Creative Thinking A How To Guide

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Creative thinking is a potential we are all born with. If you don’t use that potential, it is probably because you don’t know and apply the simple principles for developing it. We can remedy that right now.

The two basic principles of creative thinking are:

1. There are methods and techniques of creative thinking.

2. Making these methods and techniques a part of your mental habits will make creative thinking easy and automatic.

An entrepreneur sees the potential profit in a situation, because his mind is trained for that. A lawyer sees the potential problems, because that is how his mind is trained. How we repeatedly think becomes a habit, and that is how you train a mind. Learn the techniques of creative thinking, use them until they are a habit, and creative thinking will be as natural for you as lying is for a politician.

The Techniques Of Creative Thinking

There are dozens of creative problem solving techniques you can learn to use. “Concept-combination,” for example, will have you mixing roses and clocks to create the first alarm clock that wakes you up with a gentle release of fragrance. Use the technique of “random-presentation” and a cell phone can give the idea to do your dictation with a pocket tape recorder while you walk, so you’ll have time for exercise and still get your work done.

Creative thinking goes beyond just solving specific problems or inventing new things. A truly creative mind is always coming up with the questions too, not just the solutions. To be more creative all the time, focus on three things:

1. Challenge your assumptions. What if a restaurant didn’t have employees? Customers could pay a machine as they enter, and feed themselves at a buffet. If everything was as automated as possible, maybe one owner-operator could run a large restaurant alone. Challenge everything. Do you have to go to work? Do pools need water? Is education always a good thing?

2. Change your perspective. Imagining a dog’s thoughts about your busyness could clue you in to the unecessary things you do. Thinking dollars-per-day instead of per-hour could give you a plan to let employees go home when they finish a certain quota. Greater efficiency would be almost certain, and you could adjust daily pay and quotas so both you and employees made more money. Look at everything from several perspectives.

3. Let your ideas run wild. Flying furniture seems silly, but it may lead to the idea of a hover-lifter. Slide the device under furniture and it lifts it with a cushion of air, making for easy moving. Don’t stifle your creativity. Relax, let ideas come, and know that you can always discard them later.

Creating Creative Thinking Habits

To make the above techniques into an automatic part of your thinking, just use them enough. Usually it takes several weeks to develop a habit, so you need a way to remind yourself each day during that time. Try writing a few of your favorite techniques on a card and carrying it with you. Pull it out throughout the day and apply the techniques to anything. Soon, more creative thinking will be a normal part of your life.

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Creativity And Rebellion Why They Go Hand In Hand

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Studies on creative people have consistently demonstrated that creativity is associated with openness to new ideas, risk-taking, and being inner-directed. Do these traits put creative people at odds with the culture and people around them? The answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no.

Say for example that Jeremy is a creative child that performs below average in school. He may be seen as a poor student by teachers and parents for “daydreaming” and doing poorly on objective tests. His latent skills as a right- brain thinker might be underappreciated and underdeveloped.

Or consider the case of Alycia, a high school teacher who works in a constrictive environment. She is eager to try new teaching techniques but finds that her colleagues are traditional in their approach and even hostile to her ideas. What can she do?

There is little doubt that creative people will struggle in environments that are overly structured and they will feel frustrated with tasks that are not challenging. This helps explain why creative children often have trouble in school, their right-brain minds wandering while their left-brain teachers are trying to force them to memorize information that these creative children instinctively see as irrelevant or trivial to understanding the “big picture” in life.

Things often get worse for creative people when they enter the workforce. If they haven’t chosen their occupation carefully they may wind up in a job that is not well suited for their particular talents and gifts. Unfortunately, they may find this out the hard way by being bored and frustrated at work.

But the job itself may not be the problem. It may also be the social milieu of the workplace. Every workplace has its own personality which organically evolves and changes over time. Some workplaces value new ideas and risk- taking, an environment that will be very stimulating for a creative, risk-taker. Other environments are rigid and traditional, which will be frustrating and could lead to conflict and dissatisfaction.

Social psychologists have noted that some work groups suffer from groupthink, which is the tendency for some groups to feel superior to others and to downplay any evidence to the contrary. These groups value conformity and resist new ideas. An innovator will feel isolated and rejected by co- workers who support this type of environment.

These co-workers often adopt an unspoken code regarding people who are different or stand out from the crowd. They send overt and covert messages of rejection to a creative co-worker who proposes new ideas. These signals include ignoring a person’s comments or providing perfunctory, hollow praise or worse punishments such as threats and ridicule for proposing ideas that threaten the perceived integrity of the group.

Many people at work become comfortable with their daily routines and over time they defend these routines as something akin to being sacred. These kinds of people often bow to the timeworn expression: “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it,” but they over apply this attitude and to them nothing is ever really “broken” and to suggest otherwise is to threaten the comfort of their work routines. These people might respond in a venomous manner to creative and risk-taking co-workers who threaten their “comfort zone” by proposing new ways of doing things.

All of this suggests that creative people will often be at odds with people around them and frustrated by work environments and organizational structures that are rigid and unbending. This is partially due to the fact that creative people are attracted to novelty and new ideas and ways of doing things, and their creative minds are often generating alternatives to accepted practices.

The accumulated effects of these frustrations at school, work, or whatever the setting, may lead some creative people to adopt a rebellious attitude regarding rules and authority. When this happens the result may be frustration and conflict on all sides where a downward spiral results from interpersonal conflict and disagreement. This frustration may lead to a career change or disciplinary action in the workplace, an unfortunate byproduct of creative people not being successfully integrated into the workplace community.

These negative manifestations of rebellion can be avoided only when organizations and individuals are made aware of the interpersonal dynamics that distinguish different personality types from each other. One way to do so that is popular today is for co-workers to take the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory and to discuss the results with each other. While this test is not necessarily rigorous in terms of accepted statistical measures of reliability or validity, it serves the greater purpose of opening the door to discussing interpersonal response styles and to respect each other for these differences.

Workplace diversity is typically defined in sociological terms by placing people in black-and-white categories, for example gender, race, and age. Meanwhile, other important personality and interpersonal differences, such as creativity, rarely get the same amount of attention. And yet the creativity dimension is one of the most important because creativity and risk-taking are crucial traits for organizational health and survival.

In order to avoid the traps of blind rebellion and open conflict, organizations must do a better job of identifying creative employees and in fact nurturing creativity and respect for creativity in all their employees. This is not to suggest that common group practices such as “brainstorming” are necessarily a good way to nurture creativity. Creative people are often different from other co-workers in several ways that include interpersonal differences, inner- directedness, and work habits. These differences in style as well as substance need to be addressed in an open and comfortable manner.

Creative people must also be taught to understand themselves and to appreciate that they have needs that can only be met in certain ways. They may prosper as artists, entrepreneurs, or in other professions that encourage openness, risk-taking, and eccentricity. This means that our educational system must be more responsive to the needs of creative children and must offer ways for creative children to learn that fits their learning styles.

When schools and workplaces are better educated about creativity and are in a better position to integrate creative people into the community, then individuals and society will benefit. And youngsters like Jeremy will be more likely to reach their full potential and adults like Alycia will be able to enhance their work environment by contributing unique and challenging ideas.

Creative Loafing

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Have you tried creative loafing? It is a good excuse to relax, and also a great way to come up with new ideas and solutions to problems. How does one creatively loaf? Just relax, open your mind, and use one of the many idea-generating techniques.

A Creative Loafing Technique

My favorite technique is one that is best for generating new ideas rather than solving specific problems. It can be used in any area of life. It is simply the imagining of new applications for existing ideas.

Once, while laying on the couch, I saw an advertisement for a company that uses a dog to find mold in your house. You may know that dogs can be trained to sniff out almost anything. There was even a news story a year or two ago about a dog that could detect if you had cancer.

What was my first thought? “I wonder what else dogs could find by smell?” The first idea that came to mind was to use dogs to find other pets. They find lost people so well, so why not have a service to find lost pets? just one sniff of the cats favorite rug, and the dog is on the trail.

A Creative Loafing Example

You can certainly use your relaxing times to just randomly ponder things, but why not put creative loafing together with a good idea-generating technique. Then you can lay under a tree and have an endless stream of creative new ideas. For this “new-application technique,” just start with the essence of the idea, and look for new ways to use it.

For example, you might lay there and think about the pneumatic tubes that deliver your money and papers at a bank’s drive-through. The essence is a cartridge that delivers things through a tube using air pressure. I imagine the same thing would work for human transport. Could you ride “the tube” to the next city, or maybe make this into an amusement park ride?

Look other aspects of an idea too. For example, these tubes allow several customers to be waited on at once. Where else do they need this? A fast food drive through comes to mind. Perhaps pneumatic tubes would spill drinks, but the idea of multiple car lanes can be used. Several drive-through windows, radiating out like spokes, at different angles, would allow three different lines of cars.

If you want to practice using this technique, just lay back and…

– Imagine three new uses for pedal-power.

– Imagine two new uses for magnets.

– Think of a new application for Darwin’s theory of natural selection, outside of biology.

Can you see how easy it is to come up with new ideas? Why not learn a few more techniques? Then apply them to personal problems. Finally, to make the best use of your creative loafing time, keep a notebook or tape recorder ready.

Mind Power Games

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Want a fun way to tune up your brain? Why not use some classic mind games to help you increase your brainpower and get you out of your thinking “ruts.” Good mind games habituate you to using creative problem solving as a normal part of thinking about things.

One lateral thinking puzzle you can try right now involves nine dots, layed out three by three. You have to connect them all with four straight lines, and without lifting the pen or pencil from the paper. Figure this one out and you’ll appreciate the expression “thinking outside of the box.”

Mind Games For Groups

Some group mind games are especially good for long trips in a car. For example, someone looks out the window and randomly chooses an object. Everyone in the car then tries to imagine a new way to make money with it. Street signs become places to advertise, trees are sold with names, and a truck becomes a traveling grocery store.

The “change of perspective” technique can be used as a problem-solving game. Pick any topic, and see who can come up with the most unique new perspective. Could there be a world where jobs weren’t necessary? How would a virus define morality if it was conscious?

Another creative game for a group uses a specific technique, called “concept combination.” Simply combine random concepts or things in interesting ways, and see who has the best idea. A chair and a microwave? Maybe an easy-chair with a built-in cooler, microwave and television, or microwavable “couch potatoes” – a potato snack in the shape of a couch.

More Mind Games

Some lateral-thinking puzzles use a scenario, real or imagined, with a selection of things you have to use to accomplish something. Imagine a ping-pong ball in an iron pipe that’s set in cement. The pipe sticks up two-feet high, and has almost the same diameter as the ball. With only a box of frosted-flakes, and a t-shirt, how many ways can you find to get the ball out of the pipe? You could also set this up for real, to know if a proposed solution will really work.

Riddles are just mind games or lateral-thinking puzzles. You move laterally in your mind, away from your usual line of thought, to solve a riddle. What did his friends do when the canibal was late for dinner? Gave him the cold shoulder. Keeping your brain in shape doesn’t have to be a matter of serious study, does it?

7 Blocks To Creative Thinking And How To Solve Them

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Each of us has the power to be creative. It’s part of our natural make-up as human beings. The trouble is that, too often, we block our natural creativity and so make errors in thinking and give ourselves more problems than we should. Here are 7 ways to open up your natural creativity and keep the channels unblocked.

1. Don’t Make Assumptions. When we assume, we often make an “ass” out of “u” and “me”. Assumptions are examples of lazy thinking. We simply don’t wait to get all the information we need to come to the right conclusions. There is the story of the customer at the bank who after cashing a cheque and turning to leave, returns and says: “Excuse me, I think you made a mistake.” The cashier responds, “I’m sorry but there’s nothing I can do. You should have counted it. Once you walk away we are no longer responsible.” Whereupon the customer replies: “Well, okay. Thanks for the extra $20.”

Tip: When you feel yourself wanting to draw conclusions, just wait until you have all the information.

2. See Things From Other Points Of View. A truly open mind is willing to accept that, not only do other people have other just as valid points of view from theirs, but that these other points of view may be more valid. A story is told that the modernist painter Pablo Picasso was once traveling on a train across Spain when he got into conversation with a rich businessman who was dismissive of modern art. As evidence that modern art didn’t properly represent reality, he took out a photo of his wife from his wallet and said: “This is how my wife should look, not in some silly stylized representation.” Picasso took the photo, studied it for a few moments and asked: “This is your wife?” The businessman proudly nodded. “She’s very small,” observed Picasso wryly.

Tip: Don’t have a monopoly on how things are. Things aren’t always what they seem. Be ready to consider other points of view.

3. Avoid Yo-Yo Thinking. Some people tend to have a tendency to swing from a highly positive mood one minute to a highly negative one the next, all because of what they see in front of them. It’s like a yo-yo: up one minute, down the next. It’s far more healthy to stay neutral and not let emotions get the better of you.

Tip: Remember that things are rarely as good – or as bad – as you think they are.

4. Get Rid Of Lazy Thinking Habits. Habit can be a major stumbling block to clear thinking and another example of laziness. Try this experiment. Write down the Scottish surnames Macdonald, Macpherson, and Macdougall and ask someone to pronounce them. Now follow these with the word Machinery and see what happens. Most people are likely to mis-pronounce it. This is because we tend to think in habitual ways and don’t like what doesn’t fit.

Tip: Don’t think that, just because things happened in a certain way once before, that they will happen like that again.

5. Don’t Think Like An Old Person, Think Like A Child. Research shows that the number of synapses, or connections, in the brain is greater in a child of two than in an average adult. The reason for this is that, while a child of two has no limiting world view, as adults we do. It’s like a sculptor who starts off with a large block of clay, more than he needs, and then gradually removes the clay as he moulds his sculpture. If we use our brain like a child, accepting everything without judgment, we can actually halt and reverse the brain ageing process.

Tip: Don’t worry about the myth of age. With the right stimulus and a passion for learning, you can actually improve your brain’s powers.

6. See The Detail As Well As The Big Picture. You may know the poem by John Godfrey Saxe called “The Blind Men and the Elephant”. This tells how six blind men of Indostan go to see an elephant and each try to work out what it is from touching it. One blind man touches the tusk, another the trunk, another the tail, and so on. Of course, not being able to see the whole elephant, they come to wildly different conclusions.

Tip: Try to keep the big picture in front of you while looking at details. It will help to put everything in its proper place and context.

7. Think For Yourself. Taking time out to think is still frowned on in many organizations that prize activity over creativity. People who work in creativity-constrained organizations are likely to think the way they are supposed to think, or as others think, or as has always been the way to think. It’s like the blinkered thinking that Hans Christian Anderson describes in his story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Everyone in the land refuses to see that the emperor is naked and has been duped into believing he is wearing a splendid costume for his coronation. Only a young boy who has been ill and not party to the cultural brainwashing can see the truth and cries out: “Look, everyone, the Emperor is wearing no clothes!”

Tip: Don’t let others tell you how to think. When others ask your opinion, tell it to them straight.

Once you make these 7 techniques part of your habitual thinking patterns, you will amaze yourself with how easy it is to come up with fresh, innovative and creative solutions to all of life’s problems.

Ways To Crank Up Your Creativity

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Creativity is a quality that we all have buried inside of us, one way or the other. It involves the invention of something new or the re-invention of something already existing to make it useful of interesting.

Some people’s creative abilities are closer to the surface and one can easily see the manifestations of them. People say that their creativity is “inborn”. For others, expressing creativity takes more time and cultivation. The important thing to note is that we can all be creative. You just have to take steps to extract it from within you. Try the following:

1. Change your perspective.

You might have heard the phrase ‘Think outside the box’. You should try looking at the situation from a different point of view. Change your perspective. Consider all factors that are affected by your problem or your concern. Try to breakdown the problem into several elements then shuffle them. Think of what would happen if an idea is replaced. This aspect is important in enhancing creativity because it helps you remove possible fixations that may hinder creativity.

2. Mentally move away from your current location.

Imagine how another person would react if subjected in the same situation. Picture how different situations would continue when dealing with the same problem. Application in different settings can be also be done; and then from there, adapt a solution to the current setting.

3. Let your imagination run wild.

Exercise your imagination. Modification can trigger creativity because you see things in a different light. You can also try to exaggerate or think of the extremes, be it magnification or minimization of something. Thinking of the possible differences between these two situations could produce ideas. This is the ultimate brain exercise.

4. Your comfort spot.

The environment has to be right. You should have somewhere you can focus without being unnecessarily disturbed so you can give a problem your full attention. This should extend to the people you are with. You tend to do better at something when you are with like-minded people. To put it simply, hang out with creative people to help enhance your creative abilities.

Most of the time, people tend to be more creative when they are with people who are doing the same thing. It was also found that if you wish to be more creative, you should try hanging out with creative people.

5. Time, time, time.

You can’t rush creativity. Hurrying does not help in the outflow of ideas. Your mind tends to go into a state of slight disarray when you are trying to force things. Studies show that results produced in this state are generally lacking. If you are low on time, then keep a list of activities like this one close to you. Go over each of the activities and exercise each one. Give it time.

6. Get help…communicate your ideas to others.

A different view of the problem could help. Better yet, many different views! Never be shy to ask. Diversity is very helpful in relation with creativity. Organize a brainstorming session. The spontaneous generation of new ideas helps in formulation of more ideas. The products of brainstorming can be the raw material in the construction of the idea.

Remember that in brainstorming, 4 rules are followed for it to be successful:

– There should be no criticisms. Criticism hinders the free flow of ideas. This can be postponed until the session has ended.

– Combining and/or modifying ideas are encouraged.

– Quantity is preferred over quality in brainstorming.

– Weird or strange ideas are encouraged.

These are just some ideas to get your creative juices going. They can be adapted to suit each individual. A large amount of it is down to you. How inventive can you be? How open are you? Remove the boundaries from your mind and you will find your creativity will increase.

How To Be More Creative And Enhance Your Creativity

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Before thinking about how to be more creative, let me begin point out some real barriers that some people seem to have when wanting to enhance creativity, have a think if any of these things are applicable to you and your life;

1. Lack of time. This is not as major as you may think. Linking thoughts and ideas only takes seconds. It can happen anytime, anywhere. Provided you are in the right state and pay attention to your own experience.

Creativity in my opinion is more about the quality of the time you have and being receptive to yourself. Though this does take some time.

2. Fear of being judged. When I worked for a national newspaper and we had brainstorming sessions, individuals were often scared of expressing ideas. Creativity results in unusual ideas and perhaps even being different in some way. They can be thought of as strange, odd or challenging. Fear of being considered weird, stupid or just different often kills creativity. If I feared people thinking any of those things about me, I would not bother getting out of bed in the mornings; I love the fact that people think I am all of those things!!

3. Lack of self-esteem. When you do something creative, you go beyond the bounds of what has been safe and familiar in the past, to yourself and maybe even others. When you are not sure about yourself, being different in any way can feel risky or make you feel vulnerable. The danger is that you give up your new insight to just blend in. Smash out of those shackles!

4. Fear of failure. This inhibits us. If you are making a new connection in your brain there can be no inherent “right” or “wrong” about it. Failure can only have two meanings really; firstly, that it didn’t work in the way you wanted it to. Secondly, Someone else did not like it. But so what??!! I have to tell you all that I get many comments on how I generate so many successful projects and am often asked how I do it. I always point out that these projects are actually only about 10% of what I have imagined. The other 90% didn’t work or didn’t get out of my brain.

Creativity is not reserved for genius only. Einstein was brilliant but he is not necessarily the best model of creativity for us. You do not need specialist expertise to be creative. The fruits of your creativity may manifest in many, many differing ways, in fact I expect so.

If at any time you doubt your ability to be creative, remind yourself that several times every night you create an entirely new dream, which you script, act in and watch, which involves all your senses and has effects that can last long after they are over. This creation is so very effortless most people don’t even recognise it as such.

How to be more creative.

Ok, so how does one actually go about getting more creative. Let me give you some ideas;

1. Find the right frame of mind. Explore what states you associate with being creative. Discover properly what it is that triggers and maintains you being creative. What’s your best time of day? The best environment? Do you need to be alone or with others or alone in the midst of others? Do you need sounds or silence or background sounds? Build a profile of your creativity state, then make time and space for it on a regular basis instead of waiting for some divine intervention and for it to just happen on its own.

2. Cultivate dreaming. Pay attention to your experience of life and attention to your existing creativity rather than dismissing day-dreams and dreams. Don’t allow yourself to waste what you may already be discovering by ignoring it.

3. Ask yourself “What if?” and “What else?” and “How else?” Always go beyond what you fist thought, find more and more different ideas.

4. When and/or if you hit a problem, pretend your usual solution is not available. This can work in many different ways. If your PC crashes today, how else might you do your work? If you usually argue face to face, what would happen if you wrote your feelings down instead? Some solutions may be no better than the ones you’re used to: others may offer you brilliant new opportunities. Do something different. I wrote about that idea in an earlier article entitled Do something Different, go check it out.

5. See how many different results you can get with the same ingredients. I am sure many of you know that there is a cookbook called “Recipes 1-2-3″ by Rozanne Gold, in which every recipe is made out of only three ingredients.

Some recipes use the same three ingredients but different processes or quantities come up with different results.

You can have some great fun by taking an every day object and imagine or think about how many other uses it can have, you can even think about how to combine them with other objects.

6. Think of different ways to do the familiar. Change the order in which you do things, use different things, use your less favoured hand; as soon as we break routine, we move from a state where we are on auto-pilot to one where we are alive and alert. You exercise unfamiliar brain connections and help build new links in your brain. A glorious feeling!

7. Look out for the difference that makes the difference. When you encounter something that strikes you as different, ask yourself what it is about it that is so different or new or unusual. Where does the key difference actually lie?

I want to mention a strategy that is well talked about in NLP circles and that I have used for many years and that is the Disney Creativity Strategy.

The Disney creativity strategy is for developing your dreams and giving them the best possible chance of becoming reality. It is named after Walt Disney, who often took on three different roles when his team was developing an idea; the dreamer, the realist and the critic. Robert Dilts, an NLP pioneer, modelled and developed this strategy as an NLP tools. Some of Robert’s articles that he kindly donated can be found at my website.

The strategy separates out these three vital roles involved in the process of translating creative ideas into reality so that they can be explored separately for maximum clarity and effect.

Many companies have specialists in each of the three fields and I have done consultancy work with companies myself whereby I have asked different team members to take on one of the roles. You can also play all three roles yourself as I often do in coaching or business consultancy, with your own wants, needs and goals.

However, the usual way to use it is to allocate three roles to different people (realist, dreamer and critic) to assess plans or tasks. Ask someone to act as the dreamer and tell you all the possibilities of the idea. Ask someone else to examine exactly what would be involved in putting it into practice (realist), and someone to take a hard look at it and really evaluate its strengths and weaknesses (critic). You may want to rotate the roles. If doing it on your own, be sure to keep the roles very separate and write them down. I do this with lots of my own ideas and with changes I want to make in my life.

You can even use this in a meeting broken down into three stages; Each role as a separate stage. Get everyone brainstorming and being creative first; then get them thinking about what would actually have to happen in practical terms; then get them critically evaluating the possibilities.

I suggest that you have some fun being creative and doing things differently to generate more creativity. It feels wonderful and if you have found that your progress to success or the outcomes you desire has been blocked or gone stagnant, then think about being more creative in how and what you are doing.