What is creative thinking?

Why is it, that some people come up with brilliant ideas, while others can’t? How do they connect all the dots, see the larger picture, get to the point, see what’s not visible? The answer, creative thinking.

Creative thinking is the ability to look at problems and find new ways to solve them. And it’s not just designers, creatives, writers, musicians, and artists that have this ability – it’s all of us. We just need to understand, learn, and practice the techniques, and ways of thinking to create a spark, see a difference and set the world (and your creativity) on fire.

“A way of looking at problems or situations from a fresh perspective that suggests unorthodox solutions (which may look unsettling at first). Creative thinking can be stimulated both by an unstructured process such as brainstorming, and by a structured process such as lateral thinking.”

We take from this that creativity is our ability to create or build something that is new from what is currently presented to us. And it is our ability to think differently and view a problem from different perspectives. This results in two outcomes; that we create a new solution or outcome, or that the problem really doesn’t need a different solution today, or at all.

The importance of creative thinking

We all have fixed habits, working methods and ways of thinking – and much of the time we really don’t care about trying to find new and different ways of achieving things – if it’s not broken, then don’t fix it, right?

Creative thinking and creative thinkers don’t like the regular or the predictable. They look at things differently, through other people’s eyes, in other people’s shoes, and open up new concepts, ideas and ultimately new solutions – good or ‘not so good’.

Thinking creatively provides freedom

When we create, we have the opportunity to engage with the world without judging ourselves. It’s similar to what we felt when we were a child. Back then we didn’t care what people thought of us (or was that just me?).

Freedom of thought and expression are critical components of creative thinking. When you were a child, you took on board what your parents said, listened to friends, spoke to your imaginary friend (if you had one), came to a conclusion, and then did what you thought in the first place. Creative thinking is about taking on board what’s around you, not letting that restrict you, but let it provide a certain point-of-view that can then be altered, shaped and delivered in a way that hasn’t been done before.

Creative thinking provides self-awareness

Creative thinking is a journey – it takes time – time with your own thoughts, feelings and beliefs. By understanding who you are, how and why you think the way you do, and how best to use your thoughts will speed up this creative journey and bring about new and sometimes radical solutions to problems.

We become more confident in our ideas

Yes, creative thinking is the ability to think freely. However, without structure, research, opinion and confidence, your ideas aren’t going to go anywhere fast. Do your homework, have answers to the question ‘why?’, stick to your guns, and above all else tell a story of how you got to where you creatively landed.

CPhoto by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Creative thinking skills

Creative thinking isn’t exclusive – anyone can learn creative thinking skills and use them to improve and benefit their lives, and the lives of others.

Let’s make it clear, there is no one ‘right’ method or set of skills you need to think creatively. However, different people may need to focus more on one area while others may need to establish and build on others. To get things started, here are a selection of skills that we can all use to ease the process and help expand our creative thinking abilities.

Perception and empathy

When you can read the mood of a meeting or interaction with a colleague or client, you will significantly increase your creative thinking approach. Sharing your thoughts early on will help build upon ideas, remove obstacles, establish confidence and quite possibly get early ‘buy-in’ from people who have influence over what constitutes a ‘good idea’, or ‘bad idea’.

When to share ideas and thoughts:

  • When you’re facing a major problem or issue and can’t seem to find a way to proceed and solve it.
  • When change is inevitable, or when the future is more obscure than usual.
  • When there is a divide between what people think needs to happen.
  • Use creative thinking to break down stubborn behaviour, or when there’s little to no compromising going on, when it’s needed.
  • When the normal simply isn’t working – try out new solutions to old problems.

When a group or individual isn’t being receptive to your idea and is struggling to come up with their own – give them yours! Let them own it and support it. You can still maintain a watchful eye over things, and you can still shape it, direct it and launch it (even if you don’t own it anymore).


Like we said before, you need to gather information, digest details and utilise facts to help build your creative thinking. By being able to read text or data will offer a deeper understanding of what the creative problem involves and will drive any creative thinking process. Information is key, but don’t let it overload or restrict you.


Even though you’ve absorbed lots of information, you still need to maintain an open mind. Remove any assumptions, biases and push yourself into looking at a problem in new ways. There should never be a ‘this is how it’s always been’ outcome. Remove the logic and break the rules – you’ll never find a successful creative or entrepreneur who hasn’t been illogical or broken rules!

Structured chaos

You wouldn’t ever say a brilliant creative thinker is organized – but they are – chaos on the outside, and structure at the heart. Being able to organize ideas, think logically about a problem, and present it well, are key components to success. There’s really no point coming up with a world-class creative idea or thought, but not have the ability or structure to showcase it at its best.


Communication sits alongside Structured Chaos. If you can’t communicate effectively, your ideas simply won’t fly. Ensure your written and verbal communication skills are on point. If you can’t do this justice, get someone to help, or give your idea away to someone who can. You want your creative idea to succeed, and you need to do anything to make that happen.

Change for good

Creative Thinking and Creative Thinkers have and will continue to change technology, society, relationships and the world. We all need to push ourselves and others out of their comfort zones and think differently. It is only when we start to think differently, we can change the “Why?” to “Why not!”.

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