Address each rung of a problem with our ladder of abstraction examples

Zoom in on minute details or broaden your scope to examine the big picture as you shift your focus between the various levels of an issue—until you find the solution that levels up your org.

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Ladder of abstraction

Invite the whole team to problem-solve on this interactive abstraction laddering template.

Enjoy 360-degree views of progress

View problems from all sides and find wide-ranging possible solutions when you think collectively at varying levels.

Look from a new angle: Discover fresh insights when you approach your problem comprehensively from multiple different levels.

Find the right words: Formulate your thinking at varying levels so the entire group understands the full vision and can problem-solve accordingly.

Connect the dots: Move up and down the ladder toward abstraction or concreteness to find the connections between everyday tasks and the bigger picture.

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diagram example with the words why, problem, and howdiagram example with the words why, problem, and how

Scope it out together

Gather your entire group to effectively determine solutions to your most pressing problems. Easily reveal information using Flip Card, label rungs with a Badge, and share your enthusiasm with Lil’ Notes and Emoji widgets. Search high and low for the best perspective with FigJam templates.


Abstraction ladders provide a visual representation of different levels of thought. They help focus your approach to problem-solving, expressing an issue with varying amounts of abstraction arranged in a vertical ladder formation.

Starting with your core problem on the center rung, you would go up the ladder of abstraction toward more conceptual thinking—answering the somewhat nebulous question of “why?” Each step down the ladder moves you toward more concrete thinking—answering the logical question of “how?”

Abstraction ladder examples help your team choose the right scope of focus. It’s impossible to solve the problem if you’re not addressing the right problem in the first place. With an abstraction ladder, you can choose whether you want to fix the immediate problem or find a bigger picture solution. When your team is stuck, discussing the topic at varying levels of the ladder offers a new perspective.

Another key takeaway is the connection between the nitty-gritty and your overall vision as you move up and down the ladder, which can result in more creative thinking.

Begin with our abstraction laddering example template and a group of problem-solving peers. Write your central problem in the center rung—for example, “Not enough snacks in the office.”

Move up a rung by asking yourself, “Why?” Well, because your coworkers eat a lot of snacks. Because your coworkers are too busy to take an hour-long lunch break. Because your coworkers are feeling burnt out with their current workload—now you’re touching on the real overarching problem.

Similarly, you’ll move down the ladder, rung by rung, answering the question, “How am I going to fix this?” You could order more snacks, create a snack-buying schedule to prevent further snack outages, or buy healthier, more nutrient-dense snacks so that your coworkers don’t crash as quickly, thereby needing more snacks—these granular suggestions provide concrete, immediate solutions.

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