Advice for Thinking Creatively

Creative thinking involves imagining familiar things in a new light, digging below the surface to find previously undetected patterns, and finding connections among unrelated phenomena.    Roger von Oech, Expect the unexpected

Need a little help unlocking creativity? Here are some ideas to help you recapture your creativity, and generate some new ideas. They may also help folks get their creative thinking moving again.

© Leslie Owen Wilson

  1. Explore new ideas and learn to become flexible in your thinking.
  2. Practice visualization — learn how to create concept maps, illustrative schema, and sketch ideas out.
  3. Explore other fields looking for new theories and ideas that can be synthesized and adapted.
  4. Keep a record of your explorations. Keep an “Idea Journal”
  5. Learn to think in possibilities — diverge, be expansive in your thinking. Generate lots of ideas, then refine them.
  6. Practice trying to look at things holistically and try to get the big picture.
  7. If you are stuck and overwhelmed by a problem, it is often a matter of focus. Learn to look at parts of a problem or challenges separately, then come back out and view the big picture in a new way.
  8. Don’t get in a rut. Force yourself to try new things. Experiment with new strategies and play with ideas imaginatively.
  9. Think of yourself as an “idea artist” or an “idea vendor.”
  10. Combine ideas. Let ideas and thoughts ferment and percolate, “sleep on it”, and then revisit the issue or problem.
  11. Take time to imagine new ideas and possibilities. Practice daydreaming and visionizing.
  12. Look for ideas and inspiration in ordinary places. Scan books, magazines, articles, advertisements & photos for new ideas.
  13. Ask family members, friends, co-workers and even strangers for a fresh perspectives.
  14. Brainstorm and free associate frequently.
  15. Free yourself from “functional fixity” (see things from only one way from the function for which they were designed – for instance a paperclip is only a paperclip and not a barrette or a canape holder) restrictively thinking of something only in one way. Creative thinking is often blocked by not being able to think about items in new contexts or new ways. Use McGyver thinking as an inspiration to break functional fixity!
  16. Divest yourself of “cultural or gender mindsets” that may limit your thinking or solutions.
  17. Examine your thinking for barriers like “toxic nostalgia”  — letting grandiose or overly romanticized visions of the past block new ideas.
  18. Examine negative emotions for seeds of ideas and returning creative equilibrium, and learn how to mobilize this energy into new and productive ways.
  19. Become familiar with barriers to creativity and learn how to foil them.
  20. Creativity is about being able to weave in and out of BOTH divergent and convergent thinking — PRACTICE BOTH.
On creating personalized solutions:skyline-106094_1280

Note from Leslie:  In using the ideas listed above, it might be a good idea to go through the list and prioritize which ones appeal to you most. Also note which ones you have used with any regularity and which ones have worked best for you. You may wish to use some sort of coding for this sifting and sorting process. At the same time notice strategies you have not used before. In the mode of experimentation untried ideas may be a good place to start the next time you are confronted with a creative challenge. In the past what worked best may have been situational and may have been dependent on the circumstances and the hows and whys of the problem or challenge.

Now think about your history of tackling creative challenges or solving problems and try to visualize new solutions. What would have happened if I did this or that? . . . Would some of the suggestions have worked better than others? Why or why not?

Suggestion #4 above talks about keeping “an idea” journal. May I suggest that this is a good strategy. A useful addition might be to also keep a “solution journal’ which will give you future ideas about what strategies work and which don’t. This way you can keep track of patterns and connections that might emerge and come up with ideas for solving future problems and creative challenges. Good luck!

The listing above was adapted, modified, and expanded from the original Internet source: The AIM Lab – URL no longer active


*Continue your search – 30 things you can do to promote creativity – A wonderful article by Miriam Clifford on how to promote creativity from informED

*Insights into Creativity – What is it like to be obsessed with a creative project? Explore the thought process of a creative mind. Consumption by Inspiration