How to Describe a Concept

According to Wiktionary, a concept is an abstract and general idea, an abstraction. It is an understanding retained in the mind, from experience, reasoning and/or imagination. It is a generalization (generic, basic form, or abstraction (mental impression), of a particular set of instances or occurrences (specific, though different, recorded manifestations of the concept.


As you see, a concept is rather conceptual defined and it is very difficult to put it in practical use.The definition does not say anything about how to describe a concept properly. Reading newspapers about new policies of the government, business plans, research papers, books mostly do need detailed descriptions to define a concept. Which is paradoxical:  a concept is an idea stripped of details, but in order to circumscribe and explain it, adding mass of details and examples are needed.

Could this be made easier, more simple without losing the essence of a concept. Could we catch the essence of a concept in just three sentences?

Mindmap presentatie Ideathons

  1. Give it an appealing name;
  2. What is the function of the concept: aim, goal, objective? What should be achieved?
  3. What is the mechanism or working principle? How does it work? How is the function carried out?
  4. What are the values of the concept: advantages, positives, the importance, worth, or usefulness, merits, beneficial? Why is the concept held to deserve? For who else?

Describing a concept in just three sentences will help you with what is called “conceptual thinking”: Conceptual thinking is the ability to understand a situation or problem by identifying patterns or connections, and addressing key underlying issues.

Just try to circumscribe in just three sentences the concept of

You will notice that this will not be so easy, but Practice Makes Perfect. Sometimes you may only cover one aspect of a concept. Then set up a second, slightly different description, or even a third.

You will experience that the simplification enables higher level thinking. Stripped of details, the thinking is made much easier.

There are more advantages to using concepts. But that is for another Thinkibility Boost.

More about concepts:






9 Replies to “How to Describe a Concept”

  1. I have really found useful what a personal friend of mine named Chuck Lewis (he wrote: “You’re Gonna Love It!” Chuck was a salesperson who gave me, the reluctant self-selling artist, a completely different attitude about how to craft presentation.
    He said a sales person’s job is to answer three important questions for their client:
    “What is it” (your appealing name & goal.)
    “How does it work?” (Your #3.)
    “What can it do for people?” (Your recommendation to spell out values, merits, benefits.
    According to my friend Chuck Lewis, you’re saying that concept is a “elevator” speech….cool! Great minds think alike!!

    Maybe an additional idea for another way to get to concepts?
    For me, concepts are further away and abstracted from practical application. They imply a “bird’s eye view.” An additional way to get up high enough to notice concepts is to describe “how” or “why” the practical thing is carried out – by using adverbs. Adverbs modify the verb, so they tend to describe “how” something is accomplished. In a way, these adverbs might end up being part of a “mission statement” of the business.
    So now, imagine you’re a business owner who has hired a graphic designer who needs to decide on how a certain type of lettering will communicate what the business is to people visually. To do this job well so that the result isn’t a matter of exercising your personal preferences, you’ll need at least three words that the graphic designer has asked you to select that expresses the concepts of your business. These words need to be – adverbs – to describe your business concepts. Then your graphic designer will be using their art skills to make sure the lettering style you pick expresses these words.
    So – now go down your same practice list and see what happens!

  2. Hi, thank you for breaking ‘concept’ down.

    I was wondering, as I am wondering about this, how would you describe ‘concept versus (psycological) complex’ – they seem to me to be constructed in similar ways, what might be their differences, and how woukd you describe ‘concept versus symbol?’

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Bw Camilla

    1. Hi Camilla,
      there are many descriptions of what a ¨concept¨is. Important is that it reflects a sort of class or category of related phenomena. A ¨symbol¨seems to me a much more narrow represenation of a concrete thing or idea. In our post ¨ Ways Concepts Are Camouflaged¨ you will see some more descriptions of ¨concepts¨.
      Or the post ¨What is a concept, basically¨
      Also, we have written many other posts about the phenomen of ¨concept¨. See where you also find some applications in psychology, economics, medicine, etc
      Thank you for your interest,
      Asa and Gijs

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