What Is Conceptual Thinking? (With Importance and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

September 15, 2021

Conceptual thinking is a skill that enables you to understand complex concepts and come up with solutions to problems. This skill is important to all employees in an organization as it can apply to improve their productivity. Conceptual thinking makes employees understand their work and appreciate their role in an organization. In this article, we define what is conceptual thinking, explain why conceptual thinking is important, provide eight tips on how to think conceptually, outline important skills for conceptual thinking, and give some examples of conceptual thinking in the workplace.

What is conceptual thinking?

Understanding the answer to "What is conceptual thinking" helps you appreciate the concept and know how to apply it in real life. Conceptual thinking is analyzing different theoretical ideas and planning how to connect them to develop an alternative approach to solving a problem. It involves processing a problem or idea in your mind until you get a proper solution. Conceptual thinkers examine every situation, find out if there are similarities to situations they have handled in the past, and come up with a decision to improve future results. They can easily think at a hypothetical level and come up with innovative ideas to solve a real-life situation.

Read more: What Are Conceptual Skills: Definition and Examples

Why is conceptual thinking important?

Conceptual thinking enhances your job satisfaction, improves your performance, and enables you to advance in your career. Employees who are critical thinkers connect hypothetical ideas and come up with innovative ways of solving challenges in their workplace. Other benefits of conceptual thinking include:

  • Open-mindedness: Your desire to theorize abstract information means you are open to other ideas and solutions. This helps you to come up with concrete solutions to enable you to pursue your goals.

  • Motivation: Conceptual thinking makes you understand why you are doing a project. Appreciating the reasons behind a project increases your motivation to complete it.

  • Presentations: Taking time to understand a project enables you to pick information that is relevant for stakeholders. You then devise an effective customized way of presenting the information to the stakeholders.

Related: 7 Steps to Improve Your Creative Thinking Skills

Who uses conceptual thinking?

Conceptual thinking is vital for leadership positions, mostly upper-management and middle-management roles. Supervisors need assurance that every employee below them is working to achieve the company's goals. Those in leadership positions must identify the relationship among various departments and make efforts to foster togetherness in the organization. Conceptual thinking is also important to the other employees in all positions. They use this skill to enhance their abstract thinking and develop solutions that improve their productivity.

Related: 6 Critical Thinking Skills and Why They are Important at Work

8 Tips on how to think conceptually

Consider these eight tips to improve your conceptual thinking:

1. Learn from leaders

Effective leaders apply conceptual skills in their normal duties. They identify different thoughts, connect them, and come up with a workable solution. They also analyze existing processes and find out if a new method might improve their performance. Learning what leaders do and how they do it helps you improve your conceptual thinking.

2. Consider past experiences

When you encounter a challenge in your work, take time and identify similar situations you encountered in the past. Find out how you handled the problem and identify other abstract information you might need. Deliberate on how others within the organization or the same profession might handle similar situations. Consider all the options and come up with a unique solution.

3. Pursue outside information

Conceptual thinking relies on hypothetical information to arrive at a concrete solution. Identify what others outside your organization handle similar challenges. Find out how you can blend their ideas with what you have and develop an ideal solution.

Related: Top 11 Essential Skills Employers Look For

4. Update on new trends

Get information on changes and recent developments happening in your profession. Identify innovations taking place which can improve your work performance. Analyze them and find out if you can incorporate them into your work.

5. Consider new practices

Consider bringing new ideas and procedures to solve problems in the organization. You can then experiment with some of them in your work and find the effective ones. Evaluate the improvements you make and find out how you can progress with the experiments for continuous improvements in your strategies.

6. Discuss with workmates

Discuss with colleagues and get their views on what you can do to enhance performance in the organization. Evaluate them and find connections that provide tangible solutions to improve work processes and products. Also, suggest new ideas to your colleagues and ask them how they might try them on their work.

7. Look for a mentor

Find a mentor in your profession. Look for a person who practices conceptual thinking and applies them in their work regularly. Ask them to help you learn the skill. Observe how they apply conceptual thinking in their work and seek guidance on how to connect hypothetical concepts to come up with a concrete solution.

8. Learn more about the organization

Understand how the organization functions. Find out the functions of each department and establish what connects them. Sit back and theorize how you can improve these interconnections to enhance the overall performance of the organization.

Related: 10 Critical Thinking Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

Examples of conceptual thinking in the workplace

Irrespective of your position in an organization, conceptual thinking is important to improve your results and efficiency in your work. Here are examples you can use to apply conceptual thinking in the workplace:

  • Divide your work into small bits: The ability to break down large projects or problems into manageable bits is one way of practicing conceptual thinking in the workplace. Simplifying tasks makes them simpler and easy to work on.

  • Consider fresh ideas: Assemble all the ideas you gather from colleagues, mentors, and other professionals. Evaluate them and develop new ideas for your work.

  • Learn to identify the situation and purpose: Before starting on any project, take time to understand why it's being done. Deliberate on its purpose in advancing the company's objectives.

  • Reflect on project result: After completing a project, take time and reflect on what went well and what did not. Find out which areas to improve for future accomplishment.

  • Identify the importance of your role in the company: Find out the objectives of the company and how your roles align with them. Think of how you can improve on your duties to enhance the company's objectives.

  • Evaluate the spread of suggested solutions: Before using an idea to solve a problem, consider how it may affect others. Look out if it might affect people not connected to the organization.

  • Generate the company's framework: Visualize maps and flow charts of the company's organizational structure. This helps you to consider everyone when coming up with solutions.

Related: Analytical Skills: Definition and 15 Workplace Examples

Conceptual skills that can boost your career

Conceptual skills are vital in developing your career. Here is a list of conceptual skills that hiring managers might look out for:

  • Analytical skills: Conceptual thinking involves breaking down arduous tasks into smaller components, analyze how they relate to one another, and make a conclusion. Good analytical skills help you arrive at a viable solution.

  • Critical thinking skills: Conceptual thinking entails making a choice on which ideas to use and which ones to discard. Critical thinking helps you make the right choice.

  • Decision-making skills: Critical thinking involves imagination of theoretical situations, which in most cases lead to several solutions. Strong decision-making skills help you find a feasible solution.

  • Problem-solving skills: When looking for a solution to a problem, you might encounter challenges. Your problem-solving skills help you overcome those obstacles.

  • Creative thinking skills: Finding the best solution to a problem entails approaching it from different perspectives. Critical thinking enables you to view the problem from many angles and come up with several solutions.

  • Communication skills: Conceptual thinkers need to communicate their ideas to other team members and influence them to adopt their concepts. They require excellent communication skills such as verbal, listening, and writing skills to pass the right information to their audience.

  • Interpersonal skills: If you want your ideas to translate to reality, you need to work closely with others. Good interpersonal skills help a lot in achieving your objective.

  • Negotiation skills: At some point in your career, you might need to negotiate with fellow employees or supervisors. You need excellent negotiation skills to help you arrive at an agreeable decision on the implementation of your ideas.