Steps To Creative Thinking

By Des Menz posted in Work, Life, and Yourself

PART 2 of a 5-part series on personal development, creativity, and writing for profit.

Getting The Optimist’s Edge is Part 1. 

Part 2 - 7 Steps To Creative Thinking

Have you ever been stumped for a solution to a problem? 

How many times have you been in a situation knowing that the problem laying before you is one that has a solution but you’re at a loss as to what that solution is? 

Ideas are gone, no leads or alternatives emerge, nothing becomes apparent, not even the slightest thought that could give a glimmer of hope in solving that problem.  

 If you have experienced this “dead end”, what did it feel like? 

In life and in work, we are constantly having to confront issues and problems of all sizes
and complexities - that’s just a fact of life. When this confrontation arrives, there are
many emotions that can suddenly emerge without invitation - exhaustion, frustration,
hopelessness, helplessness, anger, fear, loss of confidence. 

The Function Of The Brain

Sometimes the most obvious solution to a problem can be so distant and out of mind
that it is like it was locked away. Conversely, some of the most elegant and simple
solutions to the most complex of problems can suddenly thrust themselves before us.
That’s the way the human brain functions. 

It is also true that the brain is designed as a ‘recognition machine’, to establish patterns
and to use them, and to reject anything that doesn’t fit those patterns. Think about that.
How do you think about the things that matter?
Just as creativity involves ideas, assumptions, conceptions, and function, have you
ever experienced a “light bulb moment”? What about that elusive solution to a problem
that suddenly arrives out of the blue?

Most of us have experienced a sudden great thought or solution. Sometimes it could
be a day or many days after the problem has emerged; sometimes it could cause a
sudden flash of inspiration during sleep. 

So, is it possible to have a constant flow of “light bulb moments” in solving problems?

The short answer is that with some creative problem-solving techniques it is possible
to look at problems in a very different way to what you have been used to doing in
the past.

"Six Thinking Hats"

There’s one book on my bookshelf that gets opened from time to time. It’s Edward
De Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats”. Six colours, six hats. Each with a function. 

The book has been around for 30 years, and today there are an endless number of other publications presenting a similar theme. 

I’ve always liked the simplicity of De Bono’s thinking.
It's one of those books that we should all have, so see if you can get a copy from Amazon.

This is the cover of my original 1985 version. 

The colour (color for US folk) that represents Creative Thinking?


De Bono said he chose green because it is the colour of fertility, growth, and the colour
that tiny seeds spring into life to. 

“The abundant creativity of nature is a useful background image” he wrote. 

Green hat thinking is about escaping from old ideas to find better ones, it is concerned with change and is deliberately focused in this direction. 

For a brief description what each of the thinking hats is about, click the following image.

Thus, creative problem-solving means that you must be open-minded to the possibility

of more than one solution to a problem. A single solution to a single problem might be
fine in some situations, but it is not a linear world we live in. It's not simply a straight line 
from problem to solution, as there are always peripheral and intersecting issues that
need to be considered.

Opening up the mind also means that there might be solutions to problems that were
thought to be unsolvable, or were extremely difficult to solve. A positive mindset means
that anything is possible.

Now, with this optimistic mindset, we can try to be a little bit more creative in solving our

7 Factors To Think More Creatively 

     Maybe the reason a problem is difficult to solve is that it is not looked at in
alternative ways. Trying to understand a problem and having a fundamental
knowledge of its workings is integral to its solution. If you know how a system
(within which the problem lies) works, then you have a better foundation towards
finding a solution.
This is where making a simple statement of what the problem is will be beneficial.
It is no different from seeking goals - write them down, so write a simple
statement. Try to identify the contributing factors and what their relationships
with one another are. Note down the things that can result in an advantage
and disadvantage. Now you have a simple statement of what the problem is.

MAP YOUR GOALS is an excellent system to help with this process.

     Take note of all of the constraints and assumptions around the problem statement.
Sometimes it is these assumptions that obstruct the view of possible solutions.
Identify which assumptions are valid, and which assumptions need to be addressed.

     Solve the problem by parts. Solve it going from a general view to the more
detailed parts of the problem. This is called the top-down approach.
Write down the question, and then come up with a one-sentence solution.
The solution should be a general statement of what will solve the problem.
From here develop the solution further, and increase its complexity little by little.

     Although it helps to have critical thinking, be mindful of keeping a creative,
analytical voice in your thoughts. In a group session, when someone comes
up with a prospective solution, be positive and think how you could make that
solution work. Try to be creative. At the same time, look for the weak links in
that solution and offer these as an alternative.

     Be mindful there could be more than one solution to the problem. Keep track
of all solutions and their developments.

     If appropriate, apply the old adage ‘two heads are better than one.’ Always be
open to new ideas. “The urge to do things in a better way should be the
background to all our thinking” as De Bono said. This means bringing others
into your thought sphere in a collective way. You can only benefit from listening
to all the ideas each person has. This is especially true when the person you're
talking to has had experience solving problems similar to yours.

     Patience. We know that patience is a virtue. As long as you persevere, there
is always a chance that a solution will present itself. Remember that very very
few inventions were created the first time around. It can be a long slow grind
to finding the holy grail, but nothing was ever achieved in this world without 
constant application of thought to a problem.

Creative thinking exercises can also help in the quest to be a more creative problem
solver. Here is one example.

Take a piece of paper and at its centre (center) write any word that comes to mind.
Now look at that word then write the first two words that come to your mind.
This can go on until you can build a tree of related words. This helps you build
analogical skills, and fortify your creative processes.

So, next time you see a problem you think you cannot solve, think again. 

The solution might just be staring you right in the face. All it takes is just a little creative thinking, some planning, and a whole lot of work.

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Coming up next ... PART 3 - How To Be Creative 

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