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What are analytical skills? Examples and how to level up

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What are analytical skills?

Why are analytical skills important, 9 analytical skills examples, how to improve analytical skills, how to show analytical skills in a job application, the benefits of an analytical mind.

With market forecasts, performance metrics, and KPIs, work throws a lot of information at you. 

If you want to stay ahead of the curve, not only do you have to make sense of the data that comes your way — you need to put it to good use. And that requires analytical skills.

You likely use analytical thinking skills every day without realizing it, like when you solve complex problems or prioritize tasks . But understanding the meaning of analysis skills in a job description, why you should include them in your professional development plan, and what makes them vital to every position can help advance your career.

Analytical skills, or analysis skills, are the ones you use to research and interpret information. Although you might associate them with data analysis, they help you think critically about an issue, make decisions , and solve problems in any context. That means anytime you’re brainstorming for a solution or reviewing a project that didn’t go smoothly, you’re analyzing information to find a conclusion. With so many applications, they’re relevant for nearly every job, making them a must-have on your resume.

Analytical skills help you think objectively about information and come to informed conclusions. Positions that consider these skills the most essential qualification grew by 92% between 1980 and 2018 , which shows just how in-demand they are. And according to Statista, global data creation will grow to more than 180 zettabytes by 2025 — a number with 21 zeros. That data informs every industry, from tech to marketing.

Even if you don’t interact with statistics and data on the job, you still need analytical skills to be successful. They’re incredibly valuable because:

  • They’re transferable: You can use analysis skills in a variety of professional contexts and in different areas of your life, like making major decisions as a family or setting better long-term personal goals.
  • They build agility: Whether you’re starting a new position or experiencing a workplace shift, analysis helps you understand and adapt quickly to changing conditions. 
  • They foster innovation: Analytical skills can help you troubleshoot processes or operational improvements that increase productivity and profitability.
  • They make you an attractive candidate: Companies are always looking for future leaders who can build company value. Developing a strong analytical skill set shows potential employers that you’re an intelligent, growth-oriented candidate.

If the thought of evaluating data feels unintuitive, or if math and statistics aren’t your strong suits, don’t stress. Many examples of analytical thinking skills don’t involve numbers. You can build your logic and analysis abilities through a variety of capacities, such as:

1. Brainstorming

Using the information in front of you to generate new ideas is a valuable transferable skill that helps you innovate at work . Developing your brainstorming techniques leads to better collaboration and organizational growth, whether you’re thinking of team bonding activities or troubleshooting a project roadblock. Related skills include benchmarking, diagnosis, and judgment to adequately assess situations and find solutions.

2. Communication

Becoming proficient at analysis is one thing, but you should also know how to communicate your findings to your audience — especially if they don’t have the same context or experience as you. Strong communication skills like public speaking , active listening , and storytelling can help you strategize the best ways to get the message out and collaborate with your team . And thinking critically about how to approach difficult conversations or persuade someone to see your point relies on these skills. 

3. Creativity

You might not associate analysis with your creativity skills, but if you want to find an innovative approach to an age-old problem, you’ll need to combine data with creative thinking . This can help you establish effective metrics, spot trends others miss, and see why the most obvious answer to a problem isn’t always the best. Skills that can help you to think outside the box include strategic planning, collaboration, and integration.

desk-with-different-work-elements-analytical-skills

4. Critical thinking

Processing information and determining what’s valuable requires critical thinking skills . They help you avoid the cognitive biases that prevent innovation and growth, allowing you to see things as they really are and understand their relevance. Essential skills to turn yourself into a critical thinker are comparative analysis, business intelligence, and inference.

5. Data analytics

When it comes to large volumes of information, a skilled analytical thinker can sort the beneficial from the irrelevant. Data skills give you the tools to identify trends and patterns and visualize outcomes before they impact an organization or project’s performance. Some of the most common skills you can develop are prescriptive analysis and return on investment (ROI) analysis.

6. Forecasting

Predicting future business, market, and cultural trends better positions your organization to take advantage of new opportunities or prepare for downturns. Business forecasting requires a mix of research skills and predictive abilities, like statistical analysis and data visualization, and the ability to present your findings clearly.

7. Logical reasoning

Becoming a logical thinker means learning to observe and analyze situations to draw rational and objective conclusions. With logic, you can evaluate available facts, identify patterns or correlations, and use them to improve decision-making outcomes. If you’re looking to improve in this area, consider developing inductive and deductive reasoning skills.

8. Problem-solving

Problem-solving appears in all facets of your life — not just work. Effectively finding solutions to any issue takes analysis and logic, and you also need to take initiative with clear action plans . To improve your problem-solving skills , invest in developing visualization , collaboration, and goal-setting skills.

9. Research

Knowing how to locate information is just as valuable as understanding what to do with it. With research skills, you’ll recognize and collect data relevant to the problem you’re trying to solve or the initiative you’re trying to start. You can improve these skills by learning about data collection techniques, accuracy evaluation, and metrics.

handing-over-papers-analytical-skills

You don’t need to earn a degree in data science to develop these skills. All it takes is time, practice, and commitment. Everything from work experience to hobbies can help you learn new things and make progress. Try a few of these ideas and stick with the ones you enjoy:

1. Document your skill set

The next time you encounter a problem and need to find solutions, take time to assess your process. Ask yourself:

  • What facts are you considering?
  • Do you ask for help or research on your own? What are your sources of advice?
  • What does your brainstorming process look like?
  • How do you make and execute a final decision?
  • Do you reflect on the outcomes of your choices to identify lessons and opportunities for improvement?
  • Are there any mistakes you find yourself making repeatedly?
  • What problems do you constantly solve easily? 

These questions can give insight into your analytical strengths and weaknesses and point you toward opportunities for growth.

2. Take courses

Many online and in-person courses can expand your logical thinking and analysis skills. They don’t necessarily have to involve information sciences. Just choose something that trains your brain and fills in your skills gaps . 

Consider studying philosophy to learn how to develop your arguments or public speaking to better communicate the results of your research. You could also work on your hard skills with tools like Microsoft Excel and learn how to crunch numbers effectively. Whatever you choose, you can explore different online courses or certification programs to upskill. 

3. Analyze everything

Spend time consciously and critically evaluating everything — your surroundings, work processes, and even the way you interact with others. Integrating analysis into your day-to-day helps you practice. The analytical part of your brain is like a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it’ll become. 

After reading a book, listening to a podcast, or watching a movie, take some time to analyze what you watched. What were the messages? What did you learn? How was it delivered? Taking this approach to media will help you apply it to other scenarios in your life. 

If you’re giving a presentation at work or helping your team upskill , use the opportunity to flex the analytical side of your brain. For effective teaching, you’ll need to process and analyze the topic thoroughly, which requires skills like logic and communication. You also have to analyze others’ learning styles and adjust your teachings to match them. 

5. Play games

Spend your commute or weekends working on your skills in a way you enjoy. Try doing logic games like Sudoku and crossword puzzles during work breaks to foster critical thinking. And you can also integrate analytical skills into your existing hobbies. According to researcher Rakesh Ghildiyal, even team sports like soccer or hockey will stretch your capacity for analysis and strategic thinking . 

6. Ask questions

According to a study in Tr ends in Cognitive Sciences, being curious improves cognitive function , helping you develop problem-solving skills, retention, and memory. Start speaking up in meetings and questioning the why and how of different decisions around you. You’ll think more critically and even help your team find breakthrough solutions they otherwise wouldn’t.

7.Seek advice

If you’re unsure what analytical skills you need to develop, try asking your manager or colleagues for feedback . Their outside perspective offers insight you might not find within, like patterns in. And if you’re looking for more consistent guidance, talking to a coach can help you spot weaknesses and set goals for the long term.

8. Pursue opportunities

Speak to your manager about participating in special projects that could help you develop and flex your skills. If you’d like to learn about SEO or market research, ask to shadow someone in the ecommerce or marketing departments. If you’re interested in business forecasting, talk to the data analysis team. Taking initiative demonstrates a desire to learn and shows leadership that you’re eager to grow. 

group-of-analytic-papers-analytical-skills

Shining a spotlight on your analytical skills can help you at any stage of your job search. But since they take many forms, it’s best to be specific and show potential employers exactly why and how they make you a better candidate. Here are a few ways you can showcase them to the fullest:

1. In your cover letter

Your cover letter crafts a narrative around your skills and work experience. Use it to tell a story about how you put your analytical skills to use to solve a problem or improve workflow. Make sure to include concrete details to explain your thought process and solution — just keep it concise. Relate it back to the job description to show the hiring manager or recruiter you have the qualifications necessary to succeed.

2. On your resume

Depending on the type of resume you’re writing, there are many opportunities to convey your analytical skills to a potential employer. You could include them in sections like: 

  • Professional summary: If you decide to include a summary, describe yourself as an analytical person or a problem-solver, whichever relates best to the job posting. 
  • Work experience: Describe all the ways your skill for analysis has helped you perform or go above and beyond your responsibilities. Be sure to include specific details about challenges and outcomes related to the role you’re applying for to show how you use those skills. 
  • Skills section: If your resume has a skill-specific section, itemize the analytical abilities you’ve developed over your career. These can include hard analytical skills like predictive modeling as well as interpersonal skills like communication.

3. During a job interview

As part of your interview preparation , list your professional accomplishments and the skills that helped along the way, such as problem-solving, data literacy, or strategic thinking. Then, pull them together into confident answers to common interview questions using the STAR method to give the interviewer a holistic picture of your skill set.

Developing analytical skills isn’t only helpful in the workplace. It’s essential to life. You’ll use them daily whenever you read the news, make a major purchase, or interact with others. Learning to critically evaluate information can benefit your relationships and help you feel more confident in your decisions, whether you’re weighing your personal budget or making a big career change .

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Elizabeth Perry, ACC

Elizabeth Perry is a Coach Community Manager at BetterUp. She uses strategic engagement strategies to cultivate a learning community across a global network of Coaches through in-person and virtual experiences, technology-enabled platforms, and strategic coaching industry partnerships. With over 3 years of coaching experience and a certification in transformative leadership and life coaching from Sofia University, Elizabeth leverages transpersonal psychology expertise to help coaches and clients gain awareness of their behavioral and thought patterns, discover their purpose and passions, and elevate their potential. She is a lifelong student of psychology, personal growth, and human potential as well as an ICF-certified ACC transpersonal life and leadership Coach.

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4 Ways to Improve Your Analytical Skills

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  • 07 Jan 2021

Data is ubiquitous. It’s collected at every purchase made, flight taken, ad clicked, and social media post liked—which means it’s never been more crucial to understand how to analyze it.

“Never before has so much data about so many different things been collected and stored every second of every day,” says Harvard Business School Professor Jan Hammond in the online course Business Analytics .

The volume of data you encounter can be overwhelming and raise several questions: Can I trust the data’s source? Is it structured in a way that makes sense? What story does it tell, and what actions does it prompt?

Data literacy and analytical skills can enable you to answer these questions and not only make sense of raw data, but use it to drive impactful change at your organization.

Here’s a look at what it means to be data literate and four ways to improve your analytical skills.

Access your free e-book today.

What Is Data Literacy?

Data literacy is the ability to analyze, interpret, and question data. A dataset is made up of numerous data points that, when viewed together, tell a story.

Before conducting an analysis, it’s important to ensure your data’s quality and structure is in accordance with your organization’s needs.

“In order to transform data into actionable information, you first need to evaluate its quality,” says Professor Dustin Tingley in the Harvard Online course Data Science Principles . “But evaluating the quality of your data is just the first step. You’ll also need to structure your data. Without structure, it’s nearly impossible to extract any information.”

When you’re able to look at quality data, structure it, and analyze it, trends emerge. The next step is to reflect on your analysis and take action.

Tingley shares several questions to ask yourself once you’ve analyzed your dataset: “Did all the steps I took make sense? If so, how should I respond to my analysis? If not, what should I go back and improve?”

For example, you may track users who click a button to download an e-book from your website.

After ensuring your data’s quality and structuring it in a way that makes sense, you begin your analysis and find that a user’s age is positively correlated with their likelihood to click. What story does this trend tell? What does it say about your users, product offering, and business strategy?

To answer these questions, you need strong analytical skills, which you can develop in several ways.

Related: Business Analytics: What It Is & Why It’s Important

How to Improve Your Analytical Skills

Analysis is an important skill to have in any industry because it enables you to support decisions with data, learn more about your customers, and predict future trends.

Key analytical skills for business include:

  • Visualizing data
  • Determining the relationship between two or more variables
  • Forming and testing hypotheses
  • Performing regressions using statistical programs, such as Microsoft Excel
  • Deriving actionable conclusions from data analysis

If you want to provide meaningful conclusions and data-based recommendations to your team, here are four ways to bolster your analytical skills.

Related: How to Learn Business Analytics Without A Business Background

1. Consider Opposing Viewpoints

While engaging with opposing viewpoints can help you expand your perspective, combat bias, and show your fellow employees their opinions are valued, it can also be a useful way to practice analytical skills.

When analyzing data, it’s crucial to consider all possible interpretations and avoid getting stuck in one way of thinking.

For instance, revisit the example of tracking users who click a button on your site to download an e-book. The data shows that the user’s age is positively correlated with their likelihood to click the button; as age increases, downloads increase, too. At first glance, you may interpret this trend to mean that a user chooses to download the e-book because of their age.

This conclusion, however, doesn’t take into consideration the vast number of variables that change with age. For instance, perhaps the real reason your older users are more likely to download the e-book is their higher level of responsibility at work, higher average income, or higher likelihood of being parents.

This example illustrates the need to consider multiple interpretations of data, and specifically shows the difference between correlation (the trending of two or more variables in the same direction) and causation (when a trend in one variable causes a trend to occur in one or more other variables).

“Data science is built on a foundation of critical thinking,” Tingley says in Data Science Principles . “From the first step of determining the quality of a data source to determining the accuracy of an algorithm, critical thinking is at the heart of every decision data scientists—and those who work with them—make.”

To practice this skill, challenge yourself to question your assumptions and ask others for their opinions. The more you actively engage with different viewpoints, the less likely you are to get stuck in a one-track mindset when analyzing data.

2. Play Games or Brain Teasers

If you’re looking to sharpen your skills on a daily basis, there are many simple, enjoyable ways to do so.

Games, puzzles, and stories that require visualizing relationships between variables, examining situations from multiple angles, and drawing conclusions from known data points can help you build the skills necessary to analyze data.

Some fun ways to practice analytical thinking include:

  • Crossword puzzles
  • Mystery novels
  • Logic puzzles
  • Strategic board games or card games

These options can supplement your analytics coursework and on-the-job experience. Some of them also allow you to spend time with friends or family. Try engaging with one each day to hone your analytical mindset.

Related: 3 Examples of Business Analytics in Action

3. Take an Online Analytics Course

Whether you want to learn the basics, brush up on your skills, or expand your knowledge, taking an analytics course is an effective way to improve. A course can enable you to focus on the content you want to learn, engage with the material presented by a professional in the field, and network and interact with others in the data analytics space.

For a beginner, courses like Harvard Online's Data Science Principles can provide a foundation in the language of data. A more advanced course, like Harvard Online's Data Science for Business , may be a fit if you’re looking to explore specific facets of analytics, such as forecasting and machine learning. If you’re interested in hands-on applications of analytical formulas, a course like HBS Online's Business Analytics could be right for you. The key is to understand what skills you hope to gain, then find a course that best fits your needs.

If you’re balancing a full-time job with your analytics education, an online format may be a good choice . It offers the flexibility to engage with course content whenever and wherever is most convenient for you.

An online course may also present the opportunity to network and build relationships with other professionals devoted to strengthening their analytical skills. A community of like-minded learners can prove to be an invaluable resource as you learn and advance your career.

Related: Is An Online Business Analytics Course Worth It?

4. Engage With Data

Once you have a solid understanding of data science concepts and formulas, the next step is to practice. Like any skill, analytical skills improve the more you use them.

Mock datasets—which you can find online or create yourself—present a low-risk option for putting your skills to the test. Import the data into Microsoft Excel, then explore: make mistakes, try that formula you’re unsure of, and ask big questions of your dataset. By testing out different analyses, you can gain confidence in your knowledge.

Once you’re comfortable, engage with your organization’s data. Because these datasets have inherent meaning to your business's financial health, growth, and strategic direction, analyzing them can produce evidence and insights that support your decisions and drive change at your organization.

A Beginner's Guide to Data and Analytics | Access Your Free E-Book | Download Now

Investing in Your Data Literacy

As data continues to be one of businesses’ most valuable resources, taking the time and effort to build and bolster your analytical skill set is vital.

“Much more data are going to be available; we’re only seeing the beginning now,” Hammond says in a previous article . “If you don’t use the data, you’re going to fall behind. People that have those capabilities—as well as an understanding of business contexts—are going to be the ones that will add the most value and have the greatest impact.”

Are you interested in furthering your data literacy? Download our Beginner’s Guide to Data & Analytics to learn how you can leverage the power of data for professional and organizational success.

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Analytical Thinking, Critical Analysis, and Problem Solving Guide

  • Post author: Samir Saif
  • Post published: September 5, 2023
  • Post category: marketing skills
  • Post comments: 4 Comments
  • Post last modified: November 10, 2023
  • Reading time: 9 mins read

Analytical thinking; is a mental process that entails dissecting an issue or situation into its constituent parts, investigating their relationships, and reaching conclusions based on facts and logic.

It is not about trusting instincts or making assumptions; rather, it is about studying details, recognizing patterns, and developing a full understanding. Whether you’re a seasoned professional, an aspiring entrepreneur, or a curious mind, improving analytical thinking can help you solve problems more effectively.

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Table of Contents

Analytical Thinking’s Importance in Problem Solving

Certainly! Analytical thinking entails the capacity to gather pertinent information, critically assess evidence, and reach logical conclusions. It enables you to:

  • Identify Root Causes: Analytical thinking allows you to delve deeper into a problem to find the underlying causes rather than just addressing surface-level symptoms.
  • Reduce Risks: Analytical thinking can help discover potential risks and obstacles connected with various solutions. This kind of thinking encourages constant progress and the generation of new ideas.
  • Improve Communication: Analytical thinking enables you to deliver clear and well-structured explanations while giving answers to others.
  • Adaptability : Analytical thinking gives you a flexible attitude.
  • Learning and Development: Analytical thinking improves your cognitive skills, allowing you to learn from prior experiences and apply those lessons to new situations.
  • Problem Prevention: By examining previous difficulties, you can find trends and patterns.
  • Analytical thinking is, in essence, the foundation of effective problem-solving. It enables you to approach problems methodically, make well-informed judgments, and eventually get better results.

Key Components of Analytical Thinking

Analytical thinking is a multifaceted process including a beautifully woven tapestry of observation, inquiry, and logic. Engage your curiosity as you approach a complex task and see patterns emerge, similar to stars in the night sky.

These patterns direct your thinking toward greater comprehension. Your understanding grows as you progress, and your analytical thinking becomes a light of clarity, guiding people through the fog of complexity.

Your tapestry is complete as you approach the shores of conclusion, a tribute to the power of analytical thinking. Embrace your curiosity, navigate the waters of observation, and let the stars of logic guide you. Remember that the art of analytical thinking is a magnificent journey that leads to enlightenment.

Using analytical reasoning in real-life situations

An image with a white background with the words “Using analytical reasoning in real-life” written above it

Absolutely! Let’s get started with analytical thinking! Consider yourself in a busy city, attempting to discover the shortest route to your goal. Instead than taking the first option that comes to mind, you take a moment to think about your possibilities.

This is the initial stage in analytical thinking: evaluating the situation. As you contemplate, you balance the advantages and disadvantages of each route, taking into account issues such as traffic, distance, and potential bypasses. This information gathering approach assists you in making an informed decision.

Breaking down the problem

Then you go to the second phase, which entails breaking the problem down into smaller portions. You break down the difficult job of navigating the city into manageable components, much like a puzzle.

This technique allows you to identify future difficulties and devise creative solutions. For example, you may observe a construction zone on one route but recall a shortcut that may save you time.

Read Also:  Goal Alignment: Key Strategies for Success

Analyzing the information

You employ critical thinking to assess the material you’ve received as you go. As you consider the significance of each component—time, distance, and traffic—patterns and connections emerge.

You begin to make connections and discover that, while a faster route may appear enticing, heavy traffic at certain times of day might make it a frustrating experience.

Make a decision

Making a decision in the last step necessitates a complete comprehension of the circumstance as well as critical analysis. Analytical thinking entails investigating alternatives, comprehending nuances, and making informed decisions.

This approach can lead to optimal, well-thought-out, and adaptable solutions, whether navigating a city, tackling a complex project, or making life decisions. Analytic thinking allows one to make informed judgments that benefit both the situation and the individual.

Strategies to Enhance Analytical Thinking Skills

Developing strong analytical thinking abilities is a journey that opens up new possibilities for comprehension and issue solving.

Consider yourself on an exciting mental journey where every challenge is an opportunity for improvement. Here’s a step-by-step guide to cultivating and improving your analytical thinking talents.

Accept curiosity

Begin by embracing your curiosity. Allow your thoughts to roam, pondering about the hows and whys of the world around you.

Allow yourself to immerse yourself completely in the complexities of a complex topic, such as climate change. “What are the underlying causes of this phenomenon?” Two decent places to start are “How do different variables interact to shape its outcomes?”.

Improve your observing abilities

Then, put your observation abilities to the test. Pay close attention to details that would otherwise go undetected. Instead of just gazing at the colors and shapes, try to figure out the brushstrokes, the play of light and shadow, and the feelings they create, as if you were studying a painting.

When analyzing data, look underneath the surface figures for trends, anomalies, and patterns that can reveal hidden insights.

Accept critical thinking

Learn to think critically as you progress. Examine your assumptions and look for alternative points of view. Assume you’re looking into a business problem, such as declining sales.

Instead than jumping to conclusions, investigate the matter from all angles. Consider changes in the sector, client preferences, and even internal corporate processes. This broader viewpoint can lead to creative solutions.

Read Also:  Business Development: Strategies and Tips for Success

Experiment with logical reasoning

Also, practice logical reasoning. Improve your ability to connect the dots and build logical chains of reasoning. As if you were assembling a jigsaw puzzle, each piece must fit snugly into the whole.

Consider how numerous variables such as population growth, infrastructure, and transportation systems logically interconnect when dealing with a complex issue such as urban congestion.

Improve your problem-solving skills

Develop your problem-solving abilities as well. For example, if you’re struggling with a personal issue, such as time management, break it down into smaller components. Analyze your daily routine to discover bottlenecks and develop a strategy to overcome them.

Foster continuous learning

Finally, encourage ongoing learning by broadening your knowledge base and investigating new domains. Imagine yourself as a discerning thinker analyzing the world’s intricacies and unraveling secrets.

Remember that progress, not perfection, is the goal. Every task, question, and conundrum you solve puts you one step closer to being an analytical juggernaut. Continue to explore and study to see your critical thinking skills soar to new heights.

Applying analytical reasoning to work

Assume you are a business owner who wants to boost client happiness. An analytical thinker would collect and analyze client input to uncover frequent pain issues.

You can adopt targeted adjustments that address the fundamental causes of unhappiness by detecting patterns in feedback data.

How can you demonstrate analytical skills on a resume?

A photo with a white and yellow background with the words “demonstrate analytical skills on a resume” written above it

Analytical skills on your CV can set you apart and leave a lasting impression on potential employers. Make your CV into a canvas, describing specific instances where your analytical skills were put to use.

Share how you methodically dissected a challenging topic or situation, revealing insights that aided your decision-making.

If you were tasked with optimizing a company’s supply chain, for example, dig further into data on inventory levels, production rates, and distribution deadlines.

Explain how your study found a bottleneck in the distribution network, leading to a realignment suggestion that saved the organization time and money.

Storytelling is key. Create a fascinating story about how your analytical abilities helped solve a tough problem, demonstrating your abilities and attracting the reader.

Your CV should read like a motivational trip through your analytical abilities, inspiring companies with your future contributions to their organization.

What is a case study of analytical thinking?

Absolutely! Let me give you an excellent example of analytical thinking that perfectly expresses its essence. Maya, a young scientist in this example, is dedicated to discovering a long-term solution for safe drinking water in rural areas.

She performs extensive research on water supplies, toxins, and local circumstances, looking for patterns and anomalies. She develops the concept that heavy rains increase runoff, resulting in higher levels of water contamination.

Maya designs controlled experiments in a lab setting to test her idea, acquiring quantifiable information through manipulation and observation.

Maya’s investigation continues, and she explores the big picture, imagining a multi-faceted solution that involves rainwater gathering, enhanced filtration systems, and community education.

She anticipates problems and works with engineers, social workers, and community leaders to refine her ideas and ensure their viability.

Her journey exemplifies how analytical thinking can lead to transformational solutions, and it motivates us to tackle complex challenges with curiosity, diligence, and the hope that careful analysis may design a better future.

Final Thoughts

Analytical thinking is more than just a cognitive skill; it’s a mindset that empowers you to unravel complexity, make informed choices, and navigate challenges with confidence.

You will be better able to handle the intricacies of the modern world as your analytical thinking skills increase, whether in business, academics, or daily life. Accept the power of analytical thinking, and your decision-making and problem-solving abilities will soar.

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How to analyze a problem

May 7, 2023 Companies that harness the power of data have the upper hand when it comes to problem solving. Rather than defaulting to solving problems by developing lengthy—sometimes multiyear—road maps, they’re empowered to ask how innovative data techniques could resolve challenges in hours, days or weeks, write  senior partner Kayvaun Rowshankish  and coauthors. But when organizations have more data than ever at their disposal, which data should they leverage to analyze a problem? Before jumping in, it’s crucial to plan the analysis, decide which analytical tools to use, and ensure rigor. Check out these insights to uncover ways data can take your problem-solving techniques to the next level, and stay tuned for an upcoming post on the potential power of generative AI in problem-solving.

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What is Analytical Thinking: An Introduction

Get introduced to "Analytical Thinking" with this comprehensive blog. Delve into the core concept of analytical thinking, exploring its characteristics such as curiosity, systematic approach, problem-solving aptitude and open-mindedness. By the end of this exploration, you'll have a clear understanding of what analytical thinking is and why it's a crucial skill.

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Table of Contents  

1) What is Analytical Thinking? 

2) Why is Analytical Thinking important? 

3) Important elements of Analytical Thinking 

4) How to master Analytical Thinking?

5) Conclusion 

What is Analytical Thinking ?    

Analytical Thinking is the cognitive process of dissecting intricate problems, data, or situations into smaller components to discern patterns, relationships, and underlying principles. It involves critical observation, logical reasoning, and systematic analysis to arrive at informed conclusions or solutions.   

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Why is Analytical Thinking important?

Analytical Thinking important

Informed decision-making 

At its core, Analytical Thinking equips individuals with the tools to dissect intricate scenarios, distil pertinent information, and make informed decisions. From someone pondering a career move, considering a significant investment to someone deciding on a course of action, Analytical Thinking allows you to assess the pros and cons, identify potential pitfalls, and forecast outcomes.  

Innovative problem solving 

Innovation often springs from the ability to connect disparate dots and unearth hidden solutions. Analytical thinkers possess the capability for dissecting complex problems, breaking them into manageable components, and reassembling them in novel ways. This cognitive dexterity breeds innovation, as it enables individuals to envision alternative paths and approaches that might otherwise remain concealed. 

Precise communication 

Clear and effective communication is essential in all walks of life. Analytical Thinking fosters the capacity to organise thoughts logically, structure arguments coherently, and present ideas with precision. Regardless of whether you're explaining a concept to a colleague, delivering a persuasive pitch, or writing a research paper, the analytical thinker's ability to present complex ideas succinctly and comprehensibly is an invaluable asset. 

Strategic planning 

From business strategies to personal goals, strategic planning hinges on the ability to anticipate outcomes, devise contingencies, and adapt to changing circumstances. Analytical Thinking lends itself to strategic prowess by enabling individuals to assess multiple variables, foresee potential roadblocks, and chart a course that maximises the likelihood of success. 

Critical evaluation 

In a world rife with misinformation and biased narratives, the skill of critical evaluation is more crucial than ever. Analytical Thinking empowers individuals to sift through a barrage of information, discern credible sources, and separate fact from fiction. This aptitude for discernment is a bulwark against being swayed by superficial allure or baseless assertions. 

Continuous improvement 

Analytical thinkers possess an innate curiosity that propels them towards constant learning and growth. They see challenges not as insurmountable obstacles but as opportunities for enhancement. This drive for self-improvement extends beyond their capabilities; analytical thinkers often seek to refine processes, systems, and products, contributing to advancing their fields and industries.

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Important Elements of Analytical Thinking    

Now that you know the meaning of Analytical Thinking, let's explore its characteristics. Analytical Thinking is more than a mere mental exercise; it's a unique cognitive approach that involves a specific set of traits and habits. Those with these characteristics are adept at dissecting complexities, drawing insights from data, and arriving at well-reasoned conclusions. Here are the key attributes that define Analytical thinkers:  

Characteristics of Analytical Thinking

Curiosity and inquisitiveness  

Analytical Thinkers exhibit a natural curiosity about the world around them. They possess an insatiable desire to understand how things work and why they are the way they are. This curiosity fuels their exploration of concepts, data, and problems, leading them to uncover hidden connections and unexpected insights. 

Attention to detail  

One of the hallmarks of Analytical Thinking is an unwavering attention to detail. Analytical individuals have a knack for spotting even the minutest discrepancies, anomalies, or patterns within data or scenarios that might go unnoticed by others. This acute attention to detail is instrumental in identifying potential issues and crafting precise solutions. 

Systematic approach  

Analytical Thinkers approach problems methodically. They break down complex issues into manageable parts, which allows them to analyse each component individually before synthesising a comprehensive understanding. This systematic approach enables them to unravel intricate challenges and address them step by logically. 

Logical reasoning  

Logical reasoning is the bedrock of Analytical Thinking . Those who possess this trait are skilled at constructing and deconstructing arguments, identifying flaws in reasoning, and evaluating the validity of information. This ability helps them sift through the noise and reach well-founded conclusions based on evidence and logic. 

Pattern recognition  

Analytical Thinkers excel at recognising patterns and trends across various data sets or scenarios. They have an innate ability to identify similarities and differences, allowing them to generalise principles from specific instances and apply them to broader contexts. 

Critical thinking  

Critical thinking is a cornerstone of Analytical Thinking . Individuals with this characteristic are not content with accepting information at face value; they question assumptions, challenge norms, and seek underlying reasons. This intellectual rigour ensures that their conclusions are well-substantiated and comprehensive. 

Problem-solving aptitude  

Analytical Thinkers thrive on solving complex problems. They approach challenges with a blend of creativity and logic, devising innovative solutions that address the root causes rather than merely treating symptoms. Their ability to dissect problems and explore multiple angles empowers them to tackle even the most daunting issues.  

Open-mindedness  

While Analytical Thinkers possess strong reasoning skills, they also embrace open-mindedness. They acknowledge that not all problems have linear solutions and are willing to explore unconventional ideas and viewpoints. This adaptability allows them to adapt their approach when encountering new and unexpected scenarios. 

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How to master Analytical Thinking? 

In order to master your Analytical Thinking skills, you can adapt the following skills: 

1) Analysing information involves thoroughly examining data or a situation to identify crucial elements, assess their strengths and weaknesses, and leverage this understanding to construct a compelling argument, offer recommendations, or address a problem effectively.

2) Breaking down problems simplifies significant challenges by dividing them into more minor, manageable issues that are easier to solve individually.

3) Gathering information requires asking pertinent questions of oneself and others to gain valuable insights, facilitating more informed decision-making when tackling problems.

4) Identifying issues and problems involves honing the skill of recognising underlying issues or challenges through analysing trends, associations, and cause-effect relationships within datasets.

5) Identifying the root cause is conducting a thorough analysis to pinpoint the fundamental cause of a problem, ensuring that efforts are focused on addressing the actual issue rather than just its symptoms.

6) Organising information entails systematically arranging and integrating all collected data to derive insights and generate ideas, laying the groundwork for potential solutions to the problems at hand.

Conclusion  

Analytical Thinking emerges as an invaluable beacon in a world demanding ever-greater insight and adaptability. Its ability to unravel complexity, innovate solutions, and foster critical evaluation empowers individuals across diverse domains. By cultivating a curious mind, attention to detail and logic, we can get started on a journey of continuous improvement. Hope we could answer all your queries about “What is Analytical Thinking”! 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Here's how you can enhance Analytical Thinking skills:

a) Practice regularly: Solve puzzles and engage in analytical games.

b) Read widely: Explore diverse topics for a broader perspective.

c) Critical reflection: Reflect on experiences and decisions critically.

d) Ask questions: Challenge information and seek underlying reasons.

e) Break down issues: Analyse complex problems by breaking them into parts.

f) Seek feedback: Discuss analyses with peers for valuable insights.

g) Learn from mistakes: Analyse failures for continuous improvement.

h) Data literacy: Understand and interpret data for informed decisions.

i) Stay curious: Cultivate curiosity to explore various problem angles.

j) Take on projects: Apply analytical skills in practical scenarios for hands-on experience.

Analytical Thinking is vital for career growth, enabling strategic decision-making and effective problem-solving. It empowers professionals to navigate challenges, make informed decisions, and drive innovation. Those skilled in Analytical Thinking excel in strategic planning, problem-solving, and efficient decision-making. They contribute to organisational success by optimising operations, fostering innovation, and exhibiting leadership qualities. This skill enhances adaptability in dynamic environments, encourages continuous learning, and improves communication with diverse stakeholders.

 Individuals with strong analytical skills can create detailed plans, identify critical milestones, and allocate resources efficiently by breaking down complex projects into manageable components. This approach allows setting of precise timelines and realistic goal-setting. Analytical thinkers excel at anticipating potential challenges, enabling proactive problem-solving and risk mitigation. They prioritise tasks based on strategic importance and resource availability, ensuring optimal time utilisation. Additionally, Analytical Thinking aids in assessing project progress through data analysis, facilitating informed adjustments when necessary.

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Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, and Analytical Reasoning Skills Sought by Employers

In this section:

Problem Solving

  • Critical Thinking

Analytical Reasoning

View the content on this page in a Word document.

Critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and problem-solving skills are required to perform well on tasks expected by employers. 1 Having good problem-solving and critical thinking skills can make a major difference in a person’s career. 2

Every day, from an entry-level employee to the Chairman of the Board, problems need to be resolved. Whether solving a problem for a client (internal or external), supporting those who are solving problems, or discovering new problems to solve, the challenges faced may be simple/complex or easy/difficult.

A fundamental component of every manager's role is solving problems. So, helping students become a confident problem solver is critical to their success; and confidence comes from possessing an efficient and practiced problem-solving process.

Employers want employees with well-founded skills in these areas, so they ask four questions when assessing a job candidate 3 :

  • Evaluation of information: How well does the applicant assess the quality and relevance of information?
  • Analysis and Synthesis of information: How well does the applicant analyze and synthesize data and information?
  • Drawing conclusions: How well does the applicant form a conclusion from their analysis?
  • Acknowledging alternative explanations/viewpoints: How well does the applicant consider other options and acknowledge that their answer is not the only perspective?

When an employer says they want employees who are good at solving complex problems, they are saying they want employees possessing the following skills:

  • Analytical Thinking — A person who can use logic and critical thinking to analyze a situation.
  • Critical Thinking – A person who makes reasoned judgments that are logical and well thought out.
  • Initiative — A person who will step up and take action without being asked. A person who looks for opportunities to make a difference.
  • Creativity — A person who is an original thinker and have the ability to go beyond traditional approaches.
  • Resourcefulness — A person who will adapt to new/difficult situations and devise ways to overcome obstacles.
  • Determination — A person who is persistent and does not give up easily.
  • Results-Oriented — A person whose focus is on getting the problem solved.

Two of the major components of problem-solving skills are critical thinking and analytical reasoning.  These two skills are at the top of skills required of applicants by employers.

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Critical Thinking 4

“Mentions of critical thinking in job postings have doubled since 2009, according to an analysis by career-search site Indeed.com.” 5 Making logical and reasoned judgments that are well thought out is at the core of critical thinking. Using critical thinking an individual will not automatically accept information or conclusions drawn from to be factual, valid, true, applicable or correct. “When students are taught how to use critical thinking to tap into their creativity to solve problems, they are more successful than other students when they enter management-training programs in large corporations.” 6

A strong applicant should question and want to make evidence-based decisions. Employers want employees who say things such as: “Is that a fact or just an opinion? Is this conclusion based on data or gut feel?” and “If you had additional data could there be alternative possibilities?” Employers seek employees who possess the skills and abilities to conceptualize, apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information to reach an answer or conclusion.

Employers require critical thinking in employees because it increases the probability of a positive business outcome. Employers want employees whose thinking is intentional, purposeful, reasoned, and goal directed.

Recruiters say they want applicants with problem-solving and critical thinking skills. They “encourage applicants to prepare stories to illustrate their critical-thinking prowess, detailing, for example, the steps a club president took to improve attendance at weekly meetings.” 7

Employers want students to possess analytical reasoning/thinking skills — meaning they want to hire someone who is good at breaking down problems into smaller parts to find solutions. “The adjective, analytical, and the related verb analyze can both be traced back to the Greek verb, analyein — ‘to break up, to loosen.’ If a student is analytical, you are good at taking a problem or task and breaking it down into smaller elements in order to solve the problem or complete the task.” 9

Analytical reasoning connotes a person's general aptitude to arrive at a logical conclusion or solution to given problems. Just as with critical thinking, analytical thinking critically examines the different parts or details of something to fully understand or explain it. Analytical thinking often requires the person to use “cause and effect, similarities and differences, trends, associations between things, inter-relationships between the parts, the sequence of events, ways to solve complex problems, steps within a process, diagraming what is happening.” 10

Analytical reasoning is the ability to look at information and discern patterns within it. “The pattern could be the structure the author of the information uses to structure an argument, or trends in a large data set. By learning methods of recognizing these patterns, individuals can pull more information out of a text or data set than someone who is not using analytical reasoning to identify deeper patterns.” 11

Employers want employees to have the aptitude to apply analytical reasoning to problems faced by the business. For instance, “a quantitative analyst can break down data into patterns to discern information, such as if a decrease in sales is part of a seasonal pattern of ups and downs or part of a greater downward trend that a business should be worried about. By learning to recognize these patterns in both numbers and written arguments, an individual gains insights into the information that someone who simply takes the information at face value will miss.” 12

Managers with excellent analytical reasoning abilities are considered good at, “evaluating problems, analyzing them from more than one angle and finding a solution that works best in the given circumstances”. 13 Businesses want managers who can apply analytical reasoning skills to meet challenges and keep a business functioning smoothly

A person with good analytical reasoning and pattern recognition skills can see trends in a problem much easier than anyone else.

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7 Steps of Problem-Solving & Analytical Thinking

Table of Contents

We are in the middle of a pandemic, or so it has been defined. This is our current global problem, which affects us all. This is where we needed problem-solving skills and a high level of analytical thinking more than ever.

But it wasn’t there!

What we witnessed worldwide is the lack of problem-solving expertise, analytical thinking, and emotional intelligence , which made things far worse than they could have been.

The “human ecology” or the collective level of response didn’t allow the attitude, the thinking, the emotions, the necessary agreement, and the environment that would solve the problem.

I would express here that even without having prescribed medicine and vaccine we would have been 70-80% passed this crisis had there been true teamwork and problem-solving skills.

What is Problem-Solving?

problem-solving - what is it

We usually define something to be a problem when things don’t happen as we think they should or what we expect them to be, which are sometimes “Out of the box” unexpected events that throw us out of our comfort zone.

So before we approach problem-solving let’s make sure we clear assumptions and expectations out of the way. Because they will deliver to us a distorted picture of what the case is.

And these words “what the case is” are at the very core of the analytical thinking that is essential to problem-solving.

When it comes to understanding what problem-solving is about we enter a fascinating world that requires an understanding of the big picture of analytical thinking.

We need to have a lot of information to understand what we are dealing with & What The Cae Is!

Not biased perception, but facts, data, facts, data, facts, data…need I continue?

The main parameter concerning problem-solving is the ability to think outside the box , which in itself requires training and personal development.

The questions need to be asked: What does it mean to think out of the box?

  • What is it made of?
  • How do you get out of it if all your life you are in it?
  • What training does it require?
  • Are you willing to invest in your own development?
  • Is your organization willing to invest in your training?

You’ll understand from this article that the first thing about problem-solving  & Analytical thinking is that the solution to the problem can’t be found where the problem is.

So you need to understand the nature of the environment where the problem grew.

In other words, the soil that grows the seed of the problem is not the soil that grows the seed of the solution.

 attitude

Attitude is key to a successful Problem-solving process.

The first attitude to have is that when we see a problem we only see a manifestation & a symptom of something, not the cause . This is what a wise problem-solving leader would think.

They would understand that because they are looking at a symptom and not a cause, they need to figure out what circumstances gave “birth” to the problem.

Therefore such a leader will be not tempted to suffice with “bandage solutions”, which offers short-term solutions only.

Another important part of the attitude of problem-solving is the emotions we bring to the table to support analytical thinking.

We can bring worry & fear (often the case) which limits the scope of our ability to analyze the problem which will limit our perception

We can bring ambition which may well have the same result. There’s a saying “ambition is blind”, which is a state of mind of wanting something so much that one misses the obvious.

Or, we can bring belief, hope, encouragement, teamwork togetherness, positive thinking, empathy, and carefulness, all of which, will increase perception, understanding, and the ability to bring the best solution to a problem.

problem-solving - neutrality

Then there is neutrality. Huge personal development affects the level of problem-solving in a huge way.

This first means being cool, steady, factual, somewhat aloof (creating space between you and the problem), and seeing it for what it is. (Wise saying… “the heart of the matter can only be seen from afar”)

Often times we encounter problems that simply need not doing anything and others doing everything. So…keep it simple! Don’t get personally involved.  Zoom out and look at what is going on neutrally, as if it doesn’t concern you.

Your ability to do so will help you engage in analytical thinking of the highest level without interference of the wrong emotions.

This “zoom-out” in an uninvolved way attitude opens up to the big picture of what is possible without being sucked into the problem or into the environment where the problem arose.

That is precisely the attitude that is most effective in problem-solving.

When you get the attitude right you are on the right track because your emotions and thinking will align to form a body of intelligence that allows you to see more, think strategically and understand the depth of the problem.

7 Steps to Problem-Solving

 7 steps

  • Locate the problem – Understand the problem thoroughly, which means what actually caused it
  • Engage in short term and long term analytical thinking
  • Critical Thinking – Ask open-ended questions to reveal the big picture- Why and What questions.
  • Avoid How question before you thoroughly understood What and Why questions
  • Remember that solving a problem is measured by long term solutions
  • Protect your problem-solving by making sure that you don’t provide the problem with a fertile ground to grow in the future.
  • Revaluate the process by connecting emotional intelligence to analytical thinking. In other words, make sure that your problem-solving process makes sense and feels right.

Step 1 – Locate & Understand The Problem

Why do you do what you do.

Before you engage in problem-solving give yourself space to thoroughly understand the problem. Surround it with new ways of looking at it even if you encountered it before.

Very important in this is to think now first before you go back to your experience.

Intelligence seemingly comes from nowhere if you give space to the problem “to talk to you”.

Firefighters often tell about fires that talk to them. It may sound strange but it is because humans have a 6th sense and they often use it minimally because they rush forward prematurely.

Step 2 – Long term Vs. Short Term

The short term problem-solving is always very different from the long term considerations. These two aspects should be evaluated separately.

Otherwise what seems to be a success in the short term can, and often will, will amount to a total failure in the long term.

Step 3 – Critical Thinking 

Focus your analytical thinking on the question of “WHY” after you gather the facts…pure facts, not biased.

Ask WHY in all possible ways. Take nothing for granted even if you think you know the answer.

The Reason Why You Do What You Do is the most critical to the problem-solving process. It is your motivating Engine to move forward.

I have trained thousands of professionals worldwide and I have discovered that they often neglect the required analytical thinking process that would reveal the big picture of considerations that should precede action.

Instead, the process is “hot-wired” and actions are pursued prematurely, not realizing reality has changed. It changes these days very quickly.

It seems that the adrenaline of “Doing” trumps the wisdom of “Being”.

They should be a 50/50 partnership. Being is the analytical thinking part Doing is the solution part.

We all hear 3-4-year-old toddlers constantly asking the question WHY? Why this, why that, an unending curiosity that seems to be a natural process of growth and development.

Obviously, there’s a mental hunger to understand the process behind the process, to understand what moves things, they want to understand the Context .

It is obviously a natural & instinctive process with every child. Why does it mostly disappear in adult life?

The answer is pressured from inside and outside. Mostly inside. You just need to overcome that aspect if you want to excel in problem-solving.

That means that if your reason is powerful enough it will make your action extremely effective.

Step 4 – Avoid How questions

How questions can be very deceptive as they imply that if you know how to do something you can do it.

It implies that solutions are linear. I can tell you for sure, after over 25 years of training professionals in problem- solving that that is not the case!

So ask Why and What questions because they will get you to the big picture and will reveal a lot more than How questions.

I hear people always ask “How Do I Do That” and “How do I get from A & B” and I ask them “why do you want to get to B from A?”

After being mildly irritated at my seemingly juvenile question they start discovering a whole wealth of intelligence that they didn’t see before.

How questions tend to hotwire the process of problem-solving by neglecting the Being of analytical thinking part and rush to Doing .

Solutions take time to appear, especially if you get to really understand the problem and not what it seems to be.

Step 5  –  “Long Term” First…Always

Decision-making and problem-solving should always look at the long-term consequences before it moves to action.

What is the point of affecting a short term solution that will defeat the long-term?

Long-term analytical thinking will mean that it takes professional training and development that is able to gain perceptions not readily available.

Long term consequences are hidden compared to short term analysis that seems to be obvious.

You need to always think about how these 2 connect when you engage in problem-solving .

Step 6 – Protect Your Problem-Solving Process By Understanding The Fertile Ground Concept

Part of the long-term solution is to learn from the problem-solving process and result so as to prevent the growth of the seed of the problem, so it won’t reappear.

This is based on the logic that a problem is only but a symptom of what caused it. Part of understanding the problem is to understand what caused that which requires neutral analytical thinking without hiding anything.

So get to understand the conditions that Fed the problem and make sure that part of your long-term problem solving is not to let the same “earth growing” conditions reappear.

This understanding of the “fertile ground” concept is characterized by long-term backward analysis. You look as far back as possible to understand the conditions that allowed the problem to appear.

Step 7 – Reevaluation…Common Sense And Emotional Intelligence

“Don’t leave home without it!” Make sure that before you act on your solutions that you thoroughly review the problem-solving process and checked how you feel about the whole thing. If it feels right, not perfect, proceed to the execution state.

If it doesn’t, don’t! Allow your feelings space and voice in your problem-solving process. They have a lot to tell.

7 Steps to Critical Thinking

 7 steps to critical thinking

Problem-solving requires the essential skill of critical thinking, without which you will be missing a fundamental ingredient.

Critical Thinking that includes reasons that empower actions requires a thinking process, which has the following 7 ingredients:

  • Consider the situation anew, start Now, and only then look at past experience
  • Takes into account facts (not opinions)
  • Evaluate short and long-term consequences for intended actions before you do anything
  • Consider worse, best, and likely scenarios
  • Make sure that you prioritize your reasons and that they don’t reflect your comfort zone
  • Make sure that the reasons are connected to a  genuine  need (not just a wish)
  • Make sure that the reasons are connected to a greater purpose. Take for example the story of the 5ft 5 inches 140 lbs mother who had to save her son from underneath a car, and alone was able to lift over 2000 pounds of metal!!! No way she could ever do it if it wasn’t critical.
The point is that Critical Thinking can connect us to an extraordinary level of intelligence and abilities. That is How to develop Critical Thinking !

What Is Critical Thinking About In The Corporate Level

problem-solving - critical thinking at corporate level

It is important to note here that it works in exactly the same way at the corporate level.

When it comes to problem-solving in the corporate world if you and your team need to come to a decision, you had better make sure you engage your critical thinking process before making any decision.

It very often makes all the difference between success and failure….and mind you, very often what seems to be a short-term success is a long-term failure.

Your reasons and motives must be sound to have the power and energy to carry you through to success.

The key understanding is, that the level of reason and motive behind the intended action will be expressed through the action. The better the reason, the better the execution level. Always!

Critical Thinking Optimized Through Healthy Teamwork

 healthy teamwork

My advice…try to engage critical thinking in a think-tank, within a group dynamic.

Teamwork is the best scenario to think through issues thoroughly. That depends, of course, on the level of trust and openness that exists in a team.

Teamwork, as it should be, is the best arena for the smart decision-making process. It can minimize the margin for error and prevent falling into unnecessary traps.

Please understand that problem-solving is a holistic process and not some linear one-dimensional analysis.

Real problem-solving is an opportunity to get a fresh understanding of possibly recurring problems and a way to affect real changes.

It is a panoramic view of a big picture that can possibly solve many problems before they appear.

My experience in training professionals in different organizations around the world that when problem-solving is done right it contributes to the changing organizational culture and bringing the leadership and the workforce closer to each other.

It can alter perceptions and make leadership much more relevant to the success of the organization.

Care of a leader always shows up in their problem-solving attitude, their thoroughness, and attention to detail.

The Thinking Coach Leadership Training Seminars which are part of a broad Soft Skills Corporate Training Programs take professionals through a series of workshop exercises to achieve a critical thinking state of mind that helps professionals engage in a high-level of decision-making & problem-solving.

These seminars are absolutely essential in these times of change and make a real difference in the quest for Critical Thinking.

What makes the Thinking Coach Leadership Development Training Courses programs unique is that whatever the course is about it always redefines in a higher level what teamwork is about in the organization.

The ability to engage in critical thinking in problem-solving for an organization depends on the level of teamwork that can be exhibited.

Regardless what the soft skill territory that I train professionals, and as excellent as that seminar may be, the deciding factor of whether or not the learned skills will be incorporated and applied comes down to the level of teamwork in the organization.

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What is analytical problem solving.

analytical and problem solving

There are some very common misconceptions and myths about analytical problem solving. Most candidates simply skim over this phrase on consulting profiles without thinking about the meaning. This post will tell you what management consulting firms like McKinsey , Bain and BCG mean by analytical problem solving.

You would be surprised at how many people believe that analytical thinking is something that comes instinctively, letting you do data analysis and pinpoint relevant information to get the key takeaways from complex problems. The truth is, these analytical skills are, more often than not, hard skills that you acquire through years of problem solving and critical thinking. They’re problem-solving skills that help you go from coming up with easy solutions to coming up with creative solutions that go the extra mile.

This is important advice so it is worth reading carefully – we’ll also go over some analytical and problem solving skills examples to help you understand better.

What is analytical problem solving

To be an analytical thinker does not mean you must have a degree in science, engineering, finance, economics or any other quantitative subject. While some subjects, like those listed, imply you could be analytical in your thinking, not having quantitative background does not mean you cannot think analytically. Thousands of candidates with quantitative backgrounds fail to get offers from McKinsey, Bain and BCG every year. Therefore, having a quantitative background can be an advantage, but it does not guarantee analytical problem solving ability.

Being analytical refers to the way you think and not to the problem you solve. This is a very important statement. Lawyers, social scientists, linguists and historians can all be extremely analytical in their thinking. Yet, they are not solving quantitative problems. So the problem is not what determines if you are analytical, it is the way you solve the problem.

Good analyses are grounded in hypotheses. Can you develop hypotheses? It always surprises us how many people do not know what is a hypothesis. A hypothesis is not the problem. It is not a fact. It is not an opinion. It is a statement which captures the observed phenomenon as well as the likely cause of the phenomenon. Both must be present for it to be a hypothesis. A surprising number of candidates do not understand this.

Are you able to reason using only the facts provided? Analytical thinkers are not unemotional. No one is unemotional. However, analytical thinkers are able to separate their emotion from the situation and use the data provided to arrive at a conclusion. Analytical problem solving means reasoning using facts and logic. Past experience or opinions which cannot be substantiated are ignored.

Can you assemble data and facts to develop an argument or line of reasoning? Analytical thinkers can take pieces of information, compare them and decide what the information is saying. They can assemble the information to produce new insight into the problem rather than simply restating the information.

Analytical thinkers do not blurt out answers. Assuming your answer is even correct, the fact that you knew the answer means you did not need to analyse the facts. Therefore, your analytical problem solving skill could not be tested.

Logic has nothing to do with numbers. There is a misconception that if your reasoning lacks numbers then it must be incorrect. That is ridiculous. In many consulting case interviews, you will need to reason based on logical arguments and with very little numbers. Your line of reasoning is more important than your final answer.

Analytical thinkers can show you how they arrived at the answer. This should be obvious, right? After all, it is the foundation of the case interview method. If you followed a path of reasoning to arrive at an answer, you should be able to explain that path to someone. That is why the method is used. The interviewer is more interested in how you arrived at the answer than the answer you developed. How you arrived at the answer shows the strength of your analytical problem solving skill.

Logical thinkers apply MECE , even if they do not know it. I have some impressive friends in the legal profession. Watching them reason and debate is worth doing so. When you ask them how they arrived at an answer or why they eliminated an option, you realize they are applying the rules of MECE perfectly. Yet, they never heard of MECE. Reason and logic is not exclusive to management consulting but is it essential to management consulting.

You do not need to know anything about an income statement, balance sheet or cash-flow statement to develop analytical skills. I should not need to say this but I will say it anyway. The thought process is more important than the topic. You can learn accounting and financial concepts when you need them. It is not very difficult to do so.

Analytical and problem solving skills examples

Below we share with you some examples of analytical and problem solving skills and how analytical skills are being tested during consulting case interviews.

McKinsey case interview examples 

  • Complex McKinsey Interviewer led profitability case in Pharma (by FIRMSconsulting.com) 
  • Comprehensive McKinsey hypotheses based case interview example (by FIRMSconsulting.com)
  • McKinsey cost-benefit approach complex profit case interview example (by FIRMSconsulting.com)

BCG case interview examples

  • Comprehensive BCG interviewer led market entry case interview example (by FIRMSconsulting.com) 

General case interview examples

  • A comprehensive approach to brainstorming in case interviews (by FIRMSconsulting.com)
  • Framework for a Bain, McKinsey, BCG acquisition case (by FIRMSconsulting.com)

Structured case interview analytical and problem solving skills development is needed

If you would like to get help with developing your analytical and problem solving skills, and fast track your case interview preparation, we welcome you to enroll into Premium membership .

There is nowhere else in the world where you can see real candidates trained by former partners from major consulting firms to help them develop analytical and problem solving skills. You will see the candidate’s progression through each step of the case interview preparation process, and how their analytical and problem solving skills are being developed. And you will see candidates receiving real offers from major firms such as Deloitte, McKinsey, or BCG.

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HBR On Strategy podcast series

A Better Framework for Solving Tough Problems

Start with trust and end with speed.

  • Apple Podcasts

When it comes to solving complicated problems, the default for many organizational leaders is to take their time to work through the issues at hand. Unfortunately, that often leads to patchwork solutions or problems not truly getting resolved.

But Anne Morriss offers a different framework. In this episode, she outlines a five-step process for solving any problem and explains why starting with trust and ending with speed is so important for effective change leadership. As she says, “Let’s get into dialogue with the people who are also impacted by the problem before we start running down the path of solving it.”

Morriss is an entrepreneur and leadership coach. She’s also the coauthor of the book, Move Fast and Fix Things: The Trusted Leader’s Guide to Solving Hard Problems .

Key episode topics include: strategy, decision making and problem solving, strategy execution, managing people, collaboration and teams, trustworthiness, organizational culture, change leadership, problem solving, leadership.

HBR On Strategy curates the best case studies and conversations with the world’s top business and management experts, to help you unlock new ways of doing business. New episodes every week.

  • Listen to the full HBR IdeaCast episode: How to Solve Tough Problems Better and Faster (2023)
  • Find more episodes of HBR IdeaCast
  • Discover 100 years of Harvard Business Review articles, case studies, podcasts, and more at HBR.org .

HANNAH BATES: Welcome to HBR On Strategy , case studies and conversations with the world’s top business and management experts, hand-selected to help you unlock new ways of doing business.

When it comes to solving complicated problems, many leaders only focus on the most apparent issues. Unfortunately that often leads to patchwork or partial solutions. But Anne Morriss offers a different framework that aims to truly tackle big problems by first leaning into trust and then focusing on speed.

Morriss is an entrepreneur and leadership coach. She’s also the co-author of the book, Move Fast and Fix Things: The Trusted Leader’s Guide to Solving Hard Problems . In this episode, she outlines a five-step process for solving any problem. Some, she says, can be solved in a week, while others take much longer. She also explains why starting with trust and ending with speed is so important for effective change leadership.

This episode originally aired on HBR IdeaCast in October 2023. Here it is.

CURT NICKISCH: Welcome to the HBR IdeaCast from Harvard Business Review. I’m Curt Nickisch.

Problems can be intimidating. Sure, some problems are fun to dig into. You roll up your sleeves, you just take care of them; but others, well, they’re complicated. Sometimes it’s hard to wrap your brain around a problem, much less fix it.

And that’s especially true for leaders in organizations where problems are often layered and complex. They sometimes demand technical, financial, or interpersonal knowledge to fix. And whether it’s avoidance on the leaders’ part or just the perception that a problem is systemic or even intractable, problems find a way to endure, to keep going, to keep being a problem that everyone tries to work around or just puts up with.

But today’s guest says that just compounds it and makes the problem harder to fix. Instead, she says, speed and momentum are key to overcoming a problem.

Anne Morriss is an entrepreneur, leadership coach and founder of the Leadership Consortium and with Harvard Business School Professor Francis Frei, she wrote the new book, Move Fast and Fix Things: The Trusted Leaders Guide to Solving Hard Problems . Anne, welcome back to the show.

ANNE MORRISS: Curt, thank you so much for having me.

CURT NICKISCH: So, to generate momentum at an organization, you say that you really need speed and trust. We’ll get into those essential ingredients some more, but why are those two essential?

ANNE MORRISS: Yeah. Well, the essential pattern that we observed was that the most effective change leaders out there were building trust and speed, and it didn’t seem to be a well-known observation. We all know the phrase, “Move fast and break things,” but the people who were really getting it right were moving fast and fixing things, and that was really our jumping off point. So when we dug into the pattern, what we observed was they were building trust first and then speed. This foundation of trust was what allowed them to fix more things and break fewer.

CURT NICKISCH: Trust sounds like a slow thing, right? If you talk about building trust, that is something that takes interactions, it takes communication, it takes experiences. Does that run counter to the speed idea?

ANNE MORRISS: Yeah. Well, this issue of trust is something we’ve been looking at for over a decade. One of the headlines in our research is it’s actually something we’re building and rebuilding and breaking all the time. And so instead of being this precious, almost farbege egg, it’s this thing that is constantly in motion and this thing that we can really impact when we’re deliberate about our choices and have some self-awareness around where it’s breaking down and how it’s breaking down.

CURT NICKISCH: You said break trust in there, which is intriguing, right? That you may have to break trust to build trust. Can you explain that a little?

ANNE MORRISS:  Yeah, well, I’ll clarify. It’s not that you have to break it in order to build it. It’s just that we all do it some of the time. Most of us are trusted most of the time. Most of your listeners I imagine are trusted most of the time, but all of us have a pattern where we break trust or where we don’t build as much as could be possible.

CURT NICKISCH: I want to talk about speed, this other essential ingredient that’s so intriguing, right? Because you think about solving hard problems as something that just takes a lot of time and thinking and coordination and planning and designing. Explain what you mean by it? And also, just  how we maybe approach problems wrong by taking them on too slowly?

ANNE MORRISS: Well, Curt, no one has ever said to us, “I wish I had taken longer and done less.” We hear the opposite all the time, by the way. So what we really set out to do was to create a playbook that anyone can use to take less time to do more of the things that are going to make your teams and organizations stronger.

And the way we set up the book is okay, it’s really a five step process. Speed is the last step. It’s the payoff for the hard work you’re going to do to figure out your problem, build or rebuild trust, expand the team in thoughtful and strategic ways, and then tell a real and compelling story about the change you’re leading.

Only then do you get to go fast, but that’s an essential part of the process, and we find that either people under emphasize it or speed has gotten a bad name in this world of moving fast and breaking things. And part of our mission for sure was to rehabilitate speed’s reputation because it is an essential part of the change leader’s equation. It can be the difference between good intentions and getting anything done at all.

CURT NICKISCH: You know, the fact that nobody ever tells you, “I wish we had done less and taken more time.” I think we all feel that, right? Sometimes we do something and then realize, “Oh, that wasn’t that hard and why did it take me so long to do it? And I wish I’d done this a long time ago.” Is it ever possible to solve a problem too quickly?

ANNE MORRISS: Absolutely. And we see that all the time too. What we push people to do in those scenarios is really take a look at the underlying issue because in most cases, the solution is not to take your foot off the accelerator per se and slow down. The solution is to get into the underlying problem. So if it’s burnout or a strategic disconnect between what you’re building and the marketplace you’re serving, what we find is the anxiety that people attach to speed or the frustration people attach to speed is often misplaced.

CURT NICKISCH: What is a good timeline to think about solving a problem then? Because if we by default take too long or else jump ahead and we don’t fix it right, what’s a good target time to have in your mind for how long solving a problem should take?

ANNE MORRISS: Yeah. Well, we’re playful in the book and talking about the idea that many problems can be solved in a week. We set the book up five chapters. They’re titled Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and we’re definitely having fun with that. And yet, if you count the hours in a week, there are a lot of them. Many of our problems, if you were to spend a focused 40 hours of effort on a problem, you’re going to get pretty far.

But our main message is, listen, of course it’s going to depend on the nature of the problem, and you’re going to take weeks and maybe even some cases months to get to the other side. What we don’t want you to do is take years, which tends to be our default timeline for solving hard problems.

CURT NICKISCH: So you say to start with identifying the problem that’s holding you back, seems kind of obvious. But where do companies go right and wrong with this first step of just identifying the problem that’s holding you back?

ANNE MORRISS: And our goal is that all of these are going to feel obvious in retrospect. The problem is we skip over a lot of these steps and this is why we wanted to underline them. So this one is really rooted in our observation and I think the pattern of our species that we tend to be overconfident in the quality of our thoughts, particularly when it comes to diagnosing problems.

And so we want to invite you to start in a very humble and curious place, which tends not to be our default mode when we’re showing up for work. We convince ourselves that we’re being paid for our judgment. That’s exactly what gets reinforced everywhere. And so we tend to counterintuitively, given what we just talked about, we tend to move too quickly through the diagnostic phase.

CURT NICKISCH: “I know what to do, that’s why you hired me.”

ANNE MORRISS: Exactly. “I know what to do. That’s why you hired me. I’ve seen this before. I have a plan. Follow me.” We get rewarded for the expression of confidence and clarity. And so what we’re inviting people to do here is actually pause and really lean into what are the root causes of the problem you’re seeing? What are some alternative explanations? Let’s get into dialogue with the people who are also impacted by the problem before we start running down the path of solving it.

CURT NICKISCH: So what do you recommend for this step, for getting to the root of the problem? What are questions you should ask? What’s the right thought process? What do you do on Monday of the week?

ANNE MORRISS: In our experience of doing this work, people tend to undervalue the power of conversation, particularly with other people in the organization. So we will often advocate putting together a team of problem solvers, make it a temporary team, really pull in people who have a particular perspective on the problem and create the space, make it as psychologically safe as you can for people to really, as Chris Argyris so beautifully articulated, discuss the undiscussable.

And so the conditions for that are going to look different in every organization depending on the problem, but if you can get a space where smart people who have direct experience of a problem are in a room and talking honestly with each other, you can make an extraordinary amount of progress, certainly in a day.

CURT NICKISCH: Yeah, that gets back to the trust piece.

ANNE MORRISS: Definitely.

CURT NICKISCH: How do you like to start that meeting, or how do you like to talk about it? I’m just curious what somebody on that team might hear in that meeting, just to get the sense that it’s psychologically safe, you can discuss the undiscussable and you’re also focusing on the identification part. What’s key to communicate there?

ANNE MORRISS: Yeah. Well, we sometimes encourage people to do a little bit of data gathering before those conversations. So the power of a quick anonymous survey around whatever problem you’re solving, but also be really thoughtful about the questions you’re going to ask in the moment. So a little bit of preparation can go a long way and a little bit of thoughtfulness about the power dynamic. So who’s going to walk in there with license to speak and who’s going to hold back? So being thoughtful about the agenda, about the questions you’re asking about the room, about the facilitation, and then courage is a very infectious emotion.

So if you can early on create the conditions for people to show up bravely in that conversation, then the chance that you’re going to get good information and that you’re going to walk out of that room with new insight in the problem that you didn’t have when you walked in is extraordinarily high.

CURT NICKISCH: Now, in those discussions, you may have people who have different perspectives on what the problem really is. They also bear different costs of addressing the problem or solving it. You talked about the power dynamic, but there’s also an unfairness dynamic of who’s going to actually have to do the work to take care of it, and I wonder how you create a culture in that meeting where it’s the most productive?

ANNE MORRISS: For sure, the burden of work is not going to be equitably distributed around the room. But I would say, Curt, the dynamic that we see most often is that people are deeply relieved that hard problems are being addressed. So it really can create, and more often than not in our experience, it does create this beautiful flywheel of action, creativity, optimism. Often when problems haven’t been addressed, there is a fair amount of anxiety in the organization, frustration, stagnation. And so credible movement towards action and progress is often the best antidote. So even if the plan isn’t super clear yet, if it’s credible, given who’s in the room and their decision rights and mandate, if there’s real momentum coming out of that to make progress, then that tends to be deeply energizing to people.

CURT NICKISCH: I wonder if there’s an organization that you’ve worked with that you could talk about how this rolled out and how this took shape?

ANNE MORRISS: When we started working with Uber, that was wrestling with some very public issues of culture and trust with a range of stakeholders internally, the organization, also external, that work really started with a campaign of listening and really trying to understand where trust was breaking down from the perspective of these stakeholders?

So whether it was female employees or regulators or riders who had safety concerns getting into the car with a stranger. This work, it starts with an honest internal dialogue, but often the problem has threads that go external. And so bringing that same commitment to curiosity and humility and dialogue to anyone who’s impacted by the problem is the fastest way to surface what’s really going on.

CURT NICKISCH: There’s a step in this process that you lay out and that’s communicating powerfully as a leader. So we’ve heard about listening and trust building, but now you’re talking about powerful communication. How do you do this and why is it maybe this step in the process rather than the first thing you do or the last thing you do?

ANNE MORRISS: So in our process, again, it’s the days of the week. On Monday you figured out the problem. Tuesday you really got into the sandbox in figuring out what a good enough plan is for building trust. Wednesday, step three, you made it better. You created an even better plan, bringing in new perspectives. Thursday, this fourth step is the day we’re saying you got to go get buy-in. You got to bring other people along. And again, this is a step where we see people often underinvest in the power and payoff of really executing it well.

CURT NICKISCH: How does that go wrong?

ANNE MORRISS: Yeah, people don’t know the why. Human behavior and the change in human behavior really depends on a strong why. It’s not just a selfish, “What’s in it for me?” Although that’s helpful, but where are we going? I may be invested in a status quo and I need to understand, okay, if you’re going to ask me to change, if you’re going to invite me into this uncomfortable place of doing things differently, why am I here? Help me understand it and articulate the way forward and language that not only I can understand, but also that’s going to be motivating to me.

CURT NICKISCH: And who on my team was part of this process and all that kind of stuff?

ANNE MORRISS: Oh, yeah. I may have some really important questions that may be in the way of my buy-in and commitment to this plan. So certainly creating a space where those questions can be addressed is essential. But what we found is that there is an architecture of a great change story, and it starts with honoring the past, honoring the starting place. Sometimes we’re so excited about the change and animated about the change that what has happened before or what is even happening in the present tense is low on our list of priorities.

Or we want to label it bad, because that’s the way we’ve thought about the change, but really pausing and honoring what came before you and all the reasonable decisions that led up to it, I think can be really helpful to getting people emotionally where you want them to be willing to be guided by you. Going back to Uber, when Dara Khosrowshahi came in.

CURT NICKISCH: This is the new CEO.

ANNE MORRISS: The new CEO.

CURT NICKISCH: Replaced Travis Kalanick, the founder and first CEO, yeah.

ANNE MORRISS: Yeah, and had his first all-hands meeting. One of his key messages, and this is a quote, was that he was going to retain the edge that had made Uber, “A force of nature.” And in that meeting, the crowd went wild because this is also a company that had been beaten up publicly for months and months and months, and it was a really powerful choice. And his predecessor, Travis was in the room, and he also honored Travis’ incredible work and investment in bringing the company to the place where it was.

And I would use words like grace to also describe those choices, but there’s also an incredible strategic value to naming the starting place for everybody in the room because in most cases, most people in that room played a role in getting to that starting place, and you’re acknowledging that.

CURT NICKISCH: You can call it grace. Somebody else might call it diplomatic or strategic. But yeah, I guess like it or not, it’s helpful to call out and honor the complexity of the way things have been done and also the change that’s happening.

ANNE MORRISS: Yeah, and the value. Sometimes honoring the past is also owning what didn’t work or what wasn’t working for stakeholders or segments of the employee team, and we see that around culture change. Sometimes you’ve got to acknowledge that it was not an equitable environment, but whatever the worker, everyone in that room is bringing that pass with them. So again, making it discussable and using it as the jumping off place is where we advise people to start.

Then you’ve earned the right to talk about the change mandate, which we suggest using clear and compelling language about the why. “This is what happened, this is where we are, this is the good and the bad of it, and here’s the case for change.”

And then the last part, which is to describe a rigorous and optimistic way forward. It’s a simple past, present, future arc, which will be familiar to human beings. We love stories as human beings. It’s among the most powerful currency we have to make sense of the world.

CURT NICKISCH: Yeah. Chronological is a pretty powerful order.

ANNE MORRISS: Right. But again, the change leaders we see really get it right, are investing an incredible amount of time into the storytelling part of their job. Ursula Burns, the Head of Xerox is famous for the months and years she spent on the road just telling the story of Xerox’s change, its pivot into services to everyone who would listen, and that was a huge part of her success.

CURT NICKISCH: So Friday or your fifth step, you end with empowering teams and removing roadblocks. That seems obvious, but it’s critical. Can you dig into that a little bit?

ANNE MORRISS: Yeah. Friday is the fun day. Friday’s the release of energy into the system. Again, you’ve now earned the right to go fast. You have a plan, you’re pretty confident it’s going to work. You’ve told the story of change the organization, and now you get to sprint. So this is about really executing with urgency, and it’s about a lot of the tactics of speed is where we focus in the book. So the tactics of empowerment, making tough strategic trade-offs so that your priorities are clear and clearly communicated, creating mechanisms to fast-track progress. At Etsy, CEO Josh Silverman, he labeled these projects ambulances. It’s an unfortunate metaphor, but it’s super memorable. These are the products that get to speed out in front of the other ones because the stakes are high and the clock is sticking.

CURT NICKISCH: You pull over and let it go by.

ANNE MORRISS: Yeah, exactly. And so we have to agree as an organization on how to do something like that. And so we see lots of great examples both in young organizations and big complex biotech companies with lots of regulatory guardrails have still found ways to do this gracefully.

And I think we end with this idea of conflict debt, which is a term we really love. Leanne Davey, who’s a team scholar and researcher, and anyone in a tech company will recognize the idea of tech debt, which is this weight the organization drags around until they resolve it. Conflict debt is a beautiful metaphor because it is this weight that we drag around and slows us down until we decide to clean it up and fix it. The organizations that are really getting speed right have figured out either formally or informally, how to create an environment where conflict and disagreements can be gracefully resolved.

CURT NICKISCH: Well, let’s talk about this speed more, right? Because I think this is one of those places that maybe people go wrong or take too long, and then you lose the awareness of the problem, you lose that urgency. And then that also just makes it less effective, right? It’s not just about getting the problem solved as quickly as possible. It’s also just speed in some ways helps solve the problem.

ANNE MORRISS: Oh, yeah. It really is the difference between imagining the change you want to lead and really being able to bring it to life. Speed is the thing that unlocks your ability to lead change. It needs a foundation, and that’s what Monday through Thursday is all about, steps one through four, but the finish line is executing with urgency, and it’s that urgency that releases the system’s energy, that communicates your priorities, that creates the conditions for your team to make progress.

CURT NICKISCH: Moving fast is something that entrepreneurs and tech companies certainly understand, but there’s also this awareness that with big companies, the bigger the organization, the harder it is to turn the aircraft carrier around, right? Is speed relative when you get at those levels, or do you think this is something that any company should be able to apply equally?

ANNE MORRISS: We think this applies to any company. The culture really lives at the level of team. So we believe you can make a tremendous amount of progress even within your circle of control as a team leader. I want to bring some humility to this and careful of words like universal, but we do think there’s some universal truths here around the value of speed, and then some of the byproducts like keeping fantastic people. Your best people want to solve problems, they want to execute, they want to make progress and speed, and the ability to do that is going to be a variable in their own equation of whether they stay or they go somewhere else where they can have an impact.

CURT NICKISCH: Right. They want to accomplish something before they go or before they retire or finish something out. And if you’re able to just bring more things on the horizon and have it not feel like it’s going to be another two years to do something meaningful.

ANNE MORRISS: People – I mean, they want to make stuff happen and they want to be around the energy and the vitality of making things happen, which again, is also a super infectious phenomenon. One of the most important jobs of a leader, we believe, is to set the metabolic pace of their teams and organizations. And so what we really dig into on Friday is, well, what does that look like to speed something up? What are the tactics of that?

CURT NICKISCH: I wonder if that universal truth, that a body in motion stays in motion applies to organizations, right? If an organization in motion stays in motion, there is something to that.

ANNE MORRISS: Absolutely.

CURT NICKISCH: Do you have a favorite client story to share, just where you saw speed just become a bit of a flywheel or just a positive reinforcement loop for more positive change at the organization?

ANNE MORRISS: Yeah. We work with a fair number of organizations that are on fire. We do a fair amount of firefighting, but we also less dramatically do a lot of fire prevention. So we’re brought into organizations that are working well and want to get better, looking out on the horizon. That work is super gratifying, and there is always a component of, well, how do we speed this up?

What I love about that work is there’s often already a high foundation of trust, and so it’s, well, how do we maintain that foundation but move this flywheel, as you said, even faster? And it’s really energizing because often there’s a lot of pent-up energy that… There’s a lot of loyalty to the organization, but often it’s also frustration and pent-up energy. And so when that gets released, when good people get the opportunity to sprint for the first time in a little while, it’s incredibly energizing, not just for us, but for the whole organization.

CURT NICKISCH: Anne, this is great. I think finding a way to solve problems better but also faster is going to be really helpful. So thanks for coming on the show to talk about it.

ANNE MORRISS:  Oh, Curt, it was such a pleasure. This is my favorite conversation. I’m delighted to have it anytime.

HANNAH BATES: That was entrepreneur, leadership coach, and author Anne Morriss – in conversation with Curt Nickisch on HBR IdeaCast.

We’ll be back next Wednesday with another hand-picked conversation about business strategy from Harvard Business Review. If you found this episode helpful, share it with your friends and colleagues, and follow our show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. While you’re there, be sure to leave us a review.

When you’re ready for more podcasts, articles, case studies, books, and videos with the world’s top business and management experts, you’ll find it all at HBR.org.

This episode was produced by Mary Dooe, Anne Saini, and me, Hannah Bates. Ian Fox is our editor. Special thanks to Rob Eckhardt, Maureen Hoch, Erica Truxler, Ramsey Khabbaz, Nicole Smith, Anne Bartholomew, and you – our listener. See you next week.

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26 Expert-Backed Problem Solving Examples – Interview Answers

Published: February 13, 2023

Interview Questions and Answers

Actionable advice from real experts:

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Biron Clark

Former Recruiter

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Contributor

Dr. Kyle Elliott

Career Coach

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Hayley Jukes

Editor-in-Chief

Biron Clark

Biron Clark , Former Recruiter

Kyle Elliott , Career Coach

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Hayley Jukes , Editor

As a recruiter , I know employers like to hire people who can solve problems and work well under pressure.

 A job rarely goes 100% according to plan, so hiring managers are more likely to hire you if you seem like you can handle unexpected challenges while staying calm and logical.

But how do they measure this?

Hiring managers will ask you interview questions about your problem-solving skills, and they might also look for examples of problem-solving on your resume and cover letter. 

In this article, I’m going to share a list of problem-solving examples and sample interview answers to questions like, “Give an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem?” and “Describe a time when you had to solve a problem without managerial input. How did you handle it, and what was the result?”

  • Problem-solving involves identifying, prioritizing, analyzing, and solving problems using a variety of skills like critical thinking, creativity, decision making, and communication.
  • Describe the Situation, Task, Action, and Result ( STAR method ) when discussing your problem-solving experiences.
  • Tailor your interview answer with the specific skills and qualifications outlined in the job description.
  • Provide numerical data or metrics to demonstrate the tangible impact of your problem-solving efforts.

What are Problem Solving Skills? 

Problem-solving is the ability to identify a problem, prioritize based on gravity and urgency, analyze the root cause, gather relevant information, develop and evaluate viable solutions, decide on the most effective and logical solution, and plan and execute implementation. 

Problem-solving encompasses other skills that can be showcased in an interview response and your resume. Problem-solving skills examples include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Analytical skills
  • Decision making
  • Research skills
  • Technical skills
  • Communication skills
  • Adaptability and flexibility

Why is Problem Solving Important in the Workplace?

Problem-solving is essential in the workplace because it directly impacts productivity and efficiency. Whenever you encounter a problem, tackling it head-on prevents minor issues from escalating into bigger ones that could disrupt the entire workflow. 

Beyond maintaining smooth operations, your ability to solve problems fosters innovation. It encourages you to think creatively, finding better ways to achieve goals, which keeps the business competitive and pushes the boundaries of what you can achieve. 

Effective problem-solving also contributes to a healthier work environment; it reduces stress by providing clear strategies for overcoming obstacles and builds confidence within teams. 

Examples of Problem-Solving in the Workplace

  • Correcting a mistake at work, whether it was made by you or someone else
  • Overcoming a delay at work through problem solving and communication
  • Resolving an issue with a difficult or upset customer
  • Overcoming issues related to a limited budget, and still delivering good work through the use of creative problem solving
  • Overcoming a scheduling/staffing shortage in the department to still deliver excellent work
  • Troubleshooting and resolving technical issues
  • Handling and resolving a conflict with a coworker
  • Solving any problems related to money, customer billing, accounting and bookkeeping, etc.
  • Taking initiative when another team member overlooked or missed something important
  • Taking initiative to meet with your superior to discuss a problem before it became potentially worse
  • Solving a safety issue at work or reporting the issue to those who could solve it
  • Using problem solving abilities to reduce/eliminate a company expense
  • Finding a way to make the company more profitable through new service or product offerings, new pricing ideas, promotion and sale ideas, etc.
  • Changing how a process, team, or task is organized to make it more efficient
  • Using creative thinking to come up with a solution that the company hasn’t used before
  • Performing research to collect data and information to find a new solution to a problem
  • Boosting a company or team’s performance by improving some aspect of communication among employees
  • Finding a new piece of data that can guide a company’s decisions or strategy better in a certain area

Problem-Solving Examples for Recent Grads/Entry-Level Job Seekers

  • Coordinating work between team members in a class project
  • Reassigning a missing team member’s work to other group members in a class project
  • Adjusting your workflow on a project to accommodate a tight deadline
  • Speaking to your professor to get help when you were struggling or unsure about a project
  • Asking classmates, peers, or professors for help in an area of struggle
  • Talking to your academic advisor to brainstorm solutions to a problem you were facing
  • Researching solutions to an academic problem online, via Google or other methods
  • Using problem solving and creative thinking to obtain an internship or other work opportunity during school after struggling at first

How To Answer “Tell Us About a Problem You Solved”

When you answer interview questions about problem-solving scenarios, or if you decide to demonstrate your problem-solving skills in a cover letter (which is a good idea any time the job description mentions problem-solving as a necessary skill), I recommend using the STAR method.

STAR stands for:

It’s a simple way of walking the listener or reader through the story in a way that will make sense to them. 

Start by briefly describing the general situation and the task at hand. After this, describe the course of action you chose and why. Ideally, show that you evaluated all the information you could given the time you had, and made a decision based on logic and fact. Finally, describe the positive result you achieved.

Note: Our sample answers below are structured following the STAR formula. Be sure to check them out!

EXPERT ADVICE

analytical and problem solving

Dr. Kyle Elliott , MPA, CHES Tech & Interview Career Coach caffeinatedkyle.com

How can I communicate complex problem-solving experiences clearly and succinctly?

Before answering any interview question, it’s important to understand why the interviewer is asking the question in the first place.

When it comes to questions about your complex problem-solving experiences, for example, the interviewer likely wants to know about your leadership acumen, collaboration abilities, and communication skills, not the problem itself.

Therefore, your answer should be focused on highlighting how you excelled in each of these areas, not diving into the weeds of the problem itself, which is a common mistake less-experienced interviewees often make.

Tailoring Your Answer Based on the Skills Mentioned in the Job Description

As a recruiter, one of the top tips I can give you when responding to the prompt “Tell us about a problem you solved,” is to tailor your answer to the specific skills and qualifications outlined in the job description. 

Once you’ve pinpointed the skills and key competencies the employer is seeking, craft your response to highlight experiences where you successfully utilized or developed those particular abilities. 

For instance, if the job requires strong leadership skills, focus on a problem-solving scenario where you took charge and effectively guided a team toward resolution. 

By aligning your answer with the desired skills outlined in the job description, you demonstrate your suitability for the role and show the employer that you understand their needs.

Amanda Augustine expands on this by saying:

“Showcase the specific skills you used to solve the problem. Did it require critical thinking, analytical abilities, or strong collaboration? Highlight the relevant skills the employer is seeking.”  

Interview Answers to “Tell Me About a Time You Solved a Problem”

Now, let’s look at some sample interview answers to, “Give me an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem,” or “Tell me about a time you solved a problem,” since you’re likely to hear different versions of this interview question in all sorts of industries.

The example interview responses are structured using the STAR method and are categorized into the top 5 key problem-solving skills recruiters look for in a candidate.

1. Analytical Thinking

analytical and problem solving

Situation: In my previous role as a data analyst , our team encountered a significant drop in website traffic.

Task: I was tasked with identifying the root cause of the decrease.

Action: I conducted a thorough analysis of website metrics, including traffic sources, user demographics, and page performance. Through my analysis, I discovered a technical issue with our website’s loading speed, causing users to bounce. 

Result: By optimizing server response time, compressing images, and minimizing redirects, we saw a 20% increase in traffic within two weeks.

2. Critical Thinking

analytical and problem solving

Situation: During a project deadline crunch, our team encountered a major technical issue that threatened to derail our progress.

Task: My task was to assess the situation and devise a solution quickly.

Action: I immediately convened a meeting with the team to brainstorm potential solutions. Instead of panicking, I encouraged everyone to think outside the box and consider unconventional approaches. We analyzed the problem from different angles and weighed the pros and cons of each solution.

Result: By devising a workaround solution, we were able to meet the project deadline, avoiding potential delays that could have cost the company $100,000 in penalties for missing contractual obligations.

3. Decision Making

analytical and problem solving

Situation: As a project manager , I was faced with a dilemma when two key team members had conflicting opinions on the project direction.

Task: My task was to make a decisive choice that would align with the project goals and maintain team cohesion.

Action: I scheduled a meeting with both team members to understand their perspectives in detail. I listened actively, asked probing questions, and encouraged open dialogue. After carefully weighing the pros and cons of each approach, I made a decision that incorporated elements from both viewpoints.

Result: The decision I made not only resolved the immediate conflict but also led to a stronger sense of collaboration within the team. By valuing input from all team members and making a well-informed decision, we were able to achieve our project objectives efficiently.

4. Communication (Teamwork)

analytical and problem solving

Situation: During a cross-functional project, miscommunication between departments was causing delays and misunderstandings.

Task: My task was to improve communication channels and foster better teamwork among team members.

Action: I initiated regular cross-departmental meetings to ensure that everyone was on the same page regarding project goals and timelines. I also implemented a centralized communication platform where team members could share updates, ask questions, and collaborate more effectively.

Result: Streamlining workflows and improving communication channels led to a 30% reduction in project completion time, saving the company $25,000 in operational costs.

5. Persistence 

Situation: During a challenging sales quarter, I encountered numerous rejections and setbacks while trying to close a major client deal.

Task: My task was to persistently pursue the client and overcome obstacles to secure the deal.

Action: I maintained regular communication with the client, addressing their concerns and demonstrating the value proposition of our product. Despite facing multiple rejections, I remained persistent and resilient, adjusting my approach based on feedback and market dynamics.

Result: After months of perseverance, I successfully closed the deal with the client. By closing the major client deal, I exceeded quarterly sales targets by 25%, resulting in a revenue increase of $250,000 for the company.

Tips to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills

Throughout your career, being able to showcase and effectively communicate your problem-solving skills gives you more leverage in achieving better jobs and earning more money .

So to improve your problem-solving skills, I recommend always analyzing a problem and situation before acting.

 When discussing problem-solving with employers, you never want to sound like you rush or make impulsive decisions. They want to see fact-based or data-based decisions when you solve problems.

Don’t just say you’re good at solving problems. Show it with specifics. How much did you boost efficiency? Did you save the company money? Adding numbers can really make your achievements stand out.

To get better at solving problems, analyze the outcomes of past solutions you came up with. You can recognize what works and what doesn’t.

Think about how you can improve researching and analyzing a situation, how you can get better at communicating, and deciding on the right people in the organization to talk to and “pull in” to help you if needed, etc.

Finally, practice staying calm even in stressful situations. Take a few minutes to walk outside if needed. Step away from your phone and computer to clear your head. A work problem is rarely so urgent that you cannot take five minutes to think (with the possible exception of safety problems), and you’ll get better outcomes if you solve problems by acting logically instead of rushing to react in a panic.

You can use all of the ideas above to describe your problem-solving skills when asked interview questions about the topic. If you say that you do the things above, employers will be impressed when they assess your problem-solving ability.

More Interview Resources

  • 3 Answers to “How Do You Handle Stress?”
  • How to Answer “How Do You Handle Conflict?” (Interview Question)
  • Sample Answers to “Tell Me About a Time You Failed”

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About the Author

Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions. Follow on Twitter and LinkedIn .

Read more articles by Biron Clark

About the Contributor

Kyle Elliott , career coach and mental health advocate, transforms his side hustle into a notable practice, aiding Silicon Valley professionals in maximizing potential. Follow Kyle on LinkedIn .

Image of Hayley Jukes

About the Editor

Hayley Jukes is the Editor-in-Chief at CareerSidekick with five years of experience creating engaging articles, books, and transcripts for diverse platforms and audiences.

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5 qualities of a lawyer that make them stand out

Qualities Of A Lawyer That Make Them Stand Out

  • May 22, 2024

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Jennifer Anderson

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There are certain qualities of a lawyer that take them to be truly exceptional. So, you want to be a great lawyer – the kind that stands out among the roughly 1.3 million attorneys practicing in the U.S. today? That is a lofty but worthy goal!

Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true methods that will help you get there. We’ll discuss them in this post.

As you likely already know, to succeed in the legal profession, it’s not enough to know the law. Pretty much everyone who graduates from law school has that down.

The truth is, this is a competitive field where the skills you did not necessarily learn in law school make all the difference. And while there’s no magic formula to becoming a standout lawyer, there are certain things you can work on to help you rise above the rest. 

Let’s dive into the five essential qualities that make a lawyer truly exceptional.

Quality 1: Excellent communication skills

Verbal and written communication are the bread and butter of a lawyer’s daily life.

Indeed, to be a standout lawyer, you must excel at both. On the verbal side, think clear, concise, confident, and persuasive. You need to articulate your points effectively, whether you’re arguing in court or discussing a case with a staff member.

On the written side, your briefs, contracts, and even emails should be sharp, to the point, and free of legalese (unless absolutely necessary). The ability to communicate effectively builds credibility and trust.

It’s not just about talking and writing, however. Listening is equally important. A standout lawyer listens to clients, colleagues, and even opposing counsel to understand their perspectives.

This ability to listen and then communicate effectively is what makes you not just a lawyer, but a great lawyer.

Quality 2: Strong analytical and problem-solving skills

Being a lawyer is a bit like playing chess or driving on an LA freeway – you always need to be thinking several moves ahead. Analytical and problem-solving skills are at the heart of this.

When a client walks into your office with a legal issue, your job is to dissect the problem, find applicable laws, and craft a solution.

Strong analytical skills involve breaking down complex information into manageable parts. You should be able to identify key issues, analyze relevant cases, statutes, or regulations, and understand how those laws apply to specific situations.

It’s a blend of legal knowledge and critical thinking that allows you to spot patterns and connections that others might miss.

Problem-solving skills come into play when you’re faced with a legal puzzle that doesn’t have an obvious solution. This is where creativity and innovation matter.

A standout lawyer isn’t afraid to use creat i vity in order to find solutions that work for their clients. Whether it’s negotiating a settlement, crafting a unique legal strategy, or finding a loophole that benefits your client, the ability to solve problems is what sets you apart.

Quality 3: Adaptability and resilience

Laws are amended, technology evolves, and the demands on lawyers are constantly shifting. To stand out in this whirlwind, adaptability and resilience are three qualities of a lawyer that cannot be undervalued.

Adaptability means being open to new ideas, willing to learn, and flexible in your approach. Whether it’s embracing new technology to streamline your workflow or adapting to changing client needs, lawyers who can roll with the punches have a distinct advantage.

An adaptable lawyer is also more likely to find innovative solutions to legal problems because they’re not confined to traditional ways of thinking.

Resilience, on the other hand, is all about bouncing back from setbacks. The legal world can be tough – rulings don’t always go your way, clients can be demanding, and the workload can be intense.

A standout lawyer doesn’t let these challenges get them down. Instead, they view setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow. Sometimes, that even means maintaining a positive attitude when everything inside of you wants to scream and kick things.

For attorneys, work-life balance is a key component of resilience. Finding time for personal pursuits, family, friends, and relaxation helps maintain mental health and keeps burnout at bay.

Remember, you can’t be a standout lawyer if you’re running on fumes. And if all else fails, a little humor goes a long way. Sometimes, the best way to deal with stress is to laugh at it.

Quality 4: Strong ethics and integrity

In law, your reputation is everything. Clients, colleagues, judges, and even opposing attorneys must be able to trust you. This is where strong ethics and integrity come into play.

A lawyer who adheres to high ethical standards and who demonstrates integrity and civility will always stand out from the crowd.

As you well know, ethics in the legal profession cover a wide range of issues, from maintaining client confidentiality to avoiding conflicts of interest.

A standout lawyer is meticulous about following ethical guidelines and ensuring their actions are above reproach. This means being transparent with clients, respecting the rules of professional conduct , and avoiding even the appearance of impropriety.

Integrity is about doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. It’s about being honest with clients, colleagues, the court, and yourself . Lawyers with integrity build lasting relationships and a strong professional reputation.

They are the ones who can be trusted to act in their clients’ best interests, even when it’s not the easiest or most profitable path.

Ethical dilemmas are inevitable in the legal profession, and it’s how a lawyer handles them that sets them apart. A lawyer with strong ethics and integrity doesn’t cut corners or bend the rules to win a case.

Nor do they let their colleagues do so on their watch. Instead, they find creative yet ethical solutions to legal problems. And while integrity might not make headlines, it’s a quality that earns respect and admiration.

Quality 5: Relationship-building skills

The ability to form meaningful relationships with clients, colleagues, and other professionals can open doors and create opportunities that might otherwise remain closed.

Relationship-building starts with treating people with respect and kindness. A standout lawyer understands that every interaction is an opportunity to make a positive impression.

This doesn’t mean being insincere or overly polite – it means being genuine, listening actively, and showing empathy. Clients, in particular, appreciate lawyers who take the time to understand their needs and make them feel valued.

Networking is the art of creating a professional web of connections. Lawyers who network effectively often find that it leads to new clients, collaborations, career opportunities, and friendships.

The key is to approach networking with a sense of curiosity and a genuine interest in others. Whether you’re attending a legal conference or grabbing coffee with a colleague, the goal is to build relationships that are mutually beneficial.

Importantly, strong relationship-building and networking skills aren’t just about you. They can also lead to better teamwork. Law is rarely a solo endeavor, and a standout lawyer knows how to work effectively with others.

This includes collaborating with colleagues on cases, seeking mentorship from experienced lawyers, and working with opposing counsel to reach a settlement. A lawyer who can build bridges is more likely to succeed in the long run.

The best part about networking is that it doesn’t have to be boring. Some of the best connections are made at happy hours, industry events, or casual lunches. So, don’t be afraid to show a little personality and use humor to break the ice.

After all, nobody wants to network with someone who’s all business and no fun.

The qualities of a lawyer that you must emulate to be great require more than just legal knowledge; it demands a combination of excellent communication skills, strong analytical and problem-solving abilities, adaptability and resilience, unwavering ethics and integrity, and exceptional relationship-building capabilities.

These qualities distinguish standout lawyers in a competitive field. As you work to develop these traits, remember that it is a continuous journey of learning and growth.

Embrace each challenge as an opportunity to refine your skills, and maintain a balance between professional and personal life to sustain your passion and prevent burnout.

This may seem like a simple list, but people spend their entire careers trying to hone these skills. Be patient with yourself, tackle them one at a time if necessary, and just do everything you can to be great. You got this!

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Analysis of Student’s Mathematical Problem Solving Ability on HOTS Questions at MTS Ar-Raudhatul Hasanah Medan

  • Mara Samin Lubis Universitas Islam Negeri Sumatera Utara
  • Ahmad Nijar Rangkuti Universitas Islam Negeri Syahada Padangsidimpuan

This research aims to analyze students' mathematical problem solving abilities in Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) on lines and angles. The research method used was descriptive analytical with the research subjects being class VIII students at MTs Ar-Raudhatul Hasanah Medan. Data was collected through a mathematical problem solving test with a focus on the HOTS aspect, namely providing a series of HOTS questions specifically designed to explore students' skills in dealing with complex aspects of Lines and Angles. The research results show that students show various levels of proficiency in solving complex problems that require critical thinking and in-depth understanding of line and angle material and that most students still experience difficulty in answering questions that require the application of HOTS. The implication of this research is to improve the mathematics curriculum at MTs Ar-Raudhatul Hasanah Medan by including more HOTS elements. This may include improvements to curriculum structure, emphasis on HOTS concepts, and integration of teaching methods that support the development of high-level problem solving

Afikah, A., Rohaeti, E., Jumadi, J., & Perdana, R. (2023). Student’s higher-order thinking skills and collaboration skills in online learning during pandemic. International Journal of Evaluation and Research in Education, 12(1), 23–33. https://doi.org/10.11591/ijere.v12i1.23797

Amilia, N. D., & Rahaju, E. B. (2022). Kemampuan Berpikir Analitis Siswa SMA Pada Pemecahan Masalah Matematika Ditinjau Dari Gaya Kognitif Visualizer dan Verbalizer. MATHEdunesa, 11(2), 404–418. https://doi.org/10.26740/mathedunesa.v11n2.p404-418

Arifuddin, A. (2019). Students’ Critical and Creative Thinking Skills on Mathematics Learning in Madrasah Ibtidaiyah. AULADUNA: Jurnal Pendidikan Dasar Islam, 6(1), 38. https://doi.org/10.24252/auladuna.v6i1a5.2019

Bakry, B., & Bin Bakar, M. N. (2015). The Process of Thinking among Junior High School Student in Solving HOTS Question. International Journal of Evaluation and Research in Education (IJERE), 4(3), 138. https://doi.org/10.11591/ijere.v4i3.4504

Brookhart, S. M. (2010). How to Assess Higher-Order Thinking Skills in Your Slassroomin Your Classroom. ASCD.

Cahyani, L. N., Shodiq, L. J., & Agustin, D. R. (2022). Kemampuan Literasi Matematika Siswa dalam Memecahkan Soal TIMMS Konten Aljabar Ditinjau dari Pengetahuan Metakognitif. Journal Focus Action of Research Mathematic (Factor M), 5(1), 31–51. https://doi.org/10.30762/f_m.v5i1.646

Conklin, W. (2012). Strategies for Developing Higher-Order Thinking Skills, Grades 6-12. CA: Shell Educational Publishing.

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