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Develop Conceptual Thinking for Problem-Solving

Use critical thinking and the conceptual thinking framework to approach problems effectively and communicate your solutions.

3,227 enrolled on this course

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  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    2 hours

Learn to solve complex problems with strategic thinking

Life and business are getting faster and more complex every day. The faster pace ramps up the pressure to act quickly but this complexity demands careful, strategic, conceptual thinking, which takes time.

On this four-week course featuring content from BigThink, you’ll discover the conceptual thinking framework and learn how to apply it to problems and communicate your analysis in order to problem-solve efficiently and effectively.

You’ll learn from some of the brightest minds in conceptual thinking such as Alan Alda, Charles Duhigg, Leonard Mlodinow, and Nancy Duarte, to name a few.

Discover how to approach and define problem-solving

A common mistake companies make when tackling complex problems is failing to do the pre-work. This can lead to time, energy, and money being wasted because either the team isn’t right or the goals are poorly defined.

This course will guide you through strategies for looking at the problem space with clarity, then assembling a team with the right balance of talents to think creatively and reach consensus.

Explore different critical thinking strategies

We have hardwired tendencies to think within our “comfort zones” which can often cause us to miss opportunities and perspectives that might lead to more creative solutions.

On this course you’ll learn strategies for thinking deeply, considering all stakeholders, seeing the problem through different eyes, evaluating potential risks, and connecting unlikely dots for inspiration.

Develop your communication skills to get buy-in for your solutions

No matter how brilliant your idea might be, communication can mean the difference between success and failure.

You’ll learn to transform your idea into a reality by improving your communication skills to get buy-in from other stakeholders and decision-makers.


  • Week 1


    • Welcome

      What are the values of your organisation? Throwing you in the deep end, we begin the course by asking you to explore your Competing Values Framework.

    • Making Complex Decisions

      Look at the problem space with clarity, by embracing truth.

    • The Science of Strategic Thinking

      Having a broad set of perspectives and voices is essential, but that alone can cause problems as well as solving them. Transient Diversity is the aim.

    • Risk Mitigation

      Learn from astronaut Scott Parazynski about Situationally Appropriate Leadership.

    • Final Reflections

      What have you learned this week?

  • Week 2


    • The Science of Productivity

      “Everything happens for a reason” is comforting but actively investigating multiple future possibilities is the better approach to decision-making.

    • Lessons Learned

      Create a problem statement to define your direction.

    • Narrow Your Focus

      To make meaningful progress on any complex problem, Erik Kandel, winner of the Nobel Prize in the field of neuroscience, advises a two-stage approach.

    • Systems Thinking 101

      Problem solve by combining reductionist thinking with “big picture” systems thinking.

    • Reflections

      What have you learned this week?

    • Adapt to Change with Elastic Thinking

      In the final steps of this week, we introduce next week's theme 'thinking', by discussing cognitive flexibility.

  • Week 3


    • Serve Your Purpose

      NBA commissioner emeritus David Stern outlines how a reexamination of brand values can revitalise any organisation.

    • Viewing from all Angles

      Check your biases, and take on the point of view of a competitor or other opposing party to gain strategic insight.

    • Seeing Around the Curve

      Astronaut Chris Hadfield offers a framework for risk mitigation, by predicting the consequence and probability of events.

    • Making Associations

      NBA player Shane Battier studied this competitors systematically, to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and more precisely outmanoeuvre them.

    • Final Reflections

      What have you learned this week?

  • Week 4


    • The Cleanest Question

      Mathematician Po-Shen Loh boils problems down to their essential elements.

    • Communicating to Transform

      CEO and author Nancy Duarte shares presentation techniques that will ensure your audience understands and buys into your message.

    • Unite Your Organisation

      McChrystal Group Managing Partner Chris Fussell outlines a battle-tested approach for efficient communication in an adaptable, networked modern organisation.

    • Final Reflections

      What have you learned this week?

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Apply the conceptual thinking framework to a problem of your choice and structure your team to implement it.
  • Define the problem you’re facing in clear and succinct terms.
  • Apply critical thinking strategies to generate possible solutions.
  • Explore how to communicate your analysis of the problem and your proposed solutions in ways that win buy-in from other stakeholders within and outside of your organisation.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for professionals at any stage in their career.

If you’re interested in applying conceptual thinking to your organisation, this course can help you to understand how to tackle complex problems, define goals clearly, and develop effective solutions.

Who developed the course?


FutureLearn is a leading social learning platform and has been providing high quality online courses for learners around the world over the last ten years.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

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