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Conceptual thinking is problem solving or thinking based on the cognitive process of abstraction and conceptualization -is a process of independent analysis in the creative search for new ideas or solutions, which takes as its starting point that none of the accepted constraints of “today’s reality” need necessarily to apply to or to shape the future. Thus it does not accept received wisdom, the status quo nor inertia as necessary determinants of every bit of the future.
Conceptual thinking can be a valuable analytic or problem solving tool in any field; for instance, Environment Canada in a note on “competencies meteorologists” defines it as follows:
- Conceptual thinking is the ability to understand a situation or problem by identifying patterns or connections, and addressing key underlying issues. Conceptual thinking includes the integration of issues and factors into a conceptual framework. It involves using past professional or technical training and experience, creativity, inductive reasoning, and intuitive processes that lead to potential solutions or viable alternatives that may not be obviously related or easily identified.
Conceptual thinking requires an openness to new ways of seeing the world and a willingness to explore. But once the work of analysis is completed and a new concept or mind map emerges, the hard work of communicating this new vision begins. Conceptual thinkers if they are to succeed must understand that new, and to many people, unfamiliar ideas need nurturing and support.
In more common terms it is often referred to as “lateral thinking” (Edward de Bono) or “out of box thinking”, in both cases the terms referring to the conscious omission or putting aside of commonly accepted beliefs or constraints.
- Thomas Kuhn
- Paradigm shift
- Edward De Bono
- Lateral thinking
- Creative problem solving
- Cognitive dissonance
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