Sherlock Holmes, a fictional detective created by Arthur Conan Doyle is literature’s most famous and most iconic detective. First appearing in 1887, the character of Sherlock Holmes continues to enthrall to this day – numerous movies and TV shows continue to be created based on Holmes.
Anyone who has read any of Sherlock Holmes’ stories or watched a TV show based on his character is certainly aware and probably in awe of the detective’s deductive prowess, which initially seems like a superpower until the detective explains the simple reasoning behind his methods. After reading about Holmes, many people are left wishing they could attain similar skills.
Fortunately, deductive reasoning is not a superpower that is exclusive to Sherlock Holmes. It is a skill that anyone can attain, and most of us are quite conversant with deductive reasoning.
What’s more, you don’t need to be a detective like Holmes to make use of your deductive reasoning skills. Deductive reasoning is applied in a wide variety of situations in daily life and is a skill that is highly valued by employers.
Today, we take a look at what exactly deductive reasoning is, why it is valued by employers and how you can show it to employers during your job search.
WHAT IS DEDUCTIVE REASONING?
Deductive reasoning is one of the three major types of reasoning, the others being inductive reasoning and abductive reasoning.
According to the California State University, deductive is a kind of reasoning that starts out with a hypothesis or general statement and then uses this statement to reach a specific, logical conclusion.
Since it moves from the general to the specific, deductive reasoning is sometimes referred to as top down thinking, as opposed to inductive thinking or bottom up thinking, which involves using specific observations to make broad generalizations.
Deductive reasoning follows a series of steps. It begins with a broad but true statement (also referred to as the major premise), then goes on to a more specific but true statement (also known as the minor premise).
From these two premises, a conclusion or inference can then be made. Below is an example of how deductive reasoning works:
Premise 1: All birds have feathers.
Premise 2: Parrots are birds.
From the two statements above, we can correctly conclude that parrots have feathers.
Below is another example.
Premise 1: There is a party at work today.
Premise 2: Alex did not come to work today.
From these two statements, we can correctly conclude that Alex will miss the party.
Deductive reasoning does not leave any room for uncertainty. The conclusion derived from the premises can only be true or false. It cannot be fairly true or fairly false.
If all the premises from which the conclusion is derived are true, and if there is a strong link between the two premises and the conclusion, then the conclusion cannot be false. For example, if all birds have feathers, and a parrot is a bird, there is no way that the parrot cannot have feathers.
Before using deductive reasoning to come to a conclusion, it is important to confirm that the assumptions or premises from which the conclusion is derived are true. If one of the assumptions is not true, the conclusion will also be incorrect. Below is an example.
Premise 1: All men can swim.
Premise 2: Jason is a man.
Conclusion: Jason can swim.
In the above example, the conclusion that Jason can swim is valid but it’s not correct. The major premise is not true since not all men can swim. Therefore, any conclusion derived from this premise will also be false.
Sometimes, a false conclusion can be derived through deductive reasoning if the two premises are unrelated, even if they are true, such as in the example below.
Premise 1: All crows are black.
Premise 2: Arnold is black.
Conclusion: Arnold is a crow.
In the above example, while both premises are true, the conclusion is false since the premises are unrelated.
So, why do employers value deductive reasoning skills? How is deductive reasoning applicable at the workplace?
WORKPLACE APPLICATIONS OF DEDUCTIVE REASONING
There are several situations at the workplace that require a person to use knowledge that is available to gain new knowledge about the situation and then use this knowledge to make decisions to improve the bottom line of the organization.
Below are examples of workplace situations where deductive reasoning might come in handy.
Deductive reasoning can be applied at the workplace to come up with a logical solution to a problem or issue that is affecting the organization. Since deductive problem solving does not leave room for uncertainty, there will be less guesswork, making it easier to come up with better and more innovative solutions and higher cost savings for the organization.
To make it easier to understand how deductive problem solving can be used to solve operational problems, let us consider a situation where an organization has realized that a lot of money is being spent on gas for the delivery truck and is trying to determine how much money it should budget for gas each month.
You can solve such a problem through deductive reasoning as shown below.
- First, you will need to ask several questions in order to come up with assumptions that will be the basis of your deductive reasoning. The questions might include: How many deliveries does the truck make each month? What’s the total number of kilometers traveled by the delivery truck during each trip? How much gas does the truck require per kilometer? Has the number of deliveries been consistent for the last six months?
- Using the answers to your above questions, you have a basis on which you can form a deductive argument. If the truck has been making eight deliveries each month for the last six months, and if the truck covers 50 kilometers during each trip, then you know that the truck covers 400 kilometers each month on average. If the price of gas is $3 per gallon, and if the truck uses a gallon of gas for every five kilometers, then you can conclude that the company should budget around $240 for gas each month. In this case, you have used the answers to form your premises (eight deliveries, 50 kilometers per delivery, $3 per gallon of gas and a gallon of gas for every 5 kilometers), and then used these premises to conclude the amount needed for gas per month.
- To test your conclusion, you should then allocate $240 to gas for the next month and observe whether the gas will be enough for all deliveries within that month. If the gas runs out before the end of the month, then one of your premises was not correct. You will have to readjust the premise, which will in turn give you a different conclusion. If the premises on which you based your conclusion are true, however, then your conclusion will be true, and you will have saved the organization some money.
Addressing Client Issues
Deductive reasoning can also be used to address situations involving clients, especially when the client is open to logical solutions.
Before you embark on using your deductive skills to find a solution to address the client’s issue, you will need to collect information from the client.
This information will form the basis of your premises, from which you can come up with a solid deductive argument. To see how such a scenario would play out, let us consider a situation where a client who has hired the company to develop a comprehensive web-based business solution is unsatisfied with the service he is getting and feels like he made the wrong choice hiring your company.
In such a scenario, you can use deductive reasoning to address the client’s concerns in the manner below.
- The first step is to find out why the client is unsatisfied with the service he is getting. To do this, you might ask questions like: Why are you not satisfied? What can we do to give you the confidence that your project is running smoothly?
- The client might note that he doesn’t know the status of the project or the milestones that have been reached. He is not even sure whether your team is still working on the project. He probably sent an email to a member of the project team and got no feedback.
- Using the information given by the client, you can form two premises. The major premise is that the client is not happy. The minor premise is that the client’s unhappiness stems from the lack of communication by the project team. From this, you can deduce that regular communication between the client and the communication team will keep the client happy.
- Having deducted what is needed to keep the client happy, you can then instruct the leader of the project team to send status reports to the client at the end of every week. Since your solution is based on a deductive argument and supported by the premises, there is a high chance that the solution will be effective and that the client will be more satisfied.
Settling Disputes Between Employees
Deductive reasoning can also come in handy at the workplace if you need to settle a dispute between employees. Since deductive reasoning is based on making conclusions from available knowledge, you will first need to gather information from the quarreling employees and use the information to form the premise of your solution.
Let’s take a situation where two colleagues, Sam and Mike are supposed to send you a report at the end of each week.
However, you have noted that for the past few weeks, they have forgotten to send the report a number of times. You decide to find out why this happens. On confronting the two of them, Sam argues that it is Mike who always forgets to send the report. Mike cuts him short and argues that Sam has also forgotten to send the report a number of times.
Before you realize it, there is a heated argument between the two.
How can you use deductive reasoning to solve such a dispute?
- The first step is to gather information that you can use to form premises on which you will base your solution. You ask Mike and Sam what method they use to decide whose turn it is to send the report each week. You discover that they don’t use any particular method to share the responsibility.
- Using their answer, you form two premises. The first premise is that the two of them often forget to send the report. The second premise is that they forget because they don’t have a method of deciding whose turn it is to send the report. From this, you can infer that if they had a method to decide whose turn it is, they wouldn’t forget to send the report.
- From your conclusion, you decide to come up with a method to share the responsibility. You decide that the last person to leave the office will be responsible for sending the report. This solution is also based on deductive reasoning. Every Friday, one of them will be the last to leave the office. It is the responsibility of the last person to leave the office to send the report. From these two premises, you can deduce that the report will be sent every Friday evening.
From the three examples above, it is clear that deductive reason is an important skill that is quite useful at the workplace.
Therefore, job seekers who possess this skill stand a better chance of getting hired compared to equally qualified candidates who lack the skill.
So, how can you improve your deductive reasoning capabilities, and better yet, how do you show potential employers that you possess this important skill when searching for a job?
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR DEDUCTIVE REASONING SKILLS
Deductive reasoning is a great skill that can prove useful both in your personal life and your professional life. Fortunately, it is not a skill that is restricted to the descendants of Sherlock Holmes.
Anyone can train himself or herself to become good at deductive reasoning.
Most applications of deductive reasoning in your daily life will require you to find new information and combine it with already existing knowledge in order to come up with a conclusion that was not previously obvious to you.
This means that you need to be very perceptive to new information and quite knowledgeable, since you need to relate the new information to some prior knowledge in order to come to a new conclusion.
Below are some tips on how you can improve your deductive reasoning skills:
- Learn to be a good observer: Observation is a very important skill if you want to become good at deductive reasoning, therefore you should make it a habit. Observation helps you gather new information. If you observe anything new, try to analyze and understand it. Always be keen and take time to look at things a second time. For instance, if you work in a customer facing position, try to keenly observe the behavior of customers. Are there any patterns? Are there more customers at certain times compared to others? Do customers order certain goods and services at certain times and not others? Do customers like being served by a certain attendant? Once you make an observation, try to understand the reason behind it. This will help you uncover patterns that were not previously obvious.
- Be curious: Curiosity is one of the best ways of learning new information. If you observe anything you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Curiosity will not only help you to gain new information, it will also motivate you to try and deduce things from the information you already have.
- Increase your knowledge: The more knowledgeable you are, the more likely you are to make connections between different pieces of information and make useful conclusions from the information. Therefore, you should constantly seek to increase you knowledge. Read books. Watch informational videos and documentaries. Listen to podcasts. Keep yourself abreast of trends within your industry. Try to gain as much knowledge as you can, from diverse sources and about different topics.
- Break down problems into small pieces: Often times, we are unable to find solutions to puzzling problems because we tend to overcomplicate issues instead of going for the simple and obvious answers. Part of deductive reasoning involves breaking down knowledge into small pieces (premises) and then trying to see if any inference can be made from these pieces.
- Solve puzzles: Puzzles can also help you improve your deductive reasoning capabilities. Solving puzzles stimulates your brain, triggers changes in your neural pathways and synapses and increases your brain’s neuroplasticity, which in turn improves your ability to become aware of new patterns and to understand relationship between different pieces of information. This is something critical in deductive reasoning. Next time you are commuting to work, solving that crossword puzzle might not only keep you occupied, it might also be helping you to improve your deductive reasoning capabilities.
HOW TO SHOW YOUR DEDUCTIVE REASONING SKILLS TO POTENTIAL EMPLOYERS
Having seen that deductive reasoning is an important skill that is highly valued by employers, it is a sensible thing to show your deductive reasoning skills to potential employers, especially when you are applying for managerial roles that will require you to make important decisions that will influence the performance of the organization.
Question is, how do you highlight this skill without sounding boring and cliché?
Deductive reasoning is a soft skill. Like other soft skills, stating on your resume or cover letter that you “have strong deductive reasoning” skills is not a very effective strategy. Any applicant can say that in their CV.
How do you make the hiring manager believe you?
The key lies in showing that you have the skill, rather than telling about the skill. Hiring managers are not software programs – they don’t rely on keywords. Instead, they connect with stories that showcase your deductive reasoning skills.
When writing your cover letter and resume, you should think about a specific time in your past job experience where you had to apply your deductive reasoning skills.
Write a story about this incident, illustrating how you applied your deductive reasoning skills and the impact this had on the organization.
If possible, use facts and figures to quantify the impact you brought to the organization. Below is an example of how you can do this.
“In my previous job, I was in charge of the marketing team that was responsible for marketing a new service that the company had just launched. The service was mainly targeted at college students. As the one in charge of coming up with a marketing campaign, I made the assumption that all college students use social media. Since our target audience was college students, I deduced that all our target audience uses social media. Using this conclusion, I decided that we would use social media as our major marketing medium. I came up with a social media marketing campaign that resulted in 1200 new subscriptions within a period of one month.”
By using such a story in your cover letter or during an interview, you show your deductive reasoning skills in action and place yourself miles ahead of applicants who only use the keyword “deductive reasoning” in their cover letter or resume.
Deductive reasoning is a very important skill that is useful both at the workplace and in other day to day activities. Through deductive reasoning, you can draw conclusions that were not previously obvious from available information.
Since deductive reasoning does not leave any room for uncertainty, it can be very useful for making important decisions, especially at the workplace. It can help you come up with logical solutions at work and identify unsound arguments during negotiations.
For this reason, employers value deductive reasoning and give preference to candidates who can demonstrate that they have this important skill.
Fortunately, anyone can improve their deductive reasoning skills by being good observers, being curious, constantly seeking new knowledge, breaking problems into small chunks, as well as by solving puzzles.
When highlighting your deductive reasoning skills to potential employers, use stories illustrating how you applied the skill and use facts and figures to show the impact this had on the organization.