For some people in some circumstances, the creative spark can happen with little or no effort. Sometimes, though, the creative spirit needs a little help. Researchers have identified different techniques to engage creative thinking:
Reframe the problem
When faced with a problem or a task, most will use a familiar, routine approach. The result will be predictable. From time to time, our usual approaches will leave us at an impasse, with no apparent answer. This is where true creative thinking comes in. Reframing the problem involves approaching it from a new angle, trying to understand it through someone else’s eyes or perhaps through an alternative medium. For example, instead of the usual jotting down of points in answer to the problem, a creative thinker might draw the answer or maybe use objects to create a 3-D answer. In all these cases, the creative thinker is forcing the brain to assemble elements differently, thereby creating different types of associations and increasing the potential for creative problem solving.
Collaboration & Divergent and Convergent Thinking
Some researchers believe that true creativity is always interactive, and almost never the result of an individual acting alone. Even when an individual appears to be a solo creator or innovator, he or she is continually drawing on the ideas of others.
One of the keys to creative thinking is therefore collaboration and teamwork. There are volumes of findings on effective group brainstorming but some constants emerge:
- Group size should not exceed about 7 people;
- Individuals should be encouraged to propose any idea that comes to mind, without censure (divergent thinking);
- One idea may spark another so it is important that suggestions be verbalized;
- Time for divergent thinking should be limited;
- Participants should then analyze the pertinence and feasibility of the ideas;
- The ideas retained by the group should be further examined and developed for implementation (convergent thinking).
It seems like advice to a pouty kid, but approaching a problem when the thinker is in a good mood, improves dramatically the potential for creative problem solving. The solution isn’t mood enhancers but rather choosing to the right time to engage in creative thinking makes a big difference.