top of page








Detectives are often portrayed as misanthropic masterminds. They seem to possess almost mythical personal gifts that the average person can only dream of. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but this isn’t entirely true. Not all detectives are masterminds, and you actually don’t need to be a detective to think like one. A few tools and methods can improve your inner detective, help you find facts, and learn to better understand the relationship between them.

Most of us, whether we’re highly educated or not, have never actually learnt how to think and make safe judgments under pressure. Yet good thinking is important for every aspect of life. Learning how to think like an expert detective can boost your incisiveness and creativity. It can make you less judgmental and a better listener. Improving your communication skills will not only give your better information - it will most likely also improve your reputation and your relationships.


As a rule, in any investigation, there will always be something you’ve forgotten or don’t know everything about. That is why an open-minded and critical friend, like Dr Watson in the Sherlock Holmes stories, is so indispensable. As Holmes said: ‘You have a grand gift of silence, Watson. It makes you quite invaluable as a companion.’ Remember that evidence, new perspectives or insights can be found where you least expect them. That’s why all expert detectives should demonstrate empathy, be humble, ask questions, and develop their listening skills. Investigative interviewing is done by gently holding back your own opinion, asking open-ended questions, and using silence and active listening techniques such as nodding and humming. This extends to listening to your devil’s advocate. Receptivity to alternative views is a crucial skill not only for detectives but for any decision-maker in the modern era. In a world where complexity increases constantly, there’s no room for lone wolves.


Just like in science, theories can be truly tested only through falsification. To be able to keep track of all your alternative explanations and information needs, you’ll need to take a methodical approach. Without it, there’s a huge risk you’ll become a slave to your first and best idea. My colleagues and I designed a model to help. It’s in no way perfect, but probably far better than no model at all. We’ve called this the 6-Cs approach: First of all – what do you know? Collect the available information and check the facts. Are they relevant, accurate and reliable? Connect the dots. Do different sources say the same? Find out what you don’t know. Next, construct all possible solutions and hypotheses. What does the available information allow for? What do we need to check, and what can be cross-checked? What can be ruled out? What remains possible? Now, consider what information you need the most in order to test your remaining hypotheses? Before you implement your plan, always consult somebody you trust, to help narrow the scope of your investigation by repeating this process from step one.

Good thinking is characterized by a thorough search for an alternative

without favouring the one already on mind




bottom of page