5 Ways to Boost Creative Thinking

Creative thinking is the act of creating new ideas that are meaningful (have value). I think most of us agree that creative thinking is essential for the continued success of any business or organization. Here are five way that will help you become a better creative thinker.

State your problem differently
You problem statement may be your problem. The first barrier to greater creative output may be the way you phrase your problem. If we had simply asked how to print cheaper or better books we would have never have had the iPad as a reading divide. Before your next brainstorm exercise try to write down the creative challenge you’re tackling using the following formulation: “How can we …..” ? Next rephrase that question many times over, always using that some formulation “How can we….?”

How can we print better books?
How can we print cheaper books?
How can we make more exiting books?
How can we make books without paper?
How can we make a paperless book?
How can we create a superior paperless book-experience?
How can we ….

Swap ownership

Our brain is extremely efficient in providing us with the most obvious answer to any question. We’re knee-jerkers. It is also incredibly hard to convince our brain to try a different approach or an alternative perspective to any creative challenge. Here’s what you can do to force your brain to think differently. Swap ownership. Pretend for a minute it is Superman or Microsoft who is solving your problem. Step in their sheds and try to tackle your creative challenge using their particular approach. There’s really no wrong virtual owners: be ambitious with whom you assign virtual ownership of your creative challenge.

What would Microsoft do?
What would the Piratebay do?
What would Disney do?
What would Nintendo do?
What would my little cousin do?
What would superman do?

Swipe from someone else

Theft is the fastest way to creative success. There simply is no faster short cut to gaining creative insights than stealing them from other people. Of course I am not advocating you spy on or copy the competition. Ideas you steal from the competition will put you on equal footing with them at best. Instead I advocate stealing ideas from places you shouldn’t be looking. You can steal from nature (animals, plants et cetera) or even from perfect strangers (ride a subway and try to overhear conversations.) You can also steal from a mosque, a farmer’s market or a gay bar. Even your neighbor’s kids are fair game.

Share freely
Creativity in business is sometimes veiled in secrecy. Some very successful companies (Apple comes to mind) make a good habit of keeping their creative goings on top secret until they have a finished product – ready for shipping. For most mere mortals like myself sharing an idea is the fastest route to test it’s merits and have it improved upon by friends, colleagues and family members. Once you start sharing your ideas freely people will tend to start sharing theirs with you too (see my point about swiping). I don’t think I need to explain why the return on this investment is immense.

Ship today
If you have a concept or an idea ship it. Don’t wait until it’s perfect. Ship it. Even if you feel deep down that your product isn’t 100% finished or that you haven’t thought out every possible detail. Let your market help you improve your idea. If you feel your product (or service or whatever it is you’ve created) isn’t ready for the full onslaught of head to head competition; share it with a limited number of people and tell them they’re getting a special preview. Not only will these first trusted fans help you improve your product or service, they are very likely to become your most loyal customers and evangelists!

Some of these tips can be used routinely on an almost daily basis, whilst others are more easily used within the context of a brainstorm. All of them will help you get more ideas AND get better ideas. Hopefully they were useful to you! Please let me know if they were. Perhaps you have one or two tips of your own to share (so I can swipe them).

8 Replies to “5 Ways to Boost Creative Thinking”

  1. Goede tips!
    Ik ga ze uitproberen en mogelijk gebruiken in mijn cursus creatief denken.

  2. Leuk om te horen!
    Nice to hear! Let me know how things go!

  3. There’s an article in the NewScientist this week about the importance of daydreaming to creativity — daydreamers tend to be more creative simply because they’re distracted easily…the linking of one of those distracted thoughts to the problem at hand, can bring out new solutions.

    Of course, that principle — of brain downtime — is nothing new. Back in 1944 James Webb Young was aware of it: http://wordfruit.com/blog/how-copywriters-come-up-with-your-campaign-ideas/

    …and no doubt people before then were too…

  4. Hi Richard,

    thanks for stopping by and sharing that link. If being easily-distracted is a good indicator of one’s creativity I’m doing pretty well. But you are right – being able to connect seemingly unrelated bits of knowledge, insights and experiences – is a great creative asset.

    Nice blog – I’ve got it bookmarked.

  5. Today I will post some extra tips: on how to warp up a group during (or before) a creative brainstorm. Hope you guys enjoy it and find it useful.

  6. Dank je, Bas. Wright time, wright place. Morgen brainstorm over Helder 2.0: online! Ik ga het zeker gebruiken. How can we…., what would….do.

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