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Critical Thinking: A Human Superpower in the Age of AI

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Kris Sæther



6 min

In case you missed the news, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is coming for your proposal job. Or, at least that’s what the hype would have you believe. Yes, AI is capable of processing information at incredible speeds. Yes, AI can learn from existing content, analyze and suggest data. However, AI remains artificial; only simulating human intelligence processes.

What does AI mean for proposal professionals? Why is critical thinking an important part of this discussion?

For business leaders looking to leverage the benefits of AI, and avoid the risks, look no further. Our recent APMP BPC ‘23 Session was standing room only as we separated hype from fact and prepped attendees with the right questions to ask as they explored their options.

Critical Thinking is your Human Superpower

Critical thinking is the process of analyzing information using logic, reasoning and creativity to understand, draw conclusions and make decisions. And proposal professionals do it every day. You analyze RFPs, draw conclusions and determine whether or not to bid. You analyze bid requirements, draw conclusions and determine how best to respond. The more RFPs and requirements you analyze, the better your conclusions and determinations. 

While AI can display human capabilities, such as reasoning, planning and creativity, it cannot replace critical thinking. Critical thinking is uniquely human and in the age of AI, it is your superpower.

The AI Impact

Consider this date: January 1st, 1983. It’s considered the official birthday of the Internet, or the communication protocol, Transfer Control Protocol/Internetwork Protocol (TCP/IP), that made the Internet possible. It was new, it was different and it faced some of the same criticism and concerns AI faces today.

For example, if you got a marketing degree in the ‘70’s, was the Internet going to replace you in the ‘80’s? Forty years later, the jobs are still here, we have just adapted, upskilled, and taken advantage of the Internet, and its progeny, Social Media, to become more efficient and effective.

Enter AI; the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines. It’s poised to make the single biggest impact on business since the Internet. And like the Internet, it will change our world. But the Internet and its supercomputers still aren’t as fast or as powerful as the gray matter in your skull. In fact, the human brain can handle more than 100tn parameters - or pieces of data - which is a level of computing power that hasn’t been matched by any silicon computer.

What can AI do? AI is a lot of things to a lot of people:

  • To the automotive industry, it’s self-driving cars.
  • To the medical industry, it’s identifying complex patterns to aid doctors with diagnosis.
  • To the defense industry, it is facial recognition to aid TSA  in confirming passenger identity.  
  • In business, it’s a virtual assistant, to aid sales in calling prospects.

In other words, AI is a tool, just like the Internet, or your computer or smartphone.

Smarter than the average computer, yes, but whatever analysis or content AI produces for you, you use your critical thinking superpower to draw the conclusions and determine how, and if, to use it.

The Missing AI Element

Imagine you and your competitors all use ChatGPT and the Internet to write your next proposal. You know evaluators can spot boilerplate content a mile away. How do you think they’ll score your proposal when they realize it looks and sounds the same as your competitor's proposal?

So, how do your critical thinking superpower and AI assist you with proposals? Begin by using AI to analyze an RFP. From AI’s analysis, you can quickly see that four of your five evaluation criteria are met, and you can get to the bid discussion a lot faster. However, as you dig a little deeper, you begin to have some concerns; some extremely specific key personnel requirements, and the past performance validity time frame is far too narrowly defined, leading you to believe the bid is hard-wired for a competitor.

Enter your critical thinking superpower, that includes your soft skills experience:

  • Strategic Thinking. AI can help executives more quickly pull insights out of an ocean of RFP data, but they make the determination of whether to bid.  
  • Technical Know-how. AI can help solution architects more quickly ferret out the RFP’s technical requirements, but they interpret what that means for the price.  
  • Psychical Skills. AI can help sales weigh their bid options more rapidly, but they use their experience to determine specifically what to focus on.

Now that AI’s got your back with more rapid RFP analysis, it’s time to develop your proposal. From AI’s suggestions, you can easily find three or four relevant ways to respond to the first requirement. But this is a strategic client, and content reuse without customization will not improve your evaluation score.

Enter your critical thinking superpower, that includes your soft skills experience:

  • Creativity. AI can make relevant content suggestions, but only you can tailor it using real-world experience, emotion and inspiration.
  • Imagination. AI can help spark new ideas, but only you have the awareness necessary for the thoughts, feelings and sensations that drive imagination.
  • Empathy. AI can learn how to detect emotions and demonstrate empathy, but only you can express empathy without the risk of bias.

In other words, you are the craftsman. You may use AI as an analysis and suggestion tool, but only a craftsman understands how to use AI’s results to express and communicate complex ideas in a way that resonates with and persuades decision-makers.

You are of no less value because you use a computer versus a pen and paper. And you are of no less value because you use AI. Combined with your critical thinking superpower, you are just more efficient and effective.

AI for Proposals - Asking the Right Questions

When it comes to using AI in the proposal industry, there are some significant concerns. Especially for government contractors working with confidential, sensitive customer information. As you explore AI for proposals, consider these vendor questions when weighing the pros and cons.

  • Is your AI a Public AI model? Public AI models, such as ChatGPT, typically leverage the world wide web as its data source, introducing risk and potential liability.
  • Where is the data coming from? If you can’t control the data source, you can’t control the risks, such as misinformation and bias.
  • Will we use data we didn’t pay for? Accidental use of copyrighted data is not yet clarified in the industry, introducing risk and potential legal minefields.
  • Can our data inputs be reused? Whatever data you put into a public AI can be retained and used for training future models, and potentially accessed by other software applications. In fact, some companies, such as Samsung Electronics, JPMorgan Chase, Amazon, Verizon and Accenture have reportedly barred staff from using ChatGPT for work.

Here at Xait, data security is a top priority. Our customers represent some of the largest business leaders in the world, and they work with sensitive, confidential and proprietary information every day. That’s why we designed XaitAI as a secure closed-system exclusive for each customer.

Learn how XaitAI helps you with RFP analysis and proposal content suggestions, without the risk of public AI, by harnessing your critical thinking superpower.

Related article: Beyond the Hype: Secure AI for Business 

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Author picture

Kris Sæther

Kris Sæther is Chief Commercial Officer of Xait. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Media Studies, and has worked in financial communication in London and Frankfurt prior to joining Xait. He has 20+ years experience from the information management industry. Kris is an avid runner and skier, and a passionate fan of the world’s coolest soccer team, Tottenham. If he is not working or running you will find him cheering for his two daughters on the handball court.

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