Table of content:
1. What Is Creative Thinking?
When you think about creative thinking, you have to visualize a world with no limits. Assume you start having an idea, then creative thinking is a process that allows you to create something that has never been designed before. This method requires you to look at an issue from different perspectives and come up with new ways of solving problems.
Unless many people might think, creative thinking skills are not necessarily for creative types like artists and musicians but for anyone willing to benefit from it. It is such an important process to not forget as people tend to fall into shortcuts. Once we receive an information, we process it, and use it again which can be a disadvantage as we stop thinking about things we are used to, see or say on a daily basis.
Programming our minds to carry out tasks, and think about how to solve problems is what makes our world productive and growing.
On top of that, if you are able to understand creative thinking, it can be such a powerful, useful and unique skill to have for whichever work you do. Whether you are an employee, or an employer, becoming an expert in creative thinking can get you out of tricky situations, solve problems, take an advantage over your competition, and much more.
Now, in order to understand what role creative thinking plays, I have decided to break it down in 5 main groups:
As you might know, there are obviously connections between these 5 groups, and instead of 5, I could have easily chosen 10 but I believe these 5 are enough to really understand creative thinking.
One challenge that we can face when it comes to creative thinking is that creativity is based on personal, i.e. first person experiences. Ultimately, it makes this classification difficult as it can never be established whether different accounts of creativity and creative thinking are referring to the same experiences for different people.
In this guide, the 5 types of creative thinking are summarized using what studies on cognition and thinking styles say about how each of these types operate. Some of the modes of thinking are similar and in these cases, the distinctions are explained.
A. Divergent Thinking
It was the famous american psychologist Joy Paul Guilford who first introduced the idea of divergence as an element of the creative process. Thanks to his psychometric study of human intelligence, he came out with the distinction between convergent and divergent thinking.
This process uses flexibility, fluency, and originality to explore as many solutions or alternatives to a problem or issue as possible. On the other hand, convergent thinking focuses on only one idea or single solution.
Therefore, in a creative process, both are useful. Divergent thinking is important when first encountering an issue, and convergent thinking mainly at the end when decision-making comes to play.
A good example of divergent thinking is while using the brainstorming technique.
Whenever you are emptying your brain with ideas without worrying if they are good or bad ones, you are experiencing divergent thinking.
Another example for divergent thinking is to assume that something known for certain is false, or to explore ideas that cause discomfort.
This type of creativity can be explained with two concepts from the literature on thinking:
- Preference, which is found in certain personality types. For instance, people with strong intuition and strong perceiving functions are likely to use this type of thinking more.
- Brain structure, because the right and left cerebral hemispheres were representing different types of thinking. Neuroscientific studies indicate that divergent production or thinking is represented by the right hemisphere.
B. Lateral Thinking
In 1967, Edward De Bono introduced to the world the term “lateral thinking”. This manner is meant to solve problems not by following the traditional step-by-step logic most people follow also known as “vertical thinking”. Instead, they are solved by using an indirect and creative approach using reasoning that is not necessarily obvious.
Lateral thinking can be used for generation of new ideas and problem solving as it by definition leaves the already-used behind and looks for completely new options.
The way this type of thinking works is that it is avoiding the intrinsic limitations in the brain, which rapidly sees patterns and handles information in a distinctive way. In accordance, lateral thinking tools and techniques can be used to restructure and escape common patterns and think outside the box.
Now you might be wondering, what’s the difference between lateral thinking and divergent thinking...
The answer is that they are related and both have the purpose to break out of habitual ways of thinking. Both types of thinking make you think outside the box, therefore divergent thinking is still sequential in that it follows on an earlier thought, while lateral thinking has no direct connection to an earlier thought.
Basically, lateral thinking is using both logic and imagination.
A few years ago, De Bono came up with tools and techniques for organizations and individuals who wish to improve their lateral thinking skills:
- Provocation can be used to introduce instability in our thinking habits. This instability is required to reach a new stable state, which does not exist in our experience, but might be more valuable for moving ahead to a new idea or concept. Humour is a typical example of this, where we are provoked and taken to an unstable state.
- Movement is the absence of judgment, i.e. instead of using logic to decide whether an idea or thought is right or wrong, it asks; "where does this lead to?"
When you think of “lateral thinking”, remember that it is both an attitude and a method of using information and an ability or skill that anyone can learn.
C. Aesthetic Thinking
The philosophy of aesthetics is originally defined as the creation and appreciation of art and beauty. Nowadays, “taste” is also a factor to take into consideration and forms, colors, and shapes can also increase someone’s aesthetic thinking.
This type of thinking involves producing or discovering things, which are pleasant, harmonious and beautiful to our senses. It is a very old form of thinking, and can be learned by anyone.
Music, drama and other forms of culture are considered as aesthetic thinking, where tempo, dramaturgy, rhythm, melody and other structural elements are applied to make output beautiful and harmonious.
D. System Thinking
Steve Jobs once said: “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”.
This type of thinking can be defined as the ability to see how things are connected to one another and form a larger "whole". Some people seem to be able to perceive such links more easily than others, to "connect the dots" and understand that if one thing is changed, the whole system will change.
But what does the literature around cognition say about this type of thinking? Why can some people see patterns in systems easier than others?
- Interdependence of objects, holism: emergent properties are not possible to detect by analysis but possible to define using a holistic approach.
- Levels of development: according to some developmental psychologists (Cook-Greuter 2005; Wilber 2000) rational thinking and reasoning is accessible to everyone who has developed to a certain level. Before this stage, a person's cognition has no access to reasoning. Systems thinking is in a similar way accessible to cognitive levels above this. Cook-Greuter (2005) labels this level of development the autonomous stage, and people here can perceive systemic patterns and comprehend multiple interconnected systems of relationships and processes. Hence, according to these researchers systems thinking is an addition beyond rational/analytical thinking and cannot be accessed to levels before.
- Symbol-based framework: in 2010, Winton came up with a system thinking called “pattern dynamics”, which is based on patterns found in nature. He views systems thinking as a type of thinking that everybody can access at a certain degree at all stages of life. An individual example of this would be that even small children would be able to deal with complex systems in life.
In terms of relations, systems thinking is, in some ways, linked to aesthetic thinking due to the synthesis of making things “whole” and perfect which is somehow related to elegance and beauty. In the next section, I’ll be discussing inspirational thinking and we’ll notice that it is also related to system thinking.
E. Inspirational Thinking
To me, inspirational thinking is fascinating as it concerns the perception of receiving insights from somewhere or someone else but often happens while dreaming. It can also happen in extremely powerful, rapid bursts of clarity and focus (a.k.a. light -bulb moments or peak experience).
Compared to normal creative outputs, what can be achieved with this higher creativity seems to be beyond the other types of thinking.
As I’m sure you already had this extraordinary experience when everything seems to make sense in one instant moment, right?
If you had, we call this poetic imagination, or a revelation.
Countless personal experiences of this kind have been reported, but they are hard to measure with scientific rigour, as they are very difficult to generate at will.
Now that you understand better what creative thinking, we are going to discover a few techniques that will help you become more creative.
2. How To Be More Creative?
Have you ever had the feeling that some people always seem to come up with awesome new ideas? That people refer to them as the creative person of the group while others seem to struggle to do so?
If you always thought it was unfair to not be born creative, it is not the case anymore because regardless of whether you define yourself as a creative person or not, you need to understand that there are techniques that you can learn. Mastering these skills will allow you to develop that right part of your brain to bring a new perspective to innovation, problem-solving and managing change.
Since creativity is a process, you need to work for it a little. Amazing ideas don’t fall from the sky, but you can develop them over time. You need to be ready to fail fast, expose yourself to diverse art, music, books, and get past your comfort zone.
Now, whatever the situation is you might need to be creative right now, know that creativity can come at any moment.
One easy thing you can do is analyze creative people and learn how they think and behave to improve your own creativity.
Within a short period of time and some practice, you will start having ideas floating above your head. This technique is just a way to warm up your creativity and get into a creative mindset.
Once you’ve done this, you need to understand the problem you are solving and put yourself in the user’s shoes. Many times, designers lack creativity, they are so focused on the creation itself that they tend to forget what the end users need.
After getting a clear understanding of the issue, start writing down how you would solve the problem, what images, icons, colors are related to the solution you will bring.
Once again, feel free to check out what other successful designers use or do for that same issue and change it with your own taste, explore possibilities, and go into a “no limits” creativity mode. You can do so by drawing things, or use design softwares but remember, the goal is to put everything on paper. Create something, duplicate it, then tweak things, duplicate again etc... you get the idea. Until your design starts looking unique.
Afterwards, you must get feedback. It doesn't matter who it is as long as they don’t hear each other’s comment (that way there is no influence). Therefore, you can’t take everyone by word because at the end of the day, you are the designer and you have more knowledge than them.
Since everyone has different opinions, if you believe all of them, you will always edit your design but never come to an end result. So what you must pay attention to is for similarities in people’s critics.
After making these last few adjustments, you are done for now. You can send it but you should still think about it from times to times. Make sure you listen to people’s comments in a longer period of time and try to catch similar critics and write them down so you have them ready for your future design.