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Creative Thinking: What Is It and How to Improve It

August 18, 2021

According to a recent study by McKinsey, the top soft skills that HR professionals want to see on candidates’ resumes are problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity skills. While a lot of you will understand the importance of the first two skills, not everyone will understand why creativity is on this list of sought after skills. 

Sadly, a lot of individuals tend to think of ‘creative thinking’ as something that is required only in artistic jobs - musicians, photographers, designers, etc. But the truth is, in today's fast-changing world creative thinking is essential for any professional, because you have to continuously think about what you’re doing from every possible perspective in order to give rise to innovative ideas. 

In this article we’ll talk about what creative thinking is, why it’s important in any industry, and how to boost your creative thinking skills. 

What is Creative Thinking?

Creative thinking is the ability to look at things from a unique perspective. People who are good at thinking creatively approach tasks in different ways, and they use their imagination to generate innovative ideas and new ways of doing things. 

These skills are indispensable, whether you are trying to create a piece of art or a marketing strategy. So, any job where an individual needs to build something new, both literally and figuratively, requires strong creative thinking skills. And positions in technology are not an exception. 

It’s a common misconception that tech jobs are not creative at all. This simply isn’t true. Writing code for a new software application, designing an innovative product, ensuring that customers get the most effective solution are all highly creative acts. And tech companies need employees that can think outside of the box, and to come up with inspirational ideas that nobody else has thought of. 

Luckily, there are specific creative thinking techniques that can help you to think more creatively - read about them below.

Techniques To Aid Creative Thinking 

There are various techniques that you can use to boost your creative thinking. Here’s a list of the most popular of them. 

Brainstorming 

Brainstorming is a technique that is used by many people around the world. The aim of this technique is to generate lots and lots of ideas to solve a particular problem. 

Usually, this is a group activity, where all the participants are encouraged to share thoughts spontaneously and to avoid criticizing other people’s thoughts. 

The goal of brainstorming sessions is to develop as many ideas as possible in a set timeframe. So, quantity is emphasized over quality. 

Reframing 

Reframing is a method where you look at a situation from various, and sometimes unexpected, angles. 

Next time you are stuck, try to ask yourself several questions: "What else could this mean?", "What opportunities does this situation present to me?", "What can I learn from this?". 

Maybe looking at a problem from several perspectives will be just what you need to find a solution to your issue. 

Mind Mapping 

Mind mapping is another technique that allows you to organize data, visualize connections between various concepts, uncover hidden patterns, overcome creative blocks, and to generate ideas. The beauty of this technique is in its simplicity. 

Get a blank piece of paper and start writing in the center of the page what your main topic is. Then develop subtopics around this central point and keep working outwards. 

There are also plenty of online tools for creating mind maps on your computer or smartphone. Check out Mindomo, GitMind, Ayao, or MindMup, for example. 

Surprise 

Surprise in the context of creative thinking, means that an idea just appears out of the blue to you. 

However, there is a reasonable explanation for this ‘Aha! moment’. 

In certain situations, your brain needs additional time to process all the available data to find the best solution. Sometimes, when you’re trying to solve a problem for a long time without much success, the best thing to do is to step back for a while because you’re being swamped by the information. 

And maybe after a short break, you will have a proverbial "Aha!" moment. Because you’ve literally removed yourself from the problem, you’ll be able to see the problem, and perhaps the solution, far more clearly.  

Creative Flow

Creative flow is a state of hyperfocus when you are completely absorbed in your work, everything is clear and new ideas are generated with no effort. Flow usually occurs if you’re working in a non-destructive environment, and if a task isn’t too easy, so you don’t get bored, and nor is it too hard to cause frustration. 

Now that you know what creativity is, and what creative thinking techniques exist, let's discuss how to improve your creative thinking skills. 

How to Improve Your Creative Thinking Skills

Most people tend to think that creativity is a gift that a few lucky people are born with. But the truth is that it’s a skill. And like any other skill, it can be developed and honed over time. So, here are some ideas on how you can improve your creative thinking abilities right now.  

Do one thing differently each day

Routines bring structure to your life, but they also hurt creativity. Make a habit of doing something different from time to time. Take an alternative route to the office or make something new for dinner. Even small changes train your brain to be more flexible and more creative.

Put yourself in a diverse environment

Individuals tend to surround themselves with people who are "like them," and these people typically have similar views on life. However, meeting people with different backgrounds will challenge your assumptions, will encourage you to be more open-minded and it will boost your creative thinking abilities.   

Get some exercise

Exercise is good for you for lots of reasons, and improving your ability to think creatively is one of them. Numerous studies have shown that even a slow 30 minute walk can clear your mind, lessen your anxiety level, and significantly boost your creativity level. 

Take a course

On websites like EdX, Coursera or Udemy you’ll find an excellent assortment of online courses that can help you improve your creative thinking abilities. 

These courses will go through some simple exercises, useful tools and techniques that are applicable in different situations, so that in the end you’ll be able to think more creatively.  

Conclusion

Creative thinking is one of the most valuable skills to have. It can help you complete your everyday tasks, and it can aid you in achieving your long-term goals, both at work and in your personal life. So, start working on improving your creativity today!

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