Creative thinking is often associated with artistic tasks such as drawing or writing. However, to think creatively simply refers to any way something has been thought about in a new way. This can be applied to anything; a new project, an employee conflict or how best to communicate with one another. Almost all jobs can benefit from creative thinking including those in business and science.
What is creative thinking?
The term, ‘thinking outside the box’ is useful when trying to understand creative thinking. Making a decision or plans can often follow the same paths. Creative thinking encourages you to change this pattern and look at your decisions in a new way. This allows a fresh perspective on ways to solve problems and solve challenges. Essentially, it can increase innovation and productivity and this is of course, very valuable to any company.
Of course, some people are more naturally creative than others but you can develop creative thinking and strengthen it with practice.
Creative thinking skills
In order to think about something in a new way, you first need to understand it. By analysing the situation you will develop a deeper appreciation of what needs to change. Again, this can apply to anything; from planning a new office layout (what works and doesn’t work now?), to completing finance spreadsheets (is it easy to input, can it be understood?). Analysing the current order of things provides the foundation for creative thinking.
To consider thing in a new way you need to let go of previous thinking. Consider carefully assumptions and biases, be mindful of thought processes, question yourself. Be open to making mistakes and hitting a few dead ends before making a break through. Take yourself out of your comfort zone.
New ideas need new structures. Creative thinkers often organise ideas so that others can understand their vision. Having the ability to structure a thought and turn it into a plan with a process, goal and deadline is essential.
Whilst it’s great to have new ideas, they are only useful if they can be communicated to others. Strong written and verbal communication skills will help paint a picture and engage others. Good listening skills will also assist this process. Similarly to analysing the situation, if you take time to listen to others you will gain a greater understanding of the situation which will assist you greatly going forwards.
Creative thinking techniques
Brainstorming – the best way to do this is without too much thought. Just throw ideas around, making sure to note them all somewhere visible. Some of the thoughts shared may make no sense or be irrelevant but the process allows a freedom to play with new thoughts and ideas without too much thought, and this can often result in new directions.
Ask the same question a few times – go over an issue again and again. Try and consider it a different way each time. Similarly to brainstorming this may not always produce great ideas but it frees your thinking from its usual constraints and encourages you to look at it from new perspectives.
Change the routine – are your meetings always held and the same place and follow the same routine? Try doing something different. Take it outside, change the agenda. A simple change can revitalise the group and loosen shackles which prevent yourself and others thinking in new ways.
Engage in Learning provide Decision Making Pathway courses which will help you develop creative thinking and problem solving skills. The Thinking Creatively course will teach you how to overcome blocks to creative thinking in the team and harness different thinking styles.