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Last Updated on June 10, 2022

What Are Analytical Skills (And How to Strengthen Them)

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What Are Analytical Skills (And How to Strengthen Them)

Some people are more capable of making better decisions that inch them closer to success. What sets them apart is their analytical skills.

These individuals are not ruled by emotions, desires, or hunches but rather overcome challenges regardless of urgency or complexity.

Developing and improving your analytical skills is integral because, believe it or not, everything is an analytical problem. When you look at data, you’re analyzing it. When you make a decision, you’re doing the same thing.

So why don’t many people realize its importance?

The reason is that it’s not glamorous. Having analytical skills is not a flashy superpower that will instantly get you fame and fortune, but instead will help you make better decisions, solve problems faster, lead teams effectively, and maximize your potential.

What Are Analytical Skills?

Analytical skills refer to a wide range of qualities that help you tackle complicated issues through careful evaluation. People who have analytical skills can easily detect recurring patterns in different situations, and this leads to finding logical solutions to problems.

Notice that they are called analytical skills, not analytical talents. This is a very important distinction, as talent refers to a natural ability. A skill is something that can be learned or acquired.

In his book, Dr. Richards J. Heuer, Jr. made a great point about analytical thinking:

“Thinking analytically is a skill like carpentry or driving a car. It can be taught, it can be learned, and it can improve with practice. But like many other skills, such as riding a bike, it is not learned by sitting in a classroom and being told how to do it. Analysts learn by doing. “

(Center for the Study of Intelligence: Psychology of Intelligence Analysis))

Analytical skills can be considered critical life skills that are not taught in schools. Here’s a closer look at the different types:

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Visualization

Also tied to a person’s creativity, visualization is the ability to predict the possible outcomes of strategies and actions. In a professional setting, visualization involves the analysis of data – often through illustrations like charts, graphs, and detailed lists.

Critical Thinking

Simply put, a person’s ability to think critically can be measured by his or her consistency in creating reasonable decisions. It pertains to the ability to evaluate information, siphon what’s useful, and draw conclusions without being swayed by emotions.

As a critical thinker, you’ll find yourself challenging assertions and finding loopholes in proposed solutions.

Computing

Whether you like it or not, you need to be comfortable with numbers if you want to sharpen your analytical skills. Bear in mind that computing encompasses other skills like cost analysis, budgeting, and performing general calculations.

In business, you need to use computations when weighing the risks and benefits of any given strategy.

Problem-Solving

Remember that analytical skills are used not just to understand problems but also to develop the most suitable course or courses of action. This relates to your goal-setting skills, which involve breaking down and prioritizing between objectives.

Resource Management

Analytical thinking involves some degree of resource management depending on the task at hand.

For example, professionals with a tight schedule must know how to effectively manage their own time – also known as one of the most important resources in the world.

Business leaders, on the other hand, must know how to manage company resources, including cash and manpower. Take note that the definition of analytical skills may change to match the requirements of a specific situation.

Here’s another example: Upon hiring a web developer, analytical skills may refer to the ability to determine the needs of online users, understand web analytics for optimization, and identify visual elements that can match a company’s brand.

The skillset above, however, should be applicable in most if not all scenarios.

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Collaboration

When working within groups or teams, it’s important that everyone has a clear understanding of four things:

  • What the problem is
  • What part of the solution they are responsible for
  • The time frame they have to solve it
  • What an acceptable outcome looks like

This is the analytical approach to project management.

Recognizing Correlations and Causations

We’ve all heard the phrase “correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation.” And it’s true.

To put it in perspective, let us look at analytical skills examples.

Did you know that an increase in ice cream consumption correlates to an increase in violent street crime? It’s absolutely true, but ice cream consumption does not cause street crime. They are correlated because both increase in the summer, when it’s hot and more people are outside.

But you wouldn’t want to address the problem of street crime by banning ice cream.

Recognizing Biases

Everyone has biases, and there is no way to eliminate them in discussions and decision-making. The best you can do is to be aware of them in both yourself and others. This is one of the best forms of analysis skills that take both self-discipline and self-awareness to master.

There is a funny scene in the television show “The Office” where the boss, Michael Scott, has a surplus in his budget at the end of the year. Half of his staff want him to spend it on a new copier, and the other half wants him to buy new chairs for the office. Michael is torn until he discovers that if he returns the surplus to corporate, he’ll get a bonus of 25% of the surplus. Suddenly his self-interest has created a bias.

Reporting, Both Verbal and Written

Everyone in business has a boss, from the janitor all the way up to the chairman of the board. And reporting to those bosses is an ongoing process.

From written status reports to individual and group meetings, supplying information is a never-ending cycle. So, unless you are asked for a personal opinion, it’s always best to have your thoughts and suggestions backed up by empirical evidence.

Your opinions, suggestions and recommendations are going to be taken more seriously if you have the data to back them up.

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Develop Your Analytical Skills for More Growth Opportunities

There’s no question that the right decisions lead to positive results. It doesn’t matter if you’re running a business or simply trying to climb the corporate ladder. By training your analytical skills, you position yourself for more growth opportunities while staying away from negligible actions you will regret.

For example, you plan to launch a new startup in your local community – but struggle to decide the niche you want to enter. Since you’ve been a technophile your whole life, part of you desires to invest in a gadget store. If you’re passionate about your business, success will come – right?

If you have sharp analytical skills, you begin to see your plans in whole new dimensions.

What are the possible outcomes of this venture? Does the local market need a new gadget store? How much do I need to get started, and how much should I sell to make a profit?

Depending on your findings, you can determine the feasibility of your business idea without letting your emotions get in the way.

6 Ways to Strengthen Your Analytical Skills

By now, you may be wondering how to be more analytical. There are several approaches when it comes to developing an individual’s analytical mindset and skills. For instance, psychologists agree that reading fantasy stories as a child can help sharpen critical thinking.[1]

Research also suggests that undergoing traditional education has a positive effect on a person’s IQ and analytical skills.[2]

But as an adult, such opportunities to hone your analytical skills no longer apply. That’s why you need to devise a more deliberate, active approach yourself.

Below are a few strategies to get you started:

1. Ideate Business Ideas

Developing a profitable business idea, whether you pursue them or not, involves numerous challenges. You need a ton of research, computations, and problem-solving to create a tangible business plan.

You can organize your ideas with a note-taking tool like Microsoft OneNote or Evernote. Doing so will allow you to delve deeper into your analysis, organize your findings, and stay focused on roadblocks as well as how to solve them.

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2. Leverage Analytical Tools

Aside from note-taking tools, you can also leverage other software that can help with analytical tasks. A money management app like Mint, for example, makes it easy to track your spending habits as well as manage your budget with visual tools. When it comes to prioritizing goals, you can use simple task management apps like Trello.

3. Have a Personal Learning Library

Thanks to the internet, there’s a colossal amount of resources you can utilize to learn new skills, expand your vocabulary, and train your visualization muscles.

Social media networks like SlideShare and YouTube, for example, offer mountains of tutorials you can access to your heart’s content.

For a personalized learning library, you can download Instagram videos or GIFs from educational accounts like NASA Goddard and the American Mathematical Society. But if you prefer specific technical skills, then a good place to start would be online learning platforms like Coursera, edX, and Alison.

4. Participate in Online Communities

The internet is a great place to share experiences, opinions, and sometimes intellectual discussions with like-minded individuals. Reddit, for example, has a place or “subreddit” dedicated for every topic imaginable – from technology to entrepreneurship.

5. Seek Mental Stimulation

To keep your mind sharp, make it a habit to engage in mentally stimulating activities, such as chess, puzzles, and brain training apps. One great resource to improve your analytical mindset is Lumosity, which contains dozens of cognitive games designed by teams of scientists and game designers.

6. Keep a Personal Journal

Finally, keeping a personal journal allows you to take a second look at everything that happened in your day.

Remember that writing about learning experiences lets you focus on the lesson rather than the emotion. It will help you analyze how you made your decisions, why you came to certain conclusions, and what you can do to improve in the future.

Here’s How to Create a Habit of Writing in a Journal.

Bottom Line

As an adult, you are required to face a myriad of challenges on a daily basis. Work, school, business, relationships – the list goes on when it comes to the sources of life’s problems. Now that you know what is analytical thinking and analytical skills, you can confront and overcome any obstacle standing between you and your goals.

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Vikas Agrawal

Vikas is the co-founder of Infobrandz, an Infographic design agency that offers creative visual content solutions to medium to large companies.

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