19 Creative Thinking Skills (and How to Use Them!)

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In a fast-moving world, being able to find new perspectives and create innovation is an increasingly valuable skill . Creative thinkers are often at the forefront of driving change, solving problems, and developing new ideas. Not only that, but those who bring creative thinking to how they work are often happier, more productive, and resilient too!

So you might be asking yourself, how can I develop my creative thinking skills and think more creatively at work?  Whether you want to supercharge your interpersonal skills, advance your career or be happier and more satisfied in the work you do, it pays to learn to think more creatively.

For many people, creative thinking is the key that unlocks solutions, promotes diverse thinking, and leads to better relationships and job satisfaction. So how can you get started with creative thinking?  As passionate believers in the value of creative thinking, we’re here to help and truly think unleashing your creativity can be key to your personal development!

In this post we’ll define what creative thinking is, highlight the benefits, explore 19 key creative thinking skills and give you some examples of how to apply them in the workplace . Let’s dig in!

What is creative thinking?

Why is creative thinking important, what are the benefits of creative thinking.

  • What are creative thinking skills?  
  • Examples of creative thinking skills (and how to use them)
  • How to use creative thinking skills at work?

How to improve your creative thinking skills? 

Creative thinking is the ability to approach a problem or challenge from a new perspective, alternative angle, or with an atypical mindset. This might mean thinking outside of the box, taking techniques from one discipline and applying them to another, or simply creating space for new ideas and alternative solutions to present themselves through dialogue, experimentation, or reflection.

Bear in mind that the number of different creative approaches is as vast as the number of creative thinkers – if an approach helps you see things differently and approaching a challenge creatively, follow that impulse.

While there are some proven methods and guidelines that can help you be a better creative thinker, remember that everyone can be creative and finding what works for you is what is important, not the terminology or specific framework.

One misapprehension about creative thinking is that you have to be skilled at more traditional creative skills like drawing or writing. This isn’t true. What’s important is that you are open to exploring alternative solutions while employing fresh techniques and creative approaches to what you’re working on. 

You don’t need to be a great artist or even work in a traditionally creative field – we believe everyone is capable of creative thinking and that it enriches your personal and professional lives when you learn to be more creative.

Another misconception about creative thinking is that it applies only to the ideation or technically creative parts of the process. All aspects of our lives and interactions with people and challenges can benefit from creative thinking – from the ability to see things differently.

At work, thinking creatively might mean finding better ways to communicate, improve your working practices, or developing and implementing fresh solutions too.

Creative thinking is important because it drives new ideas, encourages learning, and creates a safe space for experimentation and risk-taking.

As organizations and people grow, they often develop tried and tested ways of operating. While it’s important to have solid working practices and processes, unswerving dedication to the norm can lead to stagnation and a lack of innovation and growth. 

Creative thinking is important because it drives new ideas, encourages learning and creates a safe space for experimentation and risk-taking. Simply put, creativity and creative thinking are part of what helps businesses and individuals succeed and grow .

Whether your team or business thinks of itself as a creative one, you can’t afford to miss out on the benefits of creative thinking if you want to grow , deliver change, and help your team bring their best selves to work. 

Using creative thinking skills at work creates b enefits not only in the ways we solve problems but also in how we approach everything from communication to self-fulfillment, task management, and growth . Bringing a culture of creative thinking into a workshop or group is often the job of a talented facilitator but whatever your role, there are benefits to thinking more creatively. Let’s explore some of the benefits of thinking creatively at work and in your everyday life!

Build empathy

  • Bust assumptions  
  • Become a better problem solver  

Find ways to move quickly and effectively

  • Increase happiness

Discover new talents and promote learning

  • Boost resilience and deal with adversity

Boost your CV and employability 

Empathy and creative thinking go hand-in-hand. By practicing creative thinking skills and regularly looking for new ideas and points of view, you can actively become better at understanding your colleagues, customers, and even your family and friends. One of the major barriers to having productive and meaningful relationships is an unwillingness to see things from a perspective other than your own or failing to understand how another person is feeling. 

By developing this skill, you can engage more meaningfully and honestly with people, ideas, and perspectives in all aspects of life. What’s more, because of the benefits that creative thinking can bring, you’ll actively want to see things from new perspectives and be more empathic : something that’s fundamental to creating real change.

Bust assumptions 

Assumptions can be harmful in both our personal and professional lives. Whether it’s making assumptions about why someone is behaving the way they are in a workshop or what features will make your customers happiest, holding onto incorrect or inadequately formed assumptions can be problematic . It can create difficulty and tension in relationships and what’s more, it can lead to the development or introduction of solutions that are simply unfit for purpose.

Using creative thinking skills to challenge assumptions, build clarity, and see things from new perspectives can be transformative. If an assumption someone else makes feels incorrect, think about why and try to find out more. If someone challenges an assumption you hold, be open and listen.

Become a better problem solver

An example of not being a creative thinker is sticking to a tried and tested approach and sticking to the norm in every situation without considering whether trying something new might not lead to better results.

When looking to solve a problem or create innovative solutions, going outside of what you know and being open to new ideas is not only exciting, but it can create more impactful solutions too. You might even try using problem-solving techniques alongside some of the creative thinking skills below to find the absolute best solutions!

Some processes and working practices can be slow, especially in large organizations with many moving parts – but do they all have to be? Thinking creatively can help you find lean, actionable solutions that you can put into practice quickly and test ahead of bigger changes .

Experimentation and a willingness to take risks are vital to growth and change, and creative thinking helps create a climate conducive to finding and trying quick, effective solutions. 

Increase happiness and satisfaction

Finding fresh, appropriate solutions to problems can be incredibly satisfying and is a fast-track to finding happiness both in and out of work. Bringing your whole self to a situation and being enabled to think outside of the box is a great way to feel valued and engaged with what you are doing.

Feeling frustrated with how a situation or process at work is going? Try developing and employing your creative thinking skills alongside your colleagues to find a better, happier way to collaborate! Feel unfulfilled or that not all of your skills and interests are being utilized? Consider how you might creatively deploy the skills or talents that make you happy and scratch that itch.

As children, we are encouraged to see things differently and try new things as part of our learning and growing process. There’s no reason we shouldn’t do this as adults too! Trying new things and learning to think creatively can help you find new skills, talents, and things you didn’t even know you were good at.

Staying curious and following what interests you with an open mind is a prime example of what a small change in thinking can achieve. Remember that creative thinking is a gateway to learning and by actively developing your creative toolset, you can grow and discover more in all walks of life – a surefire path to personal development.

Get better at dealing with adversity

It’s easy to get frustrated when problems seem to come thick and fast and existing solutions or methods don’t work. Adversity is something all of us will face at some point in our personal and professional lives but there are ways you can become more able to handle problems when they arise .

A strong suite of creative thinking skills is an important aspect of how we can build resilience and be more flexible when adapting or creating change. By exploring alternative ways of thinking, you’ll be better prepared to face adversity more openly and find alternative ways to resolve challenges in whatever context they emerge.

Creative thinkers are valuable employees at organizations of any size. Whether it’s championing innovation, creating change in policy, or finding better ways to collaborate, people who can effectively solve problems and leverage their creative thinking skills are better positioned for success at work.

Consider how you might plug your skills gap and boost your CV by developing your creative skillset and you won’t just be more successful – you’ll be happier and more engaged at work too! 

Whatever your background or role, you are capable of thinking creatively and bringing creativity into your life.

What are creative thinking skills? 

Creative thinking skills are the methods or approaches you might use when trying to solve a problem differently and explore a fresh perspective. While some of these skills might come naturally to you, others might need a more considered, purposeful approach.

For example, you might be a natural visual thinker who is great at presenting and interpreting visual information but you might not be so good at freely experimenting or creating space for reflection. In this case, you might try some brainstorming exercises to loosen up your experimentation muscles or create scheduled time for reflection in your working routine.

While creative professions like artists, writers, or designers may see more obvious uses for creative thinking skills, all professions can benefit from developing and deploying creative thinking . If you find yourself having difficulty at work or in need of inspiration or motivation, finding space to build on your creative skillset is a way to not only move forward but have fun while doing so.

If you think you’re not creative or have no creative thinking skills, we’re here to tell you that whatever your background or role, you are capable of thinking creatively and bringing creativity into your life : you might just need a little push or to reframe how you think about creativity!

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Examples of creative thinking skills (and how to use them) 

Creative thinking skills come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from things like abstract thinking and storytelling to finding ways to radically plan projects or recognize organizational patterns .

In this section, we’ll explore each of the example creative skills below and talk about how you might use them in your personal and professional practice. We’ll also point out some things to watch out for where appropriate so you can make the most out of your new creative skills and avoid potential setbacks.

We’ll also include a method from the SessionLab library that will help you practice and explore each skill, whether alone or with others .

Feel free to read and explore the creative thinking skill which feels most interesting or applicable to you and come back and experiment with others in the future!  

Some example creative thinking skills include:


Open-mindedness, lateral thinking.

  • Pattern recognition   

Deep and active listening

Challenging norms, lean organization, simplification, radical planning.

  • Collaborative thinking

Data collection

  • Interpretation and analysis

Interdisciplinary thinking

Frameworks and rulesets, micro and macro thinking, visual thinking, abstract thinking, storytelling.

Note that this list is not exhaustive, and there are many more ways of thinking creatively – try to see these creative skills as a jumping-off point for seeing things differently and exploring creative thinking at work . 

Let’s get started!

A core creative skill is the ability to experiment and try new things, whether that’s in your personal practice, in a closed environment, or even in the field. It can be easy to fall short of implementing new ideas or following through with creative projects because critical judgment or overthinking gets in the way . A good experimenter is a self-starter who makes informed decisions to kickstart projects and test hypotheses. 

Think of a painter who throws paint at a canvas and introduces new materials without overthinking or being self-critical. While not everything they try will be perfect, that’s the point – not every experiment needs to be successful in order to teach you something useful. By experimenting, you can try things that might prove useful or will lead you towards new solutions and better ideas. Remember that the act of experimentation is generative and often fun so be sure to give it a try!

One thing to watch out for is being sure to effectively capture the results of your experiments and to continue developing and iterating on the results. Experimentation is a great place to start, but remember that it is part of a larger process. Without effective documentation, you might not trace what delivered the best results and be unable to reproduce the outcomes. Experimentation is a great example of why creative freedom should be paired with a strong process in order to be at its best. 

Four-Step Sketch   #design sprint   #innovation   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   The four-step sketch is an exercise that helps people to create well-formed concepts through a structured process that includes: Review key information Start design work on paper,  Consider multiple variations , Create a detailed solution . This exercise is preceded by a set of other activities allowing the group to clarify the challenge they want to solve. See how the Four Step Sketch exercise fits into a Design Sprint

Four-Step Sketch is a great method for promoting experimentation. By following a process that enables quick brainstorming before development, you can help build an experimental mindset that also generates results.

Open-mindedness is a critical element of creativity and one of the best creative thinking skills you can try to build if you’re new to the practice. Being open-minded means being receptive to new ideas, different ways of thinking, and perspectives which are not your own. It means not closing down conversations or ideas prematurely and trying to actively explore what is presented to you.

Imagine that a colleague comes up with an idea that is so far out of the status quo it seems off-the-wall and bizarre. Being open-minded means actively engaging with what is presented and to refrain from forming judgments before first understanding where your colleague is coming from .

Your colleagues’ initial idea might not be perfect, but being open-minded and truly attempting to understand their perspective means you can create dialogue, foster creativity, and move forward as a team. 

Being open-minded doesn’t mean accepting every new idea and agreeing wholesale with every different opinion. While you should always try to be open and receptive to new ideas and other perspectives, you should also critically appraise and engage with them as part of a larger creative process. Don’t be so open-minded you have no strong opinions of your own!

Heard, Seen, Respected (HSR)   #issue analysis   #empathy   #communication   #liberating structures   #remote-friendly   You can foster the empathetic capacity of participants to “walk in the shoes” of others. Many situations do not have immediate answers or clear resolutions. Recognizing these situations and responding with empathy can improve the “cultural climate” and build trust among group members. HSR helps individuals learn to respond in ways that do not overpromise or overcontrol. It helps members of a group notice unwanted patterns and work together on shifting to more productive interactions. Participants experience the practice of more compassion and the benefits it engenders.

Open-mindedness is particularly useful when it comes to meaningfully communicating with others. Whether its developing the ability to walk in the shoes of someone else or building empathy and listening skills, Heard, Seen, Respected is a great method to try when learning to be more open-minded.

Lateral thinking is a prime example of how we can creatively solve real-world problems in a measurable and easy-to-understand manner. Deploying lateral thinking means using reasoning or non-traditional logic to find an indirect or out-of-the-box approach to solving a problem. 

A simple example might be a challenge like: we need to increase revenue. Traditional thinking might mean considering hiring new salespeople to try and get more direct sales. A lateral approach might mean engaging more with current customers to reduce churn, working with external partners to get new leads, working to get sponsorship, piloting an affiliate scheme or any number of new ways to solve the existing problem.

Broadly speaking, lateral thinking often means stepping back and considering solutions or approaches outside of the immediately obvious.

One potential danger with lateral thinking is spending time to create new solutions to problems that don’t need them. Not every problem needs to be solved laterally and the best solution might actually be the most straightforward. Be sure to tap into existing knowledge and appraise a problem before trying something radical to avoid wasted time or frustration!  

The Creativity Dice   #creativity   #problem solving   #thiagi   #issue analysis   Too much linear thinking is hazardous to creative problem solving. To be creative, you should approach the problem (or the opportunity) from different points of view. You should leave a thought hanging in mid-air and move to another. This skipping around prevents premature closure and lets your brain incubate one line of thought while you consciously pursue another.

Developing your lateral thinking skills comes more naturally to some than others. The Creativity Dice is a great method for getting out of linear thinking habits and moving into different ways of thinking.

Pattern recognition 

Pattern recognition is the ability to recognise existing or emerging patterns and make connections based on the patterns you have discerned . While pattern recognition goes back to our prehistoric roots, being able to spot patterns outside of the ordinary and consider what may not be immediately obvious is a vital creative thinking skill for today. 

Consider how meetings between some members of a team might often end in conflict. While it might first seem that these two people just can’t get along, it might actually be that certain emotional triggers are being tripped or the format of the conversation isn’t working. Looking beyond your initial impressions and from a new perspective might let you find a repeating pattern that isn’t immediately obvious.

When trying to spot patterns, try to be mindful of existing biases so you avoid bending what is happening to fit a pattern you might be expecting. Be sure to interpret all data fairly and honestly, even if you believe a pattern is already forming. 

Affinity Map   #idea generation   #gamestorming   Most of us are familiar with brainstorming—a method by which a group generates as many ideas around a topic as possible in a limited amount of time. Brainstorming works to get a high quantity of information on the table. But it begs the follow-up question of how to gather meaning from all the data. Using a simple Affinity Diagram technique can help us discover embedded patterns (and sometimes break old patterns) of thinking by sorting and clustering language-based information into relationships. It can also give us a sense of where most people’s thinking is focused

Pattern recognition is a skill that benefits from thoughtful practice. Try starting with a deliberate pattern-finding process like Affinity Map to build the ability to see patterns where they might not first be obvious.

While it might not seem like it at first, being a good listener is a creative thinking skill. It asks that a person not only try to understand what is being said but also to engage with the why and how of the conversation in order to reframe prior thinking and see things from a new perspective.

Deep listening or active listening is not only hearing the words that someone is saying but actively seeking to interpret their intent, understand their position, and create a positive space for further conversation. Not only does this create a deeper conversation for both parties, but this act of engagement and understanding leads to more creative and dynamic results too. 

Think of a workplace grievance that one person might have against another. Without actively listening and trying to understand the core issues from the perspective of everyone involved, you might not only fail to solve the issue but actually make staff feel less heard and valued too.

By employing this creative thinking skill in such a conversation you can see things more clearly and find a way to creatively satisfy the needs of everyone involved. 

Active Listening   #hyperisland   #skills   #active listening   #remote-friendly   This activity supports participants to reflect on a question and generate their own solutions using simple principles of active listening and peer coaching. It’s an excellent introduction to active listening but can also be used with groups that are already familiar with it. Participants work in groups of three and take turns being: “the subject”, the listener, and the observer.

Trying to be more present in conversations is a great place to begin building your deep listening and active listening skills . Want to supercharge the process as a group? Try a role-play activity like Active Listening to more thoughtfully see and reflect on how important this skill can be.

Not all established working practices are the best way of doing things. People who practice this creative thinking skill are likely to question the status quo in search of something new which can deliver meaningful change. While any challenge to the established order needs to be conducted respectfully and thoughtfully, thinking of how to go beyond the norm is how innovation occurs and where creative thinkers excel.

When trying to practice this skill, be prepared to question existing methods and frameworks and ask if there might be a better way outside of the limits of the current system. 

As with lateral thinking, it’s important to recognize that not everything is a problem that needs to be solved and so you may need to be selective in which norms should be challenged – otherwise, you may never make it out of the front door!

Additionally, challenging the established order often means questioning the work someone else has already done. While this is a necessary part of growth, it should always be done constructively and respectfully.  

W³ – What, So What, Now What?   #issue analysis   #innovation   #liberating structures   You can help groups reflect on a shared experience in a way that builds understanding and spurs coordinated action while avoiding unproductive conflict. It is possible for every voice to be heard while simultaneously sifting for insights and shaping new direction. Progressing in stages makes this practical—from collecting facts about What Happened to making sense of these facts with So What and finally to what actions logically follow with Now What . The shared progression eliminates most of the misunderstandings that otherwise fuel disagreements about what to do. Voila!

Challenging norms without a considered approach can be ineffective and potentially frustrating. Taking the time to build shared understanding and push in the same direction with What, So What, Now What? is a great way to explore how your existing process is or isn’t working and challenge norms productively.

Creative thinking doesn’t mean being disorganized or chaotic just because you have an abundance of ideas. In order to facilitate creative thinking, it’s important to stay organized and approach the process with the right framework, mindset, and space. As a creative thinking skill, lean organization means considering what you absolutely need to do in order to make things happen, versus what you don’t.

Think of how a large, multi-discipline team might go about organizing themselves for a big project. While it’s vital everyone is aligned and kept up to date, a traditional system of scheduled meetings might not be the most productive. Lean organization means considering the needs of the team, the project and thinking creatively about what you need to stay organized, and keeping unnecessary admin to a minimum.

Thinking creatively about organization is something all leaders should practice but any project can benefit from thinking through the process by which it will be accomplished. 

MoSCoW   #define intentions   #create   #design   #action   #remote-friendly   MoSCoW is a method that allows the team to prioritize the different features that they will work on. Features are then categorized into “Must have”, “Should have”, “Could have”, or “Would like but won‘t get”. To be used at the beginning of a timeslot (for example during Sprint planning) and when planning is needed.

Lean organization often means being honest and realistic about what is absolutely necessary versus nice to have. MoSCoW is an effective agile framework for planning work and also reframing your approach to organizing time, tasks and more!

Simplifying, presenting or decoding any information is a vital skill when working with others. In a creative thinking context, simplification is the act of seeing what is important about a task or piece of data and stripping away the extraneous parts to see things more clearly.

Some problems can feel unassailable because of their complexity or scale – simplification allows you to reconsider a problem in simple terms and reframe it in a way that means you can approach it productively. 

An example of using this creative thinking skill at work might be when presenting the results of a project to the rest of your organization. People working on other teams and in different disciplines could become disengaged if exposed to too many complex moving parts or it might simply be a waste of time to discuss every detail.

By simplifying a project into more succinct terms, you not only can help your group connect with the material swiftly but also boil a project down to its most important elements . This is a great way to creatively re-energize a project and identify where you can make an impact immediately. 

6 Words   #ufmcs   #red teaming   This tool is designed to help critical thinkers focus on a core idea by writing a short phrase summarizing their thoughts into a set number of words that are clear, concise, and accurate. This idea is based on a complete short story written by Ernest Hemingway: “For sale, baby shoes – never worn.” Six Words forces people to synthesize their ideas in a succinct and meaningful way, cutting away fluff and distilling the idea to its bare essence.

One way of practicing simplification is by summarising or condensing thoughts, ideas of stories into a more concise, compressed form . 6 Words is a method for cutting away extraneous material from ideas that engages creative thinking and reframing approachably – great for groups!

Any major project requires some measure of planning in order to succeed, especially when working with others. But are there times where overplanning or traditional working processes feel too slow or frustrating for the project at hand? This is where these creative thinking skills come in handy! Radical planning is a way of approaching project planning from an alternative angle in order to generate fast, effective results.  

When taking this planning approach, you will often shuffle the order of the normal planning process in order to create alternative outcomes and cut out elements you may not need. For example, with the backcasting workshop activity, the approach is to think of desired outcomes up to twenty years in the future and work backward to figure out how we can make small steps today.

You might also try planning with a mindset of what you and your team can each achieve immediately and in a more experimental fashion with an activity like 15% solutions . 

By approaching planning with a creative thinking mindset, you can surface ideas and plans which may not have come up with a more traditional planning process. Another great benefit is to question the normal manner in which your team or organisation approaches planning and can help your team find a method that works best for you!

Backcasting   #define intentions   #create   #design   #action   Backcasting is a method for planning the actions necessary to reach desired future goals. This method is often applied in a workshop format with stakeholders participating. To be used when a future goal (even if it is vague) has been identified.

Collaborative thinking 

Effective collaboration requires us to bring many different skills together, but consciously considering how to be a more effective collaborator is worth mentioning separately. When a creative thinker approaches collaboration, they will try to think of how to use alternative approaches to make the collaborative process more effective while also helping everyone on the team contribute and be heard.

An example is when it comes to getting work done in meetings – if the current process isn’t enabling everyone to collaborate effectively, you might employ creative thinking to try finding an alternative format, consider working asynchronously, or timeboxing parts of your agenda.

The best collaborators also find ways to champion the work of others and create a safe space for everyone to contribute – it might not be enough to assume collaboration will be accomplished when you get people in a room.

Employing this creative thinking skill can make all the difference when it comes to job satisfaction, interpersonal relationships and group outcomes too! Try approaching your collaborative projects more mindfully and see how it changes things for you!

Marshmallow challenge with debriefing   #teamwork   #team   #leadership   #collaboration   In eighteen minutes, teams must build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. The marshmallow needs to be on top. The Marshmallow Challenge was developed by Tom Wujec, who has done the activity with hundreds of groups around the world. Visit the Marshmallow Challenge website for more information. This version has an extra debriefing question added with sample questions focusing on roles within the team.

Working together on a task as a team is an effective way of kickstarting collaborative thinking, especially if you approach the task mindfully . The Marshamllow Challenge with debriefing is a proven method for engaging teamwork and by adding reflection time afterward, your group can share and build on what they learned.

Collecting data might seem like a solely analytical skill, but it is another area where creative thinking can lead to productive, unexpected and transformative results. Approaching the data collection process creatively might mean trying new techniques or sources, or simply reconsidering the how and why of your data collection processes.  

Imagine you are running a survey to measure customer happiness. You might try asking traditional survey questions, but find that your response rate is low and furthermore, your approach might be invasive and actively decrease happiness too!

If you were to approach this problem creatively, you might find that using a simplified form, asking for feedback at a different point in the customer journey, or utilizing an alternative measurement scheme delivers the data you are looking for. In many cases, thinking about the questions you are asking from a new point of view is what unlocks a better data collection process.

The key to this creative thinking skill is to try looking at the data collection process from a new, preferably customer-centric perspective while also considering why and how you are collecting data. You will likely find that by asking for input from your customers more creatively, you create space for more creative responses too!

3 Question Mingle   #hyperisland   #team   #get-to-know   An activity to support a group to get to know each other through a set of questions that they create themselves. The activity gets participants moving around and meeting each other one-on-one. It’s useful in the early stages of team development and/or for groups to reconnect with each other after a period of time apart.

3 Question Mingle is a get to know you activity that does double duty in demonstrating the power of approaching data collection creatively. By creating their own questions, a group can really think about what they want to know, how they ask questions, and how the results differ. Be sure to give it a try!

Interpretation and analysis

Interpretation skills can be varied though in a creative thinking context it means being able to successfully analyze an idea, solution, dataset, or conversation and draw effective conclusions. Great interpreters are people with a desire to listen, understand, and dig deeper in order to make their interpretation fully realised.

One of the ways creative thinking can improve interpretation is in helping us challenge assumptions or initial readings of data in order to consider other possible interpretations and perspectives.

Say your product is having a problem with losing lots of new customers shortly after signing up. You do a survey and people say that they leave because the product isn’t useful to them. Your initial interpretation of that data might be that you’re not the right fit for these customers or that the product needs new features.

If you were to apply creative thinking to the interpretation of this data, you might conduct further research and see that the product is fine, but people didn’t find the right features for them and that your onboarding process needs to be improved.

The key here is interpreting the data from various perspectives and then correlating that with other sources to form an accurate and representative interpretation, rather than going with your initial assumption . By following this process, you might also find that the way you are collecting data is flawed (perhaps not asking the right questions) or that more research and data collection is needed.

So long as you are sure to have data points and analysis to back up your findings, it pays to explore alternative interpretations so you can avoid bias and find the most accurate takeaways . 

Fishbone diagram   #frame insights   #create   #design   #issue analysis   Fishbone diagrams show the causes of a specific event.

Effective interpretation and analysis isn’t possible without a thorough exploration of the problem or topic at hand. Fishbone Diagram is a simple method for not only surfacing insights but framing them in a way that allows for proper and multi-perspective analysis.

Einstein is quoted as saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” In this mold, sometimes the best ideas and solutions come from fields and disciplines outside of our own. By considering how someone with a different skillset to your own would solve a problem or deploy solutions, you can often find ideas and techniques you may never have considered. 

Consider being tasked with improving employee happiness. A social media manager with a background in illustration and events management would likely try a very different approach to a sales manager who is used to a culture of incentives and bonuses. If you were trying to develop a new product, think of how a developer would approach deciding on key features versus an academic or a customer success manager? 

The important thing here is to try and use the perspective, skill set , and approach of another field or discipline to first consider and then solve a problem more fully . Where possible, try and include people from other disciplines in the process and try to avoid making assumptions.

As with all creative thinking skills, being open-minded and sourcing the expertise and opinions of others where necessary is vital when creating true innovation.

Mash-Up Innovation   #hyperisland   #innovation   #idea generation   Mash-ups is a collaborative idea generation method in which participants come up with innovative concepts by combining different elements together. In a first step, participants brainstorm around different areas, such as technologies, human needs, and existing services. In a second step, they rapidly combine elements from those areas to create new, fun and innovative concepts. Mash-ups demonstrates how fast and easy it can be to come up with innovative ideas.

Interdisciplinary thinking isn’t just for radical academics. By combining ideas from disparate fields in a fast, fun manner, Mash-Up Innovation is great for building creative thinking skills and generating results in one fell swoop!

All creative thinking skills are about reframing things in a new way of finding alternative approaches. This can often mean abandoning an existing framework and thinking outside of the box. That said , another way of applying creative thinking is by bringing rulesets, constraints, or frameworks to your approach in order to trigger deeper creative work and tap into a problem-solving mindset . 

Consider a simple task like trying to generate more customers. With free reign, there are innumerable ways to accomplish this. But what happens if you create a rule like, we cannot spend any money, or, these must be driven by social media alone. In order to accomplish your goal under these conditions, you must think more creatively and deeply, deploying more concentrated problem-solving skills than if you could try any approach you wanted. 

Alternatively, you might approach a problem with a framework that forces you to think under specific circumstances or with a rigid set of steps. Six thinking hats is a great workshop activity that asks participants to frame and reframe a problem from six different angles. While it might first seem counterintuitive, the use of rules or frameworks can create fertile ground for creative thinking and lead to more realized solutions!

The Six Thinking Hats   #creative thinking   #meeting facilitation   #problem solving   #issue resolution   #idea generation   #conflict resolution   The Six Thinking Hats are used by individuals and groups to separate out conflicting styles of thinking. They enable and encourage a group of people to think constructively together in exploring and implementing change, rather than using argument to fight over who is right and who is wrong.

Not all problems are created equal. Depending on how much it directly affects you, you might see a given problem as being more or less important than your colleagues, leading to a different response and approach to solving the problem. This creative thinking skill is all about being able to switch between seeing the bigger picture while also considering how something might manifest on a smaller scale.

Think of how frustrating it can be when an executive team makes sweeping changes that affect frontline staff in a way they might not have anticipated. Micro and macro thinking means seeing both problems and potential solutions from multiple perspectives and adjusting accordingly. 

Another key aspect of applying this approach is knowing the limits of your own knowledge and involving stakeholders from all levels of an organization to inform your ideation and problem-solving process.

If you’ve never worked in support and don’t regularly talk to your support team, you might not understand how a change to helpdesk software could impact your team and your clients – remember that a big part of any change in perspective is doing the research and talking to who will be affected ! 

Stakeholder Round Robin Brainstorm   #idea generation   #brainstorming   #perspectives   #remote-friendly   #online   A divergent process to generate ideas and understanding from different perspectives.

Learning to practice micro and macro thinking often starts with first listening to and understanding the needs and perspectives of others . Especially those who have varied positions in relation to the problem, solutions, or organization you are working with. Stakeholder Round Robin Brainstorm is an effective method of surfacing insights and perspectives quickly and productively.

Of all the creative thinking skills on this list, visual thinking might be one you are most familiar with. Visual thinking is a method of processing, learning, and presenting information and concepts with visual assets such as images.

Visual thinking is often associated with creative thinking because of the consumption and creation of images at its heart. Don’t let this make you think you have to be able to draw in order to be a visual thinker.

Applying this creative thinking skill means being able to interpret visual information, present concepts in an often simple visual manner, and communicate in a way that is more universally understood.  Drawing stick people is actively encouraged!

Visual approaches to problem-solving can help foster shared understanding and help people be more succinct or creative in their ideas. Remember: if an idea is too complex to be put into pictures, perhaps it needs further refinement .

Imagie-ination   #idea generation   #gamestorming   Images have the ability to spark insights and to create new associations and possible connections. That is why pictures help generate new ideas, which is exactly the point of this exercise.

While you might be able to jump straight into direct applications of visual thinking, it can help to try an exercise where you and a group explore using images simply and engagingly. Imagie-ination helps unlock the power of visual thinking as a team while also helping generate ideas too!

Abstraction or abstract thinking is the art of taking things out of their normal context and presenting them in a radical new light . While most creative thinking skills utilise abstraction in some form, it’s worth noting that actively trying to take an idea from one context and place it in another is a creative approach all on its own.

Think of Pablo Picasso’s cubist portraits – by taking something as common as a human face and bringing abstraction to his process, he created something radically different and innovative. You can create a similar effect by recontextualizing ideas, concepts, and problems and by looking at them from different, perhaps even conflicting points of view.

Abstract thinking is often built on engaging with absurdities, paradoxes, and unexpected connections . As such, it can often be fun, wild and surprising, and is a great way to generate creative ideas even in those who might be resistant to other forms of creative thinking. Lean into the weird!

Forced Analogy   #divergent thinking   #zoom   #virtual   #remote-friendly   People compare something (e.g. themselves, their company, their team) to an object.  

Forced Analogy is a quick, fun activity you can use to promote abstract thinking. Comparing one thing to another seemingly unrelated thing asks for a creative approach to context and metaphor and can really unlock a groups divergent thinking process.

Telling stories or narrativizing a problem can help us not only see things differently but understand where we share common ground with others. Everybody tells stories – whether that’s explaining our employment history, telling colleagues about what happened at the weekend, or when creating user personas and journeys. 

Leverage this inclination to help people not only realize they are creative thinkers by nature but to help them share something of themselves too!

As a creative thinking skill, storytelling is about applying our natural proclivity for stories into new situations or thinking about how to reappraise or present material narratively . Think of the basic storytelling concept like the idea that all stories have a beginning, middle, and end – how might we bring this thinking to a tough challenge, a new product, or when solving a customer complaint?

You might even use storytelling tropes like the hero’s journey when exploring ideas or company conflicts. Whichever way you go, remember that stories are a universal element of culture and you have a rich lineage to dip into if you need a new perspective. 

Telling Our Stories   #hyperisland   #team   #teambuilding   To work effectively together team members need to build relations, show trust, and be open with each other. This method supports those things through a process of structured storytelling. Team members answer questions related to their childhood, young adulthood, and now; then weave them into a story to share with the rest of their team.

Telling Stories in a collaborative space is one of the best ways you can approach creative thinking through narrative . By doing this activity as a team, you can help a group see the benefit of applying storytelling approaches outside of more traditional forms.

How many times have you had a tough problem that you can’t seem to solve so you get frustrated and leave your desk. Then, when you’re on a walk, standing in the supermarket, or falling asleep, a solution seems to arrive out of thin air? Often, you’ll find that creating space to reflect on a problem is an effective way to find a way forward.

The trick with making reflective space work as a larger part of your working practice is knowing when to take time to reflect, building space into your regular schedule, and finding techniques that allow things to surface effectively.

This might mean going for a walk with the intention to be present in noticing the world around you and gaining insights that can help your situation. It might also mean remembering to take time to rest or simply read and give your brain something good to chew on.

I notice, I wonder   #design   #observation   #empathy   #issue analysis   Learn through careful observation. Observation and intuition are critical design tools. This exercise helps you leverage both. Find clues about the context you’re designing for that may be hidden in plain sight.

In a creative thinking context, reflection often means giving an idea time to unfurl and to resist the temptation to force it – by creating space to observe and reflect with I notice, I wonder you might see new ways of thinking emerge naturally.

How to use creative thinking skills at work? 

At SessionLab, we’ve found many of the above creative thinking skills helpful when finding better ways to collaborate , handle workplace challenges or generate new ideas . Here are just a few small examples of things we’ve done that have benefited from thinking creatively as a team.

Using creative thinking to facilitate a site redesign

Using creative thinking to improve team communication, using creative thinking to improve collaboration.

Remember that creative thinking needn’t be explosive or radical to be useful – a simple shift in mindset or perspective can be all you need to create meaningful and impactful change.

When we began working on a site-wide redesign, we had to deploy a large number of creative thinking skills to make the process smooth and effective.

When first determining how to approach the project and scope the work, we reviewed how we had worked together on large projects in the past. While we saw there was room to improve, finding the best way to proceed and make the changes we needed was no easy task.

Challenging the entire process from start to finish with a creative thinking mindset and trying to stay open to alternative methods where possible was what unlocked the process for us. By reconsidering how we were running meetings, sharing feedback, and collaborating, we were able to identify where we were going wrong and then try alternative approaches more freely.

When it came to implementing solutions, we were also sure to  stay open to experimentation while challenging our core assumptions of what would work and wouldn’t. This really helped us refine the working process and tailor it to our particular team and goals.

Another example came with finding a new approach when work stalled on a specific page. For our features page, we began by following the standard approach we had developed – writing the copy and structuring the page first before then following with illustrations and images.

In this case, our existing approach got us to an impasse : it felt difficult for our designer to be creative and find the best way to translate ideas into images if the copy had already been defined and the structure felt too rigid. What we decided to do was to reverse the workflow completely and allow the designer to create design elements before we wrote the copy and implemented too rigid a structure.  

Throughout the project, creative thinking allowed us to challenge whether the existing way we did something was the right one and gave us scope to experiment and be open when finding solutions. Not only did this help us solve the immediate problems as they arose but they helped us come up with a great new design too! 

Creative thinking can come in extremely handy when it comes to communicating. If one form of communication or working process isn’t working, approaching the discussion with a creative thinking mindset can help resolve the immediate issue and create lasting change in how we converse and work together too. 

Like many virtual teams, we faced the challenge of some meetings feeling unproductive . The issues ranged from overrunning, crosstalk, not everyone feeling heard or able to contribute, or getting lost in ancillary discussions that were not productive or necessary. In an online setting, it can be hard to keep everyone on track and for things to run smoothly without accidentally talking over one another or causing frustration. 

When it came to crosstalk, we wanted to avoid the frustration of interruption and disruption but also wanted to ensure people did not feel like they couldn’t contribute . Using the finger rules technique in a remote setting allowed people to easily show when they wanted to speak and what they wanted to discuss without disrupting the flow of the meeting.

We also found that the reason some daily meetings felt unproductive was because the meetings were for the purpose of daily updates and there didn’t always feel like there was a lot to say, thus leading to frustration or unproductive time being spent in these meetings.

In this example, we moved to a weekly format while also ensuring that we continue daily check-ins on Slack. This approach meant that we cut down on unnecessary meetings while still ensuring everyone’s needs were met .

This method is an example of creatively approaching a communication problem by thinking outside of the box and being prepared to challenge core assumptions . While we all wanted to stay informed, it really helped to reconsider the methods for staying informed and whether our current approach was the best way to achieve what we needed. It was also useful to reassess how we approached meeting agendas and goal-setting – follow the link for more on that if you’re having difficulty with unproductive meetings!

Remember that creative thinking needn’t be explosive or radical to be useful – a simple shift in mindset or perspective can be all you need to create meaningful and impactful change .

Remember that looking to others and being inspired by how they did things can be as transformative as trying to reinvent the wheel!

A final example is how we approached collaborating on creating the new design. While all projects at SessionLab feature collaboration between multiple parties, in this case we wanted to create space for everyone on the team to contribute.

We found that when trying to collectively brainstorm in a live, remote session, it became difficult for everyone to contribute and reflect on what was being shared by other members of the team effectively .

Some people had been able to prepare less than others, other people were less aware of all the circumstances of the project, or others were less able to switch gears during their working day. This led to some contributions being missed, a messier working process, and a feeling of being rushed – all of which lead to less effective outcomes than we might have hoped for.

In this case, we thought of how asynchronous work , reflection time, and some small process changes might help solve the problems we were running into. We wanted to be able to respond to what was being shared more effectively while also creating space for everyone to contribute in a way that was most productive for them.

Starting the brainstorming session in personal MURAL boards asynchronously and on our own time meant everyone was able to ideate at the time that was best for them and without any distractions . By then encouraging review and reflection on other people’s boards ahead of the main session, we were able to properly take in ideas and let them develop without feeling hurried.

This approach reduced the amount of time we actively spent working together in a meeting while improving the quality of the work . It helped people engage with the process, reduced potential frustration, and also meant we were more able to respond fully to the suggestions of others. This was a great example of how thinking creatively and learning from others can help create better outcomes and a more streamlined process. 

It’s also worth noting that reflecting on our conversation with Anja Svetina Nabergoj regarding asynchronous learning and finding inspiration there was part of what helped this process along. Remember that looking to others and being inspired by how they did things can be as transformative as trying to reinvent the wheel!

Creative workshops and meetings made easy

creative thinking knowledge gaps

Whether you find that creative thinking doesn’t come naturally, if your skills need some attention, or even if you just want to try new ways of working, it can be difficult to know where to begin .

Thinking about the creative thinking skills above and considering which you might be missing or could benefit from purposeful attention is a great place to start, though there are also some concrete ways you can approach the process and improve your creative thinking abilities in a pinch. Let’s see how! 

Be present and aware of how you feel

Create space for new ideas, look to others for inspiration, throw yourself into new things, encourage creative thinking in others.

All skills get better with practice and creative thinking is no exception. Whether it’s active listening, experimentation or any other creative thinking style, it’s okay to not get it right the first time . The very act of being open to new approaches and perspectives is itself a way to improve your creative thinking skill set. However you try to implement creative thinking, know that exploration, iteration, and practice are fundamental parts of the process.

Try starting small and practice your creative thinking skills in your interpersonal relationships and collaborative projects. Take note of how it goes and try building up to larger and larger implementations of your creative thinking approaches. 

A key part of cultivating or improving any new skill is to be fully present and aware when utilizing that skill. Consider how a sculptor needs to be aware of their materials, how they handle the material and place them on the board in order to be truly successful. Being present in the moment is important for any collaborative process, but is an especially vital aspect of creative thinking.

If you find yourself frustrated, excited, engaged, or stuck, make a mental note of how you are feeling and consider how you might do things differently. Staying present and actively engaging with how a situation makes you feel before responding is one of the most effective ways of cultivating and improving your creative thinking – be sure to give it a go! 

As with many aspects of creativity, it’s not always effective to force it. Good ideas and finding new approaches can take time and an important part of the creative thinking process is creating space not only for reflection but to rest and allow things to surface. This might mean building more quiet, mindful time into your routine, reading and finding new inspiration, or simply learning to take a break. 

While this can be difficult to get into the habit of, it does get easier with time. Try blocking out reflective time in your calendar or letting others know that you are taking the time in order to make it stick and avoid interruptions. Reflective space is important and useful, and by treating it as such, you can help ensure it happens and doesn’t get discarded or forgotten about.

One of the biggest barriers to thinking creatively is simply not being open to what is in front of you. Whether it’s rushing to use an existing solution without investigating alternatives, failing to listen or be present when something new is being presented, or sticking with your existing assumptions, a failure to stay open and reserve judgment can kill creative thinking.

Try to stay open and apply creative thinking without pressure or being overly critical in order to improve those skills and let more creative approaches surface in the future. 

One of the best ways to find new perspectives and alternative ways of thinking is by looking to others. Whether it’s finding inspiration from other creative thinkers via conversation, reading and researching new sources, or simply listening and observing, looking outside of yourself is one of the most effective ways you can jolt your creative thinking. 

Try finding sources outside of your normal circles, whatever the medium. It can be very easy to get into creative bubbles that might unwittingly exclude new forms of thinking. By broadening your social, creative and critical circles , you can be exposed to all kinds of potentially inspiring or creatively engaging ways of thinking and doing.

It’s hard to create space and an opportunity for new ways of thinking if you stick to the same routines and activities. You’ll often find that trying new things and exposing yourself to new hobbies, skills and approaches can be massively engaging and exciting too.

An important aspect of creative thinking is applying the learnings from one discipline or approach to another. If a developer were to throw themselves into learning how to dance, they might learn something they can apply to their role as a developer.

An open and honest desire to explore new experiences in and outside of your working life is a vital ingredient in the creative thinking process. Try saying yes to doing new things wherever you can find them – being alive to possibility and engaging in the world is a great way of supercharging your creativity! 

Creativity is even better when shared. Whether it’s crowdsourcing new ideas, iterating together, or helping others build their creative thinking skills, sharing the experience is often a useful and generative process for all involved.

Try bringing a group together to explore thinking creatively together or run a workshop on developing creative thinking skills in the workplace. Not only will it help your participants with their own creative discovery, but it will also help you develop your own creative skills. 

Over to you

As facilitators and advocates of the power of workshops, we’re passionate about how creative thinking can improve many aspects of a group’s personal and working lives. At its heart, creative thinking is an empathic, generative act, and by bringing those concepts to the fore, we believe everyone can see better outcomes when solving problems, generating ideas or communicating with others. 

We hope we’ve given you some great examples of creative thinking at work and how you might discover and nurture your own creative thinking skills . That said, this list is by no means exhaustive and there are many more ways you might try thinking creatively. Think of this post as a jumping-off point for further exploration and creative development!

Do you have any concepts or approaches you’ve used to become a better creative thinker? Did you find any of the creative thinking methods above particularly helpful? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

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Very nice information. Thanks for posting such an informative blog. Creative thinking is an unconventional thinking that looks at an issue from different perspectives. Innovative thinking is a thinking that converts / commercializes a creative idea into practical application.

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The Fosbury Flop is a very good example of a creative idea and trend when we apply “the learnings from one discipline or approach [Engineering] to another [High Jump].”

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thanks alot…very informative and thoroug

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creative thinking knowledge gaps

Facilitation skills can be applied in a variety of contexts, such as meetings, events, or in the classroom. Arguably, the setting in which facilitation skills shine the most is the design and running of workshops.  Workshops are dedicated spaces for interaction and learning. They are generally very hands-on, including activities such as simulations or games designed to practice specific skills. Leading workshops is an exciting, rewarding experience! In this piece we will go through some of the essential elements of workshop facilitation: What are workshops? Workshops are a time set aside for a group of people to learn new skills, come up with the best ideas, and solve problems together.…

A notebook and a computer

So, you’ve decided to convene a workshop, a special time set aside to work with a team on a certain topic or project. You are looking for brilliant ideas, new solutions and, of course, great participation. To begin the process that will get you to workshop success, you’ll need three ingredients: participants willing to join, someone to facilitate and guide them through the process (aka, you) and a detailed agenda or schedule of the activities you’ve planned. In this article we will focus on that last point: what makes a good agenda design? Having a good agenda is essential to ensure your workshops are well prepared and you can lead…

creative thinking knowledge gaps

What are facilitation skills and how to improve them?

Facilitation skills are the abilities you need in order to master working with a group. In essence, facilitation is about being aware of what happens when people get together to achieve a common goal, and directing their focus and attention in ways that serve the group itself.  When we work together at our best, we can achieve a lot more than anything we might attempt alone. Working with others is not always easy: teamwork is fraught with risks and pitfalls, but skilled facilitation can help navigate them with confidence. With the right approach, facilitation can be a workplace superpower.  Whatever your position, career path, or life story, you probably have…

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Identify and Address Knowledge Gaps in your Organization

Table of contents, what are knowledge gaps in the workplace, 4 reasons for knowledge gaps, facing challenges when closing the knowledge gap, 3 ways to identify knowledge gaps in your workforce.

  • 5 Steps to Conduct a Knowledge Gap Analysis
  • eBook Employee Upskilling - A Detailed Blueprint For Building A Skills-Driven Learning Culture Download our free e-book

As businesses rapidly embrace new models and strategies to include updated technology and changing customer needs, many organizations are witnessing knowledge gaps. These gaps are expanding, as many employees are now required to do jobs that they weren’t hired or trained to do. 

A statistic about knowledge gaps from Mckinsey

This above data shows the importance of bridging knowledge gaps and highlights that few organizations are prepared to do so. Addressing these gaps is crucial as they can be the biggest liability for your business. This article will detail how your company can identify these gaps and bridge them before they cost your business.

Knowledge gaps refer to the difference between what an employee currently knows and what they need to know to perform their role effectively. Such gaps either result from hiring employees that are inexperienced or are not suitable for the job. 

Companies are often forced to hire employees who do not have the required qualifications due to a staff shortage. These gaps are further exacerbated due to employee ambivalence and lack of proper training . These deficits often arise due to the changing nature of the market, which requires a business to revamp itself and upskill and reskill employees constantly.

It is crucial for a business to quickly identify and bridge these knowledge gaps to boost its revenue and sales. A worker that doesn’t have the required knowledge can cost the business a potential client or customer. These employees bring down the productivity of the entire workplace, making it difficult to achieve targets and goals, and drive business directly to your competitors. Not understanding how to do their job efficiently can also demotivate employees and force them to quit.

Each workplace is different, and to succeed; you have to determine the specific knowledge gaps and skill gaps in your workforce.

A gap in knowledge is costly for employers when it comes to lost productivity, high turnover, morale, team innovation, profits, and so on. It is critical to conduct a quick analysis to identify the necessary knowledge gap and exactly what it would take to fill the gap with training programs.

1. Emerging technology

Technological innovation creates digital skill gaps at a rapid pace that is challenging to address. Due to automation and artificial intelligence, many jobs have become obsolete, but new ones have been created to support emerging technologies. Likewise, the gig economy changes hiring managers’ look for candidates and how workers provide particular knowledge and skills.

2. Inadequate learning

Learning that’s inadequate contributes to knowledge gaps. It must evolve at all levels to help close those gaps. Several employees lack competence as digital skills become more in demand across all industries. It’s crucial to incorporate more technology wherever possible in foundational skilling and accommodate all types of learner personas .

3. On-the-job training

Another reason for knowledge gaps is a lack of on-the-job training , as companies no longer hire and train based on potential. They’d rather shop for the cheese-ready sandwich than spend time making their own. Hiring managers seek “expert” candidates because of the emphasis on immediate performance. It’s an overlooked opportunity to invest in long-term employees and results.

4. Lack of soft skills

People’s soft skills make them delightful to work with other teammates. Soft skills make work life manageable and include abilities such as:

  • Innovation in problem-solving, conflict resolution, and innovation assists businesses in competing.
  • Persuasion is a necessary skill in both client negotiations and leadership.
  • Collaboration delivers better outcomes and is the skill that allows an organisation to function.
  • Adaptability enables a company to stay on its feet and overcome complex challenges.
  • Effective communication includes emotional intelligence, a soft skill that improves work relationships.

It’s evident that there is an imbalance between the number and skill level of people available to meet the demands of the modern labor market. But dealing with these problems can be challenging for both employers and employees.

Employers may find it challenging in closing knowledge gaps by building the infrastructure necessary to find, hire, train, and upskill their workforce. Instead of looking for candidates they can develop throughout a career, many companies emphasize finding candidates who can fill an immediate need. More knowledge gaps will soon appear when you combine this with a workplace that is changing quickly.

For some people, the prospect of training or retraining can be overwhelming. It entails deciding on the best course of action for advancement and devoting time and effort to learning new skills.

Despite the fact that these obstacles appear to be challenging to overcome, the situation is far from hopeless. Industries, companies, and individuals can address the knowledge gap in several ways.

Here are a few steps you can take to identify the knowledge gaps impacting your company’s performance.

1. Define the objectives of your business

To recognize the gaps in the performance of your employees, you first need to be clear about the goals of your organization. It would be best to have a clear picture of the targets you want to achieve in the future and what new positions need to be created and filled. 

2. Identify the necessary qualifications required

It would be best to discern what qualifications are required to help you accomplish your future targets. This is especially important if you plan on rebranding or introducing new strategies or technology in your workplace. You need to determine what kind of educational background, proficiency, and work experience an employee will need for a particular position in your company.

3. Assess the present situation

You need to assess your employees’ current performance and determine whether it is adequate for you to achieve the goals that you have outlined. This will help you understand the knowledge gaps in your workforce and train and reskill existing employees according to your firm’s needs. It will also help you determine if you need to hire new employees or create new roles.

5 Steps to Conduct a Knowledge Gap Analysis 

After identifying the knowledge gaps existing in your workplace, you need to do an analysis. Here are a few steps that can help you do so.

1. Identify the key performance indicators

Key Performance Indicators are measurable values that highlight the efficacy of an organization. They can be quantitative, like the amount of revenue incurred or returns on assets, or qualitative, like customer satisfaction scores. Different sets of KPIs are used to measure the performance of different sectors, businesses, and departments.

Identifying the vital KPIs for your company or department is the first step towards efficiently gauging your performance. Keeping track of these indicators and metrics will show you areas in which your company is lacking or falling behind.

2. Make an employee assessment

Along with tracking the performance of your employees through KPIs, you should also evaluate their skills through regular assessments and quizzes. This can help you understand the individual knowledge gaps each employee is facing to take measures to rectify them.

3. Observe the work environment

Assessments alone, however, will not give you the complete picture of your employees’ performance. Therefore, you need to observe them while they are carrying out their duties. This may pinpoint issues that couldn’t be spotted during tests and provide further insight regarding their skill gaps.

4. Take reviews from employees and customers

Frequent feedback and reviews should be taken from employees and customers, as this may highlight issues you have previously missed. This is important as it often helps recognize a lack of soft skills like communication skills and teamwork. 

5. Identify the benchmark top performers

Recognizing employees that are your organization’s top performers provides a point of reference for other workers. By identifying what they are doing right, you can infer the skill gaps in your other employees. Their performance can also serve as a skill template to train other employees.

After successfully identifying knowledge gaps in your employees, you need to understand how best to bridge these gaps. This could be done through training and reskilling or rehiring. It would help if you also recognized the root cause behind these problems to best address them. To do this, you can utilize disprz’s AI-based platform , which can efficiently help you map the skills of your employees.

These personalized skill maps provide an accurate picture of areas your employees and your business need to improve. Disprz has helped companies like Angel Broking Limited and MaxMart Retail Pvt Ltd. identify role-based gaps by creating personalized skill maps for all their employees and providing a real-time track of key performance indicators. These gaps were then bridged through targeted training modules and data-driven technology. disprz makes developing and cultivating skills easy for employees by creating engaging content and quick daily assessments. 

Knowledge gaps exist in every company and business sector. However, identifying and overcoming these gaps with the help of an employee learning platform is what can help you succeed and boost sales.

Identifying knowledge gaps gives you an insight into your business, allowing you to reevaluate your strategies and reorganize your workforce to eliminate weak spots. It can also improve recruitment efforts and help you employ workers best suited for the organization. This will prevent losses that unsuitable and unqualified employees could cause. 

Addressing these gaps through training will help you improve the performance of your workforce, increase employee satisfaction, and boost customer experience. This will ensure client retention and help you grow your customer base, which will directly increase sales. It will also prevent workplace disruptions caused by changing trends.

Additionally, it will give your company an edge over your competitors and prevent you from losing business to them. disprz can help you in filling this gap. Talk to us to find out how disprz can help in employee upskilling .

About the author

Debashree Patnaik

Debashree Patnaik

Debashree is an adept Content strategist, curator, and our go-to for all things content at Disprz. She is a part of the Content Marketing team and handles content around enterprise learning and skilling for our website and social media. Debashree also spearheads the creation of our high-quality thought leadership content, our Purple papers. With a rich background working with B2B and B2C organizations in health tech, ed tech, hospitality, and more, she currently focuses on curating informative content around generative AI, skilling, and learning. Debashree boasts a distinguished career with over 6 years of expertise in content management. She holds a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Visvesvaraya Technological University, Karnataka.

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How to address the creativity gap in your organisation

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creative thinking knowledge gaps

By Beth Pope | Founder and brand partner

The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

December 6, 2019 | 10 min read

Listen to article 4 min

Don’t you find early December a strange time of the year in the workplace? There’s that sense in the air of wrapping up the old year’s activities ahead of Christmas madness around the corner. A tendency for reflection to begin about what a brand new year will hold. That ‘new year, new me’ mentality we latch onto as individuals often carries through to the collective mentality of the businesses we work in. With the ink still wet on next year’s business or marketing plans, the immediate future presents itself with new thinking, clarity and possibility.

RSZ Annandale

For 2020, there is one skill above all others that vitalises individuals and the organisations they work for: creativity. So much so that Linked In’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report revealed that creativity is now the single most in-demand skill for companies to cultivate in their employees. This isn’t only the preserve of businesses that produce creative output. The ability to use imagination or original thinking to approach problems differently, stay one step ahead and avoid irrelevance is at the heart of what makes a thriving workforce and successful business, irrespective of what sector you might be in.

But prioritising a skill like creative thinking as part of your learning agenda may take a shift in organisational mindset. Here are a few considerations to help shape your own approach:

1. Businesses increasingly need soft skills alongside discipline-specific hard skills.

It’s common practice to scope learning and development needs by looking at departmental skills gaps and role-specific competencies. While it’s essential to make sure that your team’s specialist knowledge is up to date, the World Economic Forum estimates that 35% of those skills are likely to have changed within the next 5 years. It’s perhaps no surprise that soft skills have become increasingly important as a way to equip businesses to adapt to the rapid pace of change.

I’m not a fan of the term ‘soft skills’. It suggests a vagueness that belies the central role they play in today’s business world, making them easier to de-prioritise. Sharon Alred, co-founder and director at Signature Recruitment , agrees: “The term ‘soft skills’ typically covers creativity, interpersonal skills, problem solving, time management, decision making, flexibility and attitude. They are perceived to be ambiguous and tricky to measure, so often get neglected, not only at the hiring stage but also when companies develop their staff, which is unfortunate as these are the skills that enable companies to grow.”

Just as the most effective content marketing strategies will balance a mix of time-relevant and evergreen content, companies for whom effective people are their competitive advantage will want to invest in building time-relevant and evergreen skills into their business.

2. The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting

So said Plutarch. But so much training is geared towards filling the brain with knowledge, not how to free it up to think. According to Daniel Pink, author of best-selling book Drive , ‘For the definitional tasks of the twenty-first century [...] solving complex problems requires an inquiring mind and the willingness to experiment one’s way to a fresh solution’.

3. Creativity has jumped up the rankings of in-demand skills for business success

Surely the ability to think creatively has never fallen out of fashion? Back in 2015 the World Economic Forum ranked creativity 10th on a list of skills workforces needed to thrive. It now ranks it as 3rd, behind problem-solving and critical thinking (which I’d argue creativity was an essential component of anyway).

So why is creativity back on the learning agenda? Perhaps, in the words of Joni Mitchell, ‘You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’. Critics of our education system would suggest business is now experiencing the impact of a generation of pupils schooled in how to pass exams and not necessarily how to think on their feet or learn from failure. Others like Orlando Wood, chief innovation officer at System 1, writing for a recent IPA report , suggest that we are living through an era of left-brain thinking rather than whole-brain thinking, and this brings a tendency to over-analyse, narrow the field of solutions and undermine creativity, with reduced effectiveness the inevitable result.

4. Most businesses are not yet meeting the need for creativity.

Earlier this year Dentsu Aegis undertook a global survey of Chief Marketing Officers to understand how they felt about unlocking innovation and business transformation. The survey revealed that 85% of CMOs believed that creativity was the number one capability required for future business success. But only 54% of them believed they were actually delivering on this capability.

Here’s Sharon Alred again: “Creative problem solving coupled with communication skills to be able to articulate, pitch, create buy in and implement solutions and ideas is lacking in many workplaces. In my experience, those that have understood its importance are usually more successful.”

5. It’s more important than ever to demonstrate business impact.

Budgets are tight. Training budgets even more so. So making the case for learning and development investment becomes easier when there is a clear business case. A 2018 UK L&D Benchmarking Survey by findcourses.co.uk advises: ‘If you are looking to prove ROI, move beyond your learning objectives and envision how your organisation would be a better place because of the training. What behaviours would your learners adopt with their new knowledge and skills and what are some business outcomes that could result from those changes?’

Luckily, there is plenty of evidence for the positive impact of greater creativity on the bottom line. Not least from McKinsey , which found that companies in the top quarter of their ACS creativity score ranking performed better on financial metrics (organic revenue growth, shareholder return and EBITDA) and on innovation. Crucially, when McKinsey dug deeper into what business practices drove this, they concluded that creativity and innovation had been hardwired into those businesses’ daily practices. They had committed to creativity as a business priority at all levels of the organisation.

6. The onus for learning should be on the organisation as much as the individual.

One of the mistakes I’ve seen organisations make is to place the onus for learning entirely on the individual. That’s not to say self-directed learning isn’t crucial. But to focus only on that overlooks the vital role of the organisation in creating the conditions for motivation and setting the context for learning. After all, the 70:20:10 guideline for experiential, social and structured learning suggests the most effective training happens on the job where it is directly connected to performance and business outputs rather than learning outputs alone. So it makes sense to pay attention to getting the context and conditions for experiential learning right.

Here’s Daniel Pink again: ‘Only engagement can produce mastery. Yet in our offices and our classrooms we have way too much compliance and way too little engagement. The former might get you through the day, but only the latter will get you through the night. Autonomous people working towards mastery perform at very high levels. But those who do so in the service of some greater objective can achieve even more’.

Engagement and innovation are linked for obvious reasons. Genuine engagement comes from believing the connection between company purpose and the role individuals feel they can play. This in turn means innovation and creativity is focussed on adding value and driving growth.

Katie Scotland of Future Me Consulting agrees: “People need to be clear on where they are going in order to feel happy and motivated. Investing the time to think creatively and holistically around personal development goals, beyond role-specific and technical performance objectives, will unlock new energy and impact. Investing the time to set out a meaningful set of goals is a great way to start the new year and kick off a new purposeful challenge with a bang.”

7. Creating the conditions for creativity can be a development goal in its own right.

If the role of companies in fostering creativity is clear, there is also considerable academic consensus around what conditions need to be present in those companies for creativity to flourish. At Firehaus we like to use the Innovation Engine model developed by Dr Tina Seelig at Stanford University, which sets out how creativity in the workplace is a culmination of internal factors (your knowledge, imagination and attitude) and external factors (the resources, environment and culture of your organisation). Crucially, each internal element has a corresponding external element which can either hamper or unlock it.

Here’s Louise Breed, director of Karian and Box , employee engagement experts: “Many of our big corporate clients are tackling the challenge of nurturing innovation and creativity within what have historically been compliance-driven and heavily-bureaucratic operational environments. But that doesn’t happen just by sending someone on a training course. Providing the organisational infrastructure to drive innovation and creative thinking at every level is critical. Whether that’s through rewards and incentives, or supporting line managers to encourage creativity in local team conversations, it’s got to be something that’s reinforced and supported at every possible employee touchpoint.”

It would be a mistake, for businesses wanting to cultivate creativity for competitive advantage, to focus on learning and development areas which only address knowledge gaps rather than unlocking imagination and attitude. And a missed opportunity not to look at how external influences within the business could best be enhanced to support that.

Beth Pope, founder and brand partner, Firehaus

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Gap Analysis: How to identify a knowledge gap in your team

by Michael Morgan | Feb 28, 2022

How to identify knowledge gaps in your team

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Have you ever found your business in a situation where you don’t have the information or knowledge to achieve a desired outcome? That’s a knowledge gap.

A simple but potentially detrimental mistake made by an employee; followed by “I didn’t know I was supposed to do it that way!” … is also a knowledge gap.

Identifying knowledge gaps within the workplace is a great way to ensure you are mitigating risk and constantly growing as a company.

Importance of identifying knowledge gaps

Learning and development (L&D) within the workplace is vital for company growth. In an era of unprecedented change, there are constantly new things to be learning as well as adapting to. Consistently identifying knowledge gaps is crucial in order to reach goals and optimise opportunities. 

Maximising the potential of every single employee through tailored L&D can assist you in gaining a competitive advantage, and improving overall profitability. 

Implementation can enable:

  • Increased job satisfaction: L&D within the workplace keeps employees stimulated and motivated. Employees value career growth and are likely to remain loyal if they feel valued by their company. 
  • Decreased turnover: Employees are more likely to stay in a company for longer when there is an opportunity for growth. Investing in the progression of current employees is also more cost-effective than hiring, which is beneficial for the bottom line.
  • Risk mitigation: The more knowledge and skills an employee acquires, the less chance of making mistakes that could be detrimental to your company. 
  • Increased customer satisfaction : Employees who are confident and knowledgeable in their field are more likely to deliver great customer service, overall increasing customer satisfaction. 

How can I identify a knowledge gap?

Identifying knowledge gaps within your company can be done through a gap analysis. 

A gap analysis is a process of comparing your company’s current performance with your desired or expected performance . With this analysis, companies can then create and implement a devised action plan to fill the knowledge gaps, and work towards reaching their full potential. 

Essentially, a gap analysis can help companies work towards future goals, by mapping out what they can do to get there. To fill a knowledge gap usually requires an employee L&D plan for skills and leadership, which can be constructed through a gap analysis.

Four steps for a gap analysis

Performing a regular gap analysis is a great way to ensure you are consistently adapting and finding ways to improve in all facets of your company.   

1. Outline & Define your Goals

List out things you would like to change within your company, or accurately define your career aspirations. Make SMART goals – meaning they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. 

2. Assess current performance

Think about the current state of your company. Are there discrepancies between your current performance versus how you’d like to be performing? Assess what current factors aren’t lining up with your SMART goals.

3. Identify the gaps 

The gaps are the barriers to which you will achieve your goals. Is it a shortage of a specific skill or general knowledge that is stopping you from getting there? Think about why there is a gap between your current performance and desired performance, and the ways you can get there. 

4. Map out your plan

Devise a strategic plan to close the gaps. This is where L&D comes in. Whether it’s through leadership development, talent identification or team building; creating a comprehensive step-by-step plan will set you up for success. 93% of employees would stay longer if a company proves they are investing in their career, therefore building a dynamic progression plan designed specifically for them, is likely to influence employee retention.

Whole Brain Thinking® and the HBDI® – a tool for your gap analysis

The HBDI® can act as a great tool within your gap analysis. Discovering what kind of thinkers your employees are and valuing cognitive diversity within your team can help you close the gaps that are putting a halt to your potential success. 

With Whole Brain® Thinking you can maximise your talent through strategic collaboration and empowering individuals in a way that’s tailored to their thinking style. Using the HBDI® can assist you in gaining an understanding of how to motivate and retain high-performing employees, by aligning their needs to match your company goals.

Let thinking be your competitive advantage, fill the gaps and build team capability with the HBDI®.

If you want to learn more about how Whole Brain® Thinking and the HBDI® can help you and your organisation, have a look at how it works here or get in touch and we’ll help you find the right solution.

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A Short Guide to Building Your Team’s Critical Thinking Skills

  • Matt Plummer

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Critical thinking isn’t an innate skill. It can be learned.

Most employers lack an effective way to objectively assess critical thinking skills and most managers don’t know how to provide specific instruction to team members in need of becoming better thinkers. Instead, most managers employ a sink-or-swim approach, ultimately creating work-arounds to keep those who can’t figure out how to “swim” from making important decisions. But it doesn’t have to be this way. To demystify what critical thinking is and how it is developed, the author’s team turned to three research-backed models: The Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment, Pearson’s RED Critical Thinking Model, and Bloom’s Taxonomy. Using these models, they developed the Critical Thinking Roadmap, a framework that breaks critical thinking down into four measurable phases: the ability to execute, synthesize, recommend, and generate.

With critical thinking ranking among the most in-demand skills for job candidates , you would think that educational institutions would prepare candidates well to be exceptional thinkers, and employers would be adept at developing such skills in existing employees. Unfortunately, both are largely untrue.

creative thinking knowledge gaps

  • Matt Plummer (@mtplummer) is the founder of Zarvana, which offers online programs and coaching services to help working professionals become more productive by developing time-saving habits. Before starting Zarvana, Matt spent six years at Bain & Company spin-out, The Bridgespan Group, a strategy and management consulting firm for nonprofits, foundations, and philanthropists.  

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Scott Berkun

The three gaps of creativity: effort, skill and quality.

creative thinking knowledge gaps

The great surprise for people with good ideas is the gap between how an idea feels in their mind and how it feels when they try to put the idea to work. When a good idea comes together it feels fantastic. Good ideas often come with a wave of euphoria, a dopamine high, and we’re joyously overwhelmed by it. It’s natural in that instant to overlook the dozens of questions that must be answered to bring the idea to life. We easily postpone those questioning thoughts, believing that if we can come up with the big idea surely we can conquer all the little problems too. An epiphany is a powerful experience, but the myth of epiphany is that it alone is all you need. [1]

The Effort Gap

When we do sit down to work on the details of an idea, the euphoria fades away. The act of thinking about how to bring the idea into the world is far less fun than the magical feeling of the idea’s arrival. It might take an hour or a day, but soon the tasks at hand feel surprisingly ordinary. While the 30-second summary of your science fiction screenplay is still fantastic, it doesn’t eliminate the effort required to write three, or more, complete drafts to flesh the idea out into its final form. Even if your idea was for your job, perhaps an inspiring new proposal you have for your boss, the work of drafting the required project plans and obtaining budget approvals just isn’t very interesting. This is the effort gap . No matter how great your idea is, there will be energy you have to spend, often on relatively ordinary work, to deliver it to the world.

The instinctive reaction to the realization that your amazing idea has led to ordinary work is to retreat. We feel we are doing something wrong if delivering on the idea isn’t as stimulating as finding the idea itself. Somehow we believe the feeling of euphoria should remain throughout the entire project, and when it doesn’t, and we have to choose to put effort in, we assume something is amiss. In the movies they often skip from the discovery of the idea to fame and fortune, but in real life we have to close that distance ourselves. [2] Or perhaps more honestly we simply don’t want to work that hard, preferring to return to the thrills of thinking up more ideas rather than doing anything about them. There is nothing wrong with this, as dreaming for dreams’ sake can be fun. The problem is when we torture ourselves by denying the fact that we have less ambition than we wish we had.

Many people suffer from creative cowardice and a fear of commitment. They are afraid of closing the effort gap. They want to be creative but without any risks. They know there is a chance they can put in weeks of work and have the project fail. So they prefer the shallow perfection of keeping the idea locked in their minds, taking it out only to stroke their ego and annoy their friends. When someone else produces something with a similar idea, perhaps a movie or an invention, they’ll claim false possession, exclaiming, “I thought of that years ago!” But the only way to possess an idea is by closing the effort gap and actually putting something out into the world. Coming up with the idea, it turns out, is often the easy part.

The Skill Gap

Sometimes the problem is the recognition that while the idea is excellent, and you’re willing to put the effort in, the skills you have aren’t good enough to deliver on it. The natural assumption is that the capacity to have the idea is the harder part, and if the idea is good it implies you have all the required abilities. Sadly, like many common assumptions of our silly little brains, the reality isn’t as kind. For example, while I can imagine performing quadruple backflip dives and singing five-octave melodies, that imagination has no bearing on my body’s ability to do those things. This is the skill gap , the distance between the skills your idea requires and the ones you have. Often it’s only through putting effort into a project that we discover our skill gaps.

When we see work from our heroes, it’s easy to forget they once had skill gaps too. We imagine they were born with the abilities we know them for. The problem is our view of other creators is inverted. We know them after they became famous and after they learned their craft. The works we know best are rarely an artist’s early works but rather those considered masterpieces. When we see a Georgia O’Keeffe painting in a museum, or a J.R.R. Tolkien novel in the bookstore, we see the creators at their best and likely in their prime. We don’t see their many experiments, their uncertain output during the long years they developed the skills they’d become famous for. As Steven Furtick said, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” We have to go out of our way to find their behind-the-scenes work, and often we forget it even exists.

Ira Glass, host of This American Life , explained how these skill gaps work against us [3] :

“Nobody tells people who are beginners, and I really wish someone had told this to me… all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.… there’s a gap… for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good…. It’s not that great.… It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you…. A lot of people never get past this phase.… they quit. And the thing I would say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years [of this]…. Everybody goes through that…. And the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work… it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.”

Many talented people never develop their skills because they hate the feeling of this distance. They’re embarrassed and tortured by it. They expect to improve at a pace born only from wishful thinking, and when they fail to meet it they despair. They lack the commitment required to find out, through practice, exactly how much skill they might be capable of. Instead they want an easy and guaranteed path despite the fact that none of the heroes they compare themselves against ever had one. The tough news that Ira Glass hints at is that it’s easier for our ambitions to grow, as that happens simply by consuming good works, than it is for our skills to improve, something that requires dedicated effort.

One way to stay motivated in closing skill gaps is to study the history of masters you admire. The early works of Claude Monet and Jackson Pollock are drastically different from the styles they became most famous for. Brad Pitt’s first “acting role” was in a chicken costume for a Mexican fast food restaurant. [4] Michael Jordan, the basketball legend, was cut from his junior varsity basketball team. And who knows how many lousy plays young Shakespeare wrote that he burned, or poems Emily Dickinson tore apart and buried in the dust? Honest biographies of nearly every famous musician, writer or entrepreneur will share in painful detail how they worked to close the skill gaps in their careers.

The Quality Gap

Once you’ve developed your skills, how you choose to use them is a matter of style. Style, or quality, gaps are the most subjective of all. Unlike effort and skill gaps, a quality gap is a subjective opinion of the quality of what is made. When J.K. Rowling filled five pages of made-up Q words, it wasn’t because of a lack of skill. There was a specific quality, a feeling, a tone, an effect she wanted that she struggled to obtain. Each word still didn’t feel quite right, so she’d come up with another one (put another way, she solved a quality gap by creating and closing an effort gap). [5] Depending on what idea you have in your mind, even if you work hard and have the right skills, you will still experience quality gaps as you work on projects.

Some legendary creators struggled with their own opinion of their work, even after their public success. No matter how popular they became, they felt their work was flawed, inferior and immature, never reaching the standards set in their own minds. Woody Allen rarely watches his films once they’re finished, and thinks little of Manhattan and Annie Hall , two of his most famous works. Bruce Springsteen once called the Born To Run album “the worst piece of garbage” he’d ever heard, and didn’t want to release it. [6] Nabokov hated many of his novels, and had thrown the manuscript for Lolita into a fire. [7] Franz Kafka and Emily Dickinson both gave instructions to have all their work destroyed when they died. Artists are often victims in a way of their own perceived quality gaps. They struggle to match the ideas in their minds to what they can manifest in the world.

Some very successful creators never close the quality gap, at least not on every project, and you likely won’t either. This is fine, perhaps even good. If you want to keep growing it demands that when you finish a project you’ll see it differently than when you started. And in the very things you find lacking or wish you had done differently you find the motivation for the next project, and the one after that. To be perfectly satisfied with something you made likely means you didn’t learn anything along the way, and I’d rather be a little disappointed with projects now and then than experience the alternative of never learning anything at all.

These three gaps, effort, skill and quality, will be constant companions. Have patience in how you deal with them. Consider yourself part of a challenging trade where it takes time to develop your craft and that development never ends. If you truly believe in your ideas and potential, you should be willing to stay the course and commit to the long, and only realistic, path to fulfilling your ambitions.

If you can, take pleasure in making things for the sake of making them: what a gift to have the time to make at all! If you were born 200 years ago, or to different parents in a different country, you wouldn’t have the time to feel bad about your work, because you wouldn’t have the wealth and time required to try. If you feel love for your craft, honor it by showing up, even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard. Working when it’s hardest often teaches rare lessons that will earn you easy rides now and then. Take pleasure in small progressions when you see them, and know those hard-won gains are the only way anyone in history has ever achieved anything noteworthy—for themselves or for the world.

[This is an excerpt from the book The Dance of The Possible: the mostly honest completely irreverent guide to creativity . If you enjoyed it imagine how much you’ll like the whole thing?]

[1] Scott Berkun, “ The Myth of Epiphany ”.

[3] Ira Glass on Storytelling, part 3 , and How To Find Your Voice

[4] Jonny Black, “ Brad Pitt Facts ,” Moviefone , October 17, 2014.

[5] The divisions between effort, skill and quality gaps break down eventually. In a way, all gaps are effort gaps, as work must be put in to fill gaps of any kind. But at times it can be useful to ask: do you need to put in more effort? Invest in skill development? Or simply have more patience to get to the quality you desire?

[6] Louis P. Masur, “ Tramps like Us: The Birth of Born to Run ,” Slate , September 22, 2009, l.

[7] George Lowery, “ Vladimir and Vera Nabokov had ‘mystifying’ relationship , Schiff Says,” Cornell Chronicle , June 23, 2006.

6 Responses to “The Three Gaps of Creativity: Effort, Skill and Quality”

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I like how in Sting’s book he says that he was in a house band in a community pub. He felt a responsibility to his regular audience to have one fresh song for them every weekend. So that meant he needed to compose, re-work, rehearse and perfect a new song every week.

I guess that constant output is (partly) why he became a world class composer. He inspires me to finish a piece weekly too.

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This article makes the implicit argument that the secret to success is hard work. I’m not sure that this is the case. There are many substitutes for effort – luck, nepotism, and discoverability being but three examples…

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I’d never say there was any single secret to this or anything. So of course I agree that luck matters – in fact it’s everywhere. We’re both lucky to have been born at all (as we had no control over it) and also lucky to have been born in a place and time with technologies like books, electricity and (eventually) an Internet to write things on (like this comment!).

But within the context of many kinds of creativity, hard work is the table stakes. No one can read a novel you don’t write or see a movie you don’t produce. Will a million people read your novel? That probably has more to do with luck than writing it does, but if you don’t write it, any luck you might have obtained is irrelevant. And if you learn from the history of which novels became popular and why, it tips the scales of luck, however slightly, in your favor.

Pasteur famously said “…chance favors the prepared mind” and I agree.

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Yes, for any employee or for any person, executing their ideas in reality will leads to a great difference and at the initial stage during that process everyone fails but the main and necessary thing is that, one have to self esteem their selves and have to move forward. Success will not comes up to you without facing any hurdles. It was a very nice information quoted above. Thank You.

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This was such a great article! I bought the book on the spot :)

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great article

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Critical Thinking Requires Knowing What Questions to Ask

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By  John Ager , Kepner-Tregoe

  • Problem Solving & Decision Making Critical thinking skills offer enduring value and improve the way work is done every day. Learn More

In a Wall Street Journal piece, “Bosses Seek ‘Critical Thinking,’ but What Is That? An Important Skill for Young Workers Has a Variety of Definitions”, Melissa Korn continues a line of inquiry which includes Edward Glaser’s An Experiment in the Development of Critical Thinking (1941) and Daniel Kahnemans’s Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011). ‘“It’s one of those words – like diversity was, like big data is – where everyone talks about it but there are 50 different ways to define it,” says Dan Black, …’

Oxford Dictionaries defines Thinking as “The process of considering or reasoning about something” and Critical Thinking as “The objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment”. If ‘Thinking’ is analogous to what Kahneman refers to as Fast Thinking; “System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort …”, then ‘Critical Thinking’ is analogous to Slow Thinking; “System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it …”. Or as Glaser puts it “The ability to think critically, as conceived in this volume, involves three things:

  • An attitude of being disposed to consider in a thoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one’s experiences,
  • Knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning, and
  • Some skill in applying those methods.”

Critical Thinking is most often required when we have a ‘problem’ to solve and a knowledge gap preventing us from reaching a sound conclusion or making good judgments about the solution. Because there are as many, or more, interpretations of the word ‘problem’ as there are for diversity, big data, or critical thinking, it is not always clear what the knowledge gap is. Fortunately, because the word ‘problem’ is often used when we need to manage change, we can use the three fundamental types of change to define three distinct types of ‘problems’ and the key questions we need to answer to close the knowledge gaps:

  • Past change that has occurred – What did change to cause performance to change?
  • Present change we are considering – What should change to meet changed expectations?
  • Future change that might occur – What could change and cause performance or expectations to change?

To understand the nature of the ‘problem’ they are solving, identify the knowledge gaps they need to close to reach sound conclusions or make good judgments about the solution, and ask the right questions to close the knowledge gaps, Critical Thinkers first PARSE, break down and analyze, their ‘problem’.

The PARSE approach begins with an understanding of Purpose.

Purpose – Critical Thinkers understand their intent; they understand the nature of the change at hand (Past, Present, or Future), the type of answer needed to resolve it (Explanation, Solution, or Preparation and Mitigation), and the information required to reach sound conclusions or make good judgments about the solution. The first question Critical Thinkers ask is “What do we need to know?”

Assumptions – Critical Thinking requires ‘CYA’ or Check Your Assumptions. Critical Thinkers understand the difference between what they know and what they think they know, Glaser’s first point. “Critical thinking calls for a persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends.”  To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, Critical Thinkers separate known knowns from known unknowns, and consider unknown unknowns. The second question Critical Thinkers ask is “What do we really know?”

Response – Critical Thinkers understand they need different information to resolve different types of ‘Problems’, Glaser’s second point. Critical Thinking “generally requires ability to recognize problems, to find workable means for meeting those problems, to gather and marshal pertinent information,…”  To do this efficiently and effectively, we need to have what Kahneman refers to as “programs we can retrieve and run”; systematic sets of questions to identify knowledge gaps, then gather, sort, organize, and analyze information to close them. The third question is “What questions do we need to answer?”

Support – Critical Thinkers accept they may need knowledge outside their experience to reach sound conclusions or make good judgments and the engagement of others to ensure acceptance or successful implementation of the solution. Critical Thinkers recognize when they need to work with others and involve the right people from the start. The final question they ask is “Whose information and commitment is needed?”

Execute – Critical Thinkers choose the most effective and efficient path forward. Because they have separated what they know from what they don’t know, they know the specific knowledge gaps they need to close and the questions they need to answer. They are then able to work with others to gather, sort, organize, and analyze the information necessary to reach sound conclusions or make good judgments, and make that information visible to ensure common understanding and agreement.

To Glaser’s third point, not all people are naturally skilled in Critical Thinking. But knowing the right questions to ask, like reading and arithmetic, can be learned and become part of our Fast Thinking. “We are born prepared to perceive the world around us, recognize objects, orient attention, avoid losses, and fear spiders. Other mental activities become fast and automatic through prolonged practice.”  People can learn an alternative to relying on intuition and assumptions; Critical Thinkers have learned the questions that help them understand their intent, examine their assumptions, ask the right questions, involve the appropriate people, and then execute flawlessly.

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critical thinking questions

100 Questions that Build Your Team’s Critical Thinking Skills

In what many at the time considered to be the omphalos – literally the center of the world – stood the most important shrine in all of Greece: the oracle at Delphi. People from all over the Greek empire and beyond would make the trek up Mount Parnassus near the Gulf of Corinth to get an answer to their questions about the future from the Oracle. The questions ranged in breadth and significance from personal matters to whether one empire should wage war on another.

On one such day, the Oracle’s friend Chaerephon asked the Oracle a question that would alter the course of human philosophy and logic for centuries to come. His question was: Is there anyone wiser than Socrates?

The answer – that Socrates was the “most free, upright, and prudent of all people” – did not surprise Chaerephon, but it left Socrates himself quite perplexed. How could someone who felt he knew nothing be considered wiser than others, Socrates wondered, calling it the great paradox. And so, he set out to test the Oracle’s answer. He found the politicians, poets, and skilled craftsmen of Athens revered for their wisdom and he began to interrogate them. By engaging in elenchus – what we would today call cross-examination – he soon realized that those known for their wisdom thought they knew much more than they actually did.

True wisdom – he concluded, finally affirming the Oracle’s assertion for himself – is accurately recognizing the limits of one’s own knowledge. Inspired by this exploration, Socrates embraced a calling to show people the limitations of their own knowledge, so they could possess true wisdom. And so, the Socratic method, which has since influenced much of Western philosophy and the teaching method at most modern law schools, was born.

The Power of Questions for Critical Thinking

What Socrates discovered some 2,500 years ago was the power of questions to make others think. In his book Blink , Malcolm Gladwell shows that much of our thought life takes place behind the closed door of our subconscious. As a result, we often don’t know why we do, feel, or think the way we do. Careful questioning exposes these gaps of darkness in our minds and helps us construct sound opinions and beliefs.

While we may not gather in Athens’ Agora to debate the ideas of the day, the construction of sound opinions, beliefs, and recommendations holds immense value in today’s economy – rated by many surveys as the most in-demand soft skill . This type of thinking – critical thinking – can be taught. We must reject the notion that critical thinking is either an innate gift that can’t be developed or a skill learned only through experience.

Through our research of three research-based critical thinking models, we created the Critical Thinking Roadmap and a corresponding toolkit to help people learn the science of building this skill.

Critical Thinking Roadmap Toolkit

In the toolkit, we included development exercises for each milestone of the roadmap’s four phases. While those development exercises offer a great starting point, they realize their full value when accompanied by intelligent questioning.

Critical thinking development exercises

How to Use These Critical Thinking Questions

We’ve included five questions for each milestone below. There are five, rather than just one, for two reasons:

  • Often one question alone won’t be sufficient to help someone fully unpack their thoughts.
  • You will likely find yourself in a position to ask these questions many times a week, if not daily. It’s helpful to vary the question to cause people to approach their thoughts from different angles.

We would not recommend that you commit this list to memory, though you may find it helpful to print it out or post it somewhere you’ll see often. Here is our recommendation for how to get started:

  • Start by plotting your team members on the Critical Thinking Roadmap .
  • Once you do, you’ll know which questions you’ll want to use most frequently.
  • Pick one question from the milestones that relate to your team member and practice using it as much as you can
  • Once you feel comfortable using that question, add a second

When you do ask these questions, consider it the beginning of the conversation, not the end. In other words, expect to ask several follow-up questions.

Since we released the Critical Thinking Roadmap Toolkit , we’ve been asked a number of times if people can do the development exercises themselves to build their own critical thinking skills. The answer is, unequivocally, yes. And the same is true for these questions. Ask these same questions of yourself to push your own critical thinking.

Critical Thinking Mastermind

100 Critical Thinking Questions

  • What work has been assigned to you?
  • Why is this work important?
  • How would you explain what you’re going to do to a child?
  • What are your key questions about this assignment?
  • What feels the least clear?
  • What steps will you need to take to achieve the objective or complete the assignment?
  • What order should you take those steps in?
  • What will you do first?
  • How will you do step X?
  • What will you need to know or do before step X?
  • Who is the best at doing the work that has just been assigned to you?
  • What are the best practices for doing this work?
  • What have you learned from doing this work previously?
  • What’s the hardest part of this assignment?
  • What are the common mistakes people make on these types of assignments?
  • How long will this take you to do?
  • Is the deadline reasonable?
  • How long will sub-task/step X take?
  • What intermediate deadlines have you created?
  • If you were to miss the deadline, what would be the most likely reason why?
  • What should we/you do next?
  • How has the work you just finished change what we were thinking we would do next?
  • What could we do better next time?
  • How could you have done it more efficiently next time?
  • What do you wish you would have known in the beginning?
  • What are your takeaways from that meeting?
  • What did you learn from…?
  • What have been your key thoughts about the work over the last week?
  • What would you like to update me on?
  • What has happened this week?
  • What are the most important takeaways from…?
  • What are the key insights on…?
  • Of the takeaways you mentioned, which are the least important?
  • If you had to cut some insights or points, which would you cut?
  • How would you prioritize these takeaways?
  • What would you share if you could only share one insight?
  • What would you share if you only had 5 minutes to present?
  • What would you do if we only had $XXX to complete the project?
  • What would you do if we only had X months to complete the project?
  • What’s the 2-minute version of your update?
  • What is the most important thing I need to know about your work?
  • What questions do you have for me that you must get answers to?
  • You have X minutes. What have you learned?
  • You have X minutes. What do I need to know?
  • What’s the answer?
  • Can you wrap this up?
  • What are our key takeaways?
  • What action steps do we have from this meeting?
  • What do we need to make sure we don’t forget from this meeting?
  • We’ve covered a lot of ground. Can you give us a brief recap?
  • What have you already done or considered to answer your question?
  • What do you think?
  • How would you answer your own question?
  • What would you do if I wasn’t available to be asked?
  • What would you say if someone you were managing asked you this same question?
  • How confident are you in your recommendation and why?
  • If you had to, how would you convince me your recommendation is a bad idea?
  • What parts of your recommendation are you least confident in?
  • If your recommendation were to fail, what would be the most likely way it would fail?
  • Who is least likely to support your recommendation and why?
  • What other ideas have you considered?
  • Why is your recommendation better than other ideas out there?
  • Could you combine this idea with any others to make it stronger?
  • How have others approached this same challenge differently?
  • What have you learned from other approaches or ideas for this same work?
  • What is the logic behind your recommendation?
  • Could you walk me through how you came to this recommendation?
  • How would you convince a skeptic your recommendation is our best option?
  • Could you draw a mind map of your rationale for this recommendation?
  • Imagine your recommendation is a math equation, like A + B leads to C. How would you describe the rationale behind your recommendation like a math equation?
  • What should team member X do next?
  • What would you do if you were team member X?
  • How would you answer team member X’s question?
  • How can team member X/the team apply lessons from your work to theirs?
  • What is most important thing for the team to do next?
  • What ideas do you have for our work, team, X?
  • How would you make this work, team, project, department, X better?
  • If you were in charge, what would you do?
  • What blind spots do we have?
  • What are none of us thinking about that we should be thinking about?
  • How would you solve this challenge?
  • Nothing we have tried in the past has worked. What else can we try?
  • What are other analogous approaches we could learn from to help solve this challenge?
  • What would be a novel approach to this challenge?
  • What solutions could we borrow from elsewhere to help solve this challenge?
  • What would it look like to make that vision a reality?
  • Is it feasible to achieve this vision? Why or why not?
  • How would we go about achieving that vision?
  • How would you structure our approach and resources to achieve that vision?
  • When could we reasonably accomplish that vision?
  • How do you think our work should be different in 1, 3, 5, X years?
  • How will things change over the next X years?
  • What must we do now to prepare for the future?
  • What early signals should we be paying attention to that will impact our future?
  • What are we doing now that we must continue to do for the next X years?
  • How could fellow leader X expand her/his thinking further?
  • What is fellow leader X missing in her/his vision of the future?
  • How feasible is fellow leader X’s vision?
  • What should fellow leader X do to begin bringing about her/his vision?
  • What are the greatest risks associated with fellow leader X’s vision?

If you haven’t yet, download your copy of the Critical Thinking Roadmap Toolkit to accompany these questions.

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Eggcellent Work

12 common barriers to critical thinking (and how to overcome them).

As you know, critical thinking is a vital skill necessary for success in life and work. Unfortunately,  barriers to critical thinking  can hinder a person’s ability. This piece will discuss some of the most common  internal and external barriers to critical thinking  and what you should do if one of them hinders your ability to think critically.

Table of Contents

Critical Thinking Challenges

You already know that  critical thinking  is the process of analyzing and evaluating a situation or person so that you can make a sound judgment. You normally use the judgment you derive from your critical thinking process to make crucial decisions, and the choices you make affect you in workplaces, relationships, and life’s goals and achievements.

Several  barriers to critical thinking  can cause you to skew your judgment. This could happen even if you have a large amount of data and information to the contrary. The result might be that you make a poor or ineffective decision instead of a choice that could improve your life quality. These are some of the top obstacles that hinder and distort the ability to think critically:

1. Using Emotions Instead of Logic

Failing to remove one’s emotions from a critical thinking analysis is one of the hugest barriers to the process. People make these mistakes mainly in the relationship realm when choosing partners based on how they “make them feel” instead of the information collected.

The correct way to decide about a relationship is to use all facts, data, opinions, and situations to make a final judgment call. More times than not, individuals use their hearts instead of their minds.

Emotions can hinder critical thinking in the employment realm as well. One example is an employee who reacts negatively to a business decision, change, or process without gathering more information. The relationship between that person and the employer could become severed by her  lack of critical thinking  instead of being salvaged by further investigations and rational reactions.

2. Personal Biases

Personal biases can come from past negative experiences, skewed teachings, and peer pressure. They create a huge obstacle in critical thinking because they overshadow open-mindedness and fairness.

One example is failing to hire someone because of a specific race, age, religious preference, or perceived attitude. The hiring person circumvents using critical thinking by accepting his or her biases as truth. Thus, the entire processes of information gathering and objective analysis get lost in the mix.

3. Obstinance

Stubbornness almost always ruins the critical thinking procedure. Sometimes, people get so wrapped up in being right that they fail to look at the big picture. Big-picture thinking is a large part of critical thinking; without it, all judgments and choices are rash and incomplete.

4. Unbelief

It’s difficult for a person to do something he or she doesn’t believe in. It’s also challenging to engage in something that seems complex. Many people don’t think critically because they believe they must be scholarly to do so. The truth is that  anyone  can think critically by practicing the following steps:

  • 1. Gather as much data as possible.
  • 2. Have an opinion, but be open to changing it.
  • 3. Understand that assumptions are not the truth, and opinions are not facts.
  • 4. Think about the scenario, person, or problem from different angles.
  • 5. Evaluate all the information thoroughly.
  • 6. Ask simple, precise, and abundant questions.
  • 7. Take time to observe.
  • 8. Don’t be afraid to spend time on the problem or issue.
  • 9. Ask for input or additional information.
  • 10. Make it make sense.

5. Fear of Failure or Change

Fear of change and failure often hinders a person’s critical thinking process because it doesn’t allow thinking outside the box. Sometimes, the most efficient way to resolve a problem is to be open to changing something.

That change might be a different way of doing something, a relationship termination, or a shift of positions at a workplace. Fear can block out all possible scenarios in the critical thinking cycle. The result is often one-dimensional thinking, tunnel vision, or proverbial head-banging.

6. Egocentric Thinking

Egocentric thinking is also one of the main barriers to critical thinking. It occurs when a person examines everything through a “me” lens. Evaluating something properly requires an individual to understand and consider other people’s perspectives, plights, goals, input, etc.

7. Assumptions

Assumptions are one of the negative  factors that affect critical thinking . They are detrimental to the process because they cause distortions and misguided judgments. When using assumptions, an individual could unknowingly insert an invalid prejudgment into a stage of the thought process and sway the final decision.

It’s never wise to assume anything about a person, entity, or situation because it could be 100 percent wrong. The correct way to deal with assumptions is to store them in a separate thought category of possibilities and then use the data and other evidence to validate or nullify them.

XYZ  might  be why ABC happened, but there isn’t enough information or data to conclude it. The same concept is true for the rest of the possibilities, and thus, it’s necessary to research and analyze the facts before accepting them as truths.

8. Group Thinking

Group thinking is another one of the  barriers to critical thinking  that can block sound decisions and muddy judgments. It’s similar to peer pressure, where the person takes on the viewpoint of the people around him or her to avoid seeming “different.”

This barrier is dangerous because it affects how some people think about right and wrong. It’s most prevalent among teens. One example is the “everybody’s doing it (drugs, bullying), so I should too” mindset.

Unfortunately, this barrier can sometimes spill over into the workplace and darken the environment when workers can’t think for themselves. Workers may end up breaking policies, engaging in negative behavior, or harassing the workers who don’t conform.

Group thinking can also skew someone’s opinion of another person before the individual gets a chance to collect facts and evaluate the person for himself. You’ve probably heard of smear campaigns. They work so well against targets because the parties involved don’t use the critical thinking process at all.

9. Impulsivity

Impulsivity is the tendency to do things without thinking, and it’s a bona fide critical thinking killer. It skips right by  every  step in the critical thinking process and goes directly to what feels good in the moment.

Alleviating the habit takes practice and dedication. The first step is to set time aside when impulsive urges come to think about all aspects of the situation. It may take an impulsive person a while to develop a good critical thinking strategy, but it can work with time.

10. Not Knowing What’s Fact and Opinion

Critical thinking requires the thinker to know the difference between facts and opinions. Opinions are statements based on other people’s evaluative processes, and those processes may not be critical or analytical. Facts are an unemotional and unbiased piece of data that one can verify. Statistics and governmental texts are examples.

11. Having a Highly Competitive Nature

A “winning” mindset can overshadow the fair and objective evaluation of a problem, task, or person and undermine critical thinking. People who  think competitively  could lose sight of what’s right and wrong to meet a selfish goal that way.

12. Basing Statements on Popularity

This problem is prevalent in today’s world. Many people will accept anything a celebrity, political figure, or popular person says as gospel, but discredit or discount other people’s input. An adept critical thinker knows how to separate  what’s  being said from  who  said it and perform the necessary verification steps.

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How To Overcome Barriers in Critical Thinking

If you can identify any of the above-mentioned  barriers , your critical thinking may be flawed. These are some tips for overcoming such barriers:

1. Know your flaws.

The very first step toward improving anything is to know and admit your flaws. If you can do that, you are halfway to using better critical thinking strategies.

2. Park your emotions.

Use logic, not emotion, when you are evaluating something to form a judgment. It’s not the time to think with your heart.

3. Be mindful of others.

Try to put yourself in other people’s shoes to understand their stance. A little empathy goes a long way.

4. Avoid black-and-white thinking.

Understand that there’s always more than one way to solve a problem or achieve a goal. Additionally, consider that not every person is all bad or all good.

5. Dare to be unpopular.

Avoid making decisions to please other people. Instead, evaluate the full lot of information and make the decision you feel is best.

6. Don’t assign unjustified merit.

Don’t assume someone is telling the truth or giving you more accurate information because of his or her name or status. Evaluate  all  people’s input equally.

7. Avoid judging others.

Try to keep biases and prejudices out of your decision-making processes. That will make them fair and just.

8. Be patient with yourself.

Take all the days you need to pick apart a situation or problem and resolve it. Don’t rush to make hasty decisions.

9. Accept different points of view.

Not everyone will agree with you or tell you what you want to hear.

10. Embrace change.

Don’t ever be afraid of changing something or trying something new. Thinking outside the box is an integral part of the critical thinking process.

Now you know the answers to the question,  “What are the challenges of critical thinking?”  Use the information about the  barriers to critical thinking  to improve your critical thinking process and make healthier and more beneficial decisions for everyone.

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11 Principles Of Critical Thinking  

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Jenny Palmer

Founder of Eggcellentwork.com. With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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A Reminder About Catharsis: Oedipus Rex by Rimas Tuminas, A Co-production of the Vakhtangov Theatre and the National Theatre of Greece

The Russian-language press thoroughly covered Oedipus Rex by Rimas Tuminas after it opened in the ancient Greek city of Epidaurus (29 July 2016), and after its Russian premiere at the Vakhtangov Theatre in Moscow on the day of the company’s 95th anniversary (13 November 2016). Almost a similar “boom” in newspaper publications occurred in November 2013 after the opening of Eugene Onegin at the Vakhtangov; it seems that almost every Moscow periodical with an arts section published an article dedicated to this production.

Most recently the critics’ attention was once again drawn to Oedipus; the Vakhtangov Theatre revived this play—the last production by Tuminas in the 2016-7 season—to open its new season on 6 September 2017. Apparently, the life of this production is still very dynamic; from one performance to another, Oedipus changes tangibly and still has a strong impact on the audience, including those who saw it a number of times. The life of this production is worth remembering, discussing, and covering in the press, today and in the future. The goal of this article is modest: to share some of the impressions of a witness and participant of the creative process, from the emergence of the concept of Oedipus Rex to its performances in Russia.  

In fact, there were two productions of Oedipus Rex by Tuminas in 2016. The first one opened in July in ancient Epidaurus, and played there only twice, in compliance with the rules of the Summer Festival in Greece, then once in September, at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens (the second performance had to be cancelled because of the heavy rain). That Oedipus remained in Greece, preserved only in a video made by the National Theatre of Greece: it was shot on the day of the first premiere—29 July—with multiple cameras and edited by Greek filmmakers. This production might be revived in the future if the decision is made to show it again on the open stage of an ancient theatre, be it in Greece, Italy, Israel, or some other country. Within the orchestra of the theatre in Epidaurus, the production can be performed only twice: there have been almost no exceptions to this rule throughout the history of the Summer Festival in Greece. Perhaps the only exception was the legendary production of The Birds by Aristophanes directed by Karolos Koun: it was performed several times—in Epidaurus, and within the orchestra of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens—because of its exceptional importance to the theatre culture of Greece.

The second Oedipus was created specifically for the stage of the Vakhtangov Theatre in the fall of 2016, prior to the Moscow premiere. It was this production that the Moscow and St. Petersburg audiences saw. Lots of things were added to the first Oedipus which opened in Epidaurus. Firstly, never before had a Russian theatre company opened a production within the ancient orchestra in order to perform the premiere there, in Greece, in front of an audience of thousands. Before 2016, the most notable performance by Russian actors on the stage of an ancient theatre was the Russian production of The Oresteia directed by Peter Stein which toured Epidaurus in 1994. However, The Oresteia was produced within the framework of the Chekhov International Festival at the Theatre of the Russian Army in Moscow; the ancient theatre space was not its essential element, but only an episode of its existence.

Secondly, never before had a production with Russian actors featured a Greek chorus. In the past, slightly different things happened; in 1961, in the Mayakovsky Theatre’s production of Medea directed by Nikolai Okhlopkov on the stage of Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, the role of Medea was several times performed by Greek actress Aspasia Papathanasiou, who came to Moscow specifically for that purpose. The current production of The Bacchae at the Electrotheatre Stanislavsky in Moscow is performed by Russian actors with the participation of the Greek director, Theodoros Terzopoulos, who in the final scene performs a Greek lament song.

Oedipus at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, Greece . Photo: Vahktangov Theatre.

The idea to invite a Greek chorus to participate in the production and to make Oedipus a joint project of the Vakhtangov Theatre and the National Theatre of Greece emerged immediately, during the initial discussions of the production in the winter of 2016. Of course, it certainly helped that 2016 was the year of Russia in Greece, and Greece in Russia. However, the main reason for bringing the Greeks and Russians together was different; Greek culture is the only one to be endowed with practical knowledge about the chorus in drama, and theatre in Russia or Lithuania has no source from which to draw this knowledge.

European drama actors started to perform within ancient orchestras as early as the late nineteenth century. The Comédie-Française actors were the first to try their hand at performing in an ancient Roman theatre at Orange in the South of France. Then, in 1911, at the arena of Circus Schumann in Berlin, Max Reinhardt produced his famous Oedipus, featuring a chorus of several hundred people. Later, in Italy and Greece they would hold festivals on ancient stages. However, regular work with the chorus within the orchestra started no earlier than in 1938 when celebrated Greek director Dimitris Rontiris, assistant and student of Max Reinhardt, was the first in Greece to direct a production in Epidaurus with actors of the Royal Theatre, which became the National Theatre of Greece. Performances by Greek actors in Epidaurus and Athens happened more and more often, and in 1954 they grew into a regular Summer Festival, where Greek companies would annually present ancient plays, and every year the chorus would perform within the orchestra.

Actually, what is the chorus? What is this group of 12 people who are collectively referring to themselves as “I,” not “we,” who are constantly present on stage—from time to time reacting to the actions of solo actors—and who in the breaks between episodes perform collective parts, sometimes taking the form of recitatives, songs, or even ecstatic exclamations?

That has been thoroughly discussed by the 20 th century scholars; however, in the National Theatre of Greece there is a practical concept of the chorus, drawn from ancient texts and tested in practice multiple times. The concept is passed from one director to another; actors are also familiar with it.  I learned about it from director and composer Thodoris Abazis, deputy artistic director of the theatre and creator of the choral parts in Oedipus Rex.

The chorus, according to this concept (and the chorus, in accordance with ancient rules, consisted of 12 or 15 people), is the audience, the members of which are allowed to go to the orchestra and act in compliance with the tradition, embodied in the text of the drama: to comment, evaluate, agree or disagree, answer, or actively react to every element of action. That is why the chorus’s conventional location during the work of solo actors is close to the seats of the audience, often along the orchestra’s curve, becoming, so to say, the first row of the auditorium. That is how the union of the chorus and the audience was marked.

The Greek Chorus. Photo: Valery Myasnikov.

The chorus’s words sound like statements, anticipating the audience’s reaction; the chorus “orchestrates” the audience’s mood and emotional experience, directing and amplifying them, plotting the vector of the their emotions, and harmonizing (i.e. putting into words and music) strong feelings, inspired by the action. In order to perform their parts between the episodes, the choreuts enter the orchestra, thus breaking away from the audience and facing it. Now the chorus talks to the audience directly, contemplating in front of it through songs and, of course, appealing to gods; in ancient times tragedy was performed only during sacred rituals, therefore the sacred images of gods (Dionysus, in the first place) were placed near the orchestra.

Of course, some skeptics might have reservations about this interpretation of the chorus as an audience member acting on stage. For instance, in the works of Euripides the majority of choruses are women whose origin is far from aristocratic (as well as in The Choephori by Aeschylus); it is hard to imagine that the Council of 500 in Athens, as well as other male audience members, could have been able to identify with these women. However, the fact that this concept is understood by the actors, accepted by the audience, and may be applied in practice in a variety of ways, has been proved many times by the productions of Greek companies on ancient stages.

In Oedipus the chorus, according to Sophocles, consists of male citizens of Thebes, feeling all the hardships of the terrible pestilence which befell the city. Therefore, in the production by Tuminas, during their first entrance they trudge, exhausted and holding onto each other; someone falls to the ground, breaking this sad row, but others instantly help him to get up, because the Thebans are used to such fainting.

For the costumes Tuminas drew on the aesthetic of “gangster” world, as if borrowed from the movies about the 1930s Chicago: black suits, waistcoats, white shirts, and fedora hats. All the choreuts are undoubtedly devoid of any gloss not only because there is pestilence in the city; for them these costumes are, so to say, casual. They are used to wearing them in everyday life.

“Chicago” as the aesthetic reference point for the chorus is a sudden insight of Tuminas which has proven itself totally right. First of all, the Greeks—bearded and emotional in a southern way—look very colorful in these costumes. Secondly, the aesthetic is justified by action; the chorus consists of Oedipus’s confidants, witnesses of all of his conversations, interrogations, meetings, as well as Oedipus himself—played by Victor Dobronravov. The King’s hot temper, fury, demands for absolute submission, and readiness to begin shouting at any minute to start a fight or sentence someone to death, sometimes resembles the “kings” of gangster world. However, the chorus can never serve as an instrument for the hero to realize his intentions; that is impossible in ancient tragedy.

Thus, on the one hand, the chorus is a part of Oedipus’s world; Coryphaeus, the character created by Vitalys Semenovs, is his constant confidant, often rather bold and straightforward. However, the concept of the chorus as a part of the bulk of the audience was also realized in the production; this was especially noticeable at the opening in Epidaurus.

When Oedipus appeared in his royal attire, the choreuts, shocked, would fall on the ground and listen to their king, sitting with their backs to the audience and forming a semicircle (similar to the semicircle of the orchestra), as if the first row of the auditorium had been transferred onto the stage. Prior to the final episode, the choreuts exited the stage, went towards the audience, and sat just a step from the first row, right on the stone floor of the theatre, following the curve of the orchestra, with small gaps between one another, to watch the final scenes.

Lyudmila Maksakova as Iokasta. Photo: Valery Myasnikov.

In the Moscow production of Oedipus this aspect of the chorus’s existence was less noticeable. Raised stage and portal arch divide the stage from the auditorium, therefore when the chorus falls on the floor in order to listen to the king’s solemn address to the city, this mise-en-scène no longer gives the audience a chance to feel the visual and emotional proximity to the chorus as fully as it did in Epidaurus. Prior to the final episode, the chorus went backstage, and not to the auditorium. This is the only way it could happen, because on the black box stage the laws for tragedy are different than on the open stage; here the action has to be more autonomous, wholesome, and condensed.

However, recalling the open and free interaction between the performers of the tragedy and its viewers in the ancient, open-air theatre, Tuminas begins the production at the Vakhtangov with house lights on. When the chorus enters the stage, some actors sit on the chairs, placed on the left and right along the wings, and look intently and curiously at the audience, as if making it clear that the portal arch is fully transparent and permeable, so that the look from the stage enters the auditorium as freely as the returned gaze. And when the lights in the house slowly dim, the actors continue hypnotizing the audience, appealing to its members as if they were “the citizens of Thebes,” so the members of the audience have a role in the production anyway.

Still, given the circumstances of the black box stage, instead of visually bringing together the chorus and the audience, the creators of the production put more effort into emotionally gripping the audience through the action of the chorus, which descends very easily from the stage to perform from the auditorium. We should admit that at the Vakhtangov Theatre this worked even better than within the orchestra in Epidaurus.

The strong emotional impact of the chorus in Oedipus is first of all determined by the fact that very powerful Greek actors have participated in it from the very beginning. It is not a secret that in Greek theatre culture, as once in the ancient world, the choreuts were never placed on the same level with solo actors; at that time the tragic contests (and awards) were only for solo actors and never for the chorus.

When in the National Theatre of Greece there was a casting call for the chorus of Oedipus, there were over 150 candidates for only 11 places. Eventually, the majority of the chorus participants could have been promoted to principal roles because of their maturity, high professional reputation, and enviable resume. However, they were motivated only by their enthusiasm for this joint Russian-Greek production, the Vakhtangov Theatre, and, of course, the director, Tuminas. (By the way, 4 of the 11 actors even spoke Russian because of their connection with Russian theatre schools). Many theatre people in Greece admitted that this was by far the strongest performance of the chorus in a tragedy that they could remember.

Rehearsal of Oedipus at the Vakhtangov Theatre, Moscow. Photo: Vahktangov Theatre.

The first time that the Russian actors could feel the impact of the choral parts in all its strength, was in Moscow, at the very beginning of the rehearsals on the small stage of the Vakhtangov Theatre in spring 2016, when Thodoris Abazis arrived and played a record that the chorus made during the rehearsals in Athens. And when in July joint rehearsals of the chorus and actors at the arena of the summer stadium in Athens started (where the National Theatre of Greece normally rehearses before opening a production on the open stage), Liudmila Maksakova said, half joking and half serious, “No doubt they will surpass us!”

Thodoris Abazis, who wrote the chorus’s parts, created a complex combination of declamation, recitation, melo-declamation, and singing (unisonant and part-singing) without using musical instruments or a sound record. This combination is based on the pace, set, first of all, by breathing. The impact of a rhythmic sound, in which one can distinctly hear the energetic and powerful breathing of a group, turned out to be very impressive; the phonetics and melodics of the Greek language helped a lot. The composer, similarly to the director, interpreted the tragedy as the place where all kinds of emotions manifested themselves: not only fear, sadness, and anxiety, but also joy, enlightenment, and triumph. The promise of the unilateral exultation is heard in the third choral song, in which the choreuts, praising Oedipus, are waiting for the prompt revealing of his birth; they have no doubts that he was born to one of the immortals.

That is how the genuinely Greek chorus of Oedipus Rex was born, the first Greek chorus in Russian theatre whose presence in the tragedy was instantly perceived by the Russian audience as a necessary, naturally legitimate, and integral element of the stage action—from the very first performances in Moscow.

Starting the rehearsals in Moscow, Tuminas suggested that the Vakhtangov actors should create interactions between one another through fight and exchange of “blows”—in words, gestures, and the state of mind—hence the particular emotional tension and overexcitement of almost every dialogue in Oedipus.

As early as in the first monologue of the Priest (Evgeny Kosyrev), when there is a plea to Oedipus to save Thebes, we can distinctly hear the notes of reproach addressed to Oedipus—where are you and why haven’t you yet done anything? And the first line of Oedipus after coming to the Priest: “Known, ah, known too well…” also reveals dissatisfaction and irritation. Anger, headiness, and propensity towards conflict have led him to kill his own father, to feud with the prophet Teiresias, and later with Creon.

As the famous saying of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus goes, “Character is destiny.” It probably means that, when man goes through the crucible of life, when the mind isn’t fast enough to follow statements and actions, then character takes over man (which also means passions, imposed by nature). Character sends the strongest life impulses; it leads man through life, thus mapping the line of fate. Victor Dobronravov captures this characteristic feature of Oedipus very precisely; an angry and heady temper has got the hold of his soul and adds belligerence to every conversation. That is how Sophocles saw Oedipus and that is the basis of his character in the production by Tuminas.

That is why, whenever Oedipus enters the stage (as he does in every episode), there is a collision, confrontation, or fight. His first opponent is the blind prophet Teiresias, who doesn’t want to reveal the truth about Oedipus instilled by Apollo. In this production, the role of Teiresias belongs to Evgeny Knyazev. I noticed that in the majority of performances of Oedipus Rex (in Epidaurus, Athens, Moscow, and St. Petersburg) the first applause of the audience is heard exactly after the first episode, when the confrontation between Oedipus and Teiresias reaches the boiling point; Oedipus is ready to stomp the rebellious prophet to death, in response drawing his ire, and is especially fearsome because the gods side with him. In fact, in Epidaurus it is uncommon to applaud before the end of the show. However, the audience inevitably applauded after the episode with Oedipus and Teiresias, and again after every episode, and after several appearances of the chorus.

The farther from Epidaurus, the more the character of Teiresias, created by Evgeny Knyazev, is filled with cunning, irony with a smirk, and pinch of madness—often present in depitions of prophets. This prophet managed to confuse everyone. At first he said that he was going to keep mum, and then suddenly he declared Oedipus the main culprit; at first he declared that he wanted to leave soon, and then, getting angry with Oedipus, delivered a long monologue in which one could hear either prophecy or condemnation. Eventually, he went away with a smirk, leaving Oedipus alone with the news, which may have come either from Apollo or from an insane old man.

The next confrontation is between Oedipus and Creon. The role of Creon is performed by Eldar Tramov, a young actor of the Vakhtangov Theatre studio. Tuminas is the first director to see in Creon not as a grown man or as a revered old man, but as a young man—a peer of Oedipus or someone even younger. Thus the potential for conflict has been maximized, as collision between peers, whose positions in the royal house are relatively equal, with fewer moderating forces than struggles between people with big age differences.

At the beginning of the play, Tramov’s Creon is the total opposite of Oedipus; he is lenient, weak-willed, enthusiastic, affectionate towards everybody and everything, and in adoration of his place in the royal house next to his sister Jocasta. Without lifting a finger, Creon can rule the city and enjoy the benefits of the royal house, and therefore is quite self-sufficient. That is how he looks when we first see him, on his way from Delphi, in the prologue. Here we can sense the brewing confrontation between him and Oedipus, which is not obvious but implied. Creon is laid-back and self-assured (Tuminas gave Tramov a clue that in Delphi they had already promised Creon that he would soon ascend to the throne); Oedipus is irritated by Creon’s mannerisms and even by the sheer presence of his wife’s brother. Like many kings, Oedipus suspects that his brother-in-law covets the throne.

In the second episode, Tramov conveys a sharp change in the manner of Creon’s behavior. It seems that for the first time the royal son does not look laid-back anymore, but rather fears that he is going to lose not only his position, but his life. He both believes and does not believe that he can die. Here he looks a bit like a holy fool; by hook or by crook he is holding onto his life, looking for support from everyone around him (the chorus, the audience) so that they could also persuade Oedipus that Creon is good and not guilty.

In the second to last episode, there is another collision, this time between the messenger from Corinth and the herdsman from Thebes. In Epidaurus and Athens, the Corinthian was performed by Valery Ushakov, and the Theban by Artur Ivanov; in Moscow, the cast of Oedipus was joined by Oleg Forostenko (the Corinthian) and Ruben Simonov (the Theban). I do not remember any other production where the director managed to reveal the war between the two messengers of Sophocles so convincingly, or where the actors conveyed it so impressively. The Theban wants to hide the truth about the baby with broken ankles, which the Corinthian is trying to reveal. The Theban knows that the truth will bring woe, the Corinthian is, on the contrary, positive that the truth will bring happiness to everyone and an award to him. The Theban has forever blamed himself for not being able to kill the baby (when asked why, he shouts in despair: “Through pity…”); the Corinthian, on the contrary, has always been happy as a result of his giving the baby to the house of the Corinthian king and deserving an award.

Only one character of the tragedy remains outside the battle: Jocasta, the wife and mother of Oedipus, a character created by Lyudmila Maksakova. When she first appears on stage (in the second and longest episode), Jocasta tries not to wage war, but to make peace between Oedipus and Creon.

In a conversation, Tuminas confessed that it is Jocasta who is the main character of his story. Jocasta is depicted as a strong and wise woman, mother, queen and patroness of the royal house, and the closest friend and advisor to her young husband and her young brother. Indeed, it is in Jocasta that Oedipus and Creon find strength and confidence; it is she who is the pillar of the kingdom.

Jocasta, in this production, is never happy, for she has suffered the utmost hardships which can befall a woman: the loss of a newborn child, the loss of her husband, the fatal disbelief in the justice of gods, and the suffering that from that disbelief. Only once does she utter an exclamation which sounds like an expression of happiness, when she hears that Polybus (whom Oedipus considered his father) died, which means that the prophecy about patricide failed. Yet even this exclamation is mixed with bitterness, for what can be joyful in the fact that the gods lie? Their lies put into question the very existence of truth in the human world. The conversation with the Corinthian herdsman has led her (earlier than Oedipus, because she is wiser) to the discovery of the terrible incestuous relationship—her marriage to a young husband which gave her temporary hope. This discovery was followed by the verdict—“Put to death!”—which she pronounced to herself. In listening to the ending of the herdsman’s monologue and bidding farewell to Oedipus by promising to be “silent evermore,” she immediately enforced the verdict without hesitation.

The composer for the production, Faustas Latenas, composed a splendid musical theme for Jocasta. It has beauty and yearning for flight, but at the same time, deep sadness and hopelessness, as if a man inhaled, flapped his wings and started towards the sky, but this was instantly followed by an exhale, accompanied by the understanding that the wings refused to fly, for there was not enough strength. One more flap—again no strength. Once in the performance this melody is performed by Oedipus; at the end of the chorus’s part following the second episode, he paces the stage, playing the saxophone, and the chorus picks up the tune. This happens right after a statement by the chorus that both in the royal house and Thebes there is disbelief in gods: “Apollo is forsook and faith grows cold.” Soon we will learn from Jocasta that it is Oedipus who is restless because he anticipates woe. Jocasta’s theme serves as the musical symbol of this premonition and becomes the theme for Oedipus, and the leitmotif of the entire production.  

Rehearsal of Oedipus at the Vahktangov Theatre, Moscow. Photo: Vahktangov Theatre.

Before singing along with Oedipus, the chorus members put on military helmets, covering their faces. The chorus’s helmets and their action of singing with Oedipus’s saxophone were both introduced specifically for the Moscow production. Helmets replace masks, behind which the choreuts seem to be hiding from their own disbelief and shame, from their own unwillingness to stay in the chorus and sing, addressing the gods, who, according to the kings, lie. A few seconds before the saxophone, the chorus angrily reproaches the tyrants for their pride in front of the gods, and the choreuts are almost ready to dissolve and leave the stage in order not to praise the proud men—a witty reaction by Tuminas to the line: “If sin like this to honor can aspire, why dance I still and lead the sacred choir?”. Then they sadly get back together, and in order not to become proud men themselves, put on their helmet-masks and start singing along with the tune played by Oedipus. The choreuts see disbelief in themselves; through them the whole city is filled with the mood of despair, anticipation of woe, shame, and a desire to hide from the gaze of heaven. The beautiful tune of Latenas reminds more of a former beauty of a life which will never return.

The music and sounds created by Latenas deserve special mention; they play an important part in the success of Oedipus Rex. It was noted long ago that Tuminas’s productions are musical, and musicality is their inner, essential feature. Director Tuminas and composer Latenas share this musicality of thinking; their long-term co-creation in theatre is not accidental. In Oedipus, as in their previous productions, all their meaningful accents are musical, the periods of stage action are similar to musical phrases, the dynamic of action is picked up by music, and the dramatic turning points are accentuated with the intrusion of a sound composition. Almost every sound on stage becomes an element of the show’s monolithic musical palette.

Two musical themes define Oedipus : first, the aforementioned theme for Jocasta, and second, the theme of the loud, “beastly” breathing of fate, taking an active part in the life of Oedipus and the members of his household.

The set designer of the production, Adomas Jacovskis, created an impressive physical embodiment of “the machine of fate,” a topic thoroughly covered by critics and journalists. It is a giant cylinder with small square holes along its surface, relating to a huge clock mechanism, a mammoth music box, or probably an execution machine that will crush flat everyone who is doomed to lie under it. The “beastly” breathing and heartbeat of this machine was shaped by Latenas into a powerful musical and rhythmic theme—exhaling smoke, restlessly swinging and at the end rolling towards the auditorium and almost reaching the footlights—which is heard more and more often as the show approaches its conclusion.

The image of an object of fate that rolls over the people is highly characteristic of the artistic world of Tuminas and Jacovskis. In 1997, in The Masquerade of the Small Theatre of Vilnius, the image of a growing snowball was introduced. It was supposed to crush the main character at the end. In 1998 in Oedipus in Vilnius that very “machine of fate” was also in action—a cylindrical pipe with square holes, but of a slightly different shape and smaller size than what was needed for the orchestra of Epidaurus and stage of the Vakhtangov Theatre, which are much larger spaces. In 2001, in Vilnius, at the National Theatre of Lithuania, Inspector General opened, in which a giant “church” with a small cupola flew over the stage. It was made in a simplified manner and therefore resembled blind pagan dolls; it was swiping away every trouble the people stirred, and moved towards them as a giant ghost, but they still failed to notice it.

Therefore, Oedipus Rex, from the scenographic point of view, is on one hand a reminiscence of the productions by Tuminas and Jacovskis from the turn of the twenty-first century. On the other hand, “the machine of fate,” embodied by a pipe, rolling towards the actors and audience, is an impressive symbol of doom in our time, as well as an object that fits into both the open stage and the black box stage.

In both Epidaurus and Athens, the technical conditions of the stages did not allow for the giant pipe “roll over” the first row of the audience, so that the whole auditorium could feel the doom heavily hanging over it. However, this worked marvelously on the Vakhtangov stage. Therefore, the ending of Oedipus became famous and already left a mark in the history of contemporary theatre: two girls in white dresses—Oedipus’s daughters, Antigone and Ismene—are trying to escape the terrifying roll, running towards the footlights and attempt to roll it in the direction of the backdrop, but it advances anyway. When the girls run away in fear, “the machine of fate” goes fully into effect; it freely rolls over the audience, swings, emanates smoke, breathes loudly, and one could hear a giant heart beating, which sounds either like a threat or like the guarantee of life.

This ending is the result of a wise insight that Tuminas had during the final rehearsals. According to the initial concept, the production was supposed to end with the famous moralizing speculation of Sophocles’s chorus:

Look ye, countrymen and Thebans, this is Oedipus the great, He who knew the Sphinx’s riddle and was mightiest in our state. Who of all our townsmen gazed not on his fame with envious eyes? Now, in what a sea of troubles sunk and overwhelmed he lies! Therefore wait to see life’s ending ere thou count one mortal blest; Wait till free from pain and sorrow he has gained his final rest.

During the rehearsals in Athens two last lines of this chorus part were edited out; eventually, before the very departure for Epidaurus, this whole chorus part was edited out. Our age does not accept direct moralizing, and Tuminas decided that a visual and sound image would do a much better job for the ending; the subsequent performances fully proved that. The last words before the ending of the Vakhtangov Oedipus are the king’s words about his daughters, addressed to Creon:

O leave them not to wander poor, unwed, Thy kin, nor let them share my low estate. O pity them so young…

The “machine of fate” brought Oedipus to stage twice: in the first episode, when he, solemnly put his hand on a staff and gave a loud promise to spare the city of abomination, and in the last episode, when Oedipus, broken by woe and turned into an old man, with both hands on the staff as his only support, delivered his farewell monologue before exile. Victor Dobronravov splendidly conveyed this change in Oedipus through the means of acting: from the stately king in full attire at the beginning (who seemed huge), to the frail old man in a canvas robe at the end. It seems that he has downsized two times, lost body volume, slumped and “shrunk” because of the hardships befalling him.

This very “machine of fate” brought towards the backdrop the characters who held onto it with one hand, as on a rack: Oedipus before the final monologue and the member of Oedipus’s household telling what happened in the house after Oedipus discovered Jocasta who had hanged herself.

Viktor Dobronravov as Oedipus. Photo: Valery Myasnikov.

Maksim Sevrinovsky, an actor of the Vakhtangov Theatre studio, plays Sophocles’ Messenger, interpreted by Tuminas as a member of Oedipus’s household. Normally, directors bring the Messenger to stage precisely at the moment when the audience needs to be told how Jocasta hanged herself and Oedipus stabbed out his eyes. In this production, the Messenger, who delivers the monologue at the end, appears at the very beginning of the show as a silent character. As the majority of Thebans, he is fatally ill, his face is covered with a bandage; he is a reminder of the pestilence that befell the city and is inevitably getting to the royal house. Sevrinovsky’s monologue, permeated with the feeling of horror caused by current events, is handled through the physical conveying of visual images that were witnessed by the Messenger; in describing how Jocasta hanged herself, he tightens the band near his neck; in speaking about the blinding of Oedipus he uses powerful and energetic gestures to show how Oedipus stabbed himself in the eyes multiple times. Closer to the ending of the monologue he removes the bandage and reveals huge, blind eyes in black caves. We can hear the loud, intermittent breathing of a man, who is inhaling for the last time before his death. This is an impressive precursor to the final monologue of blinded Oedipus.

Tuminas, as it is customary, introduced a number of characters, who were not among the original dramatis personae. Those include the Soldier (Pavel Yudin, actor of the Vakhtangov Theatre studio) and the Lady with the Wings (Ekaterina Simonova), who both live on the stage from the first moments of the production.

The Soldier is the instrument of Oedipus’s vindictive plans and threats: his endlessly faithful dog; the guard of his house, tirelessly running in circles (this running around the orchestra marked the beginning of the performance in Epidaurus); a threat to the enemies of Oedipus and participant in his bullying of Creon (Oedipus jokingly crowns the Soldier with Creon’s golden wreath when he wants to execute his brother in law); and eventually, the king’s most loyal subject, crying more than others, when the entire truth about Oedipus is revealed.

The director and actress created the character of the Lady with the Wings, inspired by the image of the Sphinx, which was defeated by Oedipus. According to the myth, Oedipus solved her riddle, thus facing deflecting threats from Thebes, and the Sphinx ended her life by jumping off a cliff. Tuminas, true to his manner of posing non-conventional questions to traditional tales (“and what if it did not happen this way…”), made an assumption that Sphinx had not died, instead becoming a captive and servant in Oedipus’s house, always accompanying the queen, Jocasta. As a result, they came up with an image of a girl with huge wings: raven-haired, with deep black eyes, and beautiful in a strange, exquisite way. She flaps her wings—at times black, at times white—but it is understood that she will never take off again. Because of that, her beauty is combined with sadness, as in Jocasta’s musical theme. Ekaterina Simonova’s movements are smooth and harmonious, as a ritual dance, but she often bends down in a gesture of submission, folding her wings behind the back. Here we see the image of power and beauty, going beyond all human capabilities, and yet defeated by man, living joylessly like the rest of the people in Oedipus’s house.

In Oedipus of the Small Theatre in Vilnius (1998) there was also a winged maiden. However, she was more like a small white angel and her image was more ironic than filled with sadness caused by beauty in captivity. Generally, in the Lithuanian production there was much more irony, laughter, and more props; they had a big figure of a tiger, and the manner of communication between the characters was closer to prose than to poetry.

The Lithuanian production had success, and performed in Russia, too, where it played at the Baltic House festival. This makes it especially interesting to compare the two versions of Oedipus in Vilnius and Moscow.

Firstly, the scenography of the Moscow production was “cleaner” and more reserved. Secondly (and perhaps most importantly), in Oedipus at the Vakhtangov there was much less irony than in the Lithuanian version; its structure has become simpler, it is now much more serious, in the tradition of classical tragedy.

Of course, even in this version there were moments when the director and actors found humor appropriate. For instance, for some reason Creon is late on his way back from Delphi, and the audience feels some kind of a funny fear—how long is the delay going to be? (They do not have to wait for long.) During the second episode, Creon, maddened by anticipation of execution, which Oedipus threatened him with, suddenly and desperately bursts into singing a popular Greek song about love “Eim’ aetos choris ftera / Choris agapi kai chara” (“I am an eagle without wings/ without love and joy”). Or the moment, when the chorus, condemning the tyrants and flying into a rage caused by righteous anger, suddenly leaves the stage, refusing to continue its performance. After hearing that, the audience in Epidaurus burst into laughter, because for a moment it seemed that the performance, which had sold 7000 tickets, could be suddenly interrupted before the ending.

These moments, however, do not distract from the most important thing: creators of the production managed to achieve the incredible seriousness and acuteness of tragedy—a seriousness unheard of and forgotten these days. In the era of the “post-” (postmodernism, postdramatism, postculture, metatheatre, etc.), it sometimes seems impossible to hold the audience’s attention without tricks, jokes, and laughs. The ancient tragedy of Oedipus, with its themes of human dignity, responsibility for crime, crisis of belief in the divine, helplessness of royal power in the face of conscience, frightening discoveries of truth about oneself, and heroism in self-knowledge, arouses compassion and fear, as Aristotle would put it, in an auditorium with 1100 seats.

Evgeny Knyazev as Tiresias. Photo: Valery Myasnikov.

Of course, a lot in the Moscow Oedipus was determined by the venue of the first performance in Epidaurus. The Moscow audience might get a sense that all the Vakhtangov actors play “with memory” of the magical land named the Argolis, with its sea, mixed with healing springs, the best oranges and olives in Greece, and with the thousands of audience members in the ancient theatre at twilight during the premiere. The Moscow Oedipus resonates far beyond the Vakhtangov theatre. The words of the actors leave the stage and go above beyond the walls, balconies, and gallery, in the direction of the place dedicated to the cult of Asclepius and Apollo, connected in our mind with material and spiritual catharsis. They play with memory of the most beautiful theatre in the world—the first theatre with an ideally round orchestra, erected in the sanctuary of Asclepius, it seems, specifically for the purpose of healing through visual harmony and magical energy.

And I will remember how, at the beginning of the performance in ancient Epidaurus, two laughing girls in white dresses were running against the background of the black forest—how, accompanied by the rumbling theme of fate, huge shadows of birds, carried on high poles by the choreuts, were flying above the ground and branches of trees—how the grove surrounding the theatre in Epidaurus, was alive with sound, because Tuminas and Latenas made a witty decision to put the speakers close to the trees behind the orchestra—and finally, how at the very end of Oedipus a complete blackout occurred. The only light reaching the people, was coming from the stars in the night skies: therefore all the thousands of people in the audience—in those several seconds of silence before the final applause—raised their heads up to the sky.

English translation by Anna Shulgat.

Dmitry Trubotchkin (Moscow, Russia) is Doctor of Sciences in Art Studies; Head of Department at the State Institute for Art Studies; Vice-rector and Chair of Art Studies and Humanities at the Higher School of Performing Arts; Professor of Theatre Studies at the Russian Institute of Theatre Arts (GITIS). He has published extensively (in Russian, English and Italian) and presented at conferences around the world on European classical theatre and on contemporary Russian theatre. His most recent monographs, in Russian, include: Ancient Greek Theatre (Moscow, 2016); Rimas Tuminas: Moscow Productions (Moscow, 2015).

European Stages, vol. 10, no. 1 (Fall 2017)

Editorial Board:

Marvin Carlson, Senior Editor, Founder

Krystyna Illakowicz, Co-Editor

Dominika Laster, Co-Editor

Kalina Stefanova, Co-Editor

Editorial Staff:

Taylor Culbert, Managing Editor

Nick Benacerraf, Editorial Assistant

Advisory Board:

Joshua Abrams Christopher Balme Maria Delgado Allen Kuharsky Bryce Lease Jennifer Parker-Starbuck Magda Romańska Laurence Senelick Daniele Vianello Phyllis Zatlin

Table of Contents:

  • The 2017 Avignon Festival: July 6 – 26, Witnessing Loss, Displacement, and Tears by Philippa Wehle
  • A Reminder About Catharsis: Oedipus Rex by Rimas Tuminas, A Co-Production of the Vakhtangov Theatre and the National Theatre of Greece by Dmitry Trubochkin
  • The Kunstenfestivaldesarts 2017 in Brussels by Manuel Garcia Martinez
  • A Female Psychodrama as Kitchen Sink Drama: Long Live Regina! in Budapest by Gabriella Schuller
  • Madrid’s Theatre Takes Inspiration from the Greeks by Maria Delgado
  • A (Self)Ironic Portrait of the Artist as a Present-Day Man by Maria Zărnescu
  • Throw The Baby Away With the Bath Water?: Lila, The Child Monster of The B*easts by Shastri Akella
  • Report from Switzerland by Marvin Carlson
  • A Cruel Theatricality: An Essay on Kjersti Horn’s Staging of the Kaos er Nabo Til Gud ( Chaos is the Neighbour of God ) by Eylem Ejder
  • Szabolcs Hajdu & the Theatre of Midlife Crisis: Self-Ironic Auto-Bio Aesthetics on Hungarian Stages by Herczog Noémi
  • Love Will Tear Us Apart (Again): Katie Mitchell Directs Genet’s Maids by Tom Cornford
  • 24th Edition of Sibiu International Theatre Festival: Spectacular and Memorable by Emiliya Ilieva
  • Almagro International Theatre Festival: Blending the Local, the National and the International by Maria Delgado
  • Jess Thom’s Not I & the Accessibility of Silence by Zoe Rose Kriegler-Wenk
  • Theatertreffen 2017: Days of Loops and Fog by Lily Kelting
  • War Remembered Onstage at Reims Stages Europe: Festival Report by Dominic Glynn


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Martin E. Segal Theatre Center:

Frank Hentschker, Executive Director

Marvin Carlson, Director of Publications

Rebecca Sheahan, Managing Director

©2016 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center

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  • Other Journals

creative thinking knowledge gaps

Mythological features of doctrinal legal thinking

Cover Page

  • Authors: Glukhareva L.I. 1
  • Russian State University for the Humanities
  • Issue: Vol 6, No 3 (2019)
  • Pages: 79-86
  • Section: Methodology of Law
  • URL: https://journals.eco-vector.com/2410-7522/article/view/18989
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.17816/RJLS18989


Ludmila I. Glukhareva

Doctor of Legal Sciences, Associated Professor, Head of Department of Theory of Law And Comparative Law

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  1. Knowledge Gaps PowerPoint Presentation Slides

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  2. What Is Creative Thinking and Why Does It Matter?

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  3. Everything you Need to Know about Creative Thinking

    creative thinking knowledge gaps

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  5. Creative Thinking Skills

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  1. 19 Creative Thinking Skills (and How to Use Them!)

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  2. How to Identify Knowledge Gaps and Skill Gaps

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  7. The Three Gaps of Creativity: Effort, Skill and Quality

    [1] The Effort Gap When we do sit down to work on the details of an idea, the euphoria fades away. The act of thinking about how to bring the idea into the world is far less fun than the magical feeling of the idea's arrival. It might take an hour or a day, but soon the tasks at hand feel surprisingly ordinary.

  8. CREATIVE THINKING: Definition and Structure

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  9. Full article: A Thirst for Knowledge: Grounding Curiosity, Creativity

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  10. Unleashing The Power Of Creative Thinking In Teams

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  11. Critical Thinking Requires Knowing What Questions to Ask

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  13. 100 Questions that Build Your Team's Critical Thinking Skills

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  14. 12 Common Barriers To Critical Thinking (And How To Overcome Them)

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  15. 15 Questions to Encourage Critical Thinking

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  17. PDF Engaging the Adult Learner Generational Mix

    knowledge lens, whether it is to improve job performance, come up with creative ideas in the workplace, or handle family situations. Connections can be made to show how information is presented to the adult learner. Flexibility in course requirements can help encourage an adult learner to find ways of applying knowledge to a personalized situation.

  18. Develop Critical Thinking in Others: BSBCRT511 Student Version

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  19. BSBCRT511 Student Project Portfolio (docx)

    Plan team meeting Plan how to articulate key features of critical and creative thinking concepts to the relevant team (attach any relevant documents you create e.g. fact sheet). Develop a set of at least five questions to identify critical and creative thinking knowledge gaps for your chosen team and one of your chosen individual(s). The differentiating traits of critical and creative thinking ...

  20. Critical and creative thinking (docx)

    Critical and creative thinking are essential skills for any team to thrive, especially in a rapidly changing and complex world. Identifying knowledge gaps in these areas is the first step toward addressing them. Here are some potential critical and creative thinking knowledge gaps that the team from "Worlducation" might be facing: 1. Limited Exposure to Diverse Perspectives: Critical and ...

  21. Creative Minds Gather in Moscow for Visual Thinking Live!

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  22. A Reminder About Catharsis: Oedipus Rex by Rimas Tuminas, A Co

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