The Surprising Ways Abstract Thinking Boosts Creativity

Abstract thinking can enhance creativity in unexpected ways. Learn how it can unlock new ideas and solutions to problems.


Abstract thinking is a cognitive process that involves thinking beyond the immediate, tangible aspects of a situation and considering abstract concepts and ideas. On the other hand, creativity is the ability to generate novel and valuable ideas or solutions. These two concepts are closely interconnected, with abstract thinking playing a crucial role in boosting creativity.

Creativity is highly valued in various aspects of life, from art and design to problem-solving and innovation. It allows individuals to think outside the box, break away from conventional patterns, and come up with new and imaginative ideas. Abstract thinking serves as a catalyst for creativity by expanding our perspectives, enabling us to see connections and patterns that may not be immediately apparent.

In this article, we will explore the surprising ways in which abstract thinking enhances creativity. We will delve into the relationship between abstract thinking and divergent thinking, uncover the role of abstract thinking in generating novel ideas, and examine how abstract thinking aids in problem-solving. Additionally, we will provide practical exercises and techniques to develop abstract thinking skills and unleash creative potential. So, let’s dive in and discover the fascinating world of abstract thinking and its impact on creativity.

Abstract Thinking and Creativity

Abstract thinking refers to the ability to think beyond concrete objects and ideas and instead focus on the underlying concepts and principles that connect them. It involves using imagination, creating mental models, and detecting patterns and connections that may not be immediately obvious. Abstract thinking allows us to see the bigger picture and think more broadly, which in turn enhances our creativity.

When it comes to creativity, abstract thinking is a valuable skill because it enables us to think beyond the obvious solutions. It helps us break free from conventional thinking and opens our minds to new possibilities. By thinking abstractly, we can approach problems and ideas from different angles and generate innovative and original solutions.

Abstract thinking also promotes divergent thinking, which is essential for creativity. Divergent thinking refers to the ability to generate multiple ideas or solutions to a problem. Unlike convergent thinking, which focuses on finding the “correct” answer, divergent thinking encourages us to explore a wide range of possibilities. Through abstract thinking, we can come up with diverse and novel ideas that push the boundaries of creativity.

For example, consider the work of abstract artists like Pablo Picasso or Wassily Kandinsky. Their paintings do not depict objects as they appear in reality but instead rely on abstract forms, colors, and lines to convey emotions and ideas. Their artistic creations stem from their ability to think abstractly, allowing them to break away from traditional forms and explore new ways of visual expression.

Similarly, inventors like Nikola Tesla or Leonardo da Vinci used abstract thinking to develop groundbreaking ideas and inventions. These visionaries were not limited by conventional thinking but instead let their imaginations run wild and explored abstract concepts. Their abstract thinking led to innovations that changed the course of history.

In addition to fostering creativity in the arts, abstract thinking is also crucial for problem-solving. When faced with challenges, abstract thinking allows us to analyze the problem from various perspectives and consider different approaches. It helps us identify connections between seemingly unrelated factors and come up with innovative solutions.

Many successful businesses have utilized abstract thinking to overcome obstacles and find unique solutions. Take the example of Airbnb, a company that disrupted the hospitality industry. By thinking abstractly, the founders saw the potential of utilizing spare rooms or empty apartments as temporary accommodations. This abstract thinking allowed them to create a new and successful business model that revolutionized the way people travel and experience accommodation.

To develop abstract thinking skills and enhance creativity, there are various techniques and exercises that can be practiced. These may include brainstorming sessions, mind mapping, thinking in metaphors or analogies, and engaging in open-ended discussions or debates. By regularly engaging in such activities, individuals can strengthen their abstract thinking abilities and cultivate a creative mindset.

In conclusion, abstract thinking plays a crucial role in enhancing creativity. It allows us to think beyond the concrete and explore the underlying concepts and principles. Through abstract thinking, we can generate novel ideas, solve problems innovatively, and approach challenges from different angles. By embracing abstract thinking as a tool for fostering creativity, we can unlock new possibilities and unleash our full creative potential.

Unleashing New Ideas

Abstract thinking plays a crucial role in unleashing new ideas and fostering creativity. By breaking away from concrete thinking and traditional patterns, abstract thinking allows us to explore possibilities beyond the limits of conventional wisdom. Here are some ways in which abstract thinking helps generate novel ideas:

1. Making Unlikely Connections

Abstract thinking enables us to make connections between seemingly unrelated concepts or ideas. It allows us to see the underlying patterns and similarities between different things that might not be immediately apparent. This ability to make unlikely connections is essential for generating innovative ideas. For example, Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, combined his knowledge of calligraphy with computer technology to create elegant and user-friendly fonts, which became a signature feature of Apple products.

2. Encouraging Originality

Abstract thinking encourages originality by pushing us to think beyond the obvious and familiar. It helps us break free from the constraints of conventional thinking and explore new and unconventional ideas. Abstract thinkers are more likely to come up with unique and groundbreaking concepts. Take, for example, the artist Pablo Picasso, whose abstract art revolutionized the art world by challenging traditional notions of representation and perspective.

3. Embracing Ambiguity

Abstract thinking involves embracing ambiguity and uncertainty. It allows us to tolerate the discomfort of not having a clear and straightforward answer. This openness to ambiguity is crucial for generating new ideas because it encourages us to explore uncharted territories and consider multiple perspectives. Abstract thinkers are comfortable with ambiguity and are willing to explore the unknown, which often leads to novel and innovative ideas.

4. Stimulating Imagination

Abstract thinking stimulates our imagination by allowing us to think beyond the constraints of reality. It encourages us to envision possibilities that may not exist in the physical world. By engaging our imagination, abstract thinking helps us generate daring and imaginative ideas. For instance, the inventor Nikola Tesla used abstract thinking to envision and develop groundbreaking technologies, such as alternating current systems, which revolutionized the field of electricity.

5. Breaking Stereotypes and Assumptions

Abstract thinking challenges stereotypes and assumptions by encouraging us to question established norms and beliefs. It enables us to challenge conventional wisdom and explore alternative perspectives, which can lead to disruptive and innovative ideas. Abstract thinkers are more likely to challenge the status quo and propose unconventional solutions. For example, Elon Musk challenged the assumption that electric cars couldn’t be desirable by creating Tesla, a company that produces high-performance electric vehicles.

In conclusion, abstract thinking plays a crucial role in unleashing new ideas and fostering creativity. By making unlikely connections, encouraging originality, embracing ambiguity, stimulating imagination, and breaking stereotypes and assumptions, abstract thinking allows us to generate novel and innovative ideas. By embracing abstract thinking, we can tap into our creative potential and take our creativity to new heights.

Problem-Solving and Abstract Thinking

Abstract thinking plays a crucial role in problem-solving by enabling individuals to think beyond the obvious solutions and come up with innovative approaches. When faced with a problem, abstract thinking allows individuals to think creatively and consider multiple perspectives, leading to the discovery of unique and effective solutions.

One notable example of abstract thinking in problem-solving is the case of Apple Inc. In the late 1990s, Apple was struggling to regain its market share and establish a competitive advantage. Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, employed abstract thinking to identify the root causes of Apple’s decline and devise a revolutionary solution. Instead of focusing solely on technological advancements, Jobs realized that design and user experience were equally important. He introduced the concept of minimalist and aesthetically pleasing designs, which ultimately transformed Apple into one of the most innovative and successful companies in the world.

Another instance where abstract thinking led to problem-solving success is the case of Netflix. In its early days, Netflix faced fierce competition from established DVD rental companies. However, Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, employed abstract thinking to identify the limitations of the traditional DVD rental model and envision a completely new way of distributing and consuming movies. This led to the development of the groundbreaking streaming service, which revolutionized the entertainment industry and propelled Netflix to become a global streaming giant.

By engaging in abstract thinking, businesses can identify hidden opportunities and take advantage of untapped markets. Abstract thinking allows individuals to question the status quo, challenge assumptions, and discover innovative solutions to complex problems. It encourages thinking outside the box and promotes a culture of creativity and innovation within organizations.

To develop and enhance abstract thinking skills, individuals can engage in various exercises and activities. One such exercise is the “What If” game, where individuals imagine alternative scenarios and explore the consequences. This exercise encourages individuals to think abstractly and consider unconventional possibilities. Additionally, practicing brainstorming sessions, where individuals generate a multitude of ideas without judgment, can help foster abstract thinking and problem-solving skills.

In conclusion, abstract thinking is a powerful tool for problem-solving. It enables individuals to think beyond the obvious solutions, identify innovative approaches, and challenge conventional wisdom. By embracing abstract thinking, businesses and individuals can unlock their creative potential and find unique solutions to complex problems. So, let us embrace abstract thinking and harness its ability to foster creativity and drive innovation.

Abstract Thinking Exercises

Developing abstract thinking skills requires practice and a willingness to think outside the box. Here are some exercises and activities that can help enhance your abstract thinking abilities:

  1. Pattern Recognition: Engage in activities that challenge you to identify patterns and make connections between seemingly unrelated elements. For example, solve puzzles that involve finding the next number or shape in a sequence. This exercise trains your brain to look for connections and identify abstract patterns.

  2. Metaphorical Thinking: Practice using metaphors to describe abstract concepts or ideas. Take a simple concept and try to explain it using metaphorical language. This exercise helps you think beyond literal interpretations and encourages creative thinking.

  3. Reverse Thinking: Challenge yourself to think in reverse. Take a common problem and imagine possible solutions that go against the conventional wisdom. This exercise helps break rigid thinking patterns and encourages innovative ideas.

  4. Imaginary Worlds: Create and explore imaginary worlds in your mind. Let your imagination run wild as you envision fantastical landscapes, creatures, and scenarios. This exercise helps stimulate your creativity and allows you to think beyond the confines of reality.

  5. Word Associations: Play word association games with yourself or others. Start with a random word and try to connect it to as many other words as possible within a certain time limit. This exercise helps improve your ability to make abstract connections between different concepts.

  6. Bizarre Combinations: Combine two unrelated ideas, objects, or concepts and try to find ways in which they could be connected or used together. This exercise encourages flexible thinking and helps generate novel ideas.

  7. Questioning Assumptions: Challenge your assumptions and beliefs about a particular topic or problem. Ask yourself why things are the way they are and if there are alternative possibilities. This exercise helps open your mind to new perspectives and fosters abstract thinking.

  8. Visual Thinking: Engage in visual thinking exercises, such as doodling or drawing without any specific goal in mind. Let your hand guide the pen and allow your mind to wander. This exercise helps tap into your subconscious and allows for abstract thoughts and ideas to emerge.

Remember, abstract thinking is a skill that can be developed with consistent practice. Incorporate these exercises into your daily routine and embrace the opportunity to think abstractly. By doing so, you will unlock new levels of creativity and problem-solving potential.


In conclusion, abstract thinking is a powerful tool that can greatly enhance creativity in various aspects of life. By exploring ideas beyond the concrete and familiar, abstract thinking opens up new possibilities and stimulates divergent thinking. This ability to think outside the box is essential for generating novel ideas and finding innovative solutions to problems.

Throughout history, many famous artists and inventors have relied on abstract thinking to create unique and groundbreaking works. From abstract painters like Pablo Picasso to visionary inventors like Thomas Edison, these individuals pushed the boundaries of conventional thinking and embraced the abstract to unleash their creativity.

Moreover, abstract thinking is not only beneficial on an individual level but also on a collective level. Businesses and organizations that encourage abstract thinking among their employees have been able to overcome challenges and come up with innovative solutions. Case studies have shown how companies have used abstract thinking to redefine their strategies, streamline their processes, and even disrupt entire industries.

Developing abstract thinking skills can be achieved through various techniques and exercises. For instance, engaging in activities that involve brainstorming ideas, challenging assumptions, and exploring different perspectives can help expand your abstract thinking abilities. Additionally, practicing creative writing, solving puzzles, and engaging in artistic endeavors can also enhance abstract thinking skills.

It is important to embrace abstract thinking as a valuable tool for fostering creativity. By cultivating this mindset, we can unlock new possibilities, break through creative barriers, and create truly exceptional works. Whether you are an artist, entrepreneur, scientist, or simply someone looking to enhance your problem-solving skills, abstract thinking can be the key that unlocks your creative potential.

So, let us open our minds to abstract thinking and explore the boundless realm of creativity that awaits. By embracing the abstract, we can tap into our inner innovators, unleash new ideas, and shape the world in ways that we never thought possible. Let us dare to think beyond the ordinary and embrace the extraordinary power of abstract thinking.