5 disadvantages of analytical thinking you need to be aware of
Analytical thinking is a skill that is in demand across various industries right now. Analytical thinkers are needed in almost all organisations and teams, as they provide value through their structured and methodical approach to analysing problems, making decisions and indicating the best choices.
However, there are some disadvantages of analytical thinking you should be aware of, either because you’re an analytical thinker yourself, or because you work with one. Being an analytical thinker, I know that the awareness of these disadvantages helps me maximise the benefits of thinking analytically – I know better when not to use it. Having worked with analytical thinkers, being mindful of these drawbacks of analytical thinking helped me manage and organise teamwork better by leveraging a variety of skills.
I learned about these disadvantages when I experimented with learning analytical thinking from scratch some time ago. Sure, I learned a lot about the strengths of this approach and how to use it best, but I also discovered its weaknesses
Obsessing about information
First, I couldn’t stop looking for more and more information – I knew I had to gather and collect as much knowledge as possible, so I’d often get trapped in spirals of research doom. Don’t get me wrong, I love research, but it’s not productive when I know I have enough to tackle a problem, but I just keep on reading and learning *for the love of it*. This is especially unhelpful if I have to solve a problem with a fixed timeframe. Becoming obsessed with information, data or knowledge gathering can take up a lot of time.
Second, it’s easy to engage in productively procrastinating. Analytical thinking requires you to actively engage in a structured process, break a problem down, research it, assess the options – you can become so involved in the process that instead of solving a problem, you’ll just keep on analysing it for forever. You’re being productive, you’re doing something, but you’re putting way too much time and energy into it, instead of cutting through to action. This can become a nuisance when you’re dealing with small choices or fairly insignificant options. You should see me in a supermarket trying to do an impromptu benchmarking of six different granola brands. Lots of time wasted, quite a bit of frustration with myself, and I still defaulted to the one I always buy (it turned out to be in fact the best option though).
Suffering when making decisions
This leads me to the third drawback of analytical thinking, both in personal and professional life: difficulty making decisions. Analytical thinking forces you to carefully consider all evidence, weigh up options, get to the bottom – but can you ever, ever be sure you took absolutely everything into account? What if not? How can you decide if you don’t know all the variables? This can become really frustrating on a day-to-day basis, and in a business setting it can be lethal to any company. We need to accept that we’ll never have a complete picture, so at some point we just have to make a decision. But this isn’t easy when you’re thinking analytically. And even if you do decide, analytical thinkers often suffer from decision remorse. To give you an example, I take forever to make up my mind what to eat when I go out, and then I nearly always regret my choice the moment I order.
Fourth, analytical thinking can lead to losing spontaneity. Well, how can you be spontaneous if you have to analyse and think everything through? How about breaking the issue down? Collecting all information? Making reasoned choices? You just want me to decide where I’m going to go on a walk on a spot? With analytical thinking, it’s easy to become obsessed about every decision and choice to the point that you can’t just go with the flow. Nothing bad in this for me, but then again, what else would an analytical thinker say?
Prioritising reason too much
Fifth, solutions arrived at through analytical thinking lead to prioritising reason over everything else. There are circumstances where yes, you want to be guided only by structured, logical reasoning. But then in some situations you need to draw on aspects other than reason. Telling a colleague you’re not going to work with them anymore if they don’t pull their weight in on a project may indeed be the most reasonable solution to a problem right there right then, but what about your empathy, relationships, and longer term effects? A healthy salad for lunch may be the most reasonable option as indicated in the benchmarking exercise, but what about my mood and satisfaction? Being overly attached to analytical thinking only can make you blind to other important factors.
What to do about these drawbacks?
How to deal with these drawbacks? I had to develop several coping mechanisms. To prevent myself from researching obsessively, I set time limits for doing research and then I stop. I deal with productive procrastination in a similar manner: I set a deadline by which I have to finish the analysis or make a choice. To deal with making decisions, I resorted to accepting that not every decision will be the best and that sometimes I’ll make wrong choices – but adopting this attitude takes a lot of training, I must admit. To regain some spontaneity, I now have planned spontaneity windows to do things without planning them in advance. I know it sounds ridiculous, but if this is what it takes…
Learning how to take into account other aspects than just reason is probably the most difficult drawback to manage. But as I learned, sometimes the most logical solutions or decisions aren’t the best. So to have a better understanding of situations, I now implemented a very important filter in analytical thinking. Before implementing a solution or taking a decision, I deliberately ask myself: “How would this make them feel?” – them being anybody affected, including myself. This simple switch from thinking to feeling ensures that I consider other aspects than just pure reason and adjust my solutions and decisions accordingly, both in my private life and at work. And this is how I managed not to be abandoned by all my friends and family, despite being an analytical thinker to the core. Any other drawbacks you could add?If you’d like to learn more, subscribe to Lessons in Thinkfulness and receive free, weekly lessons designed to help you become more thinkful at work, in business and in life.