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How often do you think about thinking? For most of us, the answer would probably be, “not very.” As we manage our lives and do our jobs, we tend to employ different approaches to thinking without really being aware of it. For the most part, that works.

However, the times keep on changing and it’s becoming increasingly important for us to be more conscious of how we think, and to develop our thinking skills. This is especially important if you work in a Learning & Development because you’re also responsible for developing those skills in others and helping them succeed in this changing world.

What is analytical thinking?

Analytical thinking breaks down complex issues or concepts into smaller, more digestible pieces.

It is a logical process to solve problems in various aspects of life, including science, technology, society, business, and management. Unlike critical thinking, analytical thinking involves focusing on oneself to analyze an issue rather than looking outside of oneself to assess a problem. The core activities of analytical thinking include concentrating on facts and evidence, analyzing data or information, dissecting data/information, reasoning, partitioning and breakdown, eliminating extraneous data, and analyzing trends. With analytical thinking, individuals can approach complex problems logically and well-informedly.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is an objective process of examining and evaluating an issue to form a judgment. It involves questioning, analyzing, and evaluating the facts and figures presented to make judgments based on these and other inputs. Critical thinking requires reasoning and being an active learner rather than a passive recipient of information. Critical thinkers identify, analyze and solve problems systematically rather than by intuition or instinct. It is a crucial process that helps individuals develop a deeper understanding of an issue or situation and make more informed decisions.


Imagine you’re trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle. Analytical thinking would involve breaking the puzzle into smaller pieces and examining each piece to understand how it fits into the overall picture. For example, you might start by looking for edge pieces or pieces with distinct colors or patterns to help guide your analysis. On the other hand, critical thinking involves evaluating each part of the puzzle to determine its importance and relevance to the overall picture. For example, you might critically assess each piece’s shape, color, and pattern to decide where it fits best in the puzzle.

To build the puzzle logically and efficiently, you might also critically evaluate the relationship between pieces, such as how they connect or overlap. So, while critical thinking and analytical skills are vital in solving a puzzle (or any complex problem), they involve different approaches to understanding and solving the problem.

How to develop a critical thinking and analytical mind?

Acquiring critical thinking and analytical thinking skills requires consistent practice and exploration. Here are 10 ways to develop critical thinking and analytical skills:

  • Ask questions: Ask questions to clarify information, evaluate evidence, and challenge assumptions. This helps you better understand the information and think more critically about it

  • Evaluate sources: Practice evaluating the credibility of sources, such as news articles or research studies. This helps you develop a critical eye and avoid being swayed by false information.

  • Practice active listening: When engaging in conversation, try to listen to others and truly understand their perspectives. This helps you to evaluate information objectively and avoid making assumptions.

  • Practice problem-solving: Regularly engage in problem-solving activities like puzzles or brain teasers. This helps you to develop your analytical skills and practice thinking creatively.

  • Practice analyzing data: Analyze data from different sources and identify patterns or trends. This helps you to develop your analytical skills and practice thinking critically about information.

  • Reflect on your thinking: Regularly reflect on your thinking processes and evaluate how you approach problems or make decisions. This helps you identify improvement areas and develop better critical thinking habits.

  • Seek feedback: Ask for feedback from others on your critical thinking and analytical skills. This helps you to identify areas where you can improve and develop new strategies for thinking more critically.

  • Practice decision-making: Practice decision making based on evidence and logical reasoning rather than emotions or biases. This helps you to develop more effective decision-making skills.

  • Engage in a debate: Participate in debates or discussions where you are challenged to defend your position and evaluate opposing arguments. This helps you to practice critical thinking and develop more effective communication skills.

So what’s the point of all this?

Whether you’re using Analytical Thinking or Critical Thinking – or even looking at something generally – you are trying to extract five useful qualities. You want to know if this thing is …

  • Accurate? Is it exact? Factual?

  • Authentic? Is it genuine? Consistent?

  • Objective? Is it free from bias, stereotypes, prejudice and motives?

  • Valid? Is it what it says it is?

  • Worth? What is its price or cost?


Whichever system you use, you might also finish your analytical thinking by asking yourself these questions to spur the next phases of creativity:

  • What’s the key point you learnt?

  • What’s the seminal piece of information?

  • What is now so blindingly obvious that it took all this research to determine?

  • What surprised you most?

  • What would surprise someone else the most?

  • What must the idea demonstrate or ‘do’ above all else?

  • What must happen to engage the audience?

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