Whatever your age or stage, it’s never a bad time to refine your reasoning skills.  In grade school, where there’s an expectation of growth and learning, great emphasis is placed on developing this ability.  But in adulthood, where that expectation is often overshadowed by the need to produce and perform, it’s easy to set creative reasoning aside in favor of preestablished routines and formulas.

By strengthening your reasoning ability, though, you will be able to make more measured decisions in your personal life, and you will become a greater asset on a professional level.  Today especially, organizations need individuals who are able to employ solid reasoning in reimagining the status quo and striving for relevance in a post-pandemic economy.

Below are several pointers on how to hone your reasoning skills in your professional problem-solving:

Get to the root.

Whenever you’re faced with a dilemma, make every effort to home in on its source: What is ultimately at the root of the problem?  Can the problem be linked to a single cause, or does it have numerous, converging causes?  Answering these questions correctly is vital to finding an effective solution.  If you don’t, then any fix that you implement will be like putting a band-aid on the symptoms rather than treating the disease itself.  The symptoms are bound to resurface as long as the disease goes unaddressed.

  • Be sure to check your blind spots. What assumptions are you bringing to the table that might hinder, rather than help, your understanding of the problem?  It’s important that you exercise self-awareness and consider multiple perspectives as you diagnose the issue. 

Consider various courses of action.

In light of what you’ve determined to be the problem, what would you propose as a solution?  There could be several possibilities, each of them feasible and beneficial in its own way.

  • Weigh the potential pros and cons of each proposition. Which one do you perceive to have the greatest net-positive effect – in other words, the highest ratio of pros to cons?  Doing a true cost-benefit analysis will help you to move toward the solution that’s most advantageous. 

Collect data.

Once you’ve contemplated the pros and cons, do research to see how each solution has fared elsewhere.  You’ve done the theory work – now what do your proposed solutions look like in practice?

  • Do some ideas stand out in the brainstorming phase, only to underperform when they’re actually implemented? And conversely, do some propositions underwhelm on paper, but then exceed expectations in reality?  It’s wise to seek out examples of real-world application before setting things in motion. 

Analyze before executing.

You’ll have started this process at the cost-benefit stage, but now, having gathered practical data, do a more involved analysis.  Anticipate objections to your proposed solution.

  • What are areas of weakness, and how do you plan to manage them? How will you gauge the success of your solution?  What would it look like for you to pivot after you’ve encountered a roadblock to your original plan?  In order to articulate informed answers to these questions, you will have to employ sharp, sound reasoning.

Implement your solution.

Using your reasoning skills, you’ve gotten to the root of the problem; considered the pros and cons of various responses; studied real-world applications of your solution; and identified potential obstacles and vulnerabilities.  All that’s left at this point is to execute.

  • As you do so, continually evaluate the effectiveness of your solution. Are you noticing any shortcomings or drawbacks right off the bat?  If so, put those critical-thinking skills to use in formulating an early course-correction.

Give Me a Reason

Taking steps to sharpen your reasoning skills has countless benefits, particularly in how it expands your capacity for creative problem-solving.  As you follow the suggestions above, you will grow in your ability to assess issues accurately, devise thoughtful solutions, and then put them into practice!