Benefits of Conceptual Thinking

Conceptual Thinking – Thinking with the help of concepts – does have a lot of advantages.

concept (Wikidictionary)

  1. abstract and general idea; an abstraction
  2. understanding retained in the mind, from experience, reasoning and/or imagination; 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).

conceptual thinking

Stripped of all details, and nuances it makes the thinking far more efficient, straightforward and fast, at the same time getting more insight and overview. It is like the counter-intuitive result of speed-reading. The faster the reading, the more comprehension and recall. Or like learning only the main points of a lesson. It turns out that students who are told that only headlines would be examined, scored far better on detailed questions than students who were told to study for details and in-depth knowledge.

For people who are afraid of letting out nuances, different perspectives and subtleties,  thinking in boxes – conceptual thinking – is very difficult and they get often emotionally blocked, as shown in the cartoon below. However, it is a false dilemma.

simple and complex
False dilemma

We assume that it is a result of academic education with its emphasis on accurate and complete description and consequently the status someone can get by his ability to nuance, showing different perspectives and adding subtleties. The fallacy is: “complex is per definition right”.

However, the goal of thinking is not a description. Thinking with the help of condensed concepts – leaving out details, subtleties, perspectives- is nothing else than setting up some hypothesis, in order to get more insight.

However, there is no objection at all to formulate 5 or more descriptions of the same concept, in terms of different functions, mechanism and values. (See for more “How to describe a concept“)

Use more boxes of the same concept

At that way, one obtains some overlapping concept descriptions that contain subtleties, nuances, and perspectives. It takes only a few minutes and three sentences per concept description.

As for now, we can identify   benefits from thinking with help of concepts

  • Stripped of details, it makes thinking must more simple.

  • The simplification enables higher level thinking

  • It helps one to draw conclusions 

  • Because a pattern might be identified one can guess  how a situation is likely to evolve

  • Once the main characteristics of a concept are identified, one is able to escape from the underlying dominant thinking, and create new concepts

  • By extracting underlying concepts, one can multiply the results of an idea generation session.

The latter, concept extraction is one of the most, but also unknown, fruitful  techniques to boost ideas. Ina later blog post, we will explain how it works.

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big thinking


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