How To Develop Your Creative Thinking Skills

Do you want to become more creative? Would you like to know how you could develop your creative thinking skills? There are strategies that you can employ in your approach to activities you undertake and the organisation of your daily routine. You might find that your ability to solve problems and formulate original ideas improves.

How To Develop Your Creative Thinking Skills

Creative Work

Many successful people are highly creative and have learned how to apply their creativity to their life and work. Creative thinking has led to innovations that have transformed the world and made some individuals and organisations hugely successful. Many businesses have placed creativity at the top of the list of qualities that they look for in employees.

Creative Confidence

Why do some people struggle to find success, while for others it can appear to be effortless? You might have asked yourself this question in relation to business, an artistic pursuit, academic career or craft. Rather than assuming creativity is a quality that you do not possess, perhaps you should consider how you could develop your own creative potential.

You might have been told that you are not creative and have grown up lacking confidence in your creative potential. You might fear criticism if you try different ways of doing things. Rather than allowing such concerns to hold you back, you should focus on the potential benefits of increased creativity in your life and work.

Sources of Creativity

Anyone can develop their creative thinking skills, but many people believe it is an innate gift, rather than a way of thinking that can be learned. Centuries ago artistic creativity was thought to spring from some mystical source, such as the nine muses of Classical mythology, but we now have more rational explanations for the processes involved.

The information received through our senses and processed by our brain leads to the formation of new ideas, as connections are made between bits of data. We might be prompted to react to events in our environment, follow a course of action or store memories. We might form thoughts, that enable us to find innovative solutions to a problem, develop new concepts or create something original.

The Creative Mind

Creativity often involves going against conventional forms of thinking and behaviour, as was the case for example with the artists during previous centuries who formed movements that changed the way that art represents the world. Although these people were often criticised for being unconventional and risked being rejected by wider society, if their work was deemed to be of sufficient quality and originality it was eventually celebrated.

The concept of the brilliant but eccentric artist or scientist, who rather than following mainstream thinking develops new ideas and inventions, is perhaps comparable to the shaman in older societies. Such men and women would go on a vision quest or journey of discovery and bring back wisdom that would benefit other members of their tribe. When we look at the Arts and Crafts Movement, this willingness to break established social and creative rules, in order to improve society, was reflected in the new ways of doing things that evolved in art, craft and architecture.

Formal Education and Creativity

During our first few years we are keen to learn about the world around us and posses a natural creativity and confidence that drives us to express ourselves using available materials, such as clay or paint. Though we might lack the skills of an experienced artist or artisan, what we create can provide us with a feeling of connection with the world and a sense of personal achievement, in particular when we are praised for our efforts.

As people progress through their formal education they are often told to focus on acquiring academic knowledge or practical skills and can begin to lose touch with their creativity. Whilst acquiring knowledge and skills is important, many of the most talented and successful people in the world have not lost their creativity. Through the creative application of their knowledge and skills, such people can produce original work and find innovative solutions to problems.

Many of the people who appear to have found success with ease, have in reality devoted many years to developing their skills, doing something which motivated them and for which they had some aptitude. They have also often emerged from formal education with a sense of creative engagement with their chosen career. Their creative skills enhance the practical skills that they have learned in their particular career, business, art or craft.

Creative Thinking Skills

Those wanting to develop their creative thinking skills, might try activities such as meditation to help them clear their mind of distractions and find greater clarity and focus. Others might prefer to take a walk in the park, away from the office or the studio, which can allow them to daydream and give the mind space to explore new ideas. Taking part in simple repetitive activities can have a similar effect and many people have reported coming up with life changing concepts and inventions when they were doing chores.

Finding yourself in an environment that you are not familiar with, or having new experiences, can increase your creativity. You could take a trip to an interesting place that you haven’t visited before, which might inspire ideas or a fresh approach to a problem that you are trying to solve. You could visit an art gallery or museum, watch a movie, read a book or attend a social event, where you might meet new people, with whom you can share, discuss and explore ideas.

Creativity requires time, and regardless of how successful an individual might be, they cannot create more time. You should therefore do what you can to reduce the amount of time that you waste on activities that do not benefit yourself, other people or the world around you. For example, you could be more selective in the television shows or movies that you watch, fight the compulsion to frequently check your mobile phone and only read books or magazines that you believe will enrich your mind.

You could organise your living space and wardrobe to ease decision making and plan regular journeys to work or shopping trips, so that they are less stressful, more enjoyable or more efficient. Limit your use of social media, avoid business meetings that you do not believe will be productive and only attend social events with people who you care about and want to spend time with. When reviewing each day, ask yourself if the time could have been better spent and if necessary adjust your plans and priorities.

Seven Stages of Creativity

Some people have described practical steps that they have taken to stimulate their own creative thinking skills, which others might benefit from following. One approach to the creative process involves breaking it down into seven stages, which would begin with an objective, followed by research, then a period of distraction, formulation of ideas and then evaluation, decision making and taking action. Having determined an objective, such as developing a new product or business strategy, make it easier to manage by trying to reduce the problem to its constituent parts.

Research and Distraction

The research stage might involve you reading relevant literature on the subject, surveying representative samples of the target audience and developing an understanding of work done by others, possibly by immersing yourself in work that inspires you. This stage might continue for a considerable amount of time, but at some point you should stop and do something else, such as socialising, watching a movie, going to a show or playing games.

To an outside observer, this period might appear to be a waste of your time, as you do not appear to be working on the problem. However, having a clear understanding of your objective, you can now allow your subconscious to begin integrating this information and working on the problem for you. As you take a step back, do not consciously seek solutions, but instead enjoy stimulating or inspiring activities that distract your conscious mind, allowing connections to form within your subconscious.

Connections and Ideas

Patterns and relationships can begin to take shape between previously unrelated pieces of information and original ideas could begin to emerge. Although many of them might not be relevant to what you are working on, when your subconscious finds something that connects with your objective, the idea could float to the surface of your conscious mind. As you become aware of these ideas, you should make a note of them, rather than risk forgetting them.

At this stage you should avoid analysing the ideas, but keep a record of them, even if they initially seem unconventional or unrealistic. Rather than looking for a finished solution, enjoy receiving the ideas generated by your earlier work. When you subsequently begin to evaluate your ideas and share them with other people, remain open to how they might be interpreted or applied and do not become too fixed on one answer, as something better could come along.

An individual might evaluate the ideas that emerge and find a solution on their own, or seek the opinion of other people, who will perceive things from their own perspective. Whether working alone, or as part of a team, at some point a decision will need to be made and appropriate actions taken. It might be necessary to repeat each stage of the creative process a number of times, until a solution is found that meets the objective.

Overcoming Creative Blocks

An idea might seem to appear in your mind from nowhere, but will typically follow a period of immersion in relevant information, followed by time to allow ideas to gestate. When experiencing a creative block, you could work on something else for a while, or take a break, allowing time for your creative energies to be restored. Rather than expecting instant solutions to complex problems, you should allow time to complete each stage of the creative process.

Although creativity does not happen to order and cannot be forced, the seeds can be sown by beginning to work on a problem and a limited time scale can focus your efforts during stages such as research and evaluation. When working on a project with a number of objectives, they could each be at different stages of the creative process and you should track the progress of each of them.

Thinking Like an Artist

Artists seek to look beyond the world as others currently perceive it, in order to find new ways of expressing ideas, thoughts and feelings. People who want to develop their creative thinking skills, might benefit from viewing the world in such a way. The value of handmade arts and crafts based training is increasingly seen as as a way of encouraging such skills and the ability to create innovative products and services.

Arts and Crafts Workshops

During recent years there has been growing interest in arts and crafts, such as painting, ceramics and carpentry. Some organisations have seen it as a way of encouraging greater communication and creativity among employees in business roles not traditionally thought of as creative. Many people have attended courses and workshops where they can learn the skills needed to practice an art or craft. In addition to the tuition, the shared group experience of attending a workshop or class can also be beneficial.

The purpose of arts based training is not to teach people how to become an artist or artisan, but rather to help them apply some of the artists skills in their work. This could involve teams of people collaborating on the making of a piece of art or craft, music, storytelling or theatre, that draws upon imagination and real world experiences. Encouraging people to think beyond the normal limitations of their job title and role, can inspire new ideas and allow them to find innovative solutions, that might not otherwise have occurred to them.

Arts and crafts workshops could be led by a trainer with appropriate experience and in a pleasant location, away from the distractions of the normal work place. It might also be suggested that people do not check their telephone, email or social media accounts for the duration of the training. The trainer might open by proposing relevant topics to explore, or requesting people express their thoughts and feelings about particular works of art, design or craft. This is not intended as an opportunity for someone to show off their artistic knowledge, but rather as a way of encouraging people to begin opening up, listen to each other, share ideas and connect more deeply.

Creative Skills

Looking at and thinking about art can influence our perception and stimulate creativity. In a competitive working environment, with clearly defined roles and relationships, many good ideas might not come to the attention of those in decision making positions. A more relaxed environment can break through some of those barriers, increasing co-operation and the free flow of ideas, encouraging creative thinking and the development of creative skills.

Away from the pressures of completing specific tasks and meeting deadlines, people can explore ideas more fully and develop their skills. They can acquire a broader perspective, beyond old limitations and preconceptions. As they move beyond a purely rational and analytical approach, connecting to deeper emotions and their subconscious, people can become more intuitive, which can lead to fresh insights. When we express ideas through artistic mediums, it is also sometimes easier to describe concepts that we might find difficult or uncomfortable putting into words.

People cannot be forced to become more creative and innovative, according to the dictates of a timetable, like turning on a tap. Being placed in such a pressurised situation might push some people to work harder in a practical or analytical way, but the increased stress is likely to shut down creative impulses. Cultivating a safe, non judgemental environment, that inspires and supports openness and mutual trust, is more likely to produce creative thinking. People will also feel more comfortable sharing ideas, that they might otherwise not feel sufficiently confident to express, fearing criticism or rejection.

Arts and Crafts Based Learning

In a world where most people are under pressure to get the education and training needed to earn a living, some might consider creative pursuits to be a waste of time and an indulgence. There is evidence though that developing and practicing your creative thinking skills brings with it psychological, physical and social benefits. It could help you to develop innovation, problem solving and leadership skills. Some people have also gone on to make what began as a hobby into a new source of income.

Those following creative pursuits might find it therapeutic, as it can help them to contemplate life and find a greater sense of perspective on the world. We can take a break from our usual routine, explore our thoughts and feelings and find self expression in a tangible form, whilst also making items that other people might find useful or aesthetically pleasing. When people explore and perceive the world in new ways, they might form new connections in their mind between thoughts and objects, leading to innovative ideas that they can apply in their life and work.

Rather than being the preserve of a naturally gifted few, the creative arts and crafts can benefit anyone who practices them. Increasingly people are using online educational and training resources, to support lifelong learning. Rather than simply remembering facts, they often want to develop the creative, research, analytical and problem solving skills they might need now and in the future, when they could be doing jobs which do not yet exist.

Health and Wellness

Across the world millions are suffering from the effects of stress and ill health, as they struggle to cope with the demands of the modern world. Individuals can feel alienated from their true self and disconnected from the people and the world around them. Concern about the effects upon individuals and society, has led to the rise of wellness, as people search for methods of improving their sense of well being and their quality of life.

Maintaining good physical and mental health can provide you with a sense of well being, which can also encourage greater creativity. In addition to developing your creative thinking skills, arts and crafts based therapy can have psychological benefits for the individuals taking part. People can find a greater sense of fulfilment in their life and work, improving their well being. They can overcome feelings of being isolated or disconnected from the world and the people around them.

Art and Craft Therapy

Rather than relying only on medicine, the physical, psychological and social health benefits of handmade arts and crafts, such as drawing, painting, knitting or pottery, have been recognised. Therapies using them are sometimes recommended. When practicing an art or craft as therapy, the individual should not worry about their level of skill, as it is the act of making something that is important, not the quality of the finished item.

Concentrating upon the physical and mental activity required to make something can free the mind from other pressures and fears, rather like techniques such as yoga and meditation. Arts and crafts can help to improve communication between people, as they are often able to represent thoughts or feelings that they might find it difficult to express in words, or which might have been long suppressed within them.

The creative process can relax our mind and body, whilst allowing us to safely explore our inner thoughts and feelings, or look outside at the world and people around us. The physical action of interacting with the tools and materials of an art or craft can help us to connect our mind and body in a holistic way. Learning a new skill can bring a sense of personal achievement, which can help to reduce depression, improve self image and boost confidence.

Problem Solving and Innovation

When making something we are required to focus our mind upon the task at hand. We can begin to notice details that we might normally fail to see. Such experiences can have a transformative effect upon people more accustomed to taking a purely rational approach to their work, which might be of a business, technical or scientific nature. Problems could be represented in symbolic form and those present encouraged to engage both the logical and creative side of their brains, so that both sides work together to develop a more flexible approach to improvising solutions.

The creative arts can strengthen links between our conscious and subconscious mind, where many original concepts first begin to form, resulting in fresh insights and innovations. Previously untapped potential could begin to emerge, as preconceived assumptions are put aside and improved observational skills allow new patterns and relationships to be perceived between different ideas and objects. You could begin to develop your creative thinking skills and find greater success in your life and work.

The eBook How To Become Simply Creative is free to download.

Posted in Creativity.