Creativity is the most important human resource of all. As Albert Einstein said, we cannot solve problems with the same level of thinking with which we created them. And so does unleashing our creative power that needs a different kind of thinking.
Since each one of us have our own unique perspective, creative process is different for different people. To be creative is to find new, improved ways of thinking. But the difficulty often is not in developing new ones, but to escape old thinking patterns.
Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.George Lois
Problems are part of our everyday routine, from managing tasks to managing people. Without being creative in problem-solving, one always gets stuck in the same thought patterns.
Getting creative in solving problems is to unlock your creative ability by challenging your own assumptions, so you are receptive to new ideas. Also, innovative ideas are most sought after in today’s workplaces. So, developing keenness in how to build your creative muscle can set you apart and make you a better problem solver.
So, what do creative thinkers do differently
Creative thinking involves tapping into different styles of thinking and analyse information from different perspectives to see new patterns. People who think creatively go against the grain to explore new ways for solving problems. They intentionally gain new insights and different ideas through their creative efforts. Creative thinkers are confident on their intuitiveness and trust in their own judgment.
They avoid rigid, set patterns of doing things to overcome biases and look at the problem from a fresh perspective. Most of the creative thinkers are highly self-aware, are of growth-mindset and have the ability to reframe their perspectives to come up with something that is truly innovative.
However, creative thinkers aren’t the only ones who are gifted to think creatively, anyone can foster creative ideas with some practice. With right thinking tools, you can tap into creative thinking to solve a wide variety of problems. There are many ways to build your creative thinking skills. By using different thought techniques, you can quickly recognise when you are getting accustomed to old patterns.
Four thinking skills that can make you more creative
The Six Thinking Hats
This is a technique that Dr. Edward de Bono came up with, in the 80’s. Using this method, you can wear six different hats with six different perspectives. Six hats represent six modes of thinking and provide direction to think rather than being stuck in old rigid ways. And is mostly applied in team problem solving where everyone is able to contribute to explore solutions.
The following are the six metaphorical hats that the thinker can put on or take off to indicate the type of thinking being used. When in group, everyone wears the same hat at the same time.
White thinking hat: This covers facts, figures and information required to solve a problem. White hat is the neutral hat and is what you want to wear when problem just comes up. This hat directs you to drop arguments at the moment. It leads you to look at the facts or data to see if there are any gaps.
Red thinking hat: This covers intuition, feelings, and emotions. When you wear this hat, you can can show your gut feelings without any need to justify them. One can freely express exactly how they feel putting on Red hat. In general, feelings and intuition are considered only when they are supported by logic or with valid reasoning. However, usually the feeling is genuine even when logic is poor. That way the Red hat allows you to put forward your feelings on the issue at hand in the moment.
Black thinking hat: When you want to show caution and express a critical view point, this is the hat you want to wear. It is a most valuable thinking hat and makes sure that you steer clear of bad decisions, and is always logical. This mode of thinking is used to point out why a suggestion or an idea doesn’t fit the facts, or why an existing system, or the method is being followed.
Yellow thinking hat: This is the hat of positive logical reasoning. It helps you recognise the positive sides of an idea—why something will work and why it is better, or why it can be used. This hat directs you to consider the result of some proposed action and to find something of value.
Green thinking hat: This is the hat of creativity, alternatives, possibilities, and fresh ideas. When you want to contribute new ideas and solutions, this hat is the one you should choose, which is why everyone should wear a green thinking hat.
Blue thinking hat: This hat organises all others. It looks not at the subject itself but at the thinking about the subject. Putting on blue hat, a person manages the entire decision-making process, and makes sure that all other thinking hats follow the rules and guidelines.
Six thinking hats lets you see the same problem from several different angles, and quickly. This creative process in a way separates their personal preferences or prejudice from performance. A person can contribute under any hat even though they initially support any opposite point of view.
Intuitive and non-intuitive thinking
This creative thinking tool involves intuitive and non-intuitive skills, and doesn’t use rational processes such as facts and data. Our intuition is the brain’s ability to deduce conclusions based on our knowledge, emotions and learned experiences. In this, there is no exact procedure, because no two people can think alike.
Unlike strategic thinking, it doesn’t involve step-by-step approach to the problem. And more or less the route to solution is one way. Intuitive thinking comes to you on spot and is faster when compared to other thinking tools.
This is because the problem you are dealing with has something in common with your past experience. It only analyses existing information or that which you already know. Therefore, you might end up with wrong conclusions if you are working on outdated information.
Also, the so-called common knowledge may not be correct all the time. It even might instigate conflict in group or team problem-solving, as not everyone can arrive at same conclusion. Though many situations lead us to think intuitively, some don’t. And it is equally important at times to think non-intuitively.
Some ways to think non-intuitively
To keep an open mind to new data and options requires you to think counter intuitively at times. Asking yourself, Does my intuitive knowledge makes sense? If so why? If not, why not? What kind of information do I need to question my thoughts? encourages you to think non-intuitively.
Another way to be non-intuitive in your thinking is to gain more experience. This makes it easier to see the similarities, differences and what is new from what you learned in the past. Though experience teaches you to be intuitive in your problem-solving, it also teaches which problems needs you to be counter-intuitive.
Experimentation also can help you to be counter-intuitive when it comes to discovering something that isn’t consistent with what you thought. The more you build your knowledge, the more easier it will be to think intuitively as well as non-intuitively.
At times, it is important to see opposites to any idea or concept you are considering. A creative problem solver sees opposites, he learns to see things backwards, inside out, and upside down. Reverse brainstorming is one of such thinking skill that helps you to solve problems by combining both brainstorming and problem reversal technique.
This is a good technique to use when it is difficult to identify solutions to the problem directly. Instead of thinking about direct solutions, you identify ways that worsen a problem, and then reverse those ideas to find solutions you hadn’t thought before.
Once you identify the challenge or problem, state the problem in reverse by changing a positive statement into a negative one or by giving a negative problem a positive outcome.
Brainstorm by defining what the problem or challenge is not. For instance, start with one of two reverse questions, instead of asking, How a solution can be achieved, ask, “How could I possibly achieve the opposite?” And instead of asking “How can I solve the problem?” ask, “How could I possibly cause the problem?”
Brainstorm answers to generate reverse solution ideas. Use the ‘what if’ compass to change the direction of your perspective. For instance, what if I stretch the limit … or shrink the size.. … or personalise or depersonalise it…?”
Change the direction of your perspective in opposite ways. Review all the ideas thus generated. Try asking, Are there any alternative perspectives? Or Are there new ideas to solve the reversed problem?
Now reverse or flip these results and look for potential solutions to the original problem you are trying to solve. For instance, if the result is to decrease sales, think about increasing them. Or if something turns out bad, think about the positive aspects of the situation.
The key trait of this tool is that the essential words are reversed. The problem thus reversed can lead to more creative ideas. Reverse brainstorming can be used to encourage alternative view points and assumptions about a problem.
The Discontinuity Principle
As much as we think we are being creative in coming up with new solutions, we continue to be drawn to old habitual ways of thinking. This could be because our ideas of what we think we know are often subjective to our desire for continuity.
Simply put, the principle of continuity is our brain’s desire and ability to create complete, continuous things from disjointed ones.
Since our brain’s tendency is to desire continuity, this may lead to preferences, biased thinking when it comes to innovating or ideating. We might think and act based on what we have experienced before but do miss out on creative ways in our current thinking. In other words, the more you are used to something, the less stimulating it is for creativity.
On the contrary, when you disrupt your thought pattern, it creates a stimulus that forces us to make new connections. So sometimes, creating interruptions into your regular patterns of thinking, and trying a different approach, method or process that you wouldn’t normally do is a good way to come up with creative ideas.
Here are some creative questions you can ask yourself in relation to a problem you are trying to resolve,
What opportunities have I missed or not considered?
What are some of the worst ideas I can think of for solving this issue?
If I dig deeper, what would I learn about myself—How rigid or flexible is my thinking ?
Is my existing information useful? Where did I learn this? How do I know that I’m accurate?
How do I know that I’m being wise? How do I know that the decisions I am making are the right ones? What would exist that doesn’t exist now?
What solutions would be in place that are not now?
Every problem we face can be solved creatively and we all have innate ability to do so. However, tapping into your creative abilities requires you to challenge your original perspectives. Make a conscious effort to step outside of your old rigid ways and let go of your fear of being wrong. Once you can build these questions and new found thinking skills into the context of your day to day problem-solving then you can invoke your creative abilities to develop a solution focused approach.
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