A separate set of mental processes facilitates your ability to do complex, sophisticated thinking, such as understanding concepts, generating original ideas, and using logical approaches to address complicated problems. Complex thinking includes many key abilities that are important to success in today’s world.

People with strengths in complex thinking may be good at deeply understanding ideas and concepts, seeing connections among information from different sources, demonstrating imagination, constructing and defending arguments based on facts or evidence, taking risks with new ideas, and/or drawing inferences from limited information.

Conversely, people with challenges in this area may struggle to understand new ideas and concepts without considerable support, have trouble “reading between the lines” or making inferences, approach problems in a haphazard way, or tend to rely on existing ideas rather than coming up with original ones.

As with other areas of learning, complex thinking is not something you’re simply either good at or not good at. Different people are good at thinking about different kinds of ideas. The subject matter—and your level of interest in it—can affect how well you understand and think about concepts. And everyone has a certain degree of imagination and creativity.

Strategies for managing challenges with complex thinking

  • Talk through an approach to solving a difficult problem with someone else before beginning. (Click here for a structured process for examining a complex problem.)
  • Make an effort to ask good questions when learning about a new idea. This can help increase your comprehension.
  • Take an improvisation class. This can help you practice “thinking on your feet” and coming up with unscripted ideas in response to a line or scenario you’re given.
  • Play games that develop reasoning and logic skills. Research suggests even simple, inexpensive games can have a big impact. 
  • Turn off the television. To find out how this and other strategies can encourage creativity and innovation, check out this article  

Learn more

This excellent Newsweek article from July 2010 focuses on America’s declining creativity and what can be done to reverse it.

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So what? Why understanding your learning strengths and challenges matters

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