Questions and Tools for Analytical and Critical Thinking

In the past, developing critical thinking was why people learned subjects like Latin. A heavy emphasis on structured thought patterns, like memorizing poetry, learning a musical instrument, or creative writing of essays, forms your mind to enable critical thinking. The mind stretches around such structures, allowing you to imagine and consider things outside of the rules and forms that you are learning.

Analytical thinking, on the other hand, describes patterns of thought that draw conclusions from our study. Studying the scientific method is one way in which analytical thinking has traditionally been taught. Other examples include planting a garden, caring for or training animals, and (oddly enough) playing video games. These practical applications of lessons learned from critical thinking reflect our ability to translate abstract knowledge into everyday life.

While the path to learning both analytical and critical thinking skills should start in school and at home, some people may not have had those advantages. Perhaps they didn’t learn well in a traditional environment, weren’t that interested, or didn’t have the opportunity to develop as they would have liked to at some point.

No matter what the past holds, each of us can work on our thinking skills in the present. Here are some questions, practices, and tools that you can use today to develop your thinking skills.

Apply Your Analytical and Critical Thinking Skills

Throughout our daily lives as working professionals, we encounter situations that require decision-making skills. Some are quite simple, such as whether to buy spinach or romaine at the grocery store or how to organize your day planner before a busy week. However, there are many more situations that call for a deeper and more active consideration of factors, information, people, and results. When it comes to these important decisions, it’s a wise idea to utilize both critical and analytical thinking. We know from previous blogs that we define analytical thinking as a process of breaking down all pertinent information into smaller chunks and using logic and linear thinking to make a choice. Critical thinking, on the other hand, goes further by including consideration of more abstract ideas like bias, opinion, and outside information to draw a more informed conclusion.

Both approaches can be effective, and sometimes even play off of one another. So, how can you decide whether starting with analytical or critical thinking will work best for a particular decision? Below are a few scenarios that demonstrate how either mindset can assist in your day-to-day life, using our very own Alpha Kappa Psi as a foundation for these theoretical situations.

Analytical and Critical Thinking Explained

From games in the app stores that hone your thinking skills to professionals agreeing about the frequent need for critical thinking in the workplace, most people think that the upswing in analytical and critical thinking is a good thing that can even be fun.

What do these terms actually mean? How do you develop these skills? And how do they apply in everyday life?

Let’s start with definitions and work our way up to the application of these thought processes from the office to the home.

The Definitions

Critical thinking is the art of thinking well and improving the art of thinking. This is the kind of thinking that drives people to the top of Everest, around the world, and creates such things as Wikipedia. Today, it is often associated with thinking about hard problems or questions that really don’t have answers.

Analytical thinking, on the other hand, is a specific subset of thinking that is concerned with finding the solutions. Examples include the development of gear suited for the extreme conditions of Everest, faster and better traveling methods, and the actual answers that Wikipedia collects. A great example of this is the scientific method.

Because it is a subset of skills, you may find analytical thinking grouped under the term critical thinking. This is similar to comparing consumer math to math. However, for the purposes of this breakdown, the focus will be on critical thinking as it relates to theory and analytical thinking as it relates to practicality.

Critical and Analytical Thinking At Work

The office is one of the best places to practice critical and analytical thinking, with a few caveats. No one really appreciates a smarty-pants and most people have had the (dis) pleasure of dealing with someone like that. Think twice and speak once.

With that out of the way, critical thinking works best in situations and roles where you are planning for the long term. Examples include forecasting where a project should go using what you know now, looking for a better vendor or tool to implement in the office, or considering a department or career change.

Analytical thinking fills in the steps one takes to bring the theory to life. Creating a budget for a new project, testing a vendor or implementing a new tool, and researching where you would want to work next are all ways that analytical thinking would apply to critical considerations.

Critical and Analytical Thinking With Friends

With friends, it can be more difficult to think at all, depending on the friendship in question. How long you have known each other and what you do together can influence your thought process about them. This can get in the way of any sort of thinking, let alone strenuous thinking!

However, analytical and critical thinking can still be done. Examples, where critical thinking can help in a friendship (or just on a night out), include planning the agenda together, making sure that you choose something that most of you will enjoy, and coming up with new places and experiences to try.

Analytical thinking kicks in (again) on the execution side of the equation, like calling to make reservations, remembering everyone’s dietary restrictions, or coordinating the carpool. Sometimes in a friend group, one more analytical thinker will come to the front to finish things up. Give your friend a hand when they need one because ideas come all the time, but experiences do not.

Critical and Analytical Thinking With Family

Depending on the type of family, siblings, fur babies, parents, and a thousand other factors, a family can be one of the toughest situations in which to use critical and analytical thinking.

The major upside of using critical thinking with members of your family is that it can help you consider the why behind old and new issues, situations, and unexpected new challenges that can crop up. Critical thinking enables you to look at a situation from different perspectives to make the best conclusion. Family provides us with a wide range of experience to draw from and can help us consider options we might not naturally. Where the analysis enters is in choosing to apply this insight. Thinking analytically can also help us stay focused on our goals with our family, instead of falling back into old emotional habits.

Critical and analytical thinking skills aren’t the easiest to acquire. In some cases, they can be some of the hardest skills to deploy when you want to. But just like any other skill, you must know what it is and how to practice it. You’ve got this.

What is Servant Leadership?

 

In the world of business, there are few personal characteristics more important than strong and effective leadership. While managers may like to believe they’re all set in that department, statistics have shown that employees may not be so confident. According to a study performed by Brandon Hall’s State of Leadership, though the most resources are dedicated to leadership development, 71 percent of companies do not feel their leaders are able or capable of leading them into the future. With this insight in mind, it’s no surprise industries are looking for a new approach to leadership. Many organizations have found success by turning to the concept of servant leadership. This concept places emphasis on serving individuals, as opposed to seeking out business goals or benchmarks. But how does this process work, and what applications might it have at work, with friends, or family?

Though the definition is generally ambiguous, many thought leaders have gone on to provide their take on what exactly makes up the servant leader. Larry Spear, who served as president of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, outlined ten significant characteristics for these types of considerate and selfless leaders. Let’s take a look to see what these characteristics look like and how they apply to work, friends, and family.

Different Leadership Styles Compared to Servant Leadership

What makes a leader great? People have wildly different answers to that question. While there may not be one black and white answer, we can certainly look at the most common types of leaders and see what makes them so effective. In 2000, Daniel Goleman did a study on leadership styles that garnered the best results while taking emotional intelligence into account. Four of the leadership styles resulted in positive impacts on the workplace environment. Let’s take a look at these types of leaders and see how they might improve further with the application of some servant leader concepts.