How To Be A Better Creative Thinker


“Creative Thinker” Now what sparks to mind when you hear the term? Starving artist? Tortured genius? I mean it can be hard to keep the silhouette of a black clad, beret wearing, chain smoking painter staring at a blank canvas waiting for his illusive muse to strike. Or conversely the mad-eyed, always twitching, erratic and more often than not neurotic and socially impaired genius who can’t turn their over processing thoughts off so forever live with the inner struggle of control.

Either way you slice it, it tends to lead to one conclusion: hard. Yet does it have to? Creative thinking doesn’t have to be a set characteristic exclusive for those born in the “right” hemisphere.

There are in fact many different forms of thinking and problem solving that go into creative thinking, things that you could already be doing in your day to day, or even come naturally without even knowing it (and if not don’t worry, you’ll learn different ways you can start implementing creative thinking into your daily later on.). It’s just becoming aware of these patterns and taking those different types of thinking one step further that can help you fuel your own kind of creative into a viable and renewable resource.

“Creative thinking is much more than using your imagination to crank out lots of new ideas. Creative thinking is a lifestyle, a personality trait, a way of perceiving the world, a way of interacting with other people, and a way of living and growing.”
Gary Davis

Robert Sternberg and Wendy M. Williams (How to develop student creativity) creative work consists of the application and melding of three types of thinking:

Analytical ability: critical thinking and appraisal as one analyzes and evaluates thoughts, ideas, and possible solutions. Consider implications and project possible responses, problems, and outcomes.

Synthetic (creative) ability: generate new, novel, and interesting ideas.

Practical ability: ability to translate abstractions and theories into realistic applications. to make others believe that ideas, works, or products are valuable, different, useful, innovative, unusual, or worthy of consideration.

There is also divergent and convergent:

Divergent thinking: usually include the ability to elaborate, and think of diverse and original ideas with fluency and speed.

Convergent thinking: defined as the ability to use logical and evaluative thinking to critique and narrow ideas to ones best suited for given situations, or set criteria.

It all really comes down to being able to think and look at something in a different way and from a new perspective that is then able to change the way other people perceive a standard. It’s about “out of the box” concepts, innovation and the ability to cope and handle the uncharted territory that those can often lead to.

We live in an information economy where value is created through ideas and we all want to be valued as commodities when it comes to our own ideas. So how do you hone creative thinking into an everyday way of being so that you can harness your own brand of creative no matter what the project or task at hand?

Let’s dive into understanding key traits of creative thinking:

Brainstorming: This means not being afraid to fail or look stupid. So acknowledging all your ideas, the good the bad and the darn right inane. Everything comes from something and if you are too quick to write off something your afraid will make you look lesser then you are automatically feeding into that perception thinking its self preservation. You never know what you can make of something until you look at it instead of hiding. So give all ideas a chance that kind of self respect will then lead others to take you and all other ideas more serious and objectively.

Reframing: Is the ability to change your first interpretation of things. Emotional response tends to be based on our pre-established view of things, if we are able to shift those views we are better able to shift our emotional responses and therefore open up our minds, instincts and emotions to all creative possibilities.

Now by being aware of these key attributes you are already ahead of the game, but implementing them is what will help change the way you approach problem solving and ideas in general. One way that you can begin creating a natural process for yourself is the Habit and Ritual technique.

Josh Linkner (author of Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity) has a theory that creativity is a muscle, use it regularly and it will get stronger. By embracing and exercising our creativity muscles we unleash a wellspring of insight.

Strict routine is what makes what we do each day into a habit. May sound intimidating but truly stop and think about your day to day and how you do things, chores, work, maintenance, even if you do nothing you are still doing something because it is an ingrained pattern. It is what is expected.

According to research by psychologist and psychometrician Robert Sternberg, creative thinking is a habit. That creative thinkers “habitually respond to problems in fresh and novel ways, rather than allowing themselves to respond mindlessly and automatically.”

Because they have replaced benign thinking with productive habit that stimulates the mind without perceived exertion. Dr. B. J. Fogg, director of Stanford University’s Behavior Design Lab things that are easy to do don’t require lots of motivation. It is consistency that is key.

The way to induct a new habit is to be strict, don’t allow for any distractions or excuses. Everyday say you will write from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. (this is simply an example, in reality it doesn’t matter what or how much time you chose, again it’s consistency that makes it a habit.) even if you have nothing to write, or no new ideas. If you make yourself commit to this pattern you will find few hours go by without anything put on the page.

Now if commitment scares you consider the ritual route instead. Creating a ritual is creating a set of actions before you sit down (or however your creative works) to be creative that sends the signal to your brain that lets it know what it is time for.

An example would be Stephen King who claims that by sitting down to work in the same seat, arranging his papers the same way with a cup of tea or water and taking his vitamins makes accomplishing his goals a more consistent and reliable process.

This works because our brains have automatic responses to fixed-action patterns that trigger a set response, providing a consistent signal to our minds in preparation for our work. So by creating a daily habit along with a set group of action-triggers before you go to it will lead to a more organic and natural creative process.

Mind Mapping: a form of brainstorming that involves both visual and word layout. You start in the middle of the page, as an example let’s pretend this starting point, your central concept and focus, is a heart and from there arteries, in actuality ideas, steam forth generating other ideas which in turn generate more and so on. Each new idea is a new artery and line sparked by your central concept.

This creates an associative pattern that is more organic then regular note taking that can have you thinking too much about the notes themselves instead of the free flow of ideas. It will also aid you with reframing.

Role Play: By allowing yourself to freely reinterpret a situation from alternate perspectives helps you to explore out of the box perception and challenges your ability to experience things outside of the preconceived.

Insight: That “ah-ha!” creative eureka moment when the light bulb turns on and that long awaited answer to a problem comes into ones brain seemingly unannounced. Really it’s another way of problem solving that generates different patterns of brain waves.

By being self-aware and recognizing when you are stuck on a problem and step away instead of pushing through you are allowing the unconscious mind to work its magic. Because behind the “break” your mind is still full of the gathered information that is still being digested and compiled. By stopping and engaging in another stimulate all together you are allowing for a more natural solution to then be conceived.

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while”.
— Steve Jobs



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