to receiving program access
  • Questions:  Contact Program Manager at 919-684-3379 

Discount must be requested and applied during the registration process and cannot be applied in addition to any other discount that may be offered. You may be asked to verify your status as a Duke employee.

​ Group Discount

Do you have a group (Duke or non-Duke entity) interested in training? Contact the Program Manager for details.

Funding Sources

No loans can be construed to imply any degree-seeking status for students of Duke Continuing studies. Duke Continuing Studies courses are non-credit.

Duke Continuing Studies (DCS) will not certify (approve) loan amounts greater than the amount of the tuition regardless of the amount approved by the lending agency. DCS reserves the right to reject any loan which exceeds the tuition amount. DCS will not be responsible for refunding monies in excess of the tuition. Students needing to secure loan funding for books or other items in relation to the program are responsible for making separate loan arrangements with the funding agency. No loan funds will be refunded to the student.

Should a student choose to borrow less than the tuition amount, the balance must be paid prior to the close of the registration period.

Our Professional Certificate programs are non-credit (not degree applicable); therefore, they are  NOT  eligible for federal education loans.  DO NOT SUBMIT FAFSA FORMS  for these programs. Some of our programs may offer payment plans. Please see individual program web pages for those details.

Other Funding Sources

The funding options listed below may not be applicable to all programs at this time. Please contact the organization offering the funding to see if you qualify and if the funds can be used for the program in which you are interested.

Sallie Mae Smart Option Loan

To apply for this private student loan, visit Sallie Mae’s website , and click the I’m ready to apply button . The following application should populate with the pertinent information for Duke Continuing Studies.

  • Under Loan Needs, select Student and then Undergraduate degree.
  • Select Career training school.
  • Select North Carolina from the drop down menu.
  • Under name of school begin typing DUKE PROFESSIONAL , then select DUKE PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATES, DURHAM, NC, 00292099 when it populates.
  • Click Continue.
  • Next, You've confirmed that you want a Smart Option Student Loan for DUKE PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATES will appear.
  • Fill out Basic Information.
  • Fill out Permanent Address section.
  • DUKE PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATES, DURHAM, NC, 00292099 should already have populated for the school.
  • Select Certificate for Degree/Certificate of Study.
  • Select your Specialty or select Other if it is not shown in the options.
  • Select Half Time for Enrollment Status.
  • Select Certificate/Continuing Ed for Grade Level .
  • Enter your Loan period begins and loan period end dates.
  • Enter your Anticipated Graduation / Completion .
  • Enter loan amount. NOTE: This may not exceed the cost of tuition.
  • Estimated financial assistance should be $0.00 .
  • Under Loan request , click Use calculated need.
  • Do not check any box in typical school expenses.
  • Follow the remaining loan application prompts.

Wells Fargo Graduate Loan

Please note that Wells Fargo is no longer accepting new applications for their private student loans. However, students with an outstanding balance on a Wells Fargo private student loan may be eligible to be borrowers on a new private loan. See  here  for details.

Duke Hospital Employees

Duke University Hospital employees may be eligible for support from the Employee Development Initiative (EDI), which helps employees pay for short-term career-related programs, workshops, and seminars. For more information, visit the Employee Development Initiative site or call Duke Hospital Human Resources at (919) 668-2170.

Workforce Investment Act

The WIA provides professional and basic skills training services to those who have been unable to find employment. Please keep in mind that this process can be lengthy, so plan to apply well in advance of the program start date.  For more information on eligibility, the application process, or to find your local Workforce Development Board, visit the  NC JobLink Career Center website .

AmeriCorps Education Awards are available only for AmeriCorps volunteers and can be used for educational expenses for non-degree courses, such as Continuing Education courses offered by qualified schools. For more information on qualified schools and programs, contact the National Service Trust at 1-800-942-2677, or visit the FAQ page of the  AmeriCorps website .

Wire Transfers

Contact our registration office at [email protected] for details on how to send wire transfers. Very specific instructions must be followed in order for our office to receive a successful transfer.

Online Refund and Transfer Policy

There are no refunds, cancellations, or transfers for online, self-paced courses.

Extension Policy

No extensions will be granted. Students who require additional time to complete the course(s) they registered for will be responsible for re-registering and paying for the course in full for a second time.

Tax Deductions

Course fees and expenses are sometimes tax deductible. Please consult an accountant concerning this matter. Non-credit programs at Duke Continuing Studies do not generate 1098-T forms, in accordance with the following IRS guideline:

  • Instructions for Forms 1098-E and 1098-T  published by the Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, states “You do not have to file Form 1098-T or furnish a statement for: Courses for which no academic credit is offered, even if the student is otherwise enrolled in a degree program…”
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  1. Critical and Creative Thinking

    critical thinking vs innovation

  2. What Is Critical Thinking And Creative Problem Solving

    critical thinking vs innovation

  3. New Ways of Thinking

    critical thinking vs innovation

  4. Critical Thinking Knowledge Strategy Innovation Concept Stock Image

    critical thinking vs innovation

  5. Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

    critical thinking vs innovation

  6. The Benefits of Collaborative Learning

    critical thinking vs innovation


  1. The Art Of Critical Thinking

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  1. Critical Thinking and Innovation

    Quoting Everyone can innovate. Innovation generally refers to renewing, changing or creating more effective processes, products or ways of doing things. For businesses, this could mean implementing new ideas, creating dynamic products or improving your existing services.

  2. What is innovation?

    Explore the series How do organizations become better innovators? McKinsey conducted research into the attributes and behaviors behind superior innovation performance, which were validated in action at hundreds of companies. This research yielded eight critical elements for organizations to master:

  3. 4.2 Creativity, Innovation, and Invention: How They Differ

    You can ignore logic; anything becomes possible. Linear thinking is crucial in turning your idea into a business. Lateral thinking will allow you to use your creativity to solve problems that arise. summarizes linear and lateral thinking.

  4. The Innovation Collide Between Critical Thinking

    Innovation often requires periods of deep concentration and time between critical and design thinking. While the best ideas often come when we allow our minds to roam freely, and sometimes ...

  5. Critical Thinking

    1. History 2. Examples and Non-Examples 2.1 Dewey's Three Main Examples 2.2 Dewey's Other Examples 2.3 Further Examples 2.4 Non-examples 3. The Definition of Critical Thinking 4. Its Value 5. The Process of Thinking Critically 6. Components of the Process

  6. Mapping the Relationship Between Critical Thinking and Design Thinking

    Critical thinking has been a longstanding goal of education, while design thinking has gradually emerged as a popular method for supporting entrepreneurship, innovation, and problem solving in modern business. While some scholars have posited that design thinking may support critical thinking, empirical research examining the relationship between these two modes of thinking is lacking because ...

  7. PDF Becoming a Leader Who Fosters Innovation

    Business Thinking vs. Innovation Thinking The development of effective creative leadership is a two-step process. First, leaders individually and collectively must get in touch with their own creative thinking skills in order to make sense of and deal with complexity. Second, rather than develop skills for the "management of creativity"

  8. Creativity and innovation management

    The Creativity and Design Thinking Program teaches you how to build a creative practice and grow your creativity via ideation, empathizing, prototyping and seeking inspiration. Logically, what follows is the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program, which teaches students how to lead using those innovations and collaborative teams.

  9. What Are Innovative Thinking Skills?

    Innovative thinking is a creative thought process used to generate ideas and solutions. It is a complex task that involves finding new methods to approach problems or procedures. Innovative thinking produces results that change or challenge the status quo. In the workplace, this means looking for ways to think differently to produce better ...

  10. Critical Thinking and Innovation

    According to an article written by David Whitney: Critically Thinking Innovation 1. Successful innovators think critically and act strategically. Although the ability to solve problems can rely heavily on an innovator's creativity, a deeper look at the innovation process shows that creativity is one of many variables found in the equation of ...

  11. Unlocking Innovation: How Critical Thinking Fuels Creative ...

    Critical thinking is an essential component of innovation and creativity. It involves analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing information to develop reasoned and well-informed judgments.

  12. Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

    Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings. Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful ...

  13. Innovation and Critical Thinking

    We begin by laying the foundation with clear definitions of information and knowledge, and levels and types of knowledge, then enter the realms of the voiced and unvoiced, delving into the dimensions of knowledge (explicit, implicit and tacit), engaging tacit knowledge and living through context.

  14. Teaching Innovation and Problem Solving

    Problem solving starts with critical thinking—analyzing a problem—and then shifts to creative thinking—imagining solutions. To plan a solution requires more critical thinking, while applying the solution is a creative process. By shifting back and forth between the two types of thinking, students eventually arrive at a solution that works.

  15. Creativity vs. Innovation: What's the Difference?

    Innovation is applied creativity. Innovation is the action of putting things into practical reality, despite challenges and resistance, rather than just contemplating. It takes creative thinking ...

  16. What Is Critical Thinking?

    Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment. To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources. Critical thinking skills help you to: Identify credible sources. Evaluate and respond to arguments.

  17. Exploring the Difference: Creative Thinking vs. Critical Thinking

    Annie Walls Creative thinking and critical thinking are two distinct cognitive processes that play important roles in problem-solving and decision-making. While creative thinking involves generating innovative ideas and solutions, critical thinking involves analyzing and evaluating information to make reasoned judgments.

  18. Adaptive or innovative: what kind of thinker are you?

    Innovative thinkers Innovative thinkers tend to produce a lot of ideas that are less thought-through. Some may be radical, possibly risky, but they accept the risk of failure for ideas - they'll always have more of them. They prefer varied work that avoids routine and enables tangential thinking.

  19. Innovation & Critical Thinking

    The Innovation and Critical Thinking Certificate is comprised of four courses. It first helps you become re-acquainted with your own stores of creativity and innovation. Next, you are given a set of tools that allow you to leverage your creativity to identify and solve organizational problems.

  20. As the U.S. innovation ranking falls, real critical thinking is needed

    America's innovation problem isn't rooted in a lack of support for STEM, nor just in the disrespected liberal arts, but in the fact that teaching critical thinking is a specialized skill, and ...

  21. Innovation By Design

    The shortcut comes from the flawed reasoning that if most innovation seems to come from the "creation of something new" — in the sense of "the production of tangible artifacts" — therefore, creating new things is an innovation by itself.. The problem is that it is not a 1-1 causal relationship — all new things do not lead to significative changes — and reducing the outcomes ...

  22. The difference between design thinking and innovation

    The difference between design thinking and innovation An article making identifying 8 points using nothing more than reasoning, experience and a little design-thinking into the bargain. Mark...

  23. Critical Thinking vs. Innovative Thinking

    Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.