Practical vs. conceptual problems

I find it useful, especially when evaluating new ideas, to mentally categorize problems as either “practical” or “conceptual.” I will illustrate their distinction with an example.

Consider a hypothetical population of people that is devoid of cars. Say we are considering whether or not to introduce cars into it.

A practical problem is when someone looks at the blueprint of the car and says, “This will not work. The red color of the exterior is offensive to their culture.” Well, just paint the thing blue. Duh.

During the planning stages, practical problems should be acknowledged but kept off to the side. Calling attention to them is useful, but it should be done with the understanding that it is more appropriate to work them out in context. And yet I’ve seen many intelligent people become deterred from pursuing opportunities due to disproportionate concern about practical matters.

When we are starting out, what we really have to worry about are conceptual problems, for example: “This population of people live in a dense, urban setting where everything they would possibly need is within walking distance.”

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