The step-by-step process of how information becomes ideas – the Information Chain – is one way to define ‘analytical thinking.’
As I mentioned in my last post, turning data into insight sounds easy in theory, but in reality, it’s a complex and difficult skill to learn, do or teach. Anyone who’s ever spent time in a classroom can appreciate that each student learns and applies information differently.
Principles of Analytical Thinking
That said, there are some principles of analytical thinking which help to make the research portion more efficient. When the research is conducted in the right way, the brainstorm at the end of the Information Chain becomes more efficient too.
- Start with a specific objective or goal, preferably one linked to the business or communications objective.
- Always conduct research using quality information. A search on Google, Yahoo or Wikipedia might be a place to start, but it is not the research itself. The best research comes from a source that can be verified for accuracy.
- If you’re not sure where to start, begin by researching the history of the topic or issue. What context created the current state of affairs?
- Research should always include information gathered as directly as possible from the target audiences involved. This should go without saying, but do not guess.
- I fully appreciate people have less time than more, but it’s preferable to have more information than less so you can judge it in context.
Insights come from knowledge, not just information. How often do we rush through the knowledge phase because we don’t have time? Simply reading a document – but not allowing your brain to synthesize it – will not give you substance. You’ll fall victim to the cliché ‘garbage in, garbage out.’