5 Tips to Boost Your Analytical Thinking Skills
5 Tips to Boost Your Analytical Thinking Skills
In an ever-evolving economy, the ability to analyze complex data and situations has become an increasingly important skill for job candidates. In many instances, these analytical thinking skills can be the deciding factor in any hiring decision. But how can someone become a more analytical thinker? Are these skills that you’re just born with, or abilities that you can develop over time? As it turns out, you can boost your analysis skills and become the type of analytical thinker that today’s employers need.
In this post, we’ll explain what analytical thinking is and how it differs from other types of thought processes. In addition, we’ll explore some strategies that you can use to boost your ability to think analytically, so that you have the skills needed to advance your career.
What is analytical thinking?
So, what is an analytical thinker anyway? Analytical thinking is a type of thought process that involves analyzing information by breaking it down into its component parts. This linear approach to examining information and situations can provide a more in-depth review of available facts in a step-by-step way. By examining each part of a problem, the analytical thinker can identify causes and effects, patterns, and trends that can help them to understand how those components connect to one another. Ultimately, that analysis is used to draw conclusions based on all available information.
Analytical thinking, step-by-step
There are several general steps used in the analytical thought process:
Begin by gathering all of the relevant facts and data points
Examine the evidence as it is, attempting to identify issues and concerns
Begin to break down any complex information into its component parts for easier analysis
Look for patterns that help to explain causes and effects, problems, or other areas of concern
Work to understand how the component parts connect to one another and the whole
Set aside irrelevant information and organize the remaining components
Use reasoning and logic to draw the right conclusion
Of course, these steps are just a basic overview of a typical analytical process, since every thinker and every situation is different. Sometimes, various steps will need to be repeated multiple times to ensure a complete analysis. In addition, analytical thinkers need to use critical thought to test their conclusions and to ensure that their analysis has the best chance of being correct.
Examples of analytical skills
There are a number of abilities that can be defined as analytical skills, including:
Research skills are vital for analytical thinking, since you’ll need to know how to gather the right data and information to fuel your review. This may require reviewing written materials, poring through databases, or conducting online research.
Sound analysis requires the ability to analyze complex data sets, find connections between seemingly disparate bits of information, and organize that information for deeper review.
An analytical thinker is able to organize more than just the data under review. They also need to be able to organize and manage their analysis processes, collaborative efforts with other team members, and the final conclusions that they include in any reports or presentations.
While analytical thinking focuses on hard facts and evidence, a certain degree of creativity is needed to apply conclusions to real-world problems. Creativity is also vital for inferring connections between pieces of evidence that may at first glance seem to have little relation to one another.
Since analytical thinking is often used to solve problems, you’ll also need communication skills to relay your findings to management, team members, or other stakeholders. These skills should be broad enough to enable you to convey those conclusions in a simple, understandable way.
Keen observational skills are critical for any analysis. They help to identify relevant data that others might miss, understand how different component parts interact with one another, and determine causes and effects.
Analytical thinking vs critical thinking
One important way to define an analytical thinker is to compare analytical thinking to other ways of processing information and solving problems - like critical thinking, for example. Critical thinking differs from analytical thinking in several important ways. While analytical thinkers focus only on the information at hand, critical thinkers take a more holistic approach to solving problems. They do consider the facts and evidence before them, but also apply their own reasoning, logic, and existing knowledge base to form sound conclusions.
The critical thinker will also consider a variety of alternative conclusions, testing each possibility to determine if a conclusion can be supported by the evidence at hand. This process enables them to use analytical skills to evaluate information, common sense to assess the value of each bit of available data, and important inference skills to craft theories that connect data points to form viable conclusions.
In many ways, analytical thinking can be considered a vital step in any critical thought process. The difference is that critical thinkers go beyond the analytical stage and apply other sources of data and knowledge to help them to form their conclusions. The analytical thinker sticks to the facts at hand, while the critical thinker evaluates those facts but ultimately makes decisions based on their own knowledge, experience, and opinions.
Tips to help you to boost your analytical thinking skills
Even if your analytical thinking skills are already somewhat developed, they can always be improved. The following tips and strategies can help you to boost those abilities:
1. Focus on observation and curiosity
Given the important role that keen observation skills play in analytical thinking, you should focus on strengthening your ability to observe everything around you. Force yourself to take note of even the most mundane things you see and develop a habit of asking questions like “how?” and “why?”. How does a plane stay in the air? Why does a rose smell the way it does?
2. Create a learning library or database
With the rise of the internet, analytical thinkers have access to a vast array of resources for learning and research. There are whole websites filled with articles and videos and online communities dedicated to almost any topic you can imagine. Develop your own library of bookmarked or downloaded pages of information relevant to your career, interests, and thought processes.
3. Familiarize yourself with analytical tools
Many times, sound analysis will require the use of various technological tools. Familiarize yourself with software and other tech that can help to simplify or automate various steps of your analysis process.
4. Stimulate your mind
The human mind can become dull when it isn’t constantly challenged. One way to increase your mental capacity is to find ways to stimulate your mind. Strategy-based games like chess, mental puzzles, and brain-training exercises can all be used to stimulate and expand your ability to analyze situations, form logical connections, and focus your attention on tasks and problems.
5. Find an online community of like-minded individuals
Another great way to expand your thought processes is to engage in meaningful and thoughtful discussions with others. Sites like Reddit have community pages devoted to almost any topic or interest you can imagine. Even a simple Google search can put you in touch with like-minded individuals that you can network and share ideas with.
Use analytical skills to get ahead
Strong analytical skills can be vital for any job seeker who wants to advance their career. By understanding the types of skills needed to be an analytical thinker and taking the steps needed to improve those abilities, you can develop the analysis skills that you need to succeed in today’s complex business environment.
Want to make sure that your resume showcases your analytical thinking skills? Get a free resume review from our team of experts today!
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Ken Chase, Freelance Writer
During Ken's two decades as a freelance writer, he has covered everything from banking and fintech to business management and the entertainment industry. His true passion, however, has always been focused on helping others achieve their career goals with timely job search and interview advice or the occasional resume consultation. When he's not working, Ken can usually be found adventuring with family and friends or playing fetch with his demanding German Shepherd. Read more resume advice from Ken on ZipJob’s blog.