8 min read

How to Develop Analytical Skills

How to Develop Analytical Skills
Photo by Jefferson Santos / Unsplash

I don’t know about you, but I usually find myself on a Youtube rabbit hole watching video essays from “A Brief History of the Culture Wars” to “Hayao Miyazaki | The Mind of a Master” and one thing that always pops into mind while watching them is, how? How do they tell the story in such a great way? How did they come up with all of this? How do they do their research? Where do they get their data from? How do they use that data? Reading those questions that I asked now, I don’t know how it took me this long to get to the answers. It’s simple, they practiced. For some reason, it never clicked for me, that just like our body muscles grow with each rep, so can thinking. After all, the brain is a muscle that needs practice as well to improve.

Now you might be thinking, What do video essays have anything to do with data analytics? And to you, I say, everything! All the steps those creators take is similar to the data analysis process. They start off by asking a question, researching, gathering and preparing data, they analyze it, form a narrative, and present it to the viewer in an easy digestible format, and that’s exactly what data analysts do, so given that I’m on this data journey, I need to develop both my analytical thinking and story telling skills. So here’s what we’ll be exploring in this article.

👥 Others suggestions regarding developing analytical skills

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, such as riding a bike, it is not learned by sitting in a classroom and being told how to do it. Analysts learn by doing. - Richard J. Heuer Jr.

Richard pointes out the importance of this skill and how one must learn by doing, and that can be just it, just analyze data. That’s the best advice for anything which is as Nike aptly adopted as their tagline, just do it. You can just stop reading right now, because you have all that you need to develop your skill, but I’d appreciate it if you stick around to see how I plan on doing it, and maybe get some treats at the end.

While snooping around the internet, the majority seem to agree that it mostly revolves around continues practice and using the framework of analysis, interpretation, presentation, and evaluations. Okay, great. We already explored the steps in a previous article, but I’m looking for tips, and suggestions here, and well, I came across some that are quite helpful which encourages the following:

  • Consider opposite view points, when looking into a topic or coming up with a hypothesis, don’t just look at it from a single angle (which most likely is your bias) but also consider multiple sides of a problem, try to understand the arguments and the reasoning, evaluate each before picking a solution, also consider what hasn't been considered, because at times there can be unfairness by excluding data from a story.
  • Play games, who’d thought? (My dry sense of humor is creeping up a bit) but obviously using puzzle games, brain teasers, and math problems can help you with logical reasoning and pattern detection, but you can also play all sorts of other games such as card games, board games. strategy games, and video games which also help not only is critical thinking, but also creativity.
  • Take classes, we need to broaden our knowledge and what better way other than to learn from courses that encourages you to build a large knowledge base, also make sure to expand your knowledge (think breadth not depth) Don’t just focus on one subject or genre.
  • Engage with data, explore data, look at it, take all the time you need to think and reflect about all sorts of things. Search for connections, ask yourself questions about why things are the way they are, and just explore and experiment.

These are great suggestions to use in this data journey we are on, so how will I use those tips on how I plan on developing my analytical skills?

🙆🏻‍♀️ How I plan on developing my skills?

I remember asking a friend of mine what she likes most about data analysis? Her answer intrigued me. She said that it made her understand how the world works. That answer haunted me for days. I kept thinking, what does she mean? Don’t we Already know how the world works? How does data analysis have anything to do with what she said? I then concluded that this might be a generic answer one gives when asked about their profession, but I was wrong. It has everything to do with how the world works. While I’m taking this google data analytics course, I understood that it has to deal with everything, after all data is everywhere.

At the beginning, that thought overwhelmed me, but later on, when I understood that, hey, I already analyze without even thinking about it, so what if I can use it and develop it by exploring my interests using a plan. So I decided to do the following to develop my skills:

  • Learn something new, I always go on random tangents about figures, events, and random topics, so what if I turn this into an actual project, but not just go in thread hunts and article readings but use this system that includes
  1. Research the topic, idea, story, and gain a general knowledge about it.
  2. Ask questions, notice what questions come to mind and write them down (I’ll explore good ways to ask question later but for now let's move on), use them to define an idea, hypotheses and then move on to.
  3. Gathering data, be it manually by adding data to a spreadsheet, or by a API and open datasets, just gather what you need and make sure not to get sucked in the trap of “needing more”.
  4. Analyze, I’ve talked about this, but I came across this wikipedia page about analytical skills that I think has some helpful ways to analyze the data.
  5. Communicate my findings, it can be through visuals, but I also plan on discussing it with my sister who’s also in a similar journey to mine (check her blog out she’s much more articulate than I am).
  • Play games, I love games, I play Sudoku, and Blockudoku nonstop, but I’d like to also expand by playing video games again. It’s been a while and I miss it.
  • Read, I feel reading can play a massive role, not only gaining knowledge, but seeing the world from another persons perception of the world. I don’t want to limit it to non-fiction books, rather I want to add mystery, fantasy, as well as, magazines and newsletters.
  • People, what better way to learn other from people who are in the field, or are also learning. I don’t know much about who exists out there, but I plan on looking into authority figures, influencers, and groups. If you know any, please share them with me on twitter  🙏🏼
  • Write, which is what I am doing right here in this site. Writing will help me solidify my learning, share, and maybe who knows, maybe I’d get to be one of those authority figures and even perhaps  get to collaborate with others (a girl can dream).

Now that I have a plan on what I’ll be doing, I need a way to actually track my development, don’t I?

📊 How to track progress

You can't improve what you don't measure. - Peter Drucker

If I plan on developing a skill, I need a way to track it. But how can one track thinking? It’s a bit tricky, given how subjective it is, and above all… based on what attributes?

I kept thinking about this, and some questions that crept up while thinking of attributes were

  • Do I measure facts or base it on intuition?
  • What research do I use or rather how I do the research? Do I ask for help when I need to, and whom?
  • Should I Brainstorm questions and solutions? But what if one project is all about observations?
  • How do I make decisions on how to move forward?
  • Do I reflect on my decision making skills after, and if so, how does it affect my future decisions?

I decided to go with these attributes, Research, from how I conduct it, the resources I use, how fast I get. Creativity, the questions asked, the connections made, and analysis conducted. Storytelling, the best part is brining all the data together to tell the story, I can use text, graphs, and a narrative. Design, this is extra, I love design and it also plays a role in the displaying of data.

With the attributes all set, now I need to determine where I stand at the moment:











Now I’ve set the attributes to track, where I stand in the moment, and now I need to add a deadline to check back and see if I change my stance so, I’ll check in after 6 months which will be on April 30th 2023. Okay, I’m both nervous and excited. Nervous, because it’s public now, I stated my goal and must be accountable for the outcome. Excited, well obviously will be learning a lot and I’m a life long learner so lets go~

🍬 Treats

I love it when people give me recommendations, it always feels like a treat, especially when it turns out to be great. I hope to do the same here. I plan on reading and listening to a couple of things of which I want to share with you, so let’s start with books.

Books I plan to read

  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer
  • A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley
  • Upstream by Dan Heath
  • How the World Really Works by Vaclav Smil
  • Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Websites I plan to visit

Podcast I plan to listen

🎯 Takeaways

There’s only one way to improve in anything, and that bottles down to just doing it. However you do need a plan, a way to track your progress, and ways to supplement your learning and all that put together with with action will get you there. I hope my approach is helpful to you, or if you think you have a better approach, or some recommendations for me, please do share.