What are Analytical Thinking and Innovation Skills? How to improve those skills?
Being able to think analytically was top in the World Economic Forum’s list of sought-after future skills. In fact, the ability to problem solve effectively is a common theme across all the skills mentioned in the list.
Employers look for employees with the ability to investigate a problem and find the ideal solution in a timely, efficient manner. The skills required to solve problems are known as analytical skills.
You use analytical skills when detecting patterns, brainstorming, observing, interpreting data, integrating new information, theorizing, and making decisions based on the multiple factors and options available.
They will demonstrate your in-depth knowledge and understanding of a company or process, leading to you ultimately making better decisions.
In the job interview
Before your interview, it’s always a good idea to prepare answers to commonly-asked interview questions. You should also prepare to answer skills employers may ask specifically to judge your analytical skills as it relates to the job. Here are a few examples of common analytical skills interview questions:
- Describe a time when you were given a problem without a lot of information. How did you handle this situation?
- How do you use information to make decisions?
- Describe your problem-solving process.
- How do you decide how to prioritize your time?
- Tell me about which metrics would be of most use to you in this role.
- Tell me about a time you analyzed the performance of a program.
- What is your approach to testing new ideas?
So how to build Analytical Thinking skill?
There are 7 Steps To Improve Your Analytical Thinking Skills
If you think your analytical thinking skills need some brushing up or you just want to improve it, here are some strategies you can do:
1. Be Observant
Take a walk outside or observe people in your office. Use as many of your senses, see what’s happening around you. Is there anything that interests you? Remember you have to actively engage your mind.
2. Read Books
Once again, the key to improving your analytical thinking skill is to keep your mind active and running. Read books and try to work on an active reading strategy: proactively read and digest and question what you’re reading. You can highlight, raise questions, read aloud or make predictions to stay engaged with your reading material.
3. Learn How Things Work
Don’t just find the solution but know how exactly certain things work. By scrutinizing how things work, you will have a better understanding of the process which is vital in stimulating your analytical skills.
4. Ask Questions
Did you know that curiosity makes us smarter? According to Neuroscientist Aracelli Carmago, “The more curious we are about a subject, the more it engages our cognitive functions, such as attention and memory.” With that said, asking more questions can help develop better problem-solving skills, retention, and memory of a subject. So don’t be shy to ask questions, especially if your query is valid.
5. Play Brain Games
If you want to improve your analytical thinking skills, it may be time to play Sudoku or other brain games like puzzles, chess, or crosswords. The best part of working on brain games to develop your analytical skill set is it is fun and doesn’t require a lot of motivation to get started.
6. Practice Your Problem Solving Skills
Keep in mind that for every problem, there is a solution. Visualize and be articulate in the presentation of a particular concept. Prepare two, three or even more solutions to a problem. And, if possible, do test runs on those solutions. See which one is the best and the most logical.
7. Think About Your Decisions
Making important decisions at work is very common. Thus, think hard and rationalize your decisions. What are the pros and cons of your decision? Ask for an expert opinion if available or do extensive research. Ask yourself, is this the best solution for this problem? Take a step back to rethink it a bit more, and then you can finally decide.
At the end of the day, like any skill development, you have to a lot of practice and application. Learn from your everyday experiences. Then, practice your analytical skills until it comes naturally.
Innovation skills are the critical skills leaders and their employees need to contribute to an organization’s innovation performance — skills needed to produce new and improved strategies, capabilities, processes and services.
How to develop innovation skills
Here are five initial steps you can take to develop your innovation skills.
1. Maintain a Keen Sense of Curiosity
The most innovative people in the world are also the most inquisitive among us. They ask lots of questions (often about what the rest of us often take for granted) and they’re always looking for ways to improve things. Unlike many of us, innovators don’t simply settle for the status quo; they love challenging what is widely accepted as the norm or the standard.
Instead of relying on preconceived notions about things and people, they prefer to look at new things they’ve encountered, from various perspectives.
2. Jot Down Ideas and Thoughts
You’ll need something to capture and organize your ideas and thoughts as you go about your day learning new things. Try jotting down everything that comes to your head including random words, phrases and even doodles. Ideally, you can try linking your arbitrary thoughts together to paint a picture of what your subconscious is trying to say.
Remember that innovation comes from creativity, and creativity is about how you associate different ideas and facts. As you jot down your thoughts into your journal or scrapbook, don’t let your inhibitions get the better of you. No matter how absurd an idea may seems to be, see it as a piece of the puzzle to your inner world which could potentially spark off an inspiration.
Not only does the act of penning down your ideas help you keep track of your thoughts, it can even stimulate your thought processes and lead to one new idea after another. Let your imagination run wild!
3. Seek out New Experiences
Sticking to things that you’re used to limits your thinking process and perception. To think outside the box, you must step out of your comfort zone and look at the scenario in a different light.
As a matter of fact, the greatest innovators are often individuals who learn from different fields and merge them together into something extraordinary. After all, Steve Jobs innovated and revolutionized technology with his unprecedented emphasis on aesthetics and user-friendliness.
Some of you may think that seeking out new experiences in life entail something grand, like travelling to Iceland to witness the Northern Lights or even conquering Mount Everest. Well, it doesn’t have to be. All you have to do is to try new things to stimulate your mind and senses.
Perhaps you can start reading books of a different genre or pick up a new hobby for yourself. If you see yourself as an introvert, try challenging your self-perception and open up to meeting new people. You’ll develop new skills for innovation in the process.
4. Practise Mindfulness
In the context of psychology, the term ‘mindfulness’ refers to the moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and the surrounding environment in a non-judgmental manner. In essence, it is a continuous attempt to pay attention to what’s going around us and being more accepting of whatever it is that we experience through our senses.
With this conscious effort to bring attention back to the present, we train our mind to focus on the present and not let it wander from one thought to another. Besides making you happier, practising mindfulness helps clear our mental clutter and makes us receptive to new ideas for innovations.
For 10–20 minutes a day, you can engage in mindfulness exercise by simply focusing on your breathing. Better yet, incorporate mindfulness into your day-to-day activities by being fully conscious of whatever you’re doing at any given moment, focusing on only one task at a time.
When eating, savour each bite and appreciate the flavours. When listening to someone, maintain your eye contact and truly listen to what he or she has to say. Once you’re able to notice subtle things which you have never before from your surroundings, you’ll become better at discerning ideas for expansion.
5. Take Risks & Make Mistakes
One thing that separates innovators from the herd is that they are not afraid to make mistakes. Thomas Edison succeeded because he didn’t give up despite failing over and over again. He perservered because he saw failure as part of the learning process while he experiment with his ideas. Innovators like him see mistakes as opportunities for perfecting their innovation.
Keep pushing your boundaries. Innovators embrace risk because they love shaking things up to make things more interesting rather than lead mundane, typical lives. If Mark Zuckerberg had not taken that leap of faith and dropped out of Harvard University to finish up his Facebook project, he would never have realized that his innovation has the potential to change the world.
So, venture forth and take some healthy risks.
Face your fears and do what scares you, because they make for good practice in overcoming your fear of making mistakes.
6. Share Your Ideas
You’ll definitely need feedback about your innovation, so keep sharing and selling your ideas to people you encounter and see what they have to say. Face your fears and do the talking even if your ideas are at their infancy stages.
Sure, there will be people who will not get your ideas and would even laugh at your proposal. But now that you’ve learned that mistakes and rejections are part and parcel of innovation, you will take these criticisms in your stride and even capitalize on them to improve on your ideas.
Even if people don’t have anything constructive to say about them, talking about your ideas alone will stimulate your creative senses and possibly give you new insights.
7. Stay Persistent
Be ready to persist in your mission regardless of how many others may persuade you otherwise. Sure enough, people who are uneasy with change will advise you to settle for the status quo. Plus, mistakes and failures are inescapable as you experiment with different ideas that don’t work the first time round.
All these roadblocks only makes keeping your faith and staying focus all the more crucial. Some people may call it naive optimism or unrealistic idealism, but prolific innovators like Thomas Edison had to find 10,000 ways that didn’t work before succeeding in creating the light bulb.
Persistence is when you keep going because you’re certain of what you want. Write down what you wish to accomplish and look at the list every day to remind yourself why you’re persisting. Surely, there must also be a deep-seated motivation behind your pursuit for this particular goal.
Identify it and visualize the moment when you achieve what you want. It may seem trivial and cheesy, but repeating such positive affirmations daily will help you manage your morale and keep your spirits high in times of setbacks.
8. Take Solitude Breaks
Persevering with a laser-like focus on your goal is great, but sustaining attention on a task for an extended period of time can deplete your creativity juices. Stepping away from work briefly creates a space for you to re-conceptualize the problem with new perspectives.
It helps to take regular breaks and naps to relax your mind and maintain a conducive environment for creativity and innovativeness to settle in. Take some of your breaks alone by going for long walks, taking showers, exercise or indulge in daydreaming to connect with your subconscious.
It is in such quiet moments with yourself that you will be able to catch those fleeting inspirations.
9. Create Psychological Distances Through Imagination
Besides physically separating yourself from your innovation project occasionally, you can also induce a state of ‘psychological distance’ while working on it. Based on the construal level theory in social psychology, things which we do not experience as happening now, here and to ourselves are classified as ‘psychologically distant’.
Creating such a distance involves shifting the way we think when dealing with the problem, such as by means of adopting another person’s perspective or imagining hypothetical questions that seem unreal and unfamiliar. By making you consider the broader aspects of the problem, it facilitates abstract thinking and helps you come up with unique associations between apparently unrelated ideas.
Just check out how several studies have shown that psychologically distancing yourself from your task can make you come up with more creative solutions to problems.
10. Build on Existing Ideas
Innovators don’t just invent something out of nothing; they build on existing ideas. As a matter-of-fact, many products we see today are the result of merging two or more ideas or concepts together. One good example of such an innovative invention would be your smartphone, which is essentially a mobile phone integrated with advanced computing capabilities and Internet connectivity.
A true innovator must open him or herself to as many potential ideas as possible, identify patterns and connections between them, and finally assimilating them together to come up with an innovation which is better than before.
To build a firm foundation in what you intend to innovate, you must keep yourself up-to-date with the existing tools and technologies applicable to your innovation. Make it a habit to read up on the relevant literature and participate in online communities and discussions to further your knowledge with people who share the same interest.
With a thorough understanding of the field you are interested in innovating in, you would have a sharper eye in recognizing possibilities and be more adept at interlacing different ideas together.