Creative Thinking

by Jayne Cormie

Common questions

  1. What is the difference between creativity and innovation?
  2. Is creativity a natural talent or can it be taught?
  3. Why are some people more creative than others?
  4. Where do creative ideas come from?
  5. Can creativity be measured?
  6. Is there a process I can use to help me to be more creative?
  7. How do I brainstorm?
  8. When should I use a creative thinking tool?
  9. How do I know which thinking tool to use?
  10. How do I evaluate and select the best ideas?
  11. Do I use the same thinking tools to solve problems?
  12. What do I do once I’ve got an idea?

 

1. What is the difference between creativity and innovation?

Creativity is the part of the process which involves generating the idea. Innovation involves implementing the idea. Many companies use these terms interchangeably, which is why the confusion arises.

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2. Is creativity a natural talent or can it be taught?

The fact is that everyone is creative. Up until the age of about seven years, much of our time is spent in creative play as we engage our imagination to invent games, stories and make-believe friends. After that age, our left-brain cortical skills become more highly developed, which means that we have access to a broader range of thinking skills. However, your creative brain is still active. It’s just that you might not use it as much as you used to. The propensity to create new ideas drops from 90 per cent at the age of five to two per cent at adulthood.

By exercising your creative brain with lateral thinking puzzles and by using the thinking tools described in this topic, you can re-learn creative thinking skills and unleash your personal creativity once again!

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3. Why are some people more creative than others?

Some people are perceived to be more creative than others simply because they have a more dominant creative brain. This means that they are naturally able to come up with creative ideas, seemingly without much effort. However, as explained in question 2, above, everyone is creative. And once you know what your personal thinking style is, you can select the best thinking tools to use to stimulate your own creativity.

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4. Where do creative ideas come from?

The brain has a natural ability to link, associate and connect pieces of information together in order to create a pattern of thought. Once established, such patterns are useful because they enable us to recognise things quickly and carry out tasks automatically. Unfortunately, we get stuck in our patterns of thinking, which is why we find it hard to think outside the box.

A creative idea happens when new associations and connections are made in the brain, creating a new pattern of thought.

So the key to unlocking your creativity is to learn how to make new associations and connections, using the thinking tools described in this topic.

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5. Can creativity be measured?

The Torrance Test of Creativity, which is designed to measure creative ability, uses four key criteria:

  • Fluency – the ability to generate a large number of ideas fast
  • Flexibility – the ability to generate ideas in different categories
  • Originality – the ability to produce unusual and unique ideas
  • Elaboration – the ability to build on an idea by developing it, expanding it, embroidering it and elaborating the original thought.

You can measure your personal level of creativity (and creativity within your organisation as a whole) by evaluating all the ideas you have against these four criteria.

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6. Is there a process I can use to help me to be more creative?

The creative process involves seven key steps, which are divided into two phases. The germinal phase involves generating ideas and the practical phase entails evaluating and implementing the ideas.

This seven-step process will guide you through the essential elements of transforming an idea from conception to execution.

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7. How do I brainstorm?

Brainstorming can be done individually and in groups. The process is the same for both and the seven steps of the creative process will guide you through the key elements.

The actual brainstorming involves two phases:

  • Phase one – brain dump

The first phase involves conducting an initial brain dump of all the ideas which already exist within your head or within the group. Write down your creative task on a flipchart or piece of paper. Then use the mind map technique to capture all the ideas which flow off the top of your head(s).

  • Phase two – brainstorm

This phase is when you use one or more of the creative thinking tools described in this topic to continue generating ideas. The tools will help you to think beyond your initial thoughts and to stimulate you to think outside the box. Capture all ideas suggested, using flipcharts and/or group mind maps.

The final step of the entire process is to evaluate all ideas captured during brainstorming and select which to develop further. You can use one of the four techniques for processing ideas described in this topic.

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8. When should I use a creative thinking tool?

As explained in the answer to question 7, the first phase in brainstorming is to brain-dump all the ideas you already have floating around in your head. When you start to feel that you are struggling to come up with new ideas, you can use a thinking tool to stimulate your creativity.

However, you can also use a thinking tool whenever you want to challenge your brain to think more creatively. Be guided by your intuition as to when to use a tool.

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9. How do I know which thinking tool to use?

Each of the five thinking tools described in this topic can be used for any creative thinking task. They are all designed to stimulate you to think creatively, they just do it in different ways.

Once you have identified your personal thinking style, you could start by using the thinking tool which is designed to reflect how you think. For example, if you are a digital thinker, you might want to use the law breaker tool first, as it is logical and analytical, which is how your brain thinks.

However, it is recommended that you try all the tools presented, as you might find that your creativity increases when you challenge your brain to think in a an unaccustomed way.

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10. How do I evaluate and select the best ideas?

Once you have generated as many ideas as you can, the next step is to evaluate every idea and select the best idea(s) to develop.

There are four main techniques for processing your ideas: sleeping on the matter, dot voting, six thinking hats and the idea evaluation matrix. Your choice of technique will depend on the complexity of your creative task and how much evaluation and analysis you want/need to do.

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11. Do I use the same thinking tools to solve problems?

Yes, you can use the same thinking tools to solve problems. The creative problem-solving process involves six stages, one of which is the idea generation stage.

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12. What do I do once I’ve got an idea?

Once you have identified your winning creative idea, the next step is to transform it from its concept form through to practical reality. This involves

  1. Development of the idea (concept development, design work)
  2. Conversion (feasibility studies, research, business case analysis)
  3. Execution (planning and launching the idea)
  4. Evaluation (continuous improvement programme).

There are two techniques you can use to help you to plan and project-manage the implementation process. Mind mapping is a great tool for scoping out what needs to be done. Storyboarding enables you to create a visual plan by identifying the key tasks to be completed with timings.

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