Creative Thinking

by Jayne Cormie

Myths about creativity

There are many myths about creativity which deter individuals from even trying to be creative and stifle creativity within organisations.

Creativity is a natural talent

This myth represents a huge barrier to personal creativity, since many people believe that creativity is a natural talent bestowed solely upon those ‘creative types’, rather than a skill which can be learned by everyone.

There is really nothing elusive or mysterious about creativity. Anyone who can talk is able to write. Anyone who can see is able to visualise. And anyone who can think is able to have ideas.

Stephen Baker

The truth is that everyone is creative. Think about when you were younger – what was your favourite game? Did you enjoy playing make-believe games with your favourite hero or heroine... making imaginary battle fields with toy soldiers or pretending to be Mummy or Daddy to your special doll?

Tip

Learn to think like a child again.

All these imaginary games came from the creative part of your brain. However, as you grew older, other parts of your brain were wired, enabling you to develop a broader range of thinking skills, including logical and analytical thinking. Your creativity didn’t disappear; it’s merely that you started using other types of thinking as well.

Creativity is for right-brain people

This common myth stems from the idea that the left-brain is responsible for logical thinking and the right brain is responsible for creative thinking. It is true that left-brain thinking is more logical and analytical and the right-brain is more creative and emotional. However, creativity is a whole-brain process which involves both the left and right sides of the brain in terms of being able to generate new ideas, analyse them, communicate them to others and implement them.

One of the main reasons why people believe that creativity is a right-brain skill is that the majority of tools and techniques used to create new ideas are chiefly right-brain focused in that their approach is random and spontaneous. Think about the last brainstorming meeting you attended. Chances are you were expected to come up with new ideas out of thin air, which some people can do but many can’t. Those people who can brainstorm like this have a natural tendency towards thinking creatively in this way. However, there are useful creative thinking tools which are structured and logical in their approach and therefore appeal more to the left-brain thinkers.

Tip

Use your whole brain.

It’s simply a question of knowing how to Discover your thinking style and then selecting the best thinking tools to use to stimulate your personal creativity.

The tools to think creatively page presents a range of tools, including some for left-brain thinkers and others for right-brain thinkers.

Creativity means doing something completely new

An idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old ideas.

Pareto

In fact, very few ideas are truly original. The majority of creative ideas result from combining old ideas in a new way. It’s a bit like creating a recipe for a new dish: all you have to do is get some ingredients you are already familiar with and put them together in a new way to create a completely new dish.

The 26 letters of the alphabet are combined in certain ways to create different words. The Oxford English Dictionary has over 400,000 words, each one using different combinations from the 26 letters in the alphabet.

Tip

Learn how to combine.

There are many examples illustrating this principle of combination in our everyday lives: for example, musical greeting cards, TVs with built-in DVDs and VCRs and clock radios.

Creativity is a group process

The truth is that most creative thinking is done by individuals rather than in groups. Think about it! Have you ever re-decorated your home, planned a party or designed your garden? If so, chances are you did the initial thinking on your own. Whether you jotted down a few notes onto paper or scribbled out a drawing, you were being creative.

The reason some people find it hard to be creative on their own is that they don’t push themselves to think out of the box and, as a result, end up with the same ideas as they have had before. The benefit of group thinking is that you can use other people to bounce ideas off. However, you can do this on your own if you know which tools to use.

Tip

Find the creative genius within.

There are many tools and techniques which can stimulate your individual creativity. Take, for example, Mind Maps®: a mind map is a visual thinking tool which reflects the way your brain naturally thinks and works by challenging your brain to make associations and connections. This forces your brain to think out of the box and, in doing so, conjure up new, more creative ideas.

Here are a few tips to stimulate your personal creativity:

  • Be curious and see things in new ways
  • Use your five senses to experience the world around you
  • Make analogies and speak in metaphors
  • Doodle and find the meaning in patterns
  • Tap into humour and make up your own jokes
  • Think like a kid
  • Sleep on it and let your subconscious mind go to work
  • Swap hats and see things from the perspective of others
  • Grow your mind through reading
  • Get out of your box and explore new spaces and places.

Creativity means breaking rules

We all follow rules every day and give many of them very little thought. Some rules are there for a reason: for example, the law exists to preserve order and peace in society. These are the rules we don’t want to break!

The golden rule is that there are no golden rules.

George Bernard Shaw

However, many rules exist because no-one ever challenges them and as a result they become the established norm. Think about all the mind-sets which exist within your business. Do you ever find yourself saying, ‘it won’t work’, ‘it can’t be done’ or ‘it’s always been done that way’? These comments reflect rules and assumptions which you carry around in your head and which limit your ability to think beyond them. These are the rules to challenge.

Many great ideas have come from challenging the rules rather than following them. Rules and boundaries provide a springboard to leap from in order to find new ways of doing things (but it doesn’t automatically mean that you will need to break the rules).

Tip

Challenge your assumptions.

So next time you are faced with a rule, question it, challenge it and use it as a catalyst to find a new idea. The Law breaker tool will force you to challenge your rules and assumptions in order to create new ideas.

Creativity is a time waster

We are taught in school that daydreaming is bad. This limiting mind-set extends into the working environment, with many people believing that those who daydream are time wasters. Many people assume that if you stare blankly out of the window in ‘dreamland’, you are wasting time.

Tip

Make daydreaming a habit.

In fact, the opposite is true. Daydreaming is the key to creativity as it is the door to the subconscious brain. When you are relaxed and in an altered state of mind, new and creative thoughts will emerge and develop. It is during those daydream times when creative inspiration is most likely to strike. Did you know that fifteen per cent of all good ideas are created in the bath when the body and mind are in a relaxed state?

Daydreaming can be done anytime and anywhere. So indulge in daydreaming everyday and encourage others to daydream.

Tip

Give people the permission to think! This means encouraging creative daydreaming and scheduling thinking time into daily routines.