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  • Writer's pictureKathy Miles

Creativity Series - Creative Thinking

Creative Thinking

What is your favourite work task? Who do you work well with?

You probably assumes that you were thinking about the above questions, but you weren't. You already knew the answers to those questions so you were recalling an answer from your memory.

What is Thinking?

Thinking is a creative process that we use to come up with possible options and solutions to help us make decisions, solve problems and understand something.

Thinking isn't something we actually think too much about, but it can be fun, exciting and challenging if done in the right way.

Leaders in the workplace need to be aware that their employee's brains are their greatest asset. Think of them like plants, if you water and feed the plants (by developing them, teaching them and challenging them) and look after them, they will bloom and grow. If you don't look after them, they will shrivel up and not reach their full potential.

Lateral Thinking:

  • Debbie is going away for six weeks next month. There are some tasks she completes that are very important.

  • Sue has filled in for Debbie before and knows exactly what to do.

  • Phil is new to the team and is still learning the ropes.

  • Andy has some awareness of Debbie's tasks, but hasn't shown any interest in assisting.

  • Rani the Team Leader can also complete the tasks but is expecting a major project to start up at the time Debbie is going on leave. She will have to manage this but will also need help from the team.

Who does Debbie's job while she is on leave?

Hands up who said Sue?

Isn't it interesting that you jumped to this conclusion automatically without even thinking about it? This is because your logic stepped in, like it normally does when trying to solve a problem. It helps you to work out what you think to be the best (most logical) solution.

Lateral thinking is when you solve a problem by using a creative approach. This means that you should think of several options, not just the one that came to you straight away.

Creative Thinking:

Creative thinking is seeing the same thing as everyone else but thinking of something different. Creative thinking is a way of thinking that leads to new ideas, new concepts, fresh perspectives, new ways of doing things and a new way of understanding things.

Essentially, creative thinking involves three key things:

  1. Ability - you need the ability to imagine or invent a new idea.

  2. Attitude - you need to have the right attitude to be creative. Positivity, optimism, and a passion for change, challenges, innovation and improvements is essential.

  3. Process - you need to have a process to follow. Michelangelo didn't just paint the Sistine Chapel overnight. In fact, it took four years of planning, having a vision, practice and probably many attempts to create exactly what he wanted.

Creative thinkers are likely to:

  • See problems as opportunities;

  • Be constantly curious;

  • Enjoy challenges;

  • Employ their Imagination;

  • Be non-judgemental;

  • Show optimism;

  • Seek problems out;

  • Persevere in times of doubt and challenge; and

  • Challenge assumptions.

Creativity in Action:

Many inventors are creative thinkers because they look at the way something is done, or not done, and they want to create a better way. They recognise a gap and they aim to fill it. Many have hundreds of attempts before finally nailing the right way, but they keep trying until they achieve it.

15 year old Chester Greenwood was going ice skating one cold December day in 1873. To protect his ears while ice skating, he found a piece of wire, and with his grandmothers help, he padded the ends. In the beginning, his friends laughed at him. This soon turned to surprise and envy when Chester was able to stay outside skating long after they had gone inside freezing cold! Soon they began asking Chester to make them ear covers too. For the next 60 years, Chester's factory made earmuffs!

Tips for Enhancing Your Creative Thinking:

  • Challenge Assumptions - What is the next number in this pattern - 1, 2, 3? Is it 4, 5 or 6? Most people will automatically say 4, but in reality any of the answers make sense depending on how you look at it. To assume, is to expect things will be a certain way because that is how they have been before. It is natural to make assumptions, we do it every day based on what we see, hear, experience and learn. We assume that because we think something, others must agree. We assume that everyone else will feel the same way about things as we do and we assume that because we know the answer or what to do, everyone does. It can be dangerous to assume, as sometimes assumptions can be wrong. Creative people will challenge assumptions on the chance they could be wrong.

  • Prediction - Prediction is a great creative tool. When you predict something, you guess how it is going to go. Like watching your favourite show on TV, you may guess what is going to happen next, or what will happen at the end of the movie.

  • Defining Problems - Creatively solving problems cannot really happen until you have defined the problem. By writing it down, you avoid rushing in to solve the problem with the first idea that you think of. This can give you valuable time to come up with other more creative, potentially greater ideas.

  • Generating Ideas - Once you have defined a problem, you can begin to develop ideas and solutions. Activities such as brainstorming and mind mapping are great tools for coming up with an array of possible solutions.

  • Searching for Alternatives - Even when you think you have your solution, look for an alternative. You should consider all alternatives before making your decision.

  • Using a Random Word/Image - This is a simple method to be more creative. Sometimes the best, most creative ideas come out of nowhere. Choose a random word - this is best done from a book - that will help trigger a new idea.

  • Changing Your Point of View - Sometimes just changing your point of view can change your perspective. Rather than assuming that you know all the facts, try and see something from another person's point of view. Ask them questions to work out their view and their reasoning.

Stay tuned for the next part in the Creativity Series - Bringing Creativity Back to the Workplace.

In the meantime, if you want to get your creative juices flowing even more, consider getting some Creative Coaching. When I need to get my creativity or motivation levels increased, I speak to my fabulous Creative Coach from the Creative Cocoon.

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