Conceptual Skills: Definition, Types and Steps To Develop Them

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 27 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Conceptual skills can give you the ability to develop solutions about high-level topics, ideas and theories. These skills may also involve addressing challenging situations with an innovative approach. Developing your ability to conceptualise situations can help you easily understand complicated or abstract ideas. In this article, we discuss what conceptual skills are, why they're important in the workplace, explore the different types and learn how to develop them.

What are conceptual skills?

Conceptual skills refer to the abilities that allow you to conceptualise, identify and address complex problems. These skills are essential in the workplace as they allow you to think and work through abstract ideas and develop multiple solutions to intricate problems. These skills also allow you to understand how various parts of an organisation work together to achieve common goals. They are especially useful in leadership roles but can be beneficial in almost any job.

From a managerial perspective, the ability to conceptualise problems and ideas is highly valuable. Individuals who work in leadership roles usually handle a variety of perplexing situations and having the ability to conceptualise can ensure they can successfully handle these issues effectively and creatively.

Related: How To Problem Solve with Steps, Techniques and Skills

Types of conceptual skills

There are several categories of skills related to conceptualising. Mastering each category has its own benefits. Here are some conceptual skills that can help you in your career:

Decision-making skills

Decision-making skills involve your ability to quickly and efficiently solve problems. Whether you're managing a problem with a project or interacting with co-workers, being able to make good decisions at all levels is crucial to success in management. To develop your decision-making skills, it's important to have attention to detail, analytical skills and the ability to show resourcefulness when experiencing a problem. An excellent team member can usually identify issues that could affect the company before they impact everyone, which may require them to make a decision that provides the company with long-term benefits.

Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills can involve abilities related to interacting with other people. It's important to understand which types of skills are necessary to become an accomplished leader. This can vary in each role but may include communication, empathy, compassion and active listening.

The ability to motivate others

This is a skill that can turn you into an asset to a company. Motivation can increase an employee's productivity and job satisfaction while setting a good example for the expectations of all members of the team within a company. If you're good at motivating others, you may identify areas that require improvement and approach these areas in constructive ways. This can help encourage your co-workers to make productive changes instead of feeling discouraged.

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples


Professionalism may involve acting with integrity and honesty and maintaining your composure in the middle of challenges. Consider holding yourself to the highest standards in these areas and creating examples for your team members to follow. When outlining professionalism, some examples include the ability to exhibit strong moral values in all situations, take initiative and provide outstanding support with a positive attitude.

Innovative thinking

In every industry, competitors are working to succeed ahead of others, so the ability to use and apply innovative thinking is necessary to stay ahead. A leader who likes to innovate can lead the team effectively. Some examples of innovation include creating new and improved solutions for clients, redesigning or integrating new systems to improve productivity and functionality, generating fresh ideas and identifying shortcomings.

Technical skills

Technical skills are measurable. To succeed and get a leadership role, it's important to understand your industry and what each team member does to further the company's goals. It may also help to develop technical skills in other areas, such as the ability to market and develop various ways to sell the company's services or products. Technical skills usually require training and experience to master, which can set them apart from softer, conceptualising skills.

Related: Technical Skills: Definitions and Examples

Examples of conceptualising abilities in the workplace

Here are a few examples showing how you may use these skills in the workplace:

Example one

This example shows an HR manager using conceptual decision-making skills:

Kit is an HR manager in a marketing agency that focuses on the automotive market. The creative directors of the agency have struggled to transform marketing concepts into campaigns that provide returns on their investments. This issue links back to a lack of knowledge among the agency's directors and creative support staff about the automotive industry.

Kit receives an assignment to train creative directors through the application of his conceptual abilities. He sets up a time for each of the creative directors to spend several days working directly in an automotive factory with one of the executive team members at that factory. By thinking creatively and delivering an innovative solution, he develops a way to submerge the company's creative directors into the automotive industry to gain new insights into how to best market its product.

Example two

This example shows how professionals in the technology industry can use innovative thinking:

Two team leaders, Lee and Chen, work at technology companies. Chen's team takes legal action against competitors who copy the patents held by the company, which made her department the primary source of the company's revenue. Lee's company is a startup that creates smart roller skates that connect to social media for content sharing.

While both have the same roles, Lee is currently working with several inexperienced team members who require support and coaching. Chen's team likely has technical skills in the legal field, as the members are handling critical lawsuits. In both roles, the ability to conceptualise is important to make sure their team members can achieve the company's objectives. Lee may use strong interpersonal skills to ensure new employees on his team get the support they require.

Example three

Here's an example showing how marketing professionals can use technical knowledge to solve a problem:

The manager of a market research team notices that the customer base of her company is shifting. Using her skills in data analysis, she guides her team through a comprehensive research project. The research shows that younger consumers are showing more interest in the products of her company. She uses this data to create a more effective marketing strategy.

How to develop your ability to conceptualise

Here are the steps you can take to develop your ability to conceptualise:

1. Develop communication skills

Communication skills include your ability to influence others with your verbal and nonverbal traits. Successful communicators are patient, respectful, listeners with strong speaking abilities. If you have strong communication skills, it can be easier to talk to your team or motivate them to succeed and work towards business goals.

Related: 10 Effective Communication Skills for Career Success

2. Work on developing your negotiation skills

No matter what industry you're in, having the ability to negotiate with different types of people can serve you well throughout your career. You may also encounter a situation that requires you to negotiate with a supervisor or colleague. Being able to negotiate effectively while listening to the other side is an important skill.

3. Embrace leadership opportunities

To become a successful leader in your workplace, consider developing your leadership skills. Having strong leadership skills allows you to encourage, motivate and inspire your team members. These skills may include your ability to resolve conflicts, think creatively, delegate responsibilities and analyse situations. An effective team member is honest when interacting with business associates. Flexibility is another vital skill to develop, as a leader can not control the outcome of every situation all the time.

4. Learn the essentials of project management

During your career, you may serve as a leader in some capacity, which may require you to delegate tasks to others and oversee the completion of important projects. In any role, you may have two or more projects going on at the same time, so your ability to manage them and check in on their progress is essential.

Related: 15 Project Management Skills Every Manager Should Have

5. Pursue outside knowledge

Conceptualising skills usually depend on abstract connections. Consider seeking outside information to solve internal issues. You can also look for companies outside of your industry to learn how they handle challenges. Observe how a combination of ideas can create a completely new outcome.

6. Stay updated on industry trends

Stay updated about the changes in your own field or industry. Consider discovering how organisations in the industry are innovating products, work processes or other business elements to improve their operations. Think about how you can apply their good practices to your own work.

7. Apply new practices

Once you have identified a range of interesting procedures, ideas and processes within or beyond your industry, consider applying some to your job. This allows you to determine what works and what doesn't. Monitor your progress and assess your experiments to determine which idea or procedure requires improvement.

8. Be more observant

Practise being more observant. Consider training your eyes to see things that are not always obvious. You can practise this skill anytime and anywhere, even during your lunch break in the park or on your way to work. Observe what you're seeing and analyse it. Then, make an educated guess about what's going to happen next. Over time, you can apply this to your work.

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