Inductive Reasoning

Drawing Good, Generalized Conclusions

© iStockphoto/marekuliasz

Inductive reasoning involves making useful generalizations about the environment as a whole, based on a necessarily limited number of observations.

As such, it is an important tool that people use to build the models of reality they need to function effectively.

While conclusions can be wrong if observations are faulty or are drawn from an unrepresentative sample, if properly used, inductive reasoning can be incredibly powerful. Indeed, it lies at the root of the scientific method that has done so much to advance humanity in the last 500 years. Properly-applied scientific method is inductive reasoning in its purest form.

At the core of inductive reasoning is the ability to look at outcomes, events, ideas and observations, and draw these together to reach a unified conclusion. Considering this, an experienced business person can use his or her own experiences to draw conclusions about current situations and solve problems based on what he or she has known to work in the past in similar situations.

By accepting conclusions derived from inductive reasoning as "true" (in a practical sense), good managers can build on these conclusions and move forward effectively and successfully.

How to Use the Tool

Much inductive reasoning happens intuitively and automatically. Without it we just couldn't function: Everything we did would have to be subject to so much analysis and consideration that we'd "grind to a halt".

At the other extreme from this intuitive inductive reasoning, we have the formal scientific method we're taught at school:

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