Problem Solving through Analytical Thinking
Analytical thinking is a mental activity that helps us make correct decisions. We use our creative thinking skills to come up with hundreds of solutions to our problems, but we need our analytical thinking to choose the best solution. Creative thinking is to “diverge” thinking to generate more ideas. Analytical thinking is to “converge” thinking to collect and organize ideas into one.
- 2. ACCURACY
- 3. PRECISION
- 4. RELEVANCE
- 5. DEPTH and EXTENT
- 6. BREADTH and SCOPE
- 7. LOGIC
- Guide for Analytical Thinker
In most cases, every time we are faced with a problem, we tend to look for just one solution. Then, if that solution works, we stop looking for more possible alternatives. This becomes something like a formula that whenever we encounter a similar problem, we offer “this” as the answer. And we say “It’s the easiest thing to do. Or does it really?
In the above situation, we really never employ to solve the problem analytically. When we are thinking analytically, that means we analyze the problem at hand and the solutions we came up with, not taking things as they are, but we may question, qualify or validate them. The same way in critical thinking, the term “critical” does not refer to the issue, as in critical issue; rather, it refers to the behavior of the problem-solver. We have to be critical when looking at a problem and choosing the best solution. We don’t just accept that things are just what they appear to be. We clarify and we look for accuracy of details, relevance, and so forth. Therefore, it is important to realize that analytical thinking and critical thinking is one and the same.
There are seven universal intellectual criteria and standards to remember in analytical thinking, whether understanding the problem or deciding for the solution:
Make sure that the problem is very clear to us. It is our gateway standard. If a statement is not clear, we cannot determine whether it is accurate or relevant, and we cannot determine the best solution for it since we don’t know yet what it is saying in the first place.
To help us see the clearer picture of the problem, we need accurate data. To ensure its accuracy, ask ourselves: Is that really true? How can we check that? How can we find out if that is true?
A statement could be both clear and accurate, but not precise. Example, “ABC machine is showing a downtrend of defects produced.” Are we talking about 1% improvement in one month? or 50% in a week or what? To get a more precise statement, we ask: can you give me more details? Or can you be more specific?
A statement can be clear, accurate, precise but not relevant to the question at hand. Example, “Define and implement clearer standards and qualifications in hiring new employees.” Although the statement is clear, you know what it is trying to say right away. It is accurate and specific since we specifically pointed out what needs to be defined and implemented in what. But, is it relevant to the problem at hand?
5. DEPTH and EXTENT
Example: “Provide or assign back-up employees”. How does it address the complexities of the problem? How are we taking into consideration the problems in the question?
6. BREADTH and SCOPE
Maybe we need to consider another person’s point of view. Is there another way to look at the question? How would this be from the Management’s point of view? From the customer’s standpoint? From the employees themselves?” A line of reasoning may be clear, accurate, relevant and deep but lack scope. We may be trying to solve the problem based on one party’s insights only.
When we think, we bring various thoughts together in some order. When the combination of thoughts is mutually supporting and makes sense, the thinking is “logical”. But when the combination of thoughts, the problem, the ideas, and the solution do not tally, not aligned and not mutually supporting, the combination is “not” logical. Then, ask these questions: Does this really make sense? Does that follow from what has been said? How does that follow?
Guide for Analytical Thinker
In problem-solution situation, analytical thinker has to be guided by positive judgments. In doing this, remember the four A’s:
1. Aim for the Best First of all, when you want to find solutions you have to be positive and stay positive. When you start thinking negatively, it limits your chances to think further and have better solutions.
2. Always Be Organized. To find the best solution, it is best that you come up with many possible solutions. But it is important to be always organized.
3. Allow your thoughts to see new and different ideas. When you hear the dialogue, “It’s always been done that way”, that means it’s time to look for change. Analytical thinking is looking at all possibilities and to do that, “Look beyond the obvious”.
4. Attuned with the goal. Although it is important to use creative thinking skills to generate more ideas, insure that the best solution is the most appropriate action to do.
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