Creative thinking isn’t just something for arty types and mad scientists. You can learn to be creative by practising creative thinking techniques.
How many times in your life have you heard about a new idea that sounds fantastic, or seen a new innovation become a success story? And on how many such occasions have you said, “I wish I’d thought of that”? Well, the truth is that you probably could have done. A further truth is that you can develop the creative thinking skills to come up with some great ideas of your own.
You may well be sceptical about your own creative capabilities, and it’s understandable if you are. After all, it’s perfectly possible that you’ve never had what you consider to be a creative idea. But it’s just as likely that you’ve never climbed a mountain either. That doesn’t mean that you can’t climb mountains, only that you’ve never set out to climb one. And that’s the whole point about creativity. Contrary to popular myth, creative ideas aren’t things that spring from nowhere in the minds of genius savants. They’re things that you and I and your favourite half-cousin can produce – just so long as we’re willing to work at it.
Artistic Creativity Versus New Idea Generation
The creative thinking guru, Edward de Bono, describes creativity as the bringing into being of something valuable that did not exist before, and stresses that this is a skill which we can all learn, and at which we can all improve with practice. He makes clear, though, a need to differentiate between the creation of new ideas and the creatiion of art. Whereas the ability to create new ideas can be taught and learned, such methods are unlikely to produce a Mozart, a van Gogh, or a Dylan Thomas.
How to be Creative – Creative Thinking Techniques
In his book, The Extra One Per Cent, the psychologist Rob Yeung identifies creativity as one of the key traits of successful people. Of the techniques and attitudes required to be creative, Yeung stresses the need to actually take the time out to create. The modern world is a world in a hurry, but creativity requires that we step back from the burning issues of the day and take the time to actually think.
Yeung goes on to explain that not all creativity – in fact very little – is about creating brand new ideas. Rather, creativity is often about the fusing together of disparate ideas and concepts, or using existing ideas and constructs in an unconventional way.
De Bono appears to concur with Yeung on this latter point. In his book, Creativity Workout, de Bono advocates the use of random words, derived from a prescribed table of such words, as the starting point towards developing new solutions to existing problems or scenarios. By completing the creativity excercises in the book, readers may, for example, find themselves addressing the matter of how to develop new themes for a health club, using the word ‘Elephant.’ Or ‘Skyscraper.’ Or ‘Hammer.’ Or whatever.
You too can Develop Lateral Thinking Skills
The random words technique is one component of what de Bono christened “lateral thinking” – a body of measures designed to approach problems from an unconventional angle.
I have personally used de Bono’s random words technique to develop successful new business ideas. Yet I don’t think of myself as especially creative. I’m simply someone who was prepared to keep an open mind, devote some time to study and then apply what I’d learnt. That last bit is the most important. Yeung concludes his book by reminding us that learning achieves nothing unless we convert it to action.