Creative thinking is one of the most useful skills you can have. It can help you to solve problems in day-to-day life and it can really stand out in any work you do.
There are some people who seem to find creativity easy, while for others it's much more of a struggle. Luckily, if that's you, it's possible to get more creative with practice, and there are tools which can help you get in touch with your creativity.
Let's talk brainstorming
Brainstorming is one of the most common tools used to encourage creative thinking. So common that you've probably heard the word used, if not given it a try at some point.
Brainstorming can help you come up with a brand new idea, or build on top of an idea that already exists. Whether you're doing it on your own or with other people, here's a quick rundown of what brainstorming is.
- Define what you're trying to achieve, or a problem you need to solve
- Break it down into parts - what needs to happen to achieve the goal? What are the challenges that are part of your problem?
- Write down ways to achieve your goal completely, or parts of it, or write down ways to overcome the challenges if you're doing a problem
One of the most important things to remember is that no idea is 'wrong'. Write down every idea. Start to group some together if you like. You should find that once you write ideas down, they spark off new ideas. You should also start to see patterns, and what will work and what won't.
How to brainstorm in a group
Brainstorming is definitely useful to do on your own, but it really shines when you work as a group. Coming up with ideas together is something you may find you need to do at college or university, and it's almost certainly something you'll need to do at work.
The great thing about coming up with ideas in a group is that everyone sees things differently, and everyone can add something different to the mix. But to get the best out of everybody, you'll find it all goes a lot more smoothly if they all understand how to go about it.
So here are two good techniques to help you work together well.
Ok, so far we've talked about using words to write your ideas down, and that's definitely a good way to go about it. But it isn't the only way.
When we think, we don't really think in words. We think in ideas which often come to us as images. Then we translate those images into words to explain them to other people. And sometimes we lose something when we try to use words to explain what made sense to us as an image.
So what if we skip the words part?
Well, one thing that happens is that you use a completely different part of your brain.
Our brains are spilt down the middle into two halves. One half contains the part which works with words and languages. This half is big on order and structure. The other half deals with images and picturing things, and is more creative. So by switching from words to pictures, you're literally changing which part of your brain you're using.
Switching backwards and forward, from language to images and so on, gets your whole brain involved, helping you get more creative in your thinking. It's almost like doing your own private version of the techniques we talked about above, where each half of your brain gets to work on the other half's ideas.
Fantastic, you've chosen the best idea. But could it possibly be better?
The great thing about Review is it that it focuses on positive feedback and recognising the good things about people's ideas. It works with positive prompts that people then put their comments against.
To start, you present your idea to a few people who weren't involved in coming up with it. Each person then writes down a response to these three prompts.
- I like - the positive comments and the best things about the idea
- I wish - things they'd like to be different, or things that need improvement
- What if - new ideas or suggestions
You don't even have to wait until you've got your final favourite idea to use Review. You can try it earlier in the process of coming up with ideas to help make your suggestions as good as they can be early on. And because it's all about positive feedback, nobody should feel discouraged hearing others put their ideas down.
Taking things further
Now you've mastered brainstorming, and you've tried out sketching to take things a level further. You've tested ideas against each other, picked out the best overall, and made it as good as it can be. What now?
Well, you'll often need to convince people outside of your group how great your plan is. Which is where your pitching skills come in.
And remember that all these skills - creative thinking to get the best out of yourself and others, finding out what a range of people think and choosing between suggestions - are all incredibly important to companies. They need new ideas to help them stand out to customers, and if you're someone who's good at providing them, it can take you a long way.