Have you ever wondered how a man can achieve so much in life that he can build a business empire completely from his own efforts? Or have you ever thought about how a successful manager always comes up with perfect solutions to all the problems he faces in his profession? It all depends on their managerial skills would be the standard answer. Right, but managerial skills need correct analysis of the problem and then only the implementation will bear fruit.
To analyze the problem, you need to have analytical thinking skills which comes by learning and experience which when implemented, gives you satisfactory results.
But what is analytical thinking? How does one improve his analytical thinking skills? How and where do you put to use the analytical skills so that your career takes a boost?
Analytical Thinking Meaning:
Analytical thinking as the name suggests aims in analysis of a problem by fragmenting the problem into manageable portions, thereby finding solution to each portion, inter- relating the solutions of each portions with the others and finally implementing the solution. When you collect data, analyze it, think for solutions and try to improve it and when you focus on the details of the problem, you have implemented your analytical skills.
When you are in a profession either in the marketing side or you are hired in the technical area, you need to solve problems analytically.
For example when you need to write lengthy software programs, you break them into small manageable components, work on each independently, relate the small fragments with one another wherever needed and finally you reach the end result.
When you are in the marketing sector and you need to sell the product to a client, you break down your task into multiple fragments and assign each of your subordinates a task. The implementation becomes smoother as well as problem identification becomes easier as and when it arises.
Analytical thinking does this exactly.
Analytical thinking Vs Critical thinking:
In layman terms, if both critical thinking and analytical thinking has to be differentiated, it is easy to explain and analyze.
Analytical thinking is a step by step break up of a complex problem or task. It needs that each step is analyzed carefully for its outcome and results. It also needs inter relating the steps and visualizing and evaluating the outcome into one whole solution.
Critical thinking is actually more complex than analytical thinking because you don’t break it down into steps and analyze each one differently. When you are presented with a problem, you combine your analysis and interpretation with the available facts and reach a conclusion. Outcomes may be many because you have not done a step by step evaluation of the problem.
Focus and a better approach are needed when you analyze a problem individually by segregating them into portions and then intercept each portion by applying logic.
When you think critically, you have many ifs and buts because even though you have gone into detail, you haven’t divided the problem into parts and seen into each part individually.
Companies and corporate offices hire people who have good analytical skills because problem needs step by step approach rather than a ‘big picture’ kind of solution.
In general, critical thinking focuses on the bigger picture whereas analytical thinking focuses on the details. It is no wonder that companies focus on improving the analytical skills of its employees.
List of Analytical Skills and Examples:
Analytical skills are many. When you break a problem into portions, you need to research the problem, see how complex it is, do a data analysis, work on number crunching, think and plan, find solutions, work on improvements, possibly take risks and finally implement it. So finally how you achieved your result has involved many analytical thinking skills put to good use.
Some of the analytical skills examples are listed below:
You need to do a detailed research into each and every aspect of the problem which lays the foundation for effective solution to the problem or task.
assertion of complexity of a problem:
When a research is done on a problem you come to know how complex a problem is or how complex can a solution be.
Collection of facts and figures for each problem step by step improves the chances of going into the core of a problem.
Figures are as important as words. Be it a problem regarding finance or statistics, number crunching and its methods aids in finding easy solutions.
Thinking and planning:
When facts are available, planning is to be duly undertaken, then the problem doesn’t become more and more complex.
This forms the core of analytical thinking skills. You need to analyze the problem when you have the details in front of you.
Add-ons and improvements wherever needed:
As you keep finding solutions try to analyze if further improvements are possible and how justified would those be.
Risks to be considered:
Some problems have no particular guaranteed solutions even after analysis. So assess if the solution is worth the risk? But if risk solution lies in the middle of a problem and may cause unnecessary delay in implementation of other plans, it is worth taking the risk.
Communication to enhance solutions:
Ideas and solutions are better understood and implemented when team gets involved as a whole. Communicating ideas and discussing problems makes the solution finding easy and comfortable.
Implementation of the solution:
After all matters and plans are discussed and all points are considered then implementing the solution is the final important stage in solving the crisis.
Reassessment, Data matching, comparing, dissecting, creativity, accounting, budgeting, surveys, qualitative and quantitative analysis are some other examples in analytical skills which when implemented and worked on gives favorable results.
How to Improve Analytical Thinking?
You don’t need to always read thick books or solve complex problems to improve your analytical thinking. Your day to day activity is very much enough for it. In order to improve your analytical skills, try doing these on a regular basis:
1. Notice things around you:
Small observations get huge benefits. Talk to people around you. Keenly observe and listen to what they say. How did your friend reach office today when there was a traffic jam in his route? What alternate route did he opt for and why? How did it help him in avoiding the traffic? Was there any other way or solution? Try putting yourself in such a situation and how would you react to it? These are things that are ignored the most because small things are taken for granted. But these are the situations which help in building analytical skills in you.
2. Observe your seniors:
How does your boss handle a crisis? Is he being unreasonable? Is he justified in it? Can he get his work done through other means? Yes, these are ways and means wherein you need to constantly observe people around you and analyze how differently you would do it or what would your approach be for such a kind of situation?
3. Break a task into steps:
Suppose you need to plan things this weekend, how are you going to allot time to specific tasks? How many hours are you going to allot to each task? What will your priority list be? Break your weekend list into step-by-step task and analyze the importance of each step. So prepare a random list of things you intend to do this weekend and try setting a time slot for each activity and a priority rank for each task that you have enlisted. These mundane tasks seem so simple but by giving them importance and by breaking the tasks into steps you will help yourself in organizational skills which are critical for developing analytical thinking.
4. Search for alternatives and work on them:
Just take the above example itself. Work yourself the other way round. Reset the priority rankings. Do they work out well then? Can some steps be ignored and can some other be given more importance? Can you rearrange the time slot so that in the end you essentially do all the same things, but more effectively and in a better planned manner? Yes, alternates do matter the most. This is the core of analytical thinking. When things don’t go as planned, you should be ready with an alternate plan which will work out fine.
5. Try to think from a different perspective:
If it was your kid, how would he manage the tasks in your weekend list? Would his preferences be the same? How would his priorities change? Question yourself and think differently. It helps to know how different people react completely different to different situations. As the perspective changes, your visualizing skills change and it aids in improved analytical thinking.
6. Try solving simple games and puzzles:
Play a round of chess with your family in your spare time. It helps you in boosting up your analytical skills. How would you safeguard your king? What would the next move be, to capture your opponent’s bishop? These are simple board games but are perfect medications to strengthen up your thinking skills. If you are strong in words, go for numerous word games available online. If you are a math lover and are a pro in numbers, try solving simple math games or even puzzles. Each and everything will essentially do the trick.
Analytical Thinking Interview Questions:
Since the companies give more importance to its employees’ analytical thinking, be sure that your interviewer is going to ask questions to test and analyze how well you score in your analytical skills. Questions will be as simple as it may sound, but it requires that you think and give an answer rather than repeat a well- rehearsed answer.
Sample some of the questions listed below and try and attempt in giving a satisfying answer:
1. If your junior is being arrogant and non cooperative how would you handle him?
2. Give an instance why you thought that what steps you had taken to solve a problem was the most appropriate one.
3. Tell us when and how were you able to identify a problem and how did you ensure that you solved it effectively?
4. Tell us any situation in your previous company which you felt would have worked if approached differently?
5. Give an instance where you had handled a problem but you thought that it could be better handled?
6. What do you think are the reasons when you fail to manage a task and how do you go about rectifying them?
7. When your colleague takes away all your due credit, what steps will you ensure that it doesn’t get repeated the next time?
8. If your senior doesn’t recognize your contribution how are you going to deal with him?
9. If you have had an unsatisfied customer due to some misunderstanding how are you going to rebuild trust with that customer?
10. Describe situations which made you take risks which were worth it?
These are the standard questions posed to the interviewee. Each and every candidate gives answer according to his work experiences. But what counts is in what way you approached the situation, were you in a position to solve it, did you have to take calculated risks to solve it and if the problem was not solved, was it analyzed and were you able to know exactly where it went wrong? These questions give the interviewers an idea about your analytical skills and how you put them to use in your profession.
Analytical thinking helps you a great deal in your professional life. Every day you need to set targets as well as achieve them. And having the right analytical skills go a long way in enhancing your career prospects.