What Is Creative Thinking?
Let’s start by going over what it isn’t. Creative thinking doesn’t really have anything to do with creative arts or hobbies. In other words, you don’t have to be a creative person to be a creative thinker. Instead, creative thinking is something that can be learned, and it is certainly something that will help you in all areas of your life. Creative thinking is “out of the box” thinking. It’s a way to look at a problem from a new angle or a new perspective and come up with a new (and hopefully better) solution for it. It’s a great skill to have in your mental tool belt.
Creative thinking often involves looking at all the facts in a new way. The fictional character Sherlock Holmes is a great example of a creative thinker. He sees the same things everyone else sees, but also reads between the lines and fits the puzzle pieces together to come to a surprising solution.
Creative thinking will help you in all areas of your life. It’s simply a good problem-solving strategy. Let’s run through a couple of examples. I don’t know about you, but it’s much easier for me to grasp an abstract concept like this by looking at an example.
The Toothpaste Example
Let’s say you’ve been tasked to redesign toothpaste packaging to be more environmentally friendly. The obvious solution would be to use recycled materials in the cardboard box that the tube comes in. Maybe you could even reduce the size of the box and use vegetable ink. Those are all conventional ideas. Creative thinking will make you suggest to get rid of the box altogether, and instead, put a little safety film under the cap so consumers know it hasn’t been tampered with.
Children’s Pants Example
Let’s say your child has outgrown her pants again. Conventional thinking tells you to donate them and go buy new pants. Creative thinking has you getting out your scissors and sewing machine and spending 20 minutes to turn the pants into shorts.
In short, you want to think outside the box and find a solution that’s unconventional. You want to go beyond the obvious. Instead of finding a good or “good enough” solution, you find the perfect one.
The first step towards doing that is to simply realize that it’s OK to get creative. Throw out some ridiculous ideas and play with possible solutions. You never know when you’ll come across something that will not only work but work better than the obvious answer.
Taking Risks Sparks Creativity
We have an interesting concept to share with you. It’s the idea that risk-taking and creativity and creative thinking, in particular, are connected. The basic idea behind creative thinking is to go beyond the obvious, beyond the norm. That takes courage. That takes putting yourself out there with an unproven concept and an idea that could possibly be ridiculed. In short, thinking creatively and voicing those thoughts means taking a risk.
The reverse is also true. When you allow yourself to take risks and step outside your comfort zone, you start to think more creatively. Taking a risk means going all in. It means that you’re fully committed and you’re probably a little excited as well. That gets your brain fired up and helps you make connections that you wouldn’t see otherwise.
Taking a risk also means that you have something to lose.
Our minds are very good at avoiding pain. This could be physical or mental pain. That means that if you take a risk and put yourself out there, your mind will do everything it can to reduce or eliminate the pain or risk of pain. This is again where you get creative and find yourself coming up with solutions you wouldn’t have come up with otherwise.
Here’s the perfect example. Let’s say you’re running your own business and you risk your income by investing in a new marketing course or hiring a business coach. The expense may be a stretch and, if it doesn’t pay off, you may not have the money you need to pay your employees or yourself. That’s a pretty big risk.
It’s also the type of scenario where you find yourself going through the material in record time and implementing everything you learn. It’s the time when you work closely with your coach and hustle to grow your business. The risk is lighting a fire under you and making you work harder, and more importantly, making you come up with creative ideas to make up the expense.
When we take risks and tap into this creative thinking ability, we see huge growth in our business, in our personal lives, and in ourselves. Isn’t that worth getting a little uncomfortable for? Start thinking about where you want to see growth in your own life. What problems are you facing? Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Stop playing it safe and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what your mind will do to reward you for the risks taken.
Reading About Creative and Positive Thinkers Is Inspirational
In previous posts, I’ve mentioned how important it is to get and stay inspired. We’ve also talked about how learning new things will help keep our minds sharp and how it helps us think creatively. Today, we’re going to combine these two ideas and talk about the benefits of reading about creative and positive thinkers.
There are so many amazing people living today and who have lived in the past that we can learn from. It doesn’t matter if you’re admiring the foresight and creativity of technology gurus like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg if you admire ancient thinkers like Plato and Aristotle or anyone in between. There are many great thinkers and inspiriting people out there, and you should be reading about them.
Head to your local library, bookstore, or favorite online bookseller and look for books written by or about your favorite big thinkers. Make it a habit to learn a little more about them each month.
If they are current big thinkers, read their blogs, watch the videos they publish or follow them on social media. Get your hands on anything you can and pay attention to how they think and how they share information. You know you’re striking gold when you get a glimpse of their daily habits and what they do to encourage creative thinking.
Not only will you learn a lot directly from reading about these people, but you’ll also get and stay inspired to do your best on this journey towards creative and positive thinking of your own. Very early on in this series, I told you that you can do what you think you can do.
It’s a great motto to live by and something that definitely holds true.
The only problem is that it can also limit us. If we don’t think we can do something or haven’t even considered the possibility that we might be able to do something, we won’t be able to do it. That’s why it’s important to read about other big thinkers.
They open our eyes, expand our horizons, and show us what’s possible. Look at some of the advances we’ve made in technology over the past 100 years. If you lived a century ago, you could not possibly have imagined ideas like blogs and social media, high-speed internet and video conferencing, or little devices like smartphones that hold entire libraries and allow us to communicate at the touch of a button. No matter how creative of a thinker you may have been, you couldn’t possibly have thought about these ideas… and with that, they were out of your realm of possibility to reach.
When you read about and learn from other big thinkers, it opens your mind to what’s possible. Study them, follow them, learn from them, and most importantly, be inspired by them.
Kick Start Creative Thinking by Suspending Limits
Let’s talk about suspending limits and how we can use it to kick start creative thinking. It’s a great way to start a brainstorming session or use it on its own whenever you’re having a hard time coming up with creative solutions.
Here’s the big problem with creative thinking. Our minds try to keep us in the realm of possibility. The brain tries to stay within the box where it’s nice and safe. Our regular thinking processes go along the lines of what we know will work. That’s the opposite of creative thinking.
The best way to break through this thinking barrier is to suspend your beliefs and limits. When you erase the box, seeing what’s outside it becomes easy. To do this, ask yourself the following:
If money, physics, time, etc. weren’t an issue, what would you do?
Give it a try. Start by going through this as an exercise on a regular basis.
Ask yourself a hypothetical question or post a problem, and practice suspending limits. Here are a few examples:
- If time, money, and physics weren’t an issue, where would I go on vacation this year?
- What if money wasn’t an issue, where would I live? What would my house look like?
- If willpower and time weren’t an issue, what would I eat, what would I do to stay in shape and what would I look like?
- What if money and obligations weren’t an issue, what would I do for a living? How would I spend my time?
Give it a try and see for yourself how freeing it is to suspend your limits. While you won’t always come up with workable solutions, you’ll come up with some interesting ideas that may lead to other creative ideas.
Let’s say you’re thinking about the family vacation and something cool to do with your son, who happens to be a space buff, this year. Suspending your limits completely, you come up with the idea that going to the moon or even mars on vacation would be amazing. While that’s not a workable solution (at this point), it may give you some great ideas for space-type tourist destinations you could visit. You may end up heading to Cape Canaveral on vacation, for example. something that may not have crossed your mind until you suspended your limits and got creative.
How else can you incorporate this into your life? Make it part of your daily journaling. It always makes for some fun journal entries. Get your family, your close friends, and your team at work involved. Use suspending limits as an ice breaker for any and all discussions, conversations, and meetings; and see where it takes you. Have fun with it, and you’ll surprise yourself with the creative ideas you come up with.