Fights and arguments — two words that are used synonymously but could not be further apart. We all know that a fight is a disagreement based not on rational thought but rather on an emotional position. Fights, filled with gainsaying, fallacious thinking and emotional hijacking seldom do anyone any good. Argumentation, on the other hand, is reason giving. Argumentation, the gateway to effective reasoning, is an essential skill for any business-systems analyst. But what is argumentation?
According to Merriam Webster, argumentation is the “act or process of forming reasons (based on inference and logic) and of drawing conclusions and applying them to a case in discussion.” Consider argumentation as a means to justify claims where absolute proof is unavailable. Reasons are the justifications we give for our claims. Without reasonable discourse, we will give into sentiments in a “knee-jerk fashion, on a whim or caprice, or at the command of an authority figure. How do we keep our arguments clean and reasonable? We follow a few simple rules.
- Fully understand our claims, assumptions or premises.
- Determine the method we will use for our line of reasoning and our path of abduction, induction and deduction.
- Build our argument on a set of successive predicts, which inexorably lead to one (and only one) conclusion or point.
Abductive reasoning, from the root “to abduce,” is a way to build logical inferences through observation in an effort to come to a hypothesis that accounts for the observed event. This thinking technique is usually reserved for high-level ideas and propositions (organizations will often refer to this as the “5000-foot” level). In an example provided by the phrase’s creator American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914), he abduces that it must have rained last night because the lawn was wet when he opened the door to get his morning newspaper. It does not take a logician to see that this is a dangerous assumption based on the current observation — inductive and deductive thinking is required to get to the root cause for the wet lawn.
Inductive reasoning is a progression from a particular set of individual instances to broader set of more generalized ones. An example in a process-driven organization might be all the requirements documents that have come out of the business analysis center of practice are flawed and useless; therefore business analysis centers of practice are not worth an organization’s investment. We can clearly see this as a fallacy. As with abduction, induction is uncertain. Inductive reasoning allows for the possibility that the conclusion is false, even if all of the premises are true. Therefore, we must continue our analysis further into the world of deductive reasoning.
Deductive reasoning links premises with conclusions. If all premises are true, the terms are clear and we follow the rules of deductive logic, then the conclusion reached is true. Deductive reasoning is a process where reasoning from one or more general statements, called premises or propositions, is used to reach a logically certain conclusion. As an analyst, you may already be used to thinking in this way; however, you just might not be used to structuring your thoughts or following a strict line of reasoning. Try thinking of yourself as a business-systems analyst regardless of what your employer calls you. You will find, by looking at everything around you as a system, your analysis style will improve in ways you would have never imagined.
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