How to Improve Creative Thinking
Many people consider creative thinking as a skill that is reserved only for those in artistic industries and occupations, but this is far from the truth. The ability to think laterally and innovatively is incredibly valuable in almost every situation but is not necessarily a skill that people feel they are naturally predisposed to.
Boosting creativity and honing your creative thinking ideas is an excellent way to develop your skills and ensure that you’re applying new techniques and approaches when it comes to problem-solving. If you’ve been wondering how to think more creatively, this article offers exercises and advice to help work your neurological muscles and develop new ways of thinking.
Creative thinking is the ability to consider things in new and imaginative ways, whether you’re focusing on a problem, an idea or a brief. Many people also refer to it as ‘thinking outside of the box’ or ‘lateral thinking’.
Using creative thought processes can result in many things, such as finding innovative solutions, deciding on ways to overcome a challenge or presenting a new way of looking at a problem or situation. It involves stepping back from defined and predictable ways of working and finding new approaches to a variety of scenarios, whether that’s in the workplace, in your personal life or as part of a hobby.
Whilst creative thinking is an essential part of artistic roles and activities, it is not limited to only these situations. Creative thinking techniques can be used in any scenario that involves problem-solving, brainstorming or planning, and can be particularly useful when used in combination with logical and critical thinking.
No matter your occupation, interests or responsibilities, finding ways to improve creative thinking skills has a multitude of benefits.
Creativity is one of the most important skills you can have. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a full-time artist or a lead software developer, creative thought processes are one of the best ways to develop new and valuable ideas and solutions.
The importance of creativity can be linked to its involvement in progress and innovation. Creative thinking requires us to view things from a new perspective and approach problems from seemingly unconnected positions, which leads to unique ideas and developments.
Creative and lateral thinking also allows us to see things from other points of view, which encourages empathy and can improve collaboration. Being able to put aside any preconceptions or traditional problem-solving methods and try something new is good for our minds and leads to more harmonious teamwork.
In a neurological sense, creativity is important as it creates new pathways in our brains and encourages us to continue developing new skills. Research has actually found that creativity reduces stress, promotes a healthy brain and makes you live longer, thanks to the variety of neural networks it uses and the chemicals that creative thinking produces.
Finally, creativity is important because it provides excitement, diversity and an outlet for self-expression in our lives. Whether you’re using creative thinking techniques at work or as part of a hobby you enjoy, creativity allows us to think outside the box, our lives and our understanding of what already exists and work towards innovation and change.
Here are some of the best pieces of advice on how to improve your creative thinking skills.
Having fun is at the heart of successful creativity. Often, what might seem like a silly idea can develop into something really creative and useful later on, so it’s important to introduce an element of playfulness when you’re practising creative thinking.
If you’re leading or involved in a group creative thinking activity, playing games or introducing fun into the brainstorming can also take the pressure off the group to only contribute ‘good’ ideas. Keeping things fun will help everyone relax and open up the session to all kinds of ideas which have the potential to be really successful once developed.
If you feel stuck in a rut when you’re wondering how to think more creatively, asking questions is one of the best ways to find new perspectives and consider all kinds of angles that you might not have arrived at otherwise. Curiosity is an essential element of creative thinking, and approaching problems with an inquisitive mind will open up a lot of new possibilities.
Start with the basics; ask questions centring around who, what, why, where, when and how. Then, ask yourself questions that help you see the bigger picture of the project or idea you are working on. ‘What if..?’ is an excellent place to start in this case.
Creative thinking isn’t a place for criticism. When you are coming up with ideas you should always write everything down, regardless of whether it feels like a good point or if it seems to be totally unconnected to what you are thinking about.
Getting all your ideas together when creativity strikes is one of the best ways to build up a bank of ideas, exercise your creative muscles and also give yourself something to work from later on. Perhaps most of the things you put onto paper won’t go anywhere, but one of those ideas might turn out to be a goldmine. If you didn’t write it down in the first place, you’d have completely missed out.
Trying to generate creative thoughts on your own can be very difficult. One of the best pieces of advice you can follow is to use collaboration as a way to boost your creativity and get a fresh perspective that can help develop your ideas further.
Team brainstorming is an excellent way to get the creative juices flowing, create an environment where new ideas flourish and help to push through mental barriers when you get stuck. Even if you’re just sitting with someone else to bounce your ideas back and forth, having someone to build off your ideas, make suggestions and provide feedback and affirmations as you explain things can be a massive help.
Some of the world’s best creative thinkers will swear that they had their best ideas when they were thinking about something completely different. Often, the best way to find a solution to a problem is to think about it for a while, then go and do something else whilst your subconscious tackles the problem and eventually presents you with an idea.
A lot of creativity is influenced by the things we see and do and the conversations that we’ve had, which is why it’s important to give your brain a break at points and let the ideas develop on their own. Taking a walk, doing some exercise, watching or reading something unrelated or doing a simple task are all brilliant techniques that can lead to you having a ‘lightbulb moment’.
Just like asking questions can be a great solution when you’re wondering how to develop creativity, making connections and then thinking of ways to explain these connections can also be very useful. If you’re working with existing concepts or influences when coming up with a new idea, try putting things together and attempt to come up with ways that the two concepts are connected.
This is a great way to hone your creative thinking skills because it encourages lateral thinking. It may help you to find new perspectives or just spark entirely new ideas prompted by thinking outside the box.
You might believe that creative thinking is all about freedom, but one thing that can actually encourage more creativity is giving yourself constraints. If you have to think around a structure, include certain features or try to meet certain demands, this can force you to think more creatively to work around the constraints you’ve been given.
Starting with constraints can also take some of the pressure off you, as beginning with a totally blank canvas can be incredibly daunting and stifle creativity. Giving yourself certain targets or having to work with a brief provides a springboard for your ideas and makes it easier to begin the creative process.
As well as honing specific skills that will encourage creative thinking, practising creativity in your day-to-day life will make creative thinking easier and encourage your brain to constantly generate new ideas or solutions in the background, no matter what you’re doing.
A key part of practising creatively is being willing to take risks. Real innovation comes from totally new ideas and approaches that many people may be dubious about, but the most successful creative thinkers are the ones who embrace risks and run with them in order to take steps forward and come up with really impressive ideas.
We’ve already mentioned how useful it can be to focus on something else whilst you are coming up with creative ideas, and daydreaming is a key part of that. If you want to cultivate more creativity in your day-to-day life, give your thoughts a chance to wonder and let your mind drift every day, as this is often where the seeds of really great ideas are sown and you make connections or realise things that forced thinking would not have produced.
If you only expose yourself to certain types of media or ways of thinking, the only ideas that you’re going to come up with will be exactly the same as these. No matter what your personal preferences are, consuming a broad variety of content is a brilliant way to feed your creativity, give your subconscious more material to work with and find new inspiration in the most unexpected places.
Finally, if you’re going to enhance your creativity then you need to remove any judgement and criticism when you’re coming up with ideas. Instead of dismissing any ‘bad’ ideas you have, or feeling disheartened that you can only think of a few ‘good’ points, having an open mind and treating all thoughts equally will help you to generate more ideas and cultivate a mindset that only embraces creativity.
Creative thinking is an essential part of progress and innovation. Without creative ideas, it is unlikely that new concepts, solutions and products would be brought to life and a lot of the advances that have been made over the last two millennia would not have been made. On a smaller scale, a lot of personal and business growth also relies on creativity, so we need it to succeed at work and in our personal lives.
Creative thinking is also essential when it comes to solving difficult problems. A non-linear way of thinking opens up new opportunities and solutions that may otherwise have been missed, and is a key part of finding results.
Creativity is a key part of innovation, so it is incredibly important in business if you want to remain competitive, receive recognition for your work and make a real difference in your industry. Creative thinking is a highly sought after skill in the majority of businesses as it means that you can look at problems from different angles, come up with new solutions and contribute fresh and exciting ideas.
In short, deliberate creativity is thinking about thinking. It involves applying different models, techniques and concepts of thinking so that you see a problem from lots of different angles and force your brain to consider different perspectives and solutions until you come up with a creative solution.
Contrary to what some people might tell you, creative thinking is a skill that everyone has the capacity for and anyone can learn if they are willing to work hard. Not only will being a creative thinker present new opportunities for you and make you a more valuable member of a team, but it also has countless mental benefits and can lead to a longer and more fulfilling life.
If you’d like to learn more about creative thinking and hone your skills, we offer an online ‘Creative Thinking’ course as part of our leadership and development resources that is suitable for anyone looking to implement creative thinking in their business or professional life.