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Analytical Thinking Skills are valuable assets both personally and in business. Regardless of your current occupation or position, knowing how to apply analytical thinking will benefit whatever company you are working for or with, and will eventually lead to promotions and increased compensation. Logic and Analytics are universal – they are very important at work, at home, in relationships, with family and friends, and even with kids. In general, solving any problem requires some level of analytical thinking. Some of the most common areas that involve analytical thinking are: organizing; troubleshooting; communicating; budgeting; reporting; research; data analysis; diagnostics; creativity; etc. As you can see – chances are, you already have a base level of analytical thinking skills.
In this course, you will learn how to identify the skills that you currently have, and then how to improve them and apply them to the benefit of your company and your life. You will learn how to use these skills to become a better problem solver and make you more marketable overall. The purpose of this course is to develop your ability to identify, analyze, question, evaluate and overall to promote independent analytical thought.
Every creature that has ever existed has had some level of the ability to analyze a situation – even if it was/is strictly instinctual (as in, the desire to survive), the ability is common. What makes humans different from the rest is our ability to get to the root cause of a situation and come up with a solution to mitigate the impact of the problem. This is the key concept – taking an inherited set of skills, improving them, and applying them to solving life and business problems.
As the name implies, Analytical Thinking involves using the analysis of a problem or situation to formulate a solution. It uses a scientific approach to examination of the information available in order to understand the cause-and-effect and use it to provide the basis for problem-solving or decision-making.
Analysis is a systematic, detailed examination and evaluation of the elements or structure of something – usually for the purpose of discovering meaning, essential features, or root cause. It involves separating or breaking a whole into parts in order to discover its’ true nature, function and relationship.
An unbiased, persuasive statement of fact or conclusion that is reasonably defensible. In essence, a reason or set of reasons given with the aim of persuading others that an action or idea is either right or wrong – when adding in the defensible element, it’s a reason that has undergone extensive scrutiny and analysis. It is generally the most logical course of action or decision based on the analysis of the information at hand.
Creative thinking is looking at something in a new way or with a fresh perspective (as in “thinking outside the box”) to conceive something new or original which requires an open mind to develop a novel or unorthodox solution that does not depend wholly on past or current solutions. Creative thinking is the process of thinking in a flexible, flowing and original way. This method usually makes use of Reframing, Abstraction (working with concepts that differ from concrete reality), Brainstorming, Mind Mapping, Conjecture and Divergent Thinking (challenging accepted assumptions and ideas).
Critical thinking is the objective analysis of a risk or issue based on facts, data, and related evidence without the influence of personal feelings, opinions or biases – it focuses solely on factual information and takes a logical, sequential, disciplined manner to rationalize, analyse, evaluate, and interpret information in order to make an informed decision. It involves gaining understanding, not just knowledge.
Decision making is the process of making choices by identifying risks/issues, gathering information, and assessing alternative resolutions based on sound, reasonable arguments. Formal decision-making models are generally called rational decision-making models which consider inputs, analysis and evaluation of outcomes in order to make a decision as to which solution to implement.
Deconstruction of a Problem
Deconstruction of a Problem in the context of Analytical Thinking is part of the Analysis of the problem which involves systematically, and methodically breaking the problem down into it’s core elements for analysis and evaluation.
This can be one of the most challenging parts of critical thinking – especially during challenging scenarios – this task involves figuring out what information is relevant and important for consideration in formulating an argument.
Evaluation is the systematic collection and analysis of information on the performance of a policy, program or plan in order to make judgments about its relevance, progress, success, cost-effectiveness; or to base future decisions on in regards to design and implementation of policies, programs or initiatives. Evaluation provides a periodic opportunity to take an in-depth look at how a program, policy or initiative is doing.
Evaluation generally takes on these characteristics:
- is periodical in nature (has a “cycle”);
- involves judging a policy, program or plan’s merit or worth (based on systematic and high-quality data);
- focuses on how and why results are achieved;
- looks at intended and unintended effects; and
- technological, physical or personnel based.
This skill can be extremely difficult because biases are deeply seeded and very difficult for individuals to recognize their own biases. The core of this consideration is evaluating the arguments from all sides of an argument while taking into account the biases each side may possess. It is exceedingly difficult to learn how to set aside personal biases which cloud a person’s judgement and the assumptions used to form their arguments.
Inference is a conclusion or opinion reached on the basis of analysis, evidence and reasoning of facts and/or available information. Can be considered an “Educated Guess.” People learn about many things by first-hand experience, but we can also gain knowledge by what the available information infers. It’s like reading between the lines or looking carefully at the facts to come up with conclusions. This can also lead to faulty conclusions or inferences based on biases or logical fallacies. In analytical thinking, inferences, based on information provided, coupled with common sense and life/work experience can be used to fill-in-the-gaps and come to a reasonable conclusion or build a defensible argument.
A logical Fallacy is a flaw in reasoning based on biases or deep-rooted brainwashes.
Problem-solving is the process of finding a solution to a difficult or complex question or situation – it’s about engaging in the actions or thoughts necessary to discover an appropriate and/or the best solution possible. Problem-solving requires creative-thinking, research, analysis and common-sense to break a problem down and evaluate the elements in order to identify the root-cause and support the decision-making process.
Prototyping is a methodology that uses various tools to rapidly build models for the testing and exploring of ideas to prove their viabilities and expose any shortcomings before expending too many resources on implementing the idea. A prototype is commonly called a “mock-up” and can be anything from sketched out or flowed on paper, to computer simulations that can emulate practical applications. It’s typically viewed as cost/time saving.
The Root-Cause is the base element that created the problem – ignore symptoms quickly and identify core problem in order to understand and facilitate an appropriate solution.
A solution is the logical, rational, or most reasonable response needed to solve a problem. It is the “answer” to the problem – in Analytical Thinking, the answer is a result of systematically evaluating all elements to acquire the knowledge necessary to come up with the most reasonable approach to fixing a problem. Can also be viewed as a Hypothesis.
Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats that can help to identify potential solutions.
The 8 Essential Skills/Natural Talents that Impact Analytical Thinking:
- Understand the fundamental elements of a Problem and how to break it down
- Recognize and eliminate efforts to waste time on finding blame over solutions
- Understand where to begin in order to solve a problem
- Understand the fundamental of how Analytical Thinking works
- Learn how to focus on the “drivers” behind the problem in order to get to the root-cause
- Learn the concepts behind extracting meaningful information (with merit), that is qualitatively or quantitatively supports a solution/decision
- Understand where to dig, how to dig, how to filter, how to verify and how to apply
- Understand the importance of logic and analysis in finding viable solutions to problems
- Learn how to apply tools and techniques such as brainstorming and root-cause analysis
- Learn how to test and prototype proposed solutions prior to presenting them
- Learn how to create defensible solutions, and then how to calmly and confidently defend them
- Introduction to Logic, Reasoning, Arguments and Deductive Reasoning
- What is Logic?
- What is Reasoning; and what if Logic is not applied?
- Exercise: Document how logic in the workplace impacts flow and efficiency
- What is Deductive Reasoning?
- What is an Argument (in scientific terms)?
- What is a problem?
- Exercise: Document some of the common, unsolved problems you face at work
- What is a solution?
- Exercise: Document how you think your common problems should be resolved
- Introduction to Analytical Thinking
- What is Analytical Thinking?
- What are the 8 Essential skills that impact Analytical Thinking?
- Exercise: Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses of these essential skills
- What is the difference between Analytical Thinking and Critical Thinking?
- What is the difference between Analytical Thinking and Creative Thinking?
- Discussion: Is there overlap between the processes or are they just trendy names for the same process?
- Introduction to Deconstructive Problem Solving
- What is Problem Solving?
- Exercise: What do you know about Problem Solving?
- How do you Identify a problem or a potential problem?
- What does it mean to Deconstruct a Problem?
- What is meant by root-cause and how do you determine it?
- Exercise: Take a problem from your list, deconstruct it, and find the root cause
- Discussion: Did the process lead you to a different conclusion than your original conclusion?
- What is prototyping?
- How is prototyping used in Analytical Thinking?
- Implementing Analytical Thinking
- What is the benefit of improving your Analytical Thinking Skills?
- Exercise: How does improving these skills benefit your company?
- How do you consciously combine these skills in order to apply them in your job?
- How does improving these skills benefit your home life and relationships?
- Exercise: How does improving these skills benefit your marketability?
- How to improve your Analytical Thinking Essential Skills
- Going Beyond
- Is there actually an ROI on implementing Analytical Thinking?
- Discussion: How and when should you use Analytical Thinking in the workplace?
- Exercise: Use all the tools and techniques that you’ve learned or improved in this session and go back to that same problem and do a full and proper analysis of it
- Discussion: Did you come up with a different solution? Were you able to process the information in a new way that gave you a better understanding of the problem?
- Exercise: Form a group of 3 or 4 and randomly pick one of the member’s problems to review as a group
- Discussion: Did the group come up with a better solution?
- Discussion: What did you learn from this process?
- Concept Evaluations
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