Read More Books, Play More Chess
As machines become increasingly more accurate and intelligent, we humans will need to sharpen our cognitive skills. One of your primary responsibilities as a Learning and Development leader is to ensure that you empower the workforce to develop the four sets of skills that are critical to thriving in 2030 . To make your job easier, a series of ten articles, “eLearning Skills 2030,” explores all the necessary skills. This article, the fourth in the “eLearning Skills 2030” series, explores analytical reasoning: what it is, why it is essential, and what are some actionable tactics to sharpen it.
What Is Analytical Reasoning?
Analytical reasoning can break down a complex problem into smaller parts and find solutions. The etymology of the word “analytical” comes from Greek and means to “loosen, or solve.” Analytical reasoning requires understanding the relationships between parts, paying attention to the sequence of events, outlining a process, observing to detect similarities and differences, and connecting the dots . With analytical reasoning, you can dissect complexity to its most minor parts and analyze them from more than one perspective to find the best solution possible.
Why Do You Need Analytical Reasoning?
Nowadays, every role requires analytical reasoning, which will continue to be a foundational skill in 2030 and beyond. Apart from enabling you to analyze complex and unprecedented problems and come up with solutions, analytical reasoning can help improve how you communicate, resolve conflicts, and manage crises. In his book Moonshot, Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla discusses how much his team relied on analytical reasoning to find ways to develop a COVID-19 vaccine in nine months instead of nine years.
How Can You Strengthen Your Analytical Reasoning Skills?
Just like different exercises, reps, and sets at the gym help you build various muscle groups, you need to practice to strengthen your brain. There are several practical and actionable ways to improve your analytical skills, including reading more, playing brain games, learning something new every day, improving your public speaking skills, engaging with data, and asking good questions .
1. Read More
Reading more books helps your brain stay alert and engaged. You can join a book club or your local library. Pick a topic that interests you and try to read three books on it from different authors. This exercise will help you see a subject from various perspectives, force your brain to think differently, and open your mind to new ideas and new ways of seeing things. Next time you are faced with a problem, you will likely be more apt to resolve it.
2. Play Brain Games
One of my favorite games is chess, precisely because it challenges my analytical thinking. I usually play against the computer, and I am delighted when, after several tries, I can beat the machine. Brain games such as chess, sudoku, and crossword puzzles can both be fun and help you sharpen your analytical thinking.
3. Learn Something New
While it may appear obvious, the more you expand your knowledge, the more you can strengthen your analytical skills. The more learning you build, the better equipped you will be to solve problems and tackle the challenges you are faced with. Today, there are myriads of free learning experiences available online, including online learning, microlearning modules, TED talks, audiobooks, and curated learning collections such as Masterclass, where some of the masters across many disciplines, including sports, design, writing, science, food, and music, among others, share their craft.
4. Sharpen Your Public Speaking Skills
There are many ways you can improve your public speaking skills, including joining a Toastmasters club, a debate club, or signing up to deliver a TED talk. All these contexts enable you to engage with others to discuss concepts, analyze problems, review data, and explore different perspectives. Presenting ideas and listening to others talk helps you expand your view and consider opposing viewpoints. By understanding how you and others process information, you can gain new perspectives and approaches to thinking differently about problems.
5. Engage With Data
Reviewing data and analyzing it can help you find meaningful patterns in your organization’s growth, financial performance, and strategy. Catherine Cote from Harvard Business School recommends downloading mock data sets and using Excel to slice and dice them to familiarize yourself with data analytics. Analyzing data can help you sharpen your analytical and problem-solving skills and ultimately help you make data-driven decisions and drive change in your organization.
6. Ask Better Questions
Research conducted by Harvard Business School professors Alison Wood Brooks and Leslie K. John revealed that people don’t ask enough questions . Asking questions can lead to both new learnings and to other people liking you more. Asking good questions is an art and involves type, tone, and framing, among other elements. In terms of type, there are basically close-ended questions (where the answer can be a simple “yes” or “no”) and open-ended questions (where the response includes more than one word). As a rule of thumb, asking open-ended questions that start with “how,” “why,” or “what” can lead to more expansive answers, elicit follow-up questions, and foster more extended conversations which may increase your learning and help sharpen your analytical skills.
Analyzing a topic means that you have developed a good understanding of it and can discuss it in some depth. Those with strong analytical thinking skills can quickly analyze a situation, topic, or problem and often work well in a team setting to accomplish goals. Using analytical skills in your everyday work shows you’re a reliable and pragmatic thinker, able to base your decisions on meaningful data. Analytical reasoning skills are critical because they enable you to think differently and problem-solve effectively, making data-driven decisions about actions to take and where to allocate resources. Analyzing problems and dissecting them into smaller parts helps you design and implement meaningful solutions. Analytical reasoning is a vital skill in every position at every level. Developing this skill is critical. As a leader, you must create this skill for your growth and foster it in the new generation of leaders so that they can thrive in 2030 and beyond.