Creative thinking means thinking outside the box. Often, creativity involves lateral thinking, which is the ability to perceive patterns that are not obvious.
Creative thinking might mean devising new ways to carry out tasks, solve problems, and meet challenges. It means bringing a fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, perspective to your work. This way of thinking can help departments and organizations be more productive.
Evolution, synthesis, revolution, reapplication, changing direction. Many classic creative thinking techniques make use of one or more of these methods. Note in this section that the goal is to produce a good quantity and a good quality of new ideas and solutions so that the best ones may be chosen. Exactly how those ideas are generated is less important than the ideas themselves. Remember, the goal is more important than the path.
Creativity = surprise + originality + beauty + utility
Alex Osborn, advertising writer of the fifties and sixties, has contributed many very powerful creative thinking techniques. Brainstorming is probably the best known and certainly one of the most powerful. For a fuller treatment, see his book, Applied Imagination.
Brainstorming is an idea generating technique. Its main goals are:
(1) to break us out of our habit-bound thinking:
(2) to produce a set of ideas from which we can choose. (No one wants to have a choice of only one product when buying laundry detergent or cars, so why have a choice of only one solution when working on a problem?)
Convergent thinking is measured by tests like remote associations test or insight problems. These problems are solved when you apply one of the methods below:
- Make a unique association between parts of the problem. This looks again similar to flexibility or how fluid is your categorisation schema enabling you to think out of the box and not be limited by typical categories or associations.
- Take a novel approach (and not the typical approach) to problem-solving. To me, this again looks similar to originality.
- See the problem from a different perspective. To me, this looks like how quickly you can adopt multiple perspectives the speed with which you can take alternate perspectives and is similar to fluency.
Formal Creative Thinking
It is possible to think creatively all the time. There are some people who simply fizz with new ideas and seem to see everything slightly differently from those around them.
These are the people who are always asking ‘Why?’, and ‘Why not?’.
They are natural problem-solvers and innovators.
However, for most people, creative thinking requires more effort. They prefer to save their creative thinking for when it is really necessary.
Typical examples of times when you might take the time to use creative thinking techniques include:
- When you are facing a major problem or issue, and you cannot see an obvious way forward.
- At times of change, when it is hard to see what might lie ahead, and you want to think about possible scenarios.
- When there is a lot of disagreement about what needs to happen next, and no compromise seems possible without a lot of effort.
- When you need something new, that hasn’t been tried before, but you are not sure what.
Dynamics of Creative Thinking
Creative thinking is expressed in several ways. Here are some of the types of creative thinking you might see in the workplace.
Before thinking creatively about something, you first have to be able to understand it. This requires the ability to examine things carefully to know what they mean. Whether you are looking at a text, a data set, a lesson plan, or an equation, you need to be able to analyze it first.
To think creatively, set aside any assumptions or biases you may have, and look at things in a completely new way. By coming to a problem with an open mind, you allow yourself the chance to think creatively.
Employers want creative employees who will help them to solve work-related issues. When faced with a problem, consider ways that you can solve it before asking for help. If you need the input of a manager, suggest solutions rather than just presenting problems.
This might seem counterintuitive: Aren’t creative people known for being somewhat disorganized? Actually, organization is an essential part of creativity. While you might need to get a bit messy when trying out a new idea, you need to organize your ideas so others will understand and follow through with your vision.
People will only appreciate your creative idea or solution if you communicate it effectively. You need to have strong written and oral communication skills.
Also need to be able to understand a situation fully before thinking creatively about it. That means you also need to be a good listener. You may come up with a unique solution by asking the right questions and listening to the answers.