What is the difference? And why does it matter?
First, let’s define both. In the simplest of terms, analytical thinking is the process of coming to a conclusion by analyzing a “whole” or complete part to decipher meaning through the separation of that part. Melting down steel to identify its chemical ingredients, or breaking open a pecan to see what kind of nut is inside would be good examples of analytical thinking. We seek knowledge by separating the whole.
On the other hand, synthetical thinking involves gaining knowledge through the process of combining individual parts. A jury, for instance, may not have been at the scene of the crime when the defendant allegedly committed the murder. However, through synthetical thinking, they are able to piece together the various testimonies, forensics and other evidence to reach a conclusion. The same holds true during the development cycle of new products. No one really knows whether the item is going to sell. However, combining many pieces of critical evidence such as consumer trends, competitive market share, available financing and organizational competencies produce a “synthetical probability” for success or failure.
Innovation of a new machine is synthetical. Pinpointing why the machine is not operating correctly is analytical. Both methods are critical to the entrepreneur, but at different times. Sometimes the owner may be trying to choose the right individual to oversee a particular project. Unaware of the different applications of thinking, he or she might engage in the wrong approach. It would be easy to start analyzing the potential candidates rather than engaging in a synthetical process which considers individual competencies, along with the goals and objectives at hand. You don’t want to analyze the person as much as you want to bring together all the pieces so that you might visualize the big picture and potential interactions within. On the other hand, if a certain individual gets the job and sales bottom out, you want to analyze or tear down each step in the process to see where the person and/or the system went awry. Synthetical thinking located Osama bin Laden. Analytical thinking explained why only one helicopter came back.
You should keep in mind synthetical thinking produces a result that is greater than the sum of all the parts. For instance, a tire, engine and steering wheel are not “individually” capable of taking you to the supermarket. Only when these components are combined do we realize the necessary benefits of transportation, benefits that far exceed the capability of each part.
Team collaboration is like that. The contribution of each team member far exceeds the capabilities of the individuals. A powerful “synthetical profile” will emerge that, otherwise, would have been unavailable to you as you sat in your office, stressing over the details without including others. Synthesis is good for you and the entire organization. Use it whenever you can.
Finally, if you haven’t already used synthetical thinking to piece together the evidence and figure it out, the butler did. He’s the one out in the warehouse stealing you blind.