Inductive Reasoning

Drawing Good, Generalized Conclusions

© iStockphoto/marekuliasz

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

Scientific method, which has done so much to advance humanity in the last 500 years, is inductive reasoning in its purest form. Used appropriately, it can be incredibly powerful. But, if you use faulty or unrepresentative data, your conclusions can be flawed. 

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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