Ways Concepts Are Camouflaged – Thinkibility Boost


Thinking with concepts is very powerful, as we earlier showed in the post Conceptual Thinking. Conceptual Thinking is the ability to identify patterns or links between seemingly unrelated issues. This in contrast to concrete thinking – that is a style of thinking in which the individual sees each situation as unique and is unable to generalize from the similarities between situations. 

However, it is not easy to discover concepts. They are camouflaged as categories, reflecting a kind of regularity or commonality.

Conceptual thinking allows us to:

  • clarify complex situations
  • uncover causal and other relationships, or formulate principles
  • integrate fragmented data to make sense of it; draw inferences
  • learn from past experiences; see similarities/analogies with past situations and apply previously acquired knowledge
  • think of creative solutions to new problems (think “outside the box”)
  • address a more general, underlying issue

Basically, some behaviours, things, phenomena and/or expressions refer to a common nominator. In the image below they are represented as a box, which then can be labeled as a “concept”.  In the right column is shown what kind of shapes this can take.

Mindmap presentatie Ideathons

The underlying idea of the Japanese High Speed Trains is the use of electromagnets to lift and propel the trains (The idea behind the idea, the idea at a higher level of abstraction).

The lightest benefits can lead to advanced forms is the most important explanatory principle in biology, and extremely powerful in many other fields.

The underlying pattern of thinking about this conflict is that it is not so much a secular political one, but a religious one.

I try to contrast the color scheme in the room with the rhyme scheme of the texts on the wall. In psychology schemata about oneself are ways ” the world” is interpreted over and over again.

Blogs have in general the same format.

McDonalds has a particular business formula and a different business model than Starbucks.

The algorithm to design a counter is S(n+1) = S(n) + 1

We can label this as misuse of social security, therefore criminal.

The social mechanics aimed for is more cooperation between farmers


The regularity of all forms of the letter A’s is that it always consist of two oppositely leaning diagonal strokes connected by a horizontal crossbar.

The basic paradigm of classical economy is a mechanistic one; in medicine it is thought that only drugs can cure. The medical paradigm exclude curing by mental processes or by intervening in cell biology.

All his stories can be seen as a quest in which he is longing for a lost love. The lifelong  philosophers quest was aimed at answering the question “what is scientific truth?”

Always she falls for bad guys, it’s her script, she is programmed for it. Every time he makes a decision, it is sudden and radical. It’s his psychological script.

The overall approach by the government’s change management is mostly topside down. The approach by Microsoft differs profoundly from the view that Apple has on design.

The advantage of the skill to describe behaviors, things, phenomena and expressions in words of a common denominator is that it makes it much easier to understand and communicate complexities. It is even possible to use concept to predict behaviors, things, phenomena and expressions.

Thinking in concepts makes it also possible to multiply your ideas. In an other blog post we will explore how.

Sometimes, concepts are disastrous stacked.

falling boxes

Examples of applying conceptual thinking:

Under the soles – Thinkibility Nibble

“It’s not a skate, only for walking!”

There is no question that development in technology has pushed and will continue to push our concept boundaries. If we think of shoes and define what shoes are we might include some of the following ideas:

  • we wear shoes to protect our feet
  • shoes can be a fashion statement
  • we wear shoes for walking or running
  • we put wheels or blades on shoes to skate
  • the human body is responsible for the movement

Definition shoes from Merriam Webster:

: an outer covering for your foot that usually has a stiff bottom part called a sole with a thicker part called a heel attached to it and an upper part that covers part or all of the top of your foot

shoes : another person’s situation or position

: a flat U-shaped piece of iron that is nailed to the bottom of a horse’s hoof”

red female shoes

To invent something new, we can broaden the concept of shoe and add the idea that shoes should do all the work.  Below is a video that shows how this broadening Concetta has been used to design what has been described as the world’s first electronic undershoes. You simple strap the Rollkers ‘walking skates’ to your shoes and off you go gliding at speeds up to 11 km per hours (seven miles per hour). As a comparison speed walking or power walking is usually around 7 to 9 km per hour (4.5 to 5.5 miles per hour).

Do not have to push, all you have to do is walk and
the rollkers walkies shoes propels you forward!

Ish – Thinking – Thinkibility Boost

As an introduction to a series of blogposts about conceptual thinking we will start by paying attention to “ISH-Thinking”. A concept is an abstract pattern in the brain that stands for some regular, recurrent aspect of the world, and to which  any number of different words can be attached. Sometimes ago we already pointed out the relation between thinking and language, as in our posts How Thinking Patterns are CreatedBanging the World into Sorting Boxes and Key Concepts as Optical Filters. As we see in the picture below a toddler is confronted with a an almost insoluble problem. He has to place a square block in a box, which, however, only has openings in the form of a circle and a triangle. ISH-thinking

Perhaps the toddler might solve the problem by redefining the block as two pyramids stuck together. The block is “pyramid-ish” and might fit the triangle opening.

In our daily lives, we often try to give meaning to a diffuse situation by drafting a metaphor that is more or less “like-ish”. Mostly the metaphor does not fit exactly, at least not literally.

  • by doing that he stuck a knife in my back
  • I feel butterflies in my belly
  • at this moment she is very instable
  • their relationship is stormy

Mostly we don’t have any problem at all in using these ill-defined concepts. It helps us to articulate confusing and in particular emotional situations to “get grip on them”. Less prevalent is “ish-thinking” to describe seemingly well-defined physical objects. You will rarely hear someone who discusses a concrete thing (a bridge, a museum, a coffee shop) as ” thing-ish” like bridge-ish, museum-ish, coffee shop-ish). Yet, Starbuck is coffee shop-ish. Also, a kind of museum which would work like a modern library could be called museum-ish or library-ish: Art-works will be transported from the basement to the museum room at the request of the museum visitor, like in libraries with books.

And this is surely “bridge-ish”:


In this instance it’s about inviting people to cross a body of water in an unconventional manner… by using an inflatable bridge equipped with giant trampolines.

Is it a bridge or is it a gigantic trampoline? Or both, or more or less?

We are sure that the moment you begin to think about an ish-bike, an ish-refrigerator, sunglasses-ish or a sweater-ish for the winter, you will get rid of existing preconception on how they should look. Instead, you may  start to think about alternative forms and functions. That is because by adding the suffix “ish” to the noun, you give yourself permission to think in alternative designs. We came across a similar idea (Ïsh-thinking- ish”) in Fuzzy Concepts:

A fuzzy concept is a concept of which the boundaries of application can vary considerably according to context or conditions, instead of being fixed once and for all. This means the concept is vague in some way, lacking a fixed, precise meaning, without however being unclear or meaningless altogether. It has a definite meaning, which can become more precise only through further elaboration and specification, including a closer definition of the context in which the concept is used.”

There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept. fuzzy conceptTo follow our future series on Conceptual Thinking, subscribe to the blog

Key Concepts as Optical Filters – Thinkibility Boost

Filter-optics-1 Optical filters are devices that selectively transmit light of different wavelengths. They absorb some wavelengths of light – that is, colors – while transmitting others. Optical filters define what we see and what is left out.

Key concepts and filters

Key concepts do exactly the same with what we perceive. They strengthen or weaken information, change “colors”, let things out or vary the contrast. As you will see in the image below a key Western concept like “University” colors the way Westerners interpret the Chinese concept of Dá Xué.  

However, it is not even comparable to it. Dá Xué as a concept refers to “The Great Learning” as a metaphor to become Junzi, an ideal personality to finally achieve the highest ideal, Shengren. Shengren is the single most important conceptin the Chinese tradition. The original name of the National University of Peking is therefore 国立北京大学 (Guólì Běijīng Dàxué)

Conversely, you can imagine how surprised or perhaps confused Chinese students will experience Western universities, as a culture shock. They will interpret the concept of a Western university through the filter of the Chinese concept Dá Xué, as in the picture below we have tried to visualize.

key concepts

By translating Dá Xué easy-going in English “University”, it projects unconsciously Western ideas about education onto Chinese concepts. It is called language imperialism: the practice of promoting and imposing a culture by language, usually of politically powerful nations over less potent societies which determine general cultural values and standardize civilizations throughout the world.

Concepts that are seemingly the same, bus essential not at all

Most Chinese concepts cannot adequately translated and we should not try that either but rather adopt them. It is only then that we can escape from standardized ideas about universities. Otherwise, language will act as a prison of thought and will hinder Thinki bility.

For instance, Sun Tsu’s “The art of war” is an incorrect translation of ping-fa. It means “the art of empire building,” or perhaps more correctly, “the art of successful engagement management.”

Another example is the Western concept of civilization. Superficial thought could it be translated into “wenming”. However, “civilization” as city people’s mastery over materials and technology doesn’t reflect the idea of a high level of ethics and gentleness of a person as the concept of Wenming does.

Besides concepts that are somewhat the same, but in essence not at all, are concepts that do not exist in the West or do not exist in the East.

Concepts that do not exist at all in the West or East

Some Chinese concepts that are not translatable in the Western World are:

  • Kung Fu. In its original meaning, kung fu can refer to any skill achieved through hard work and practice, not necessarily martial.  This illustrates how the meaning of this term has been changed in English. The origin of this change can be attributed to the misunderstanding or mistranslation of the term.
  • Feng Shui.  Feng Shui is a system of harmonizing the human existence with the surrounding environment
  • Yin and Yang. This concept is about to circumscribe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world; and, how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.
  • Zhi. A concept that is about aspiration, will, knowledge and wisdom and could be paraphrased as “materialized lifebreadth”
  • Xin. Xin could refer to one’s “disposition” or “feelings” or to one’s confidence or trust in something or someone
  • Chinese concepts like Siren, De, Ren’ai, Ren and Yi are not even to be found in Wikipedia or elsewhere on the Web. Moreover, there are more than 35.000 Chinese words that cannot be properly translated into the English language.

Note that when you look up these concepts in Wikipedia they often refer to Chinese philosophy, an concept that according to Thorsten Pattberg from Peking University doesn’t even exist in the Chinese language. As noted earlier, we would not want it! Conversely, some Western concepts that do not exist in China are:

  • love. Love usually refers to an experience one person feels for another.
  • privacy. Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively.
  • hypothesis. The concept of hypothesis is something like speculating or putting forward a possibility, an impossibility or an intermediate impossibility
  • artist
  • philosopher
  • democracy

Concepts are like logic bubbles or thinking patterns. They define what you perceive and what alternatives, possibilities and choices you can come up with. Translating foreign concepts in native language could destroy the original meaning. Using original foreign concepts may reveal new insights.

chinese Read here more about the East-West dichotomy.

Physical Ticket Machine – Thinkibility Nibble

Moscow Subway Ticket Machine Accepts Physical Exercise As Payment

To promote exercise and the 2014 Olympics, Olympic Changes installed a very special ticket machine at the Moscow subway station. Instead of accepting money as payment, the high-tech ticket machine only accepts exercise. Riders could receive a free ticket by standing in front of the machine’s camera.

We think it is interesting. But why is it interesting? Why did it caught our attention?

By the way, what is the concept of interesting?

interestingThis map was made by using the Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus, an excellent tool for explore your thinking.

Suddenly we have fifteen focus area to reflect why a Physical Ticket Machine is interesting. And that could help you to bring the idea further. Could you come up with ideas to improve the concept? Other applications? Other ways to carry out the concept? Comparable concepts?

We would like to hear your suggestions but consult first with your patent office.