What are examples of conceptual skills

There are certain qualities we expect from leaders - tenacity, intelligence, and the ability to inspire those around them. The traditional leader is someone who is demanding and makes carefully considered decisions based on evidence and facts. Leaders are logical and rational. However, there is one trait of successful leaders that is often overlooked: creativity. While logic and common sense can minimize risk and maximize resources, these qualities are not very helpful when it comes to creating something new. A leader without a vision can keep a company on a stable, predictable course, but he cannot lead projects that create new value.

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Bringing a new product to market that is the first of its kind gives your business a competitive advantage no matter how many competitors follow you. When Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, was appointed to lead the European business for the food and beverage company, she was told, “I can get operational executives to run the P&L headquarters. But I can't find people to help me reimagine PepsiCo. That is the tightest competence. "

Ideas determine the strategy. A company needs an overarching, long-term strategy in order to be able to make decisions and prioritize goals in the short term.

Sequential thinking is a step-by-step approach to solving problems. Let's say you open a bar in a small town. You ordered a case of your favorite beer, but the locals don't buy it - you're probably too intimidated to order anything other than their usual lager. If you took a sequential approach, you would say, “I'm not going to buy this beer again. Instead, I should offer the kind of beer that the locals are used to. "

Conceptual thinking on the other hand, deals with the overall picture. It seeks to get the best immediate result while keeping the ultimate goal in mind. If you take a conceptual approach to your bar, you could say, "I'm going to open the first craft beer bar in this city and attract the beer lovers who couldn't go anywhere else."

Conceptual thinking is essential for business innovation because you can't turn an industry inside out with ideas you already have. However, this kind of networked thinking also comes with some risk. For conceptual thinking to have any meaning in your company, it has to create value, and that means that daring ideas really have to be put into practice. As Lawrence Weinbach, former chairman, president and CEO of Unisys said, “If we're going to lead, we have to make decisions about 75% of the facts. If you wait for 95%, you will always just chase after. "

We see examples of the success of conceptual thinking all around us. Rumor has it that the founders of Uber couldn't call a taxi after a conference in Paris, thinking, "What if an idle limousine service could pick us up?" Amazon turned a home speaker into a domestic worker who can do so much more than just play music. In 2007, Steve Jobs introduced an attractive phone with an Internet connection and changed the way we perceive what a phone can do. Conceptual thinkers find new angles to look at old problems and manage to question our ideas of what is possible. Conceptual thinking is a competitive advantage in a sales landscape that increasingly rewards pioneers.

Thinking in terms of concepts and abstractions is easier for some than others. Some people who have been promoted to leadership positions for their Type A personalities struggle with the ambiguity and idealism of conceptual thinking. Fortunately, with a little self-awareness and commitment, it is possible to develop and train conceptual thinking skills.

8 tips to further develop your conceptual thinking

  1. Ask “what if” questions. “What if” questions are the basis of every groundbreaking idea. They inherently question the status quo. It doesn't matter how unrealistic your "what-if" question is, those questions were also asked when humans invented the airplane and put a man on the moon.
  2. Learn as much as you can, in as much detail as you can. In James Webb Young's classic, "A Technique for Producing Ideas," he calls this phase "gathering the raw material," and it is arguably the least exciting step in conceptual thinking. As Young put it, "It is such a terrible task that we are constantly trying to avoid it ...". Instead of working systematically to extract the raw material, we sit there and wait for some inspiration to come. ”Research your topic thoroughly, down to the smallest opaque detail, to develop a deep understanding of how it works. How do all the pieces fit together? What are they made of? Where are you from? How have they changed over time? As Picasso said, "learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist".
  3. Visualize your train of thought. It's easy to forget ideas if you don't get them down on paper. Don't let a lack of drawing skills stop you from coming up with your ideas. Write your ideas on sticky notes and hang them on a wall, or draw mind maps to make connections between different concepts. These simple techniques can help record a chronology of ideas that will give you context when you revisit them later. Always keep a notebook with you because you never know when you will find the perfect solution to a problem.
  4. Find a sparring partner. While too many chefs can complicate a good idea, finding someone you trust to share your ideas with can be invaluable. Ideas are concretized, tested and improved when challenged by another person. Make sure your creative confidante is someone who is open-minded and open-minded in order to get the most insightful feedback possible.
  5. Work from a new location. Sometimes you just need a change of scenery to get your gray matter going again. Take your laptop outside or to a coffee shop if you have a blockage. You can also take a stroll or take a bus ride to clear your mind. Exposing yourself to different impressions, sounds and smells can revive your creative powers.
  6. Talk to your target audience whenever you can. While you likely have tons of data sets showing how your customers interact with various touchpoints (website hits, email conversions, etc.), nothing compares to having a face-to-face conversation with your customers. Are you interested in how real people think of your company and what problem you want to solve for your customers. If your company makes children's clothing, find a chat with the parents in the park to find out what makes them buy clothes for their children. It could spark an innovative idea of ​​how you can make your life easier.
  7. Do not censor yourself or others. Sharing ideas with a group is a bit like a performance - you are exposed to other people's judgment without protection. If you kill someone's idea right away, they are less likely to offer another next time. In improvisational comedy it is called the “yes and” rule: accepting and expanding what the other has said. Without the “yes and” rule, improvisers could never assemble a scene. Any character could reject the entire premise of the scene, creating an incomprehensible chaos on the stage. Also, you might fall in love with an idea that you are still unsure about as soon as it is carried out.
  8. The logistics can be worked out later. In your first round of brainstorming there is no need to figure out how your idea will be put into practice. The first thing is to come up with a lot of ideas that could theoretically make sense. While some ideas may seem far-fetched or unrealistic, there is usually a way to make them workable again. These extensive ideas may also be more feasible later when you have more resources available.

Conceptual thinking in management inspires the networked thinking of employees. Innovative ideas attract ambitious employees who want to do exciting, varied tasks. By setting an example of creative thinking at the executive level, you will motivate others to look at their work from all angles. It doesn't take a big, industry-changing idea to inspire your employees. Sometimes small but meaningful changes in method are enough to attract the attention of future-oriented employees.