By Dr Eugene Brink
According the World Economic Forum, analytical skills will be the most critical skills for workers by 2025. This finding is echoed by various other credible experts and organisations.
In fact, nobody would disagree that it will be one of the most sought-after skills in the future, but what does it entail and how do we hone them? “Learning to analyse situations applies to all aspects of life. When it comes to the workplace, employers want to know that you’re able to think on your feet, solve complex problems and gather information to make rational decisions and consider your next step,” claims the Indeed editorial team.
Academic and author Dr Rafis Abazov says there are as many definitions of analytical skills as there are application areas. “Sometimes, it is an ability to collect, visualise and analyse information, see the bigger picture or trend behind facts. In other cases, it is an ability to take big pieces of information, or the ‘big picture’ of a situation, and deconstruct them to identify the details, as well as the systematic trends or links, which bring them together.”
Now that the broad outline of analytical skills has been established, let’s turn to improving them so that they have value for you and your employer. There are myriad ways in which this can be done and none of them is out of reach, but they will require extra effort.
First, read more broadly and frequently and listen to thought-provoking podcasts. “An excellent way to start expanding your analytical skills is through the power of the written word. Indeed, the more you expose yourself to different ideas, the more you’ll increase your own cognitive abilities,” says career expert Joanna Zambas.
But, she says, it’s no good skimming over pages. “When reading a book, magazine or article, you should think about the overall plot, take note of each character in the story and think about other possible scenarios. This will stimulate your thinking and force you to test your logic, and broaden your imagination.”
She recommends listening to podcasts such as Developer Tea, Broken Brain, Applying Awareness and TED Radio Hour. “All of which will give you valuable tips for stimulating creativity and challenging your thoughts and ideas – ultimately helping you enhance your mental capacity.”
Asking good questions works hand-in-glove with reading. Hence, expressing curiosity leads to the discovery of different viewpoints and allows you to view your own and others’ opinions more critically. Feedback could offer a new answer that was not originally expected.
Upping your analytical prowess may not be rocket science, but it is mathematics. According to the Indeed team, mathematics involves solving an equation sequentially to reach an answer. “Because all forms of mathematics are highly logical, sharpening your mathematical skills is a great way to refine your analytical skills.”
Third, simply be more observant. This may sound simple, but in a world brimming with distractions it is a skill in short supply. This allows us to be cognisant of how things work and interact and see the patterns that are not obvious to the cursory eye.
The age-old adage of practice makes perfect is perfectly applicable to analytical skills. “These skills should be developed through regular exercises – from ‘mind games’ like Sudoku and chess and computer strategy games, to academic studies where a student evaluates different pieces of information for identifying trends and strategies,” says Abazov.
Indeed Editorial Team, 10 February 2021, “10 ways to improve your analytical skills”, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/improve-analytical-skills.
Joanna Zambas, 2 April 2021, “15 ways to improve your analytical thinking skills”, https://www.careeraddict.com/5-surprisingly-simple-ways-to-improve-your-analytical-thinking-skills.
Rafis Abazov, 14 April 2021, “How to improve your analytical skills”, https://www.topuniversities.com/blog/how-improve-your-analytical-skills.
World Economic Forum, 2020, “The Future of Jobs Report 2020”, http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2020.pdf.