Creative Thinking Skills You Need

Creative thinking skills are currently considered as important as literacy for the rising generation.  Why is this?

At first glance, creative thinking techniques seem silly or even absurd.  You want me to do what?  Draw?  I haven’t drawn in 30 years!  You want me to do what?  Mind map?  That looks messy!  My orderly list has worked fine for decades.  Why would I take time to learn a new method?  I know what my goals are.  You want me to keep going and to keep thinking about them?  Why?

Have an idea

However skeptical you may be about the process of creative thinking, much research supports the benefits of going through the creative thinking process–even if it feels a bit foreign or odd at the beginning.  Try to keep an open mind, and you may find yourself surprised at the results.

Let’s look at some basic creative thinking skills.Neurons in the brain

Brainstorming

To brainstorm means to generate a lot of ideas.  The more ideas you have, the more likely it is you will have a GOOD IDEA.

One crazy statistic stood out to me above the others in my graduate Creativity course.  Here it is.  Are you ready?  Only 8 out of 100 ideas are good ideas.  That’s right.  This is why you want to sit in the creative thinking phase a little longer.  To get to your best ideas, creativity experts encourage you to keep the ideas flowing.  That way, you can actually get to the good ones.  Often one idea leads to the next, which leads, in turn, to another one–which happens to be the good one!

In this phase of thinking, don’t edit yourself.  Often one idea leads to another, so at this point value all ideas–even the ridiculous ones.*

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Engage your right brain.

The left brain is associated with logic and order while the right brain is known for its ability to handle the messiness of life.  Much innovation and divergent thinking originates in the right brain.  The left brain is awesome when you know exactly where you are going and how to get there.  Engaging the right brain, however, may help you to access some needed energy to get over a hurdle or find a solution to a difficult problem.

Here are some ways to engage your right brain.

  • Mind Mapping.  Use words and lines to visually organize a large amount of interconnected information. A mind map is often created around a central concept drawn in the center.  Hierarchical relationships are visually represented as images, words, and lines branch outward from this central concept.  
  • Drawing Rich Pictures.  Visually draw the pictures in your mind connected with your goals or ideas.  The right brain, which is more thoroughly connected to your deeper desires and values than the left brain, cannot be accessed through words.  What are the most ideal outcomes you can imagine? Use words sparingly while you draw what “wild success” looks like to you.
  • Envisioning the future.  Use the above concepts to picture a bridge from your current state to your new, desired reality.  Sketch things as they currently are on the left of a page.  Then, sketch images of things as you desire them to be on the right.  Envisage a “bridge” between the two and draw pictures of how to get from here to there.
  • Imagineering/Role Playing.  Use objects in an individual setting or actual people in a group setting to represent people and tasks as they are.  Then, explore new ways of being through these interrelationships by role playing.  What are some new ways these people and tasks can interact with each other?  What would happen if there were no barriers and perfection could be achieved?  Ask yourself why things are not that way and seek to dismantle these actual or perceived hurdles.

Keep Going

Even when you believe you have gotten to a good point, don’t stop there!  Keep going to explore more possibilities, and you will be surprised at the results.   Walt Disney coined the term “plussing” to describe this process of bringing your best ideas even further.  When his imagineers would come to him with their best work, he would observe their work and then say, “Plus it.”  This meant that they were to ask themselves, “How can this be even better?”  His brilliant imagineers would go back to the drawing board, literally.  Then, they would return with even better work.  Then, Walt would say, “Plus it again!”

You only need to watch a two minute clip of one of his amazing videos to appreciate the value of plussing.  Here is one of my favorites.

A friend of mine used this idea recently as she visited a friend with her newborn baby.  She asked herself the question, “How can I make this even better?”  The thought entered her mind to offer to stop by the grocery store on her way and deliver some necessities to her door.  She then remembered to “plus it again.”  Into her mind popped the idea of purchasing a sweet little outfit for the baby while she was shopping.  Not only did the new mom have a visit from a dear friend, but she also had a practical need met with the addition of a special gift.  This particular mom was very moved by her friend’s surprising efforts.

Idea concept on black. Perpetual motion with light bulbs

Not Sold?

For some of you, this process of sitting with ideas and not judging them may feel uncomfortable.  You are envisioning a wasteful allocation of budget to fund pink paint for a pet project in underwater basket weaving–on Mars.

If this is you, it may be helpful to keep in mind the different types of thinking.  Two type of thinking that are very important in uncovering the solutions to your biggest problems are divergent and convergent thinking.  Usually, our brains prefer one or the other, but both are necessary for good problem solving.

Divergent thinking involves generating creative ideas and exploring possible solutions.

Convergent thinking focuses on finding a single best, most correct answer to a question.

It is best to start with divergent idea generation and then move to convergent decision making after a robust session of idea generation.  This is why the Think Time Life Leadership System includes both divergent and convergent thinking in our Dream, Decide, Do, and Review process.

The important thing to remember is to do the right type of thinking at the right time for the right results.  

These are my thoughts.  What are yours?  Please comment below!

Christine M. Wilson, LPC

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