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Main Content

Strengthening Your Creative Thinking Ability

Strengthening Your Creative Thinking Ability

If you're a strong creative thinker, you find it easy to:

  • generate new ideas and approaches to problems

  • think outside the box; that is, not be constrained by how things have been done before or how people currently view things

  • see things that others don't notice

You might exercise your creative thinking in a number of ways, from writing fresh advertising copy for a new sports car or finding new uses for a product, to identifying new possibilities that might come from a business alliance or thinking up new markets for a service.

In an age of intensifying competition, creative thinking has become more crucial than ever for businesspeople seeking to generate innovative ideas that will help their companies beat rivals. How to strengthen your creative thinking? Consider these ideas:

  • Read a book on the subject. Potential useful titles include the choreographer Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, which emphasizes making creativity a habit and allowing time for being creative. Additional titles include Test Your Creative Thinking by Lloyd King and Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero.

  • Take an online learning course on the subject. Examples include the "General Thinking Skills" modules offered through Your company may have purchased a site license for such e-learning programs. Or, you may be able to buy a CD containing modules of interest as well as participate in them online or download them from the developer. Some developers charge a fee for participation in the courses they offer; others offer modules for free.

  • Consult an expert. Find someone who you view as particularly good at thinking creatively. Ask this person how he or she has strengthened this ability.

  • Attend a workshop or course on the subject. For example, a course in acting or creative movement can help free you up from your routine and from your internal critic, which can stifle creativity. Your company may offer such learning opportunities or may be willing to reimburse your tuition if you take such a course through another organization. Local university extension programs, as well as continuing education programs, may offer such workshops and courses.

  • Practice using your intuition and imagination, or your "gut feel," instead of pure logic when you're generating new ideas.

  • Brush up on your brainstorming skills. For instance, if you're trying to think up ideas for a new product or a new way of organizing your studies, list all the ideas that come to mind, without worrying if they're worthwhile. Brainstorming involves getting all your ideas out first, and only later evaluating them. It helps you turn off that internal critic for a while.

  • Learn about a broad range of subjects: history, current events, science, business, philosophy. The more varied your knowledge, the more readily you can see connections between things that others don't. In fact, for this very reason, some innovative companies hire engineers or product designers who have varied pasts; they've done seemingly unrelated things such as rock climbing, ethnic cooking, aviation, or quilting.

If fear of failure or embarrassment holds back your creative thinking, consider this: When John Backus, creator of Fortran, the first computer language, received the prestigious Draper Prize for his work, he said: "I myself have had many failures and I've learned that if you're not failing a lot, you are probably not being as creative as you could be. You aren't stretching your imagination enough. So it is important to remember that failure is the partner of success.”

It's true that some people seem to have an idea a minute. Witness the cartoonists who produce a fresh strip for the newspaper every day. But anyone can stretch to his or her individual creative limits. The above suggestions can help you get started.