What is creative thinking anyway?
If you will ask people what is creativity, most of them will probably associate it with art—whether that’s painting, sculpting or drawing, writing a novel, or maybe composing music.
But does that mean that if you are not an artist, you cannot do creative thinking?
The answer’s no. While these are all creative endeavors, you don’t have to be an artist to be a creative thinker.
Creative thinking means looking at something in a new way…in a different way…from a new angle. It is the very definition of “thinking outside the box.” Often, creativity in this sense involves what is called lateral thinking, or the ability to perceive patterns that are not obvious.
Creative people have the ability to formulate new ways to carry out tasks, solve problems, and unravel challenges.
Here are some ways to be a creative thinker by looking at problems from a different angle.
Start with The Obvious and Turn It Around
Look at a problem. Try to figure out how to solve it. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? That’s the obvious answer, the obvious solution. The quickest way to get creative is to take that and completely turn it around.
Let’s say that your problem is paying off your student debt. The obvious solution would be to go after a bigger paying job, a promotion, or a raise, so you have more money at the end of the month to apply to the debt. Turn it around and make a large payment towards that debt at the beginning of the month. This forces you to prioritize, spend less throughout the month, and make due. You’ll pay off your debt in record time without having to wait around for a bigger, better paycheck.
Question Every Assumption You Have
If you are watching detective movies or series, most of the detectives do this thing–the creative thinking for problem-solving.
We are all raised to do things a certain way. We make assumptions, and they are what hold us back from coming up with creative solutions. To make sure you can see the most creative and effective solutions, you have to get in the habit of questioning every single assumption you have.
Let’s use something as simple as an example. I’m sure you’ve been told plenty of times that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That’s an assumption that’s been picked up by plenty of doctors to the point where we all believe that it’s true.
What if it isn’t? Maybe you’ve been forcing yourself to spend 20 minutes every morning making and eating breakfast, and it simply wasn’t as important as you think? What if getting those extra 20 minutes back makes you get into the office earlier and helps you impress your boss and get that promotion? Have you ever tried working on an empty stomach until 11 am? What if fasting a little longer in the morning was actually good for your health?
Don’t take stuff at face value. Don’t do things because that’s how we’ve always done them. Question them and see if there’s a better solution waiting on the other side.
Brainstorm and Don’t Be Afraid to Go Crazy
Brainstorming is a great way to get to those creative solutions. You can do this by yourself, but it works even better in a team. Sit down and just start to throw out possible solutions or ideas. Don’t censor yourself; don’t edit… just start to let it all out.
In the beginning, you’ll get all the obvious answers that you’ve already thought of and dismissed. That’s OK. This is a process, and the conventional ideas have to come out before you are able to get to the truly innovative and crazy stuff. Keep pushing and keep digging for more and more, no matter how outrageous or ridiculous it seems. This is when you and your team start to think creatively. Keep going and see where it leads you. Most of the ideas won’t work, but if you’re lucky you will find the one that’s just crazy enough to work.
Having this in mind, we have to understand that creative thinking is a skill we need to develop early on.
We have to be able to break the patterns and traditional way of thinking to be able to start thinking in a creative way. A way that is going to help you create a new approach to a particular situation or a problem.
Creative thinking and problem-solving are essential skills for professional development and even for our own personal growth.