Building analytical skills for more effective companies

What use is it in today’s world to have good analytical skills, when a computer will always have higher efficiency and power.

The unstoppable development of algorithms and technological tools, in general, has made it possible to computerize many work processes and services, making it possible to replace people with machines. This is especially true in many logical and computational activities. Computer-controlled equipment has thus replaced workers in a wide range of jobs consisting of what the OECD, in Future of Education and Skills 2030 defines as “routine tasks” – that is, tasks that follow well-defined procedures that can be easily expressed in computer code.

Without diving into the complexity of the issue related to the substitutability of humans in the workplace and the ethical and social issues involved, this is interesting because indeed one might think that human analytical skills are becoming less and less relevant and necessary in the future workplace. In reality, these are skills that not only remain crucial but of strategic relevance for businesses. Not only for technical profiles, specialized for example in data analysis and programming, but in general to face more efficiently and skillfully the daily professional challenges within organizations.

Analytical skills: what are they?

To understand this, we must first clarify what analytical skills are. “Analysis” derives from the Greek “to deconstruct, to break down” therefore it refers to an idea of splitting something into its components, thus into smaller parts. It has to do with a methodical approach to classification that allows fragmenting complex situations or problems into simpler and more manageable components. Therefore, analysis is also closely related to the ability to solve problems effectively.

Already from these short definitions, we can understand how then it is a complex skill, or better a set of different skills connected. It includes first of all:

  • Exploration for meaningful research;
  • Data selection and processing;
  • Retrieving knowledge from collected data;
  • Development of effective solutions.

An effective analysis does not have to do with just a mere breakdown, but rather with a conscious and targeted “reading” of the components, aimed at:

  • Grasping the details, the nuances, the different points of view, the possible implications, and the potentials of the circumstances that one gradually finds oneself managing;
  • Obtaining a deeper and more truthful understanding of the situation, one is facing.
  • Further formulating a significant and careful description of the situation, organizing and connecting elements to each other.
  • Discovering the underlying logic leads to the identification of new elements, unnoticed at first glance, and the generation of innovative and original connections between them; to make better and more appropriate choices.

It is therefore a matter of “looking” at the data and determining which information is relevant and should be taken into consideration, and which information is irrelevant and can therefore be discarded and ignored. It is not, therefore, passive and indifferent perception of data, but an active and intentional collection of information of interest from time to time, aimed at narrowing the field of attention. It also involves the interpretation of information: finding meaning in it, giving different means by taking on different views.

Described in this way, the ability to analyze is not limited to the ability to calculate, nor to the sphere of pure logic. It has less to do with standardized procedures, rigidly programmed, in which the steps are predefined, but more to do with the management of unpredictability; precisely because it requires and allows one to know how to enter the situation in question and recognize the significant aspects from a 360-degree angle.

Analysis of today’s organizations

Precisely for this reason, the capacity for analysis becomes fundamental in contemporary organizations: on the one hand, to be able to manage the complexity of today’s work readily and competently, and on the other, to maintain a balance within it without becoming overwhelmed and succumbing to it.

The excess of stimuli to which people are subjected daily, even at work, the constant changes and updates they have to face so that what works one day may become obsolete the next, make it difficult to maintain focus and concentration. Training analysis allows managers not to disperse their attention but to keep focused on the objectives and aspects that are relevant from time to time, to make targeted and effective decisions in the least amount of time possible.

The great unpredictability of the current scenario, which poses constant different and innovative challenges, due to sudden and unexpected changes, increasingly requires the development of innovative strategies in new conditions. It becomes important to abandon pre-established patterns, which are no longer valid: flexibility is required, the ability to question procedures, even the most consolidated, and to make decisions in the absence of a predefined path.

It emerges how, described in this way, analysis is a tool for discovering and deciphering useful information for business decision-making. Having people who are willing to learn this skill is key. A strong capacity for analysis means a higher quality of performance and consequently greater effectiveness; in fact, it means solving complex problems, innovating, and therefore, more efficient organizations, both internally and externally.

As we have said, analysis is thus closely linked to problem-solving, decision-making, flexibility, creativity, and innovation. All of these skills, and especially perhaps the last three, are very ” humane “.

So, while it is true that certain processes can be speeded up thanks to the intervention of AI, it remains essential for people within organizations to train analytical skills. Technological tools can undoubtedly play a significant supporting role in increasing the effectiveness of human analytics to facilitate certain steps.

As a 2018 study recounts, human analytical capacity is a key skill for making appropriate decisions, which impacts the performance of companies: differences in analytical skills result in differences in the companies’ productivity.

In this regard, however, as CIA veteran Richard J. Heuer Jr. argues, “Thinking analytically is a skill like carpentry or driving a car. It can be taught, it can be learned, and it can improve with practice. But like many other skills, like riding a bicycle, it is not learned by sitting in a classroom and being told how to do it. Analysts learn by doing.” In this sense, getting into practical training, and putting into action what are the observable behaviors of analysis, allows you to fortify this skill.

For a good analysis, however, another aspect is also important: physical well-being. To perform and think better, in general, a “healthy” brain is necessary, even more so for more rational tasks, in which a lot of concentration and focus are needed – such as analysis. Well-being and physical health are therefore fundamental conditions for a good ability to analyze: adopting certain behaviors, such as eating healthy, sleeping a sufficient number of hours, taking a few moments of leisure to distract oneself, doing sports and exercising, allows one to find the energy and the necessary concentration to have a clear vision of the situation and arrive at an effective, focused and productive analysis.



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