I will digress from photography for a moment to discuss a project I'm working on to promote conceptual thinking.

I've learned a lot of useful concepts over the years. I'll bet you have, too. Wouldn't it be great if our kids could benefit from them now, rather than waiting until they come across them by chance?

That's the idea behind my Concept Card project. It's a compilation of useful ideas in the form of a deck of cards, each card devoted to a single concept. I'm crowdsourcing the project, to make sure I draw from many disciplines. The deck of cards will be accompanied by a website that provides a more detailed examination of each concept. Between the cards and the website, the owner will have a powerful arsenal of ideas to enrich their thinking, and a handy deck of cards to consult for inspiration.

I got this idea from a speech by Charlie Munger, the Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. Mr. Munger, and his better known sidekick Warren Buffett, have made a fortune from their use of conceptual thinking.

You've got to have models in your head. And you've got to array your experience—both vicarious and direct—on this latticework of models. You may have noticed students who just try to remember and pound back what is remembered. Well, they fail in school and fail in life. You've got to hang experiences on a latticework of models in your head. ... 

And the models have to come from multiple disciplines—because all the wisdom of the world is not to be found in one little academic department. ... 

[F]ortunately, it isn't that tough—because eighty or ninety important models will carry about ninety percent of the freight in making you a worldly-wise person. And, of course, only a mere handful really carry very heavy freight. 

Here are the concepts I've gathered so far, including contributions from many friends. If you have any other suggestions, please email me. 

Sample Card


10,000 Hours Rule
80-20 Rule (also known as Pareto Rule, or Power Law Distribution)
9 Times Principle
Abilene Paradox
Ad Hominem Argument
Agile vs Waterfall Development
Amara's Law
Availability Heuristic
Backwards Planning/Scheduling
Barnum Effect (also known as the Forer Effect)
Ben Franklin Effect
Big Data
Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)
Black Swan
Bleeding Edge
Broken Window Theory
Butterfly Effect
Catch 22
Cause and Effect
Circular Argument
Comparative Advantage
Confirmation Bias
Correlation vs Causation (also known as Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc)
Cost-Benefit Ratio
Critical Mass
Critical Path
Debt vs Deficit
Decision Matrix
Decisions vs Outcomes
Distinction Without a Difference
Double Bind
Dunning-Kruger Effect
Economy of Scale
Efficiency vs Effectiveness
Ewing Theory
False Positives and False Negatives (also known as Precision and Recall)
Fast Follower
Follow the Money
Fundamental Attribution Error
Game Theory
Gift of Fear
Godwin's Law
Golden Ratio
Hanlon's Razor
Hawthorne Effect
Herd Immunity
Hindsight Bias
Impostor Syndrome
Inductive vs Deductive vs Reductionist Thinking
Innovator's Dilemma
Investments vs Purchases
Kelly Criterion Betting Strategy
Knowing What to Measure and How to Measure It
Law of Accelerating Returns
Law of Averages
Law of Diminishing Returns
Law of Small Numbers
Lesser of Two Evils
Less Is More
Lollapalooza Effect
Long Tail
Madman Theory
Maslow's Hammer
Median vs Mean vs Average
Metcalfe's Law
The Moat
Mooer's Law
Moore's Law
Mullins Rule
Murphy's Constant
Murphy's Law
Mythical Man Month
Necessary but Insufficient
Non Sequitur
Occam's Razor
Opportunity Cost
Optimism Bias
Paradox of Choice (Optimizers vs Satisficers)
Parkinson's Law
Passive vs Active Income
Path of Least Resistance
Peter Principle
Platinum Rule vs Golden Rule
Polanyi's Paradox
Pollyannaism (also known as Positivity Bias)
Prisoner's Dilemma
Prospect Theory (also known as Loss Aversion or Endowment Effect)
Race To the Bottom
Regression To the Mean
Rule of 72
Rule of Three
Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
Scenario Planning
Schrodinger's Cat
Second-Order Effects
Signal To Noise Ratio
Speed-Quality-Cost Triangle
The Speed of the Leader is the Speed of the Pack
Step 4 of the Troop Leading Procedure
Strategy vs. Tactics
Streisand Effect
Sunk Cost Fallacy
SWOT Analysis
Time Value of Money (also known as Compound Interest)
Tipping Point
Tit For Tat (also known as Quid Pro Quo)
Tragedy of the Commons
Traveling Salesman Problem
Turing Test
Tyranny of the Majority
Urgent/Important Matrix
von Moltke's Principle
Weakest Link
The Wedge
Winner-Take-All Game
Wisdom of Crowds
Zeigarnik EffectZero Sum Game


Contributors: John Alber, Bill Brasfield, Lynette Brasfield, Gary Bren, Liam Brown, Scott Brown, Rick Colosimo, Steve Devine, Patrick DiDomenico, Donna Dyer, Jill Fales, Gabrielle Fishman, Ron Friedmann, Lisa Kellar Gianakos, Bruce Hallett, Ivan Hemmans, Jon Horn, Jim Jenal, Julia Jenal, Tracy Kennedy, Jim Kenney, Rick Klau, Peter Krakaur, Curt Meltzer, Hana Oh, Alisa Proctor, Holly Riccio, Sande Robert, Terry Rossio, Lauren Spiegel, Ayelette Robinson, Julie Rovner, Tina Gutierrez Shinnick, and Jocelyn Jolly Stamat.

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