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Few things feel better than a stroke of creative genius. A new creative idea can make you feel brilliant and unstoppable.
But, when the great ideas stop flowing, it’s easy to get discouraged and declare that you’re just not a creative thinker.
Many people believe that creative thinking is something that strikes at random. In reality, there are many ways to use creative problem-solving every day, even if you don’t think you have innate creativity. While thinking creatively isn’t difficult, it does take practice.
Building your creative skills is the key to innovation. But where do you start?
In this article, we’ll cover what creative thinking is, how it works, and how to strengthen your creative skill.
What is creative thinking?
Creative thinking may feel like a superpower reserved only for a “creative person.” Thankfully, creative geniuses aren’t the only ones who can have innovative ideas.
At its core, creative thinking is intentionally gaining new insights and different ideas through existing information.
Often, creative thought involves tapping into different styles of thinking and examining information from different viewpoints to see new patterns. Anyone can foster a creative mind with some practice!
Using a wide variety of brainstorming strategies can help you discover new solutions for issues in every area of your life, including at work.
In fact, 61% of employees say they’re expected to come up with creative ideas or new ways to do things at work. But, with only 30% of employees saying they’re given time to think or discuss new ideas daily, it’s becoming increasingly important to develop our creative thinking muscles.
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Types of creative thinking
Fostering creative thinking starts with changing your perspective. Learning new and different styles of thinking can help give birth to powerful idea generation.
Aesthetic thinking, divergent thinking, lateral thinking, convergent thinking, and inspirational thinking are five types of innovative thinking to get the ball rolling.
Divergent and convergent thinking are the most common ways to foster more creative thought.
Divergent thinking is like a traditional brainstorming session, where you come up with as many possible solutions as your imagination will allow.
Meanwhile, convergent thinking takes a more logical approach, encouraging you to gather facts and discover the most common solution to a problem. These strategies are frequently used together to conjure new creative solutions.
Inspirational thinking focuses on imagining the best-case scenarios to find a new way to solve a problem, while lateral thinking involves letting ideas flow in a step-by-step format.
Aesthetic thinking focuses on reframing the problem to see its inherent beauty and value, like looking at a painting.
Why is creative thinking important?
It’s easy to get stuck in the same thought patterns, especially at work. However, those thought patterns may be hampering your innovation and keeping you stuck in routines that don’t serve you.
Creative thinking shows us that there are many solutions to any problem, and developing your creative thinking skills helps you recognize innovative solutions more quickly.
Plus, creativity was the most sought-after soft skill in 2020, so strengthening your creativity skills can set you apart at work, too.
Alongside critical thinking and focus, creative thinking is crucial to help recognize patterns that may not be obvious at first glance. Thinking creatively makes you a better problem-solver, which has far-reaching benefits in both your work and personal life.
Expressive, creative thinking helps us challenge our own assumptions, discover new things about ourselves and our perspective, stay mentally sharp, and even be more optimistic.
How creative thinking works
Many business leaders see creativity and innovation as something unpredictable, with 53% of businesses reporting that innovation occurs by chance. However, with the right tools, you can tap into creative thinking whenever you want.
There are many ways to get your creative juices flowing, and practicing creative thinking strategies can help you think creatively more readily and more often.
Creative thinking works by igniting our curiosity. Getting curious about a problem looks different for various industries.
A go-to example for creative thinking may be the advertising executive coming up with creative campaigns by brainstorming with divergent thinking. However, that’s far from the only way to use creative thinking.
In STEM industries like biomedicine, stimulating creativity by asking open-ended questions and creating fictional scenarios helps professionals find innovative solutions to health problems.
These questions encourage medical professionals to experiment and discover new ways of solving a persistent problem.
Through creative thinking, professionals in any field can discover unique answers to pressing problems.
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What are some examples of creative thinking?
Creative thinking is valuable in many situations, not just traditionally creative industries. Whether you’re solving a problem, organizing your calendar, or at an impasse with your team, creative thinking can come in handy.
One way creative thinking is valuable is for identifying the right problem.
Using divergent thinking strategies can help you examine a problem from every angle and identify the true root of the issue.
Once you’ve found the root problem, you can use lateral thinking or convergent thinking to discover new solutions that may not have been available to you before.
Adding constraints, like a timeline or budget for your project, can also help you guide a creative thinking session.
For example, you could brainstorm how you'd handle a particular problem if your existing budget was cut in half. Constraints can help spur unique ideas you may have missed.
The benefits of creative thinking
Creative thinking doesn’t just make you a better employee; it also makes you a better parent, student, and leader, too. By developing your creative thinking skills, the benefits of thinking creatively can show up throughout your daily life.
Here are a few major benefits of creative thinking.
Improved problem-solving capabilities
We don’t just solve problems at work, and we shouldn’t only use our creative thinking skills at work, either! Developing your creative thinking abilities can help you solve a wide variety of problems faster.
As your mind becomes more accustomed to using different thought techniques, you’ll quickly recognize patterns that you might not have before.
Stronger interpersonal connections
Creative thinking can help you communicate your ideas more clearly, which leads to better conversations and relationships with your friends, family, and coworkers.
Plus, many creative thinking methods work best when they’re done in a group. Developing new ideas together can strengthen bonds and help you combine ideas to create something truly innovative.
It may seem like creative thinking is a time-consuming distraction from your work, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
When we get stuck in thought patterns, it’s easy to get frustrated when something isn’t working correctly. That frustration can cause our productivity to plummet.
Taking a moment and engaging in a creative thinking strategy can renew your motivation, reinvigorate your passion, and help you find new solutions when you’re stuck.
Creative thinking allows you to try on perspectives that you may not have considered before.
As you’re exploring new perspectives, you may discover something about your own assumptions, viewpoints, or biases that you never noticed.
Challenging your traditional way of thinking can offer higher self-awareness and build your emotional intelligence. With creative thinking, you strengthen your ability to reframe your perspective and harness a growth mindset.
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How to make your thinking process more creative
Now that we see how important creative thinking skills are, building our creative capabilities is the next step to reap the benefits.
There are many ways to encourage more creative thinking in your daily life. While practicing different thinking strategies and brainstorming with your team at work help to develop these skills, they’re far from the only way to foster a more creative thought process.
One powerful way to get your creativity flowing is to meet new people, especially if they’re in the arts or in a different industry from you. Sharing your interests and listening to others can inspire you to view the world differently.
Practicing boredom can help you develop your creativity, too. Allowing yourself to become bored and seeing what pulls your interest can help you practice letting your curiosity lead the way.
Another tactic is to ask questions about everything that piques your interest, and come up with possible answers before you look up the actual answer.
Coaching can also help you hone your creative thinking.
In fact, 71% of employers see managerial coaching as helpful for creative development. When you’re feeling distracted or uninspired, coaching can refocus your attention and help you get curious about your experience.
Breaking away from your normal routine and trying something new is the key to fostering creative thinking in your daily life.
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Start fostering your creative thinking skills
Thinking more creatively can take effort, but a little practice can offer a ton of benefits. Honing your skills to recognize patterns and find solutions shifts your perspective and offers a new vantage point for you to explore.
Not only can creative thinking improve your performance at work, but it can also improve every other area of your life too.
Coaching is a powerful tool to help foster your creativity skills. Are you ready to become more innovative?
Start working with a dedicated coach today to develop your own creative thinking skills.