4 situations where you have to use analytical thinking and in which career
With a foundational level understanding of this thinking style, it’s critical to know when to use analytical thinking. This thinking style is not something that you can blindly apply in any situation and to any problem, so take a look at these four situations where analytical thinking will work, and in which roles.
Diagnosing the problem
Use analytical thinking when you have to understand what the problem is made up of. This may be, for example, a problem in your business, like customer churn. Before encountering analytical thinking, when I had customers churning in my business, I admit I wanted to diagnose the problem with brainstorming (not a tool from analytical thinking and definitely not a good idea here!). So I’d take a blank sheet of paper and think of all the potential reasons why customers may be going away, and then try to tackle them in a random order. Not recommended. Now I know you need to get a very good understanding of what causes churn before you dive into solving it.
Analytical thinking helps a lot here because you diagnose the problem in a structured way, so it’s less likely you’re going to miss something obvious or get confused in the process. Diagnosing the problem becomes rigorous and systematic.
Identifying the root cause
Use analytical thinking when you have to make sure you get to the bottom, the real cause of the problem, and not just treat the symptoms. In my customer churn problem, even if all the ideas I came up with were systematic and valid, I never identified the real reason why customers were leaving – simply because I wasn’t digging deep enough. I was looking at symptoms and trying to fix these, instead of getting to the bottom of the problem.
Analytical thinking helps you precisely with this: you get prodded for long enough to understand where the root cause lies, and then solve that problem.
Systematically assessing a range of options
Back in my entrepreneurial days, I considered three possible exit strategies for one of my businesses. I just thought and thought about it and settled for one that just felt best. This is a no-go for a serious thinker, I know this now. If you need to assess any options you may be facing, do it like a pro: identify the categories for comparison and systematically assess every option. Only this way you’ll get to rational, logical grounds for any kind of comparison.
You’re constantly faced with different options between which you have to choose, from what to have for breakfast, through your education, to your career. Many of these choices are inconsequential, so it’s fine to just decide on the spot. But when the stakes get high, you don’t want to be an amateur at choosing and pick random options. Instead, analytical thinking allows you to make choices that are solid, defendable and based on a demonstrable and repeatable process. Just in case you ever need to justify your choice – to yourself, or to others.
If your day-to-day life involves any of these four situations, you have to use analytical thinking. It will give you immense benefits in problem solving: you’ll understand the components and get to the bottom of issues, and this will make you find better solutions. You’ll also know how to make good and well-reasoned choices. These benefits are particularly important if:
- Your main job is to understand and solve problems, for example if you’re a consultant or analyst, or data scientist, or a researcher
- Your main job is to come up with solutions, if you’re a programmer or systems designer
- Your main job is to run a business, if you’re an entrepreneur or a CEO
- Your main job is to take high-stake decisions, if you’re a director or senior manager
- You want to understand others in your environment better, as a friend or family member
- You want to make better choices in your personal life.
Needless to say, if you want any of these jobs above, your analytical thinking skills have to become your biggest asset. Students in particular can benefit from developing better analytical thinking skills, as I’ve experienced lecturing them for a good number of years.
Analytical thinking can be a great leverage on your path to success because it allows to better identify and solve issues. Most work situations, most companies, most people always have problems to solve. An analytical thinker is an asset as an employee, a boss, and a friend. Of course, analytical thinkers come with thorns – but more on that later…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.