The Ultimate List of Visual Creative Thinking Techniques for Your Next Great Idea

Updated on: 10 January 2023

Great ideas don’t just occur. In order to come up with some great new idea, you need to have the right knowledge and experience, and the ideal circumstance. However, there are techniques that you can use to boost your creative thinking skills.  

In this post, we’ll look into creative thinking techniques that will help accelerate the process. You can start right away with the editable templates provided. 

What is Creative Thinking? 

Let’s start with the creative thinking definition. 

Many people associate being creative with being able to paint, sing or write, but someone who is not good at any of these things could still be a creative thinker. 

How? Because creative thinking is the process of coming up with something new; looking at a problem from a new light and finding an innovative solution or a solution that hasn’t been thought of before. Or in other words, thinking outside the box. 

Although some people are more creative than others, creative thinking can be developed with practice. It’s a skill that is indispensable to everyone whether you are still learning or working.

Creative Process

Creative ideas don’t just pop in your head. If you need to come up with innovative ideas you need to set the circumstances for it to occur or give your brain the right material to work with. Let’s understand how creative thinking works. 

According to the book The Art of Thought by Graham Wallas , there are four stages to creative thinking. 

Preparation: This is where you define the problem you want to solve or the need. Then you start gathering as much knowledge about the subject as you can. 

Incubation: In this stage, you’ll be processing the information you have gathered. Instead of consciously trying to solve the problem, you’ll let your mind wander on its own, working its way through the subject. This will lead to more creativity. Basically, your unconscious mind will be at work here. 

Illumination: This is the “Eureka” moment that really occurs when you are not actively thinking of a creative solution. You could be literally having a shower when all of a sudden you have found the answer you’ve been looking for. 

Verification : Now it’s time to see if your idea will really work out or not. In this last stage of the creative thinking process, you need to test your idea. Use your critical thinking skills to fine-tune your idea and ready it to reach the audience.

Creative Thinking Techniques

We have listed below several creative thinking techniques that you can use to come up with creative ideas faster. The templates are instantly editable; you can even collaborate with others from your team on editing them during a brainstorming session. 

1. Affinity Diagrams 

After a brainstorming session, meeting or research you end up with a load of information that needs to be sorted through and categorized. This is where the affinity diagram comes. 

The affinity diagram helps you group your data based on themes. This makes it easier to detect patterns and connections among the information you have gathered, thus allowing you to come up with new ideas or solutions. 

Don’t know how to use the affinity diagram? We’ve got you covered with this complete guide to affinity diagrams .

Affinity Diagram Template

2. Brainstorming 

Brainstorming is one of the most popular methods of idea generation. You can go about this individually or with a group of people. 

In group brainstorming, you have the ability to collect many creative ideas from people with diverse skills and experience.

There are many brainstorming techniques out there, and some handy visual brainstorming techniques are listed in this post. And refer to this resource to learn about how to carry out a successful brainstorming session step-by-step .

3. Concept Map

The concept map is a teaching and learning techniques that help visualize the connections between concepts and ideas. It helps organize thoughts and discover new relationships, ideas or concepts. 

Check out our guide to concept maps to learn about how to use it in more detail.

Concept Map Template for Creative Thinking Techniques

4. Mind Map

The mind map starts with the key concept you are brainstorming around in the center. Related ideas are connected to the center with lines. 

It helps you capture your free flow of thoughts and organize them on a canvas in a way that will later allow you to discover new connections that will let you arrive at a possible solution. 

Because it connects both text and a visual layout, it allows for a more creative style of thinking.

Mind Map Template for Creative Thinking

5. Mood Board 

A mood board – like a collage – is a collection of images, fonts, icons colors, etc. that is representative of a particular theme or style. Mood boards are also known as inspiration boards and commonly used in design projects. 

Here’s how to use a mood board .

Mood Board Template

6. SCAMPER Technique 

SCAMPER is another successful creative thinking technique that is used to spark creativity during brainstorming. SCAMPER stands for seven thinking approaches,

  • Substitute 
  • Put to another use
  • Eliminate 

Learn how to generate new ideas using the SCAMPER method here.

SCAMPER Technique Template

7. Six Thinking Hats 

Each hat in the six thinking hats method represents a different perspective. It is used during meetings or brainstorming sessions to allow team members to look at possible solutions from different perspectives or thinking directions. 

Each hat represents a different thinking angle, and during the session, each member will get to put it on in turn. 

White hat – facts and information 

Red hat – feelings, intuitions, emotions, and hunches 

Balck hats – judgment, legality, morality 

Yellow hat – optimism, benefits

Green hat – new ideas, opportunities 

Blue hat – conclusions, action plans, next steps 

Refer to this resource on six thinking hats to learn about how to use it in more detail.

Six Thinking Hats Diagram

8. Storyboards 

Storyboards are a way to visually organize ideas. It’s a common tool used in video planning. Say you are planning a TV advertisement, you can start with a storyboard to graphically organize the ideas in your head. As you lay them out on a storyboard, you’d be able to quickly mold the idea in your head.

Storyboard Template

9. SWOT Analysis

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. In business planning, the SWOT analysis is applied in various situations; in competitor analysis, situation analysis, strategic planning, personal evaluation, etc. 

It can be used to identify effective innovative opportunities, mitigate threats using strengths, etc.

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What More Creative Thinking Techniques Do You Know? 

Here, We’ve covered most visual creative thinking techniques. Go ahead and share with us your most favorite creative thinking technique as well. 

Join over thousands of organizations that use Creately to brainstorm, plan, analyze, and execute their projects successfully.

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Sophie Roberts

8 Creative Thinking Techniques and The Tools To Use

17th Feb 2022 Content Marketing Blog 13 minutes to read

8 Creative Thinking Techniques and The Tools To Use

Beginning your creative content writing work with full gusto only to find yourself stuck after the first sentence is infuriating, but what’s worse is staring at a blank page for what seems like an eternity, willing good content ideas to appear from somewhere.

Even if you have a designated topic, it can often be seemingly impossible to think of anything worthwhile to say about it.

Sadly, much to everyone’s disappointment, your work isn’t going to write itself. Creating successful creative content is hard work

For people who create content every day, it can be difficult to constantly come up with new ideas. As an SEO, digital PR and content marketing agency , we at Koozai understand this too. Luckily, if you’ve hit that creative wall, there are several techniques you can execute to get those creative juices flowing again.

Below are eight of the Koozai team’s favourite creative problem solving techniques. These don’t just apply to content creation either, they can be used in all aspects of life.

1.    Mind Mapping/Brainstorming

One of the timeless classics is mind mapping or brainstorming, which is the little black dress of idea generation; it never goes out of fashion. It almost feels wrong to walk into an agency and not see some form of mind map on a whiteboard somewhere.

The key to mind mapping is to take note of every idea that comes up. Don’t neglect anything, no matter how far-fetched it may seem. Save the critical selection process for later. Generate as many ideas as possible; the more you jot down, the bigger chance of finding that golden ticket idea.

The end result will be much easier to visualise, compared to a static list.

When it comes to a brainstorm – the more brains, the more ideas! But it can be hard to manage larger groups of people without going off-piste and wasting time. This is where the Charette Procedure comes into play as a super-useful way to manage more brains. This approach works by organising your attendees into smaller groups, and then assigning a topic to each of those groups. You can then switch the topics and collate all the ideas at the end. This approach can also help shy members of the group pitch in, as they’re not in a room with 20 (or more) other people.

2.    The Checklist

Young children are amazingly creative. Their curiosity, imagination and thirst for knowledge seem boundless. They ask questions about everything because practically everything is new to them. If you’ve ever played the ‘Why?’ game with a kid, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about*. It’s infuriating, yet surprisingly enlightening.

As we get older, we tend to stop asking so many questions. We accept a lot more, because it’s all been explained to us before. Perhaps it’s because of this, that adults are stereotypically perceived as having very little imagination.

Maybe if we asked more questions, our content might be a little bit more imaginative. This is where the checklist technique can help. This is essentially a list of questions that you should ask yourself before beginning your work.

Alex Osborn, who is often coined as the father of brainstorming, established around 75 creative questions to help encourage ideas in his fantastic book, Applied Imagination . It’s well worth a read if you can get hold of it, but to give you a head start, there are six universal questions that can be asked:

Ask yourself these questions (in some form) every time you create content, and chances are you’ll come up with some pretty interesting answers. At the very least it will give you more in-depth information about your initial idea, before establishing if it’s worth using in your content strategy.

This is a simple but effective method to use if you get stuck for ideas and if you are struggling to remember the questions, just repeat the original concept from Rudyard Kipling’s – The Elephant Child:

“I Keep six honest serving-men:

(They taught me all I knew)

Their names are What and Where and When

And How and Why and Who”.

3.    Six Thinking Hats

(Disclaimer: This is a technique that could prove potentially confusing to all the SEOs out there, as a few may be a bit weary at the prospect of wearing a black hat)

Developed by Edward de Bono in the early 80s, this popular technique is now used by businesses all over the world. They involve putting on a selection of metaphorical hats when it comes to making a decision. Each hat represents a different direction of thinking.

  • White Hat – Facts – data and information already known or needed relating to the theme
  • Red Hat – Emotions – looks at feelings, initial instinct and intuition
  • Black Hat – Judgement, Caution – looks at potential problems and difficulties
  • Yellow Hat – Logic – looks at benefits and values
  • Green Hat – Creativity – possibilities, new ideas and alternatives
  • Blue Hat – Control – looks at managing the process – start with a focus, then detail the next steps, actions and plans

Space Dog

This method can be used in a group or on your own, and you may find yourself ‘wearing’ more than one hat at once (Of course if you’re really bored you could always physically make the hats for instant entertainment!). You can use the hats to take the ego out of the equation. They let you think and decide on topics in a rational yet creative style.

4.    Lateral Thinking

Another term coined by Dr. de Bono , involves looking at your situation in a different way. The simplest answer is not always right. We solve most problems in a linear fashion, i.e. if something happens it must have been… because of….

We take a step-by-step approach to finding our answers. De Bono encouraged others to look at their situation differently, to step sideways for a second if you will. This allows people to re-examine their predicament from a much more creative point of view.

Say for example you have a client who sells tractors. If you were thinking in a linear fashion, you may feel the need to create content about how great tractors are because you need to sell tractors. Thinking about things laterally though opens up a world of possibilities. Try looking at the bigger picture.

Tractors are a key component of farming, farming produces food and resources. Farms also house animals. A popular children’s rhyme about farm animals is Old McDonald, you may wonder how that rhyme came to be. Why not create creative content around the origin of that rhyme?

That’s just a (very) basic example, but you can clearly see how lateral thinking can be used to help inspire you.

5.    Random Word Generation

I love this technique. Simply pick two random words and try and tie your content to it in the most imaginative way possible. Simple as that.

The real fun part is how you choose to come up with the words. You could use an online generator ; you could flick through a dictionary; or you could write words on a bunch of plastic balls, throw them into the air, and then choose the words on the first two balls you catch. Have fun.

6.    Word Association

Similar to random word association, this method is a little more on the creative side of the spectrum. However, it does allow you to uncover new connections and insights that you wouldn’t normally think of.

Get started by choosing a word that’s associated with your business. Next, think of as many words associated with the initial word and see if you can make a connection between them that fits in with what your business offers.

It can sometimes be a little tricky to make the connection between the words you’ve selected, but after a few attempts, the ideas should start to flow.

So for example you might have made the connection between technology, to hardware, to Apple (brand), to fruit. These associated words can be the inspiration for potential ideas, so take the time to mind map ideas based on such associated words.

You may reject a high number of ideas with this method, although allowing the brain to think less logically can in contrast produce great results.

7.    Picture Association

If you’re truly stuck for ideas, perform an image search on your topic of choice, pick a random photo. Work backwards from the picture, developing a story around how the photo was taken.

As the old adage states: “A picture is worth a thousand words”, so why not use images to your advantage in order to come up with your content ideas?

This is another simple yet effective method that allows you to think more visually and creatively, compared to writing lists. Think about what the images convey and see if you can work these ideas into your content.

For example, if you see a picture of a dog looking up at the night sky, ask yourself what it could be thinking. Is it a stargazing dog? Does that dog secretly long to be an astronaut? Perhaps a story about a space dog would be awesome! In fact, a space dog would make a great mascot for any business so we could look at the best business mascots. So on and so forth.

Space Dog

It might sound different from what you’ve tried before, but it could be the winning ticket to finding that killer content idea.

8.    Change Perspective

This can often be hard to do but try putting yourself in other people’s shoes. Sometimes you can get too attached to your own work, I know I always do it. You may be too close to notice that there are faults visible from afar.

Share your ideas with others and get a fresh pair of eyes to look at your work. Encourage constructive criticism, you don’t have to take it all on board, but it may offer up some seriously beneficial observations.

As the world of work changed considerably when Covid19 hit we all had to find additional ways of coming up with creative content ideas and so we’ve popped in a few bonus extras from the team

Get up and go out.

People underestimate the value of being bored. If you work around screens all day it can often prove both relaxing and rewarding to just get up and walk about for a bit. Let your mind wander instead of focussing on a task so hard it hurts.

Take a walk around your local green space, indulge yourself in your own personal contemplation montage as you skim rocks across a pond. Let the miracle of nature, and that brief moment of what is hopefully peace and quiet, inspire and energise you.

Similarly, many believe that the practice of meditation, clearing their mind of all thoughts and allowing themselves to be at peace, is a fantastic method to help spur creativity. Although I’ve never personally tried it, I can see how people might find it rewarding.

Reframing works by changing an interpretation in order to see something in a different way or ‘frame’. Whether it’s a behaviour, object, situation, event or anything else you want to focus on, use the below questions to determine new interpretations:

  • Meaning: could it mean something entirely different?
  • Context: could it be useful somewhere else?
  • Humour: is there a funny side?
  • Silver lining: are there any opportunities that arise from this problem?
  • Different points of view: what does it mean to other people?

Key Dates, Events and Seasonality

List all of the key dates and events throughout the year specific to your industry that are worth creating content around. You may want to start adding these to a calendar, so you can see them at a glance.

Come up with a second list of brainstorming ideas around any products or services that you could push at different times of the year to reflect trends in seasonality.

Once you’re done, it’s worth seeing if you can combine any of the key dates and events with seasonality trends to form the basis of your content ideas.

Creative Content Problems and Solutions

Instead of thinking of new ideas from scratch, use your most valuable business asset to your advantage – your customers.

How do you achieve creative content ideas with the help of your customers? Simple – all you need to do is ask or keep a record of all the problems/questions they’ve had previously regarding your products and services. You can even brainstorm some of these from past experiences or by putting yourself in the customers’ shoes and looking at the potential issues from their perspective.

Once you’re done, aim to offer solutions to each individual problem within the content that you create. One example of this method for a technology company could be as follows:

Problem: Customers don’t know if the company’s software works on their device

Solution: Create an Infographic or blog post that details which software is compatible with which device

Idee Konzept7. The 6-5-3 Method

This concept is built around having six people in a group spending five minutes to come up with three ideas on a piece of paper. However, this can be altered, depending on the number of people in your team and the time you wish to dedicate to your idea creation.

After the time is up, the paper is passed to the person on your right and the process is repeated again in the designated time until the first piece of paper you wrote on comes back to you.

Having to think creatively under pressure is an excellent way to detail all of the initial ideas that come to you, no matter how far-fetched and imaginative they seem. It’s also a great one to do if your team are remote workers – you don’t all need to be in the same room, you can use virtual post-it notes or Slack to ‘pass’ the piece of paper to one another.

When you end up with the same piece of paper, take a look at everyone’s ideas collectively and select the best ones to run with.

Let’s Get Tooled Up

Remember that when it comes to conjuring ideas, you’re limited only by your imagination. Don’t hold back either, even the worst of ideas may have some use. The more ideas you generate, the bigger your chances of finding the right solution.

If your idea pool is somehow still running dry after trying all of these techniques, then there are also plenty of online tools to help inspire you.

Übersuggest shows you the most popular keywords related to your search query, providing fantastic inspiration for topics to cover.

Google Trends will show you up-to-date information on what people are searching for, and for an awesome visualisation of what the world is searching for, check this out .

Portent’s Content Idea Generator will generate random titles around your content in order to inspire you. It can generate some pretty out-there ideas as well:

Portent Content Generator

Content Strategy Generator from SEO Gadget is a really invaluable tool to have in your arsenal, as it gives you tons of information related to your relevant keywords.

With these tools, and the above techniques, you should be unstoppable when it comes to coming up with ideas.

If you’re on the opposite side of the spectrum, and you’re struggling to end your article, you could always bow out Sopranos style and just finish the content mid…

…only kidding.

Do you use a particular technique to generate content ideas? Are there any of the ideas above that you particularly favour, or any that you hadn’t heard of before? Let me know your thoughts in comments below.

*The Why Game: Begin by asking why something is the way it is, then proceeding to further ask “Why?” after every answer your colleague gives. “Because it is!” is not an acceptable answer, no matter how loud it is screamed at you.

If you need help with your own content ideation, speak to Koozai today to see how we can help, and make sure to check out our free whitepaper or our Content Marketing Training Course

Image Credits:

Thinking Women from Bigstock Portent Content Idea Generator from Portent Six Hats by Koozai Space Dog by Koozai

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Sophie roberts, managing director.

As MD, Sophie ensures smooth sailing at Koozai HQ and oversees digital strategy across all our clients. A seasoned marketer with over 28 years’ experience, Sophie has delivered hundreds of effective marketing solutions for leading brands including Golden Wonder, Airfix & Humbrol, and Victorinox Swiss Army Knives. A big foodie and a self-confessed geek, Sophie treats every day like a school day. She's business driven and solution focused, priding herself on being able to make digital simple. Providing digital solutions to your business issues is what motivates her. Sophie has appeared in The Business Magazine, Portsmouth News, The Daily Echo, Yahoo News, The Caterer & HVP Magazine.

Sophie Roberts

Cedrick Clyde M Cuyos 30th May 2023

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critical and creative thinking tools

Stacey Cavagnetto 31st May 2023

Thank you :)

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Arena Animation 4th August 2017

Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing. Thanks for more tools for creativity.

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Riannah 3rd March 2016

I loved this post. I especially love the idea of the 6 thinking hats. When coming up with content I try to brainstorm using various techniques to map out my ideas.

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Harry Gardiner 2nd August 2013

Thanks Maddie, glad you enjoyed the post.

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Maddie Rose 31st July 2013

Great ideas Harry, found this very useful so thanks!

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Chloe Williamson 30th July 2013

Some really great ideas here, I’ll definitely consider using them in the future! The six hats technique reminds me a lot of the Charette Procedure, it’s well worth looking into if you haven’t already.

critical and creative thinking tools

Harry Gardiner 31st July 2013

Hey Chloe, Thanks I’m glad you like the ideas, they really do come in handy. I hadn’t heard of the Charette Procedure until now, but from what I can gather from some quick research it’s essentially a huge brainstorming session with loads of people organised into groups? It sounds like a really interesting way to organise large scale discussions, and generate loads of ideas, thanks for the tip.

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Stephen Kenwright 19th July 2013

I like this a lot Harry, really useful. I tend to literally just sit and hammer out some ideas, and then do some word association, so I’m always willing to try more techniques.

My favourite is to think of a problem the product I’m working with might solve, and then search Twitter. Often people use it to vent frustration with content they just can’t find.

Harry Gardiner 22nd July 2013

Thanks Stephen, I hope these help. Twitter is an invaluable tool when it comes to idea generation. It’s great for gaging public opinion and finding random suggestions for content.

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Thad James 18th July 2013

These are great ways to awaken the creative processes! Mind mapping is very powerful and best used when all electronic distractions are turned off.

I often get inspiration from the children I entertain. Their questions are wonderful and imaginative.

Thanks for giving us more tools for creativity.

Harry Gardiner 18th July 2013

Hi Thad, That’s a great idea about turning devices off when mind mapping. Relying solely on what your brain can bring to the table is bound to generate some really interesting ideas.

You must have some enthralling stories about the random questions that children ask. Glad you liked the article.

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Nick Stamoulis of Brick Marketing 16th July 2013

I’m a big fan of “get up and go out.” Unplugging from your desk for a few minutes can really help recharge your batteries in hopes of finding new inspiration for content and other marketing ideas. In fact, some of our best blog post ideas come from casual conversations held around the water cooler.

It’s so true, just letting your mind wander for a moment can generate some wonderful ideas. Many of these techniques work incredibly well together, for example getting up and going out whilst also discussing topics with others, or changing your perspective, can bring about fantastic ideas as well.

What do you think?

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Preparing Creative and Critical Thinkers

Creative thinking, critical thinking, habits of the mind for generating ideas, habits of the mind for focusing ideas, the problem solver's basic toolbox, preparing students for a changing world.

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  • They can view live images from every corner of the world and talk with or exchange video images with other young people who live many time zones away.
  • They have more technology in their classrooms (and in many cases, in their backpacks) than existed in the workplaces of their parents 20 years ago.
  • They will study subjects that were unknown when their teachers and parents were students, and they may well enter careers that do not exist today.
  • In contrast with most of their parents, more of today's young people will routinely come into contact with other people of diverse backgrounds and experiences. They will grow up to interact, collaborate, and compete with others around the globe.
  • Defer judgment . When generating options, productive thinkers separate generating from judging. They direct their effort and energy to producing possibilities that can be judged later.
  • Seek quantity . The more options a person or group generates, the greater the likelihood that at least some of those possibilities will be intriguing and potentially useful.
  • Encourage all possibilities . Even possibilities that seem wild or silly might serve as a springboard for someone to make an original and powerful new connection.
  • Look for combinations . It is often possible to increase the quantity and quality of options by building on the thinking of others or by seeing new combinations that may be stronger than any of their parts.
  • Use affirmative judgment . When focusing their thinking, productive thinkers examine options carefully but constructively, placing more emphasis on screening, supporting, or selecting options than on criticizing them.
  • Be deliberate . Effective focusing takes into consideration the purpose of focusing. Is it to select a single solution, to rank order or prioritize several options, to examine ideas carefully with very detailed criteria, to refine or strengthen options, or to create a sequence of steps or actions? Each of these purposes might be best served by a specific focusing tool.
  • Consider novelty . If the stated goal is to find a novel or original solution or response, then it is important to focus deliberately on that dimension when evaluating possible solutions, and not simply to fall back on the easiest or most familiar options within a list.
  • Stay on course . When focusing, it is important to keep the goals and purposes of the task clearly in sight and to ensure that you evaluate the options in relation to their relevance and importance for the goal.

Preparing Creative and Critical Thinkers - table

  • Attribute Listing. Understanding the important elements or parts of a topic being studied (for example, the major attributes of a country or civilization in social studies, the major elements of a story, or the characteristics of the main characters in a novel).
  • Brainstorming. Identifying varied or unusual ways to make people aware of the importance of voting. Generating many possible math problems that could be constructed from a given set of data, events, or circumstances. Listing many ways to promote recycling or conservation.
  • Evaluation Matrix. Evaluating choices or possible courses of action faced by people or groups in literature or social studies units (for example, in a film the students have viewed or a story they have read). Judging and choosing one of several possible themes, plots, or endings for a story or dramatic scene.
  • Sequencing: SML. Investigating career preparation (for instance, "If you want to become a ____, the steps or stages in your preparation should include … "). Understanding and ordering the stages or chronology in an event or process (for example, the steps in an experiment or the sequence of certain measurements to be taken on a set of data).

Enrichment Programs That Foster Creativity and Problem Solving

Future problem solving program.

  Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI) is a nonprofit educational corporation administering creative problem-solving activities for students in grades K-12. More than 250,000 students in several countries participate annually in competitive and noncompetitive activities in creative problem-solving. Students or teams may participate in the junior division (grades 4–6); the middle division (grades 7–9); or the senior division (grades 10–12). FPSPI selects five topics each year, and students participate in team problem solving, community problem solving, or scenario writing. The topics for 2008–09 are Olympic Games, cyber conflict, space junk, counterfeit economy, and pandemic .

Destination ImagiNation

The Destination ImagiNation flagship program is a process-based program that helps young people build lifelong skills in creative and critical thinking, teamwork, time management, and problem solving. Up to seven participants work together as a team for 8–12 weeks to create their solution to a team challenge, which can have a theatrical, structural, improvisational, scientific, or technical focus. Teams also learn and practice quick-thinking skills for the Instant Challenge portion of the program.

Kopcak, T. (2007). Applying thinking tools to high school seniors' research papers. Creative Learning Today, 15 (3), 3.

Treffinger, D. J. (2007). Applying CPS tools in school: Thinking in action. Creative Learning Today, 15 (3), 2.

Treffinger, D. J., Isaksen, S. G., & Stead-Dorval, K. B. (2006). Creative problem solving: An introduction (4th ed.). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Treffinger, D. J., & Nassab, C. A. (2005). Thinking tool guides (Rev. ed.). Sarasota, FL: Center for Creative Learning.

Treffinger, D. J., Nassab, C. A., Schoonover, P. F., Selby, E. C., Shepardson, C. A., Wittig, C. V., & Young, G. C. (2004a). Thinking with standards: Preparing for the future (Elementary ed.). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Treffinger, D. J., Nassab, C. A., Schoonover, P. F., Selby, E. C., Shepardson, C. A., Wittig, C. V., & Young, G. C. (2004b). Thinking with standards: Preparing for the future (Middle ed.). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Treffinger, D. J., Nassab, C. A., Schoonover, P. F., Selby, E. C., Shepardson, C. A., Wittig, C. V., & Young, G. C. (2004c). Thinking with standards: Preparing for the future (Secondary ed.). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Treffinger, D. J., Nassab, C. A., Schoonover, P. F., Selby, E. C., Shepardson, C. A., Wittig, C. V., & Young, G. C. (2006). The CPS Kit. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

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Donald J. Treffinger is President of the Center for Creative Learning.

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The Peak Performance Center

The Peak Performance Center

The pursuit of performance excellence, critical thinking vs. creative thinking, critical thinking vs. creative thinking.

Creative thinking is a way of looking at problems or situations from a fresh perspective to conceive of something new or original.

critical thinking is the logical, sequential disciplined process of rationalizing, analyzing, evaluating, and interpreting information to make informed judgments and/or decisions.

Critical Thinking vs. Creative Thinking – Key Differences

  • Creative thinking tries to create something new, while critical thinking seeks to assess worth or validity of something that already exists.
  • Creative thinking is generative, while critical thinking is analytical .
  • Creative thinking is divergent, while critical thinking is convergent.
  • Creative thinking is focused on possibilities, while critical thinking is focused on probability.
  • Creative thinking is accomplished by disregarding accepted principles, while critical thinking is accomplished by applying accepted principles.


About Creative Thinking

Creative thinking is a process utilized to generate lists of new, varied and unique ideas or possibilities. Creative thinking brings a fresh perspective and sometimes unconventional solution to solve a problem or address a challenge.  When you are thinking creatively, you are focused on exploring ideas, generating possibilities, and/or developing various theories.

Creative thinking can be performed both by an unstructured process such as brainstorming , or by a structured process such as lateral thinking .

Brainstorming is the process for generating unique ideas and solutions through spontaneous and freewheeling group discussion. Participants are encouraged to think aloud and suggest as many ideas as they can, no matter how outlandish it may seem.

Lateral thinking uses a systematic process that leads to logical conclusions. However, it involves changing a standard thinking sequence and arriving at a solution from completely different angles.

No matter what process you chose, the ultimate goal is to generate ideas that are unique, useful and worthy of further elaboration. Often times, critical thinking is performed after creative thinking has generated various possibilities. Critical thinking is used to vet those ideas to determine if they are practical.

Creative Thinking Skills

  • Open-mindedness
  • flexibility
  • Imagination
  • Adaptability
  • Risk-taking
  • Originality
  • Elaboration
  • Brainstorming

Critical Thinking header

About Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the process of actively analyzing, interpreting, synthesizing, evaluating information gathered from observation, experience, or communication. It is thinking in a clear, logical, reasoned, and reflective manner to make informed judgments and/or decisions.

Critical thinking involves the ability to:

  • remain objective

In general, critical thinking is used to make logical well-formed decisions after analyzing and evaluating information and/or an array of ideas.

On a daily basis, it can be used for a variety of reasons including:

  • to form an argument
  • to articulate and justify a position or point of view
  • to reduce possibilities to convergent toward a single answer
  • to vet creative ideas to determine if they are practical
  • to judge an assumption
  • to solve a problem
  • to reach a conclusion

Critical Thinking Skills

  • Interpreting
  • Integrating
  • Contrasting
  • Classifying
  • Forecasting
  • Hypothesizing

critical and creative thinking tools

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  • F-10 curriculum
  • General capabilities
  • Critical and Creative Thinking

Critical and Creative Thinking (Version 8.4)

In the Australian Curriculum, students develop capability in critical and creative thinking as they learn to generate and evaluate knowledge, clarify concepts and ideas, seek possibilities, consider alternatives and solve problems. Critical and creative thinking involves students thinking broadly and deeply using skills, behaviours and dispositions such as reason, logic, resourcefulness, imagination and innovation in all learning areas at school and in their lives beyond school.

Thinking that is productive, purposeful and intentional is at the centre of effective learning. By applying a sequence of thinking skills, students develop an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the processes they can use whenever they encounter problems, unfamiliar information and new ideas. In addition, the progressive development of knowledge about thinking and the practice of using thinking strategies can increase students’ motivation for, and management of, their own learning. They become more confident and autonomous problem-solvers and thinkers.

Responding to the challenges of the twenty-first century – with its complex environmental, social and economic pressures – requires young people to be creative, innovative, enterprising and adaptable, with the motivation, confidence and skills to use critical and creative thinking purposefully.

This capability combines two types of thinking: critical thinking and creative thinking. Though the two are not interchangeable, they are strongly linked, bringing complementary dimensions to thinking and learning.

Critical thinking is at the core of most intellectual activity that involves students learning to recognise or develop an argument, use evidence in support of that argument, draw reasoned conclusions, and use information to solve problems. Examples of critical thinking skills are interpreting, analysing, evaluating, explaining, sequencing, reasoning, comparing, questioning, inferring, hypothesising, appraising, testing and generalising.

Creative thinking involves students learning to generate and apply new ideas in specific contexts, seeing existing situations in a new way, identifying alternative explanations, and seeing or making new links that generate a positive outcome. This includes combining parts to form something original, sifting and refining ideas to discover possibilities, constructing theories and objects, and acting on intuition. The products of creative endeavour can involve complex representations and images, investigations and performances, digital and computer-generated output, or occur as virtual reality.

Concept formation is the mental activity that helps us compare, contrast and classify ideas, objects, and events. Concept learning can be concrete or abstract and is closely allied with metacognition. What has been learnt can be applied to future examples. It underpins the organising elements.

Dispositions such as inquisitiveness, reasonableness, intellectual flexibility, open- and fair-mindedness, a readiness to try new ways of doing things and consider alternatives, and persistence promote and are enhanced by critical and creative thinking.

critical and creative thinking tools

The key ideas for Critical and Creative Thinking are organised into four interrelated elements in the learning continuum, as shown in the figure below.

Inquiring – identifying, exploring and organising information and ideas

critical and creative thinking tools

Organising elements for Critical and Creative Thinking 

The elements are not a taxonomy of thinking. Rather, each makes its own contribution to learning and needs to be explicitly and simultaneously developed.

This element involves students developing inquiry skills.

Students pose questions and identify and clarify information and ideas, and then organise and process information. They use questioning to investigate and analyse ideas and issues, make sense of and assess information and ideas, and collect, compare and evaluate information from a range of sources. In developing and acting with critical and creative thinking, students:

  • pose questions
  • identify and clarify information and ideas
  • organise and process information.

Generating ideas, possibilities and actions

This element involves students creating ideas and actions, and considering and expanding on known actions and ideas.

Students imagine possibilities and connect ideas through considering alternatives, seeking solutions and putting ideas into action. They explore situations and generate alternatives to guide actions and experiment with and assess options and actions when seeking solutions. In developing and acting with critical and creative thinking, students:

  • imagine possibilities and connect ideas
  • consider alternatives
  • seek solutions and put ideas into action.

Reflecting on thinking and processes

This element involves students reflecting on, adjusting and explaining their thinking and identifying the thinking behind choices, strategies and actions taken.

Students think about thinking (metacognition), reflect on actions and processes, and transfer knowledge into new contexts to create alternatives or open up possibilities. They apply knowledge gained in one context to clarify another. In developing and acting with critical and creative thinking, students:

  • think about thinking (metacognition)
  • reflect on processes
  • transfer knowledge into new contexts.

Analysing, synthesising and evaluating reasoning and procedures

This element involves students analysing, synthesising and evaluating the reasoning and procedures used to find solutions, evaluate and justify results or inform courses of action.

Students identify, consider and assess the logic and reasoning behind choices. They differentiate components of decisions made and actions taken and assess ideas, methods and outcomes against criteria. In developing and acting with critical and creative thinking, students:

  • apply logic and reasoning
  • draw conclusions and design a course of action
  • evaluate procedures and outcomes.

Critical and Creative Thinking in the learning areas

The imparting of knowledge (content) and the development of thinking skills are accepted today as primary purposes of education. The explicit teaching and embedding of critical and creative thinking throughout the learning areas encourages students to engage in higher order thinking. By using logic and imagination, and by reflecting on how they best tackle issues, tasks and challenges, students are increasingly able to select from a range of thinking strategies and use them selectively and spontaneously in an increasing range of learning contexts.

Activities that foster critical and creative thinking should include both independent and collaborative tasks, and entail some sort of transition or tension between ways of thinking. They should be challenging and engaging, and contain approaches that are within the ability range of the learners, but also challenge them to think logically, reason, be open-minded, seek alternatives, tolerate ambiguity, inquire into possibilities, be innovative risk-takers and use their imagination.

Critical and creative thinking can be encouraged simultaneously through activities that integrate reason, logic, imagination and innovation; for example, focusing on a topic in a logical, analytical way for some time, sorting out conflicting claims, weighing evidence, thinking through possible solutions, and then, following reflection and perhaps a burst of creative energy, coming up with innovative and considered responses. Critical and creative thinking are communicative processes that develop flexibility and precision. Communication is integral to each of the thinking processes. By sharing thinking, visualisation and innovation, and by giving and receiving effective feedback, students learn to value the diversity of learning and communication styles.

The learning area or subject with the highest proportion of content descriptions tagged with Critical and Creative Thinking is placed first in the list.

F-6/7 Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS)

In the F–6/7 Australian Curriculum: Humanities and Social Sciences, students develop critical and creative thinking capability as they learn how to build discipline-specific knowledge about history, geography, civics and citizenship, and economics and business. Students learn and practise critical and creative thinking as they pose questions, research, analyse, evaluate and communicate information, concepts and ideas.

Students identify, explore and determine questions to clarify social issues and events, and apply reasoning, interpretation and analytical skills to data and information. Critical thinking is essential to the historical inquiry process because it requires the ability to question sources, interpret the past from incomplete documentation, assess reliability when selecting information from resources, and develop an argument using evidence. Students develop critical thinking through geographical investigations that help them think logically when evaluating and using evidence, testing explanations, analysing arguments and making decisions, and when thinking deeply about questions that do not have straightforward answers. Students learn to critically evaluate texts about people, places, events, processes and issues, including consumer and financial, for shades of meaning, feeling and opinion, by identifying subjective language, bias, fact and opinion, and how language and images can be used to manipulate meaning. They develop civic knowledge by considering multiple perspectives and alternatives, and reflecting on actions, values and attitudes, thus informing their decision-making and the strategies they choose to negotiate and resolve differences.

Students develop creative thinking through the examination of social, political, legal, civic, environmental and economic issues, past and present, that that are contested, do not have obvious or straightforward answers, and that require problem-solving and innovative solutions. Creative thinking is important in developing creative questions, speculation and interpretations during inquiry. Students are encouraged to be curious and imaginative in investigations and fieldwork, and to explore relevant imaginative texts.

Critical and creative thinking is essential for imagining probable, possible and preferred futures in relation to social, environmental, economic and civic sustainability and issues. Students think creatively about appropriate courses of action and develop plans for personal and collective action. They develop enterprising behaviours and capabilities to imagine possibilities, consider alternatives, test hypotheses, and seek and create innovative solutions, and think creatively about the impact of issues on their own lives and the lives of others.

7-10 History

In the Australian Curriculum: History, critical thinking is essential to the historical inquiry process because it requires the ability to question sources, interpret the past from incomplete documentation, develop an argument using evidence, and assess reliability when selecting information from resources. Creative thinking is important in developing new interpretations to explain aspects of the past that are contested or not well understood.

7-10 Geography

In the Australian Curriculum: Geography, students develop critical and creative thinking as they investigate geographical information, concepts and ideas through inquiry-based learning. They develop and practise critical and creative thinking by using strategies that help them think logically when evaluating and using evidence, testing explanations, analysing arguments and making decisions, and when thinking deeply about questions that do not have straightforward answers. Students learn the value and process of developing creative questions and the importance of speculation. Students are encouraged to be curious and imaginative in investigations and fieldwork. The geography curriculum also stimulates students to think creatively about the ways that the places and spaces they use might be better designed, and about possible, probable and preferable futures.

7-10 Civics and Citizenship

In the Australian Curriculum: Civics and Citizenship, students develop critical thinking skills in their investigation of Australia’s democratic system of government. They learn to apply decision-making processes and use strategies to negotiate and resolve differences. Students develop critical and creative thinking through the examination of political, legal and social issues that do not have obvious or straightforward answers and that require problem-solving and innovative solutions. Students consider multiple perspectives and alternatives, think creatively about appropriate courses of action and develop plans for action. The Australian Curriculum: Civics and Citizenship stimulates students to think creatively about the impact of civic issues on their own lives and the lives of others, and to consider how these issues might be addressed.

7-10 Economics and Business

In the Australian Curriculum: Economics and Business, students develop their critical and creative thinking as they identify, explore and determine questions to clarify economics and business issues and/or events and apply reasoning, interpretation and analytical skills to data and/or information. They develop enterprising behaviours and capabilities to imagine possibilities, consider alternatives, test hypotheses, and seek and create innovative solutions to economics and business issues and/or events.

In the Australian Curriculum: The Arts, critical and creative thinking is integral to making and responding to artworks. In creating artworks, students draw on their curiosity, imagination and thinking skills to pose questions and explore ideas, spaces, materials and technologies. They consider possibilities and make choices that assist them to take risks and express their ideas, concepts, thoughts and feelings creatively. They consider and analyse the motivations, intentions and possible influencing factors and biases that may be evident in artworks they make to which they respond. They offer and receive effective feedback about past and present artworks and performances, and communicate and share their thinking, visualisation and innovations to a variety of audiences.


In the Australian Curriculum: Technologies, students develop capability in critical and creative thinking as they imagine, generate, develop and critically evaluate ideas. They develop reasoning and the capacity for abstraction through challenging problems that do not have straightforward solutions. Students analyse problems, refine concepts and reflect on the decision-making process by engaging in systems, design and computational thinking. They identify, explore and clarify technologies information and use that knowledge in a range of situations.

Students think critically and creatively about possible, probable and preferred futures. They consider how data, information, systems, materials, tools and equipment (past and present) impact on our lives, and how these elements might be better designed and managed. Experimenting, drawing, modelling, designing and working with digital tools, equipment and software helps students to build their visual and spatial thinking and to create solutions, products, services and environments.

Health and Physical Education 

In the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education (HPE), students develop their ability to think logically, critically and creatively in response to a range of health and physical education issues, ideas and challenges. They learn how to critically evaluate evidence related to the learning area and the broad range of associated media and other messages to creatively generate and explore original alternatives and possibilities. In the HPE curriculum, students’ critical and creative thinking skills are developed through learning experiences that encourage them to pose questions and seek solutions to health issues by exploring and designing appropriate strategies to promote and advocate personal, social and community health and wellbeing. Students also use critical thinking to examine their own beliefs and challenge societal factors that negatively influence their own and others’ identity, health and wellbeing.

The Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education also provides learning opportunities that support creative thinking through dance making, games creation and technique refinement. Students develop understanding of the processes associated with creating movement and reflect on their body’s responses and their feelings about these movement experiences. Including a critical inquiry approach is one of the five propositions that have shaped the HPE curriculum.

Critical and creative thinking are essential to developing analytical and evaluative skills and understandings in the Australian Curriculum: English. Students use critical and creative thinking through listening to, reading, viewing, creating and presenting texts, interacting with others, and when they recreate and experiment with literature, and discuss the aesthetic or social value of texts. Through close analysis of text and through reading, viewing and listening, students critically analyse the opinions, points of view and unstated assumptions embedded in texts. In discussion, students develop critical thinking as they share personal responses and express preferences for specific texts, state and justify their points of view and respond to the views of others.

In creating their own written, visual and multimodal texts, students also explore the influence or impact of subjective language, feeling and opinion on the interpretation of text. Students also use and develop their creative thinking capability when they consider the innovations made by authors, imagine possibilities, plan, explore and create ideas for imaginative texts based on real or imagined events. Students explore the creative possibilities of the English language to represent novel ideas.

Learning in the Australian Curriculum: Languages enables students to interact with people and ideas from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, which enhances critical thinking and reflection, and encourages creative, divergent and imaginative thinking. By learning to notice, connect, compare and analyse aspects of the target language, students develop critical, analytical and problem-solving skills.


In the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics, students develop critical and creative thinking as they learn to generate and evaluate knowledge, ideas and possibilities, and use them when seeking solutions. Engaging students in reasoning and thinking about solutions to problems and the strategies needed to find these solutions are core parts of the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics.

Students are encouraged to be critical thinkers when justifying their choice of a calculation strategy or identifying relevant questions during a statistical investigation. They are encouraged to look for alternative ways to approach mathematical problems; for example, identifying when a problem is similar to a previous one, drawing diagrams or simplifying a problem to control some variables.

In the Australian Curriculum: Science, students develop capability in critical and creative thinking as they learn to generate and evaluate knowledge, ideas and possibilities, and use them when seeking new pathways or solutions. In the science learning area, critical and creative thinking are embedded in the skills of posing questions, making predictions, speculating, solving problems through investigation, making evidence-based decisions, and analysing and evaluating evidence. Students develop understandings of concepts through active inquiry that involves planning and selecting appropriate information, evaluating sources of information to formulate conclusions and to critically reflect on their own and the collective process.

Creative thinking enables the development of ideas that are new to the individual, and this is intrinsic to the development of scientific understanding. Scientific inquiry promotes critical and creative thinking by encouraging flexibility and open-mindedness as students speculate about their observations of the world and the ability to use and design new processes to achieve this. Students’ conceptual understanding becomes more sophisticated as they actively acquire an increasingly scientific view of their world and the ability to examine it from new perspectives.

Work Studies

In the Australian Curriculum: Work Studies, Years 9–10, students develop an ability to think logically, critically and creatively in relation to concepts of work and workplaces contexts. These capabilities are developed through an emphasis on critical thinking processes that encourage students to question assumptions and empower them to create their own understanding of work and personal and workplace learning.

Students’ creative thinking skills are developed and practised through learning opportunities that encourage innovative, entrepreneurial and project-based activities, supporting creative responses to workplace, professional and industrial problems. Students also learn to respond to strategic and problem-based challenges using creative thinking. For example, a student could evaluate possible job scenarios based on local labour market data and personal capabilities.

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8 Most Popular Free Critical Thinking Resources and Tools

Free Critical Thinking Resources

Free critical thinking resources and tools

Are you interested in the importance of improving critical thinking skills and mindset,  then, you’ll want to save this list of popular free resources., here are eight of insight assessment’s most used  critical thinking resources for teachers, trainers and others who are involved in developing learning outcomes assessment projects..

Feel free to download and use these teaching and training tools in your work to promote improved thinking in students and adults:

  • Critical Thinking: What it is and Why it Counts PDF: The most recent version of Dr. Peter Facione’s white paper, explores the meaning and importance of critical thinking in all aspects of life and work;
  • Characteristics of Strong Critical Thinkers: Based on the APA Expert Consensus Delphi Report description of strong critical thinkers;
  • Cultivating a Critical Thinking Mindset PDF : Essay suggests specific practices people can do to develop strong critical thinking habits of mind;
  • Fifteen Positive Examples of Critical Thinking : 10 opportunities in daily life to engage problems and decisions using strong thinking skills and mindset;
  • 18 Ways Strong Thinking Skills are Applied in Business ;
  • Strategies to Promote Critical Thinking Through Active Learning ways to engage students & trainees in successful skills development and to reinforce a positive thinking mindset;
  • Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric: A rating measure that can be used to assess observable critical thinking demonstrated by presentations, essays, projects etc. Available in translations;
  • Sample Critical Thinking Questions: Examples that illustrate the types of situations which might appear on a generic adult level reasoning skills test.

Be sure to check out the rest of the free Resources on the Insight Assessment website.

We make these teaching, training and learning tools available as part of our commitment to supporting the measurement and improvement of good thinking worldwide.

Keep in touch!

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Encouraging Meaningful Reflection With Creative Digital Tools 

Tools for creating digital portfolios, video, and books can help teachers turn meaningful reflection into a critical part of the learning process. 

Photo of elementary students working together in classroom

Asking learners to reflect on their learning is a well-established practice for boosting student confidence and allowing educators to better understand learners. But did you know it can also improve critical thinking , help students develop a growth mindset, and support self-regulation?

During a typical busy class day, however, meaningful reflection often falls to the wayside. Luckily, students can gain both social and emotional and academic benefits through tech-infused multimedia reflections. Using digital tools, many of which are already popular in schools, students can utilize text, video, audio, and more to create a perpetual record of their goals and learning experiences. 

These practices fit into any grade level, curriculum, and time constraint, and learners are able to express their feelings and record their triumphs in a variety of mediums. Based on our experience as teachers and coaches, here are a few of our top tips for getting started.

Establish A Consistent Routine

In order to see the full, positive benefits of reflection, students should be doing it regularly. When reflection is established as part of the classroom repertoire from the start of the school year, students will be able to recognize their growth on a more consistent basis, and logistics will become second nature.

Formative assessments that may already be part of the classroom practice can be infused with multimedia reflection. Bell ringers and exit tickets can prompt students to wonder about their goals or what they have learned, and Padlet is a great fit for these types of activities. Padlet is a tool that can be used to create a virtual wall where students can post using text, images, pictures, GIFs, audio, and even video in response to your reflection prompt. 

These routines can also span multiple school years using Wakelet , which allows students to create multimedia portfolios consisting of a combination of learning artifacts and reflections. As with Padlet, students can express themselves using a variety of tools, but Wakelet is meant to be revisited and shared over long periods of time.

Individual Self-Assessment

The best way to help students reflect on their learning is to provide them with a process for structured reflection. This helps students evaluate their own learning and set specific future goals. These personal reflections can take the form of more abstract, open journal entries and general conversations, but established rubrics have benefits for both student well-being and content mastery.

Try sharing a combination rubric and feedback sheet via an online platform such as Kami , which allows students to assess their created work on their own terms. Kami lets students interact with feedback sheets by drawing, writing responses, embedding video comments, or recording audio. The rubric might ask them to assess their strengths, provide examples of where they did well, and choose areas to focus on for the future. One of the best parts of using a platform like Kami is the ability to look at previous rubrics and reflections so that students see and embrace their moments of growth.

Collaborative Peer Debriefing 

Sometimes it can be hard to engage students in a reflection process, because they don’t realize it is an important part of the learning cycle. And sometimes it’s hard for teachers to provide timely feedback on each reflection. By adding a layer of peer feedback to the process, teachers enable student to build soft skills such as communication, empathy, and teamwork, while putting closure on a learning cycle. 

When initiating peer feedback in your classroom, it is important to set the stage by creating a culture of support. Providing students with protocols and sentence stems that they can use when engaging with peers is essential in introducing feedback cycles and building academic vocabulary.

Padlet and Flip both allow students to respond to peer reflections. With Padlet, students can respond to each other using text or a star/thumbs-up rating, similar to “likes” on social media. With Flip, students post videos and then respond to one another via comments. (Microsoft’s Immersive Reader, which translates text and provides captioning, is built in to support all types of readers.) Both tools give students an opportunity to practice online discourse and digital citizenship on safe platforms where teachers can intervene if needed. 

Making Reflection Accessible

If we want all students to be able to experience a deep and meaningful reflection, we need to make sure we are creating activities that are accessible to all learners. Here are some ways to develop accessible reflection activities:

  • Using the same tool for reflection consistently. Removing the barrier of having to figure out the tool each time helps students get right into the act of reflecting. This barrier can overwhelm some students, such as emerging readers and Level 1 English language learners. 
  • Providing tools with language options. These include speech-to-text, text-to-speech, and language selection. 
  • Following the Universal Design for Learning framework . This allows students to communicate their reflections in the media that work best for them. Selecting platforms that enable students to choose between text, video, audio, and images promotes student empowerment. 
  • Scaffolding with templates or questions that can help students guide their reflection. 
  • Ensuring that your reflection prompts are culturally relevant. We must know our students’ backgrounds and use that knowledge to make reflection prompts that embrace their cultural and lived experiences. 

Book Creator is another of our favorite platforms for reflection. With Book Creator, students can create digital books, which can be downloaded as an e-book or shared with families online. These books are perfect for long-term reflection projects like portfolios or can be used to make interactive notebooks with embedded reflection. What we love most is that Book Creator is built with accessibility in mind, taking into account those using screen readers or emerging English speakers. 

Reflection is a highly effective educational practice, backed by research and demonstrated by the seminal works of John Dewey , David Kolb , and Donald Schön . In our experience, the relative ease and convenience of digital tools means that meaningful reflection practice can fit into any existing classroom environment.

Best of all, reflection isn’t just for students—educators can profit from it too. As you consider these strategies, try your hand at developing your own reflective mindset using the “3-2-1” method: What are three ideas new to you, two “aha” moments you experienced reading this article, and one action you will take using what you learned? Happy reflecting!

The Synergy of Creative and Critical Thinking

Critical & Creative thinking compared

More elaboration, excerpted from Preparing Creative and Critical Thinkers by Donald J. Treffinger

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Imperial College London

Creative Thinking: Techniques and Tools for Success

Taught in English

Some content may not be translated

Financial aid available

310,564 already enrolled

Gain insight into a topic and learn the fundamentals

Peter Childs

Instructor: Peter Childs

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(3,961 reviews)

Recommended experience

Beginner level

What you'll learn

Understand what creative thinking techniques are

Comprehend their importance in tackling global challenges as well as in everyday problem-solving scenarios

Select and apply the appropriate technique based on the opportunity to seize or the problem to tackle

Skills you'll gain

  • Creative Thinking
  • Problem Solving
  • Brainstorming

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There are 7 modules in this course

In today’s ever-growing and changing world, being able to think creatively and innovatively are essential skills. It can sometimes be challenging to step back and reflect in an environment which is fast paced or when you are required to assimilate large amounts of information. Making sense of or communicating new ideas in an innovative and engaging way, approaching problems from fresh angles, and producing novel solutions are all traits which are highly sought after by employers.

This course will equip you with a ‘tool-box’, introducing you to a selection of behaviours and techniques that will augment your innate creativity. Some of the tools are suited to use on your own and others work well for a group, enabling you to leverage the power of several minds. You can pick and choose which of these tools or techniques suit your needs and interests, focusing on some or all of the selected approaches and in the order that fits best for you. The practical approach of this course enables you to acquire an essential skill-set for generating ideas, with plenty of: - Fun e-tivities and exercises; - Practical lectures and tips; - Video representations of the techniques in action. By the end of this course you should be able to: - Pick a type of brainstorming you think will be useful to apply to a challenge - Use alphabet brainstorming in tackling a challenge - Use grid brainstorming in tackling a challenge - Use a morphological chart to synthesise a solution to a challenge - Use the TRIZ contradiction matrix to identify recommended inventive principles - Apply SCAMPER to a range of challenges The greatest innovators aren’t necessarily the people who have the most original idea. Often, they are people- or teams- that have harnessed their creativity to develop a new perspective or more effective way of communicating an idea. You can train your imagination to seize opportunities, break away from routine and habit, and tap into your natural creativity. Join this course and a community of practitioners in CREATIVITY!

Introduction to the Principles of Creativity

In the first week, we focus on the basic principles of creativity and highlight its importance in tackling global challenges. Creativity is explored and applied at two different levels, lower and higher-level creativity.

What's included

4 videos 8 readings 6 discussion prompts 2 plugins

4 videos • Total 7 minutes

  • Mother and Father of Innovation • 1 minute • Preview module
  • Levels of Creativity • 3 minutes
  • Creative Environments • 1 minute
  • Creative Environments - Part 2 • 0 minutes

8 readings • Total 85 minutes

  • Welcome to the course • 10 minutes
  • Course Structure and Syllabus • 10 minutes
  • Type of Assessments and Grading • 15 minutes
  • About Imperial College London and the Team • 10 minutes
  • How to Be Successful in this Course • 10 minutes
  • Glossary and Helpful Resources • 10 minutes
  • Inspirational Reading • 10 minutes
  • Recycled plastic will soon be the only choice • 10 minutes

6 discussion prompts • Total 70 minutes

  • Nice to meet you! • 20 minutes
  • What is Creativity to You? • 10 minutes
  • Definitions of Creativity • 10 minutes
  • Small "c" creativity • 10 minutes
  • Big "C" Creativity • 10 minutes
  • When are you Creative? • 10 minutes

2 plugins • Total 25 minutes

  • Pre-course Survey • 15 minutes
  • Creativity Values: Drag and Drop • 10 minutes

Creativity Tools

In this week, we will look at how we can augment our creativity using different methods of Brainstorming, a creativity approach that aids the generation of ideas in solving a stated problem. We particularly focus on the application of brainstorming tools in group activities, with the aim of enabling you to understand, evaluate and apply different types of brainstorming techniques in your own context.

2 videos 8 readings 2 quizzes 1 discussion prompt 1 plugin

2 videos • Total 3 minutes

  • Creativity Tools • 1 minute • Preview module
  • Brainstorming • 2 minutes

8 readings • Total 80 minutes

  • Creativity Tools • 10 minutes
  • Top 6 Brainstorming Techniques • 10 minutes
  • The Principles of Brainstorming • 10 minutes
  • Flip chart • 10 minutes
  • Post-it • 10 minutes
  • Alphabet Brainstorming • 10 minutes
  • Brainwriting • 10 minutes
  • Grid Brainstorming • 10 minutes

2 quizzes • Total 40 minutes

  • Knowledge Check: Creativity Tools • 20 minutes
  • Knowledge Check: Grid Brainstorming • 20 minutes

1 discussion prompt • Total 30 minutes

  • Application of Grid Brainstorming • 30 minutes

1 plugin • Total 15 minutes

  • Interactive Gallery: Examples on grid brainstorming • 15 minutes

Thinking Styles

There are many thinking styles which can be helpful in creativity. We will focus on the principles as well as application of a variety of thinking approaches that can be used at both at an individual level and in a group, under various professional and personal situations, allowing you to develop competency and accelerate proficiency in the use of some different thinking styles.

4 videos 5 readings 2 quizzes 1 peer review 2 discussion prompts

4 videos • Total 11 minutes

  • The Value of Diversity • 1 minute • Preview module
  • Principles of various thinking styles • 3 minutes
  • Design Thinking • 4 minutes
  • Different Thinking Styles in Practice • 1 minute

5 readings • Total 50 minutes

  • Introduction • 10 minutes
  • Taking an Evidence Based Approach • 10 minutes
  • Design Thinking - Concrete Canvas • 10 minutes
  • Design Thinking - Omlet • 10 minutes
  • Design Thinking - Farewill • 10 minutes

2 quizzes • Total 35 minutes

  • Taking an Evidence Based Approach • 20 minutes
  • Knowledge Check: Thinking Styles • 15 minutes

1 peer review • Total 45 minutes

  • Thinking Styles in Practice • 45 minutes

2 discussion prompts • Total 25 minutes

  • Article on global warming and climate change • 15 minutes
  • Share your Creativity Style • 10 minutes

Morphological Analysis

You will become familiar with the Principles of Morphological Analysis and learn how to apply it in various life scenarios, from design to developing movie plot-lines, whilst developing a more systematic approach to idea generation.

2 videos 3 readings 1 quiz 2 peer reviews 2 discussion prompts 2 plugins

2 videos • Total 8 minutes

  • Principles of Morphological Analysis • 4 minutes • Preview module
  • Group Application of Plot Line MA • 4 minutes

3 readings • Total 30 minutes

  • Group Application • 10 minutes
  • Morphological Analysis applied to Plot Line • 10 minutes

1 quiz • Total 20 minutes

  • Knowledge Check: Morphological Analysis • 20 minutes

2 peer reviews • Total 150 minutes

  • Application of Morphological Analysis • 60 minutes
  • Plot Line Challenge • 90 minutes

2 discussion prompts • Total 30 minutes

  • Morphological Chart • 20 minutes
  • Production of an Original Morphological Analysis Chart • 10 minutes

2 plugins • Total 30 minutes

  • Interactive Gallery: Examples on Morphological Chart • 15 minutes
  • Interactive Gallery: Examples of Original Morphological Analysi Charts • 15 minutes

TRIZ - the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving

In week 5, we continue to enhance your fluency, flexibility and originality of idea generation by introducing you to another creativity tool called the theory of inventive problem solving (TRIZ). We will particularly focus on application of TRIZ and the TRIZ Contradiction Matrix and how it can be used in problem, both at an individual and in group level.

5 videos 7 readings 3 quizzes 1 discussion prompt 2 plugins

5 videos • Total 21 minutes

  • Short Cut to Experience • 2 minutes • Preview module
  • TRIZ: Principles and Description • 2 minutes
  • Contradiction Matrix • 4 minutes
  • Examples of Application: Contradiction Matrix • 5 minutes
  • Interview With the Expert: Oxford Creativity • 6 minutes

7 readings • Total 80 minutes

  • Introduction to TRIZ and its Tools • 10 minutes
  • TRIZ: 39 Parameters • 10 minutes
  • TRIZ: 40 principles • 10 minutes
  • Contradiction Matrix Grid • 10 minutes
  • Contradiction Matrix: Examples of Application • 10 minutes
  • Inventive solutions to everyday problems • 20 minutes

3 quizzes • Total 60 minutes

  • Application of TRIZ - 1 • 20 minutes
  • Application of TRIZ - 2 • 20 minutes
  • Knowledge Check: TRIZ Principles and Parameters • 20 minutes

1 discussion prompt • Total 20 minutes

  • Share Your Inventive Principles from Application of Triz - 2 • 20 minutes

2 plugins • Total 10 minutes

  • Word cloud • 5 minutes
  • World Cloud - Results • 5 minutes

This week, we will introduce you to the final creativity tool in the course and its importance in generation of ideas and improvement of the existing ones; SCAMPER. You will become familiar with the concepts of SCAMPER and gain proficiency in its application in various unusual, personal or professional situations, whilst inspiring related ideas.

2 videos 2 readings 1 quiz 2 discussion prompts

  • SCAMPER for Architecture • 2 minutes • Preview module
  • Team Innovation Using SCAMPER • 5 minutes

2 readings • Total 20 minutes

  • Introduction to SCAMPER • 10 minutes
  • SCAMPER and use of different Thinking Styles • 10 minutes
  • Knowledge Check: SCAMPER • 20 minutes

2 discussion prompts • Total 20 minutes

  • Application of SCAMPER to the Ocean Plastic Crisis • 10 minutes
  • Using Scamper to Improve Wellbeing • 10 minutes

Using the Tools in Combination

Now that you have mastered a wide range of creativity tools and developed competency in their application over a wide range of situations and domains, we will wrap up by asking you to use these tool in combinations and apply these in context and scenarios that are also related to your own discipline or context. This will help you reinforce the concepts that you have learnt so far and enable you to use the creativity tools freely in problem solving and idea generation.

3 videos 7 readings 1 quiz 2 discussion prompts 1 plugin

3 videos • Total 6 minutes

  • Examples of Application: Circle Brainstorming • 1 minute • Preview module
  • State of the Art Software: B-Link • 2 minutes
  • Peter Childs on Creative Thinking • 1 minute

7 readings • Total 70 minutes

  • Creative Problem Solving • 10 minutes
  • The Double Diamond Model • 10 minutes
  • Circle Brainstorming Steps • 10 minutes
  • E-tivity: B-Link • 10 minutes
  • Course Wrap-up • 10 minutes
  • CTT Newsletters • 10 minutes
  • Knowledge-Check: Overview of Creative Thinking Techniques • 20 minutes
  • Share your B-link! • 10 minutes
  • Reflecting on your own skills and strength • 10 minutes
  • Post-course survey • 15 minutes

Instructor ratings

We asked all learners to give feedback on our instructors based on the quality of their teaching style.

critical and creative thinking tools

Imperial College London is a world top ten university with an international reputation for excellence in science, engineering, medicine and business. located in the heart of London. Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges. Imperial students benefit from a world-leading, inclusive educational experience, rooted in the College’s world-leading research. Our online courses are designed to promote interactivity, learning and the development of core skills, through the use of cutting-edge digital technology.

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Learner reviews

Showing 3 of 3961

3,961 reviews

Reviewed on May 13, 2020

Wonderful Course. Fantastically designed and smartly executed. Loved the whole concept of activities and engagement through various means. Enriched very nicely with good knowledge. Thanks!!

Reviewed on Jul 23, 2020

Amazing to find out that I have been using the Six thinking Hats tool all my adult life and I wasn't even aware of its existence! As an Event Manager, I would definitely be applying many of the tools.

Reviewed on Jun 8, 2020

This course was really amazing. I enjoyed a lot and learned as well! This course helped me to enhance my creativity.... Thanks to Prof. Peter for his amazing lectures with illustrated examples!

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Frequently asked questions

When will i have access to the lectures and assignments.

Access to lectures and assignments depends on your type of enrollment. If you take a course in audit mode, you will be able to see most course materials for free. To access graded assignments and to earn a Certificate, you will need to purchase the Certificate experience, during or after your audit. If you don't see the audit option:

The course may not offer an audit option. You can try a Free Trial instead, or apply for Financial Aid.

The course may offer 'Full Course, No Certificate' instead. This option lets you see all course materials, submit required assessments, and get a final grade. This also means that you will not be able to purchase a Certificate experience.

What will I get if I purchase the Certificate?

When you purchase a Certificate you get access to all course materials, including graded assignments. Upon completing the course, your electronic Certificate will be added to your Accomplishments page - from there, you can print your Certificate or add it to your LinkedIn profile. If you only want to read and view the course content, you can audit the course for free.

What is the refund policy?

You will be eligible for a full refund until two weeks after your payment date, or (for courses that have just launched) until two weeks after the first session of the course begins, whichever is later. You cannot receive a refund once you’ve earned a Course Certificate, even if you complete the course within the two-week refund period. See our full refund policy Opens in a new tab .

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Yes. In select learning programs, you can apply for financial aid or a scholarship if you can’t afford the enrollment fee. If fin aid or scholarship is available for your learning program selection, you’ll find a link to apply on the description page.

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Part Two: You are the President and CEO of You

Thinking Critically and Creatively

Dr. andrew robert baker.

Critical and creative thinking skills are perhaps the most fundamental skills involved in making judgments and solving problems. They are some of the most important skills I have ever developed. I use them everyday and continue to work to improve them both.

The ability to think critically about a matter—to analyze a question, situation, or problem down to its most basic parts—is what helps us evaluate the accuracy and truthfulness of statements, claims, and information we read and hear. It is the sharp knife that, when honed, separates fact from fiction, honesty from lies, and the accurate from the misleading. We all use this skill to one degree or another almost every day. For example, we use critical thinking every day as we consider the latest consumer products and why one particular product is the best among its peers. Is it a quality product because a celebrity endorses it? Because a lot of other people may have used it? Because it is made by one company versus another? Or perhaps because it is made in one country or another? These are questions representative of critical thinking.

The academic setting demands more of us in terms of critical thinking than everyday life. It demands that we evaluate information and analyze a myriad of issues. It is the environment where our critical thinking skills can be the difference between success and failure. In this environment we must consider information in an analytical, critical manner. We must ask questions—What is the source of this information? Is this source an expert one and what makes it so? Are there multiple perspectives to consider on an issue? Do multiple sources agree or disagree on an issue? Does quality research substantiate information or opinion? Do I have any personal biases that may affect my consideration of this information? It is only through purposeful, frequent, intentional questioning such as this that we can sharpen our critical thinking skills and improve as students, learners, and researchers. Developing my critical thinking skills over a twenty year period as a student in higher education enabled me to complete a quantitative dissertation, including analyzing research and completing statistical analysis, and earning my Ph.D. in 2014.

While critical thinking analyzes information and roots out the true nature and facets of problems, it is creative thinking that drives progress forward when it comes to solving these problems. Exceptional creative thinkers are people that invent new solutions to existing problems that do not rely on past or current solutions. They are the ones who invent solution C when everyone else is still arguing between A and B. Creative thinking skills involve using strategies to clear the mind so that our thoughts and ideas can transcend the current limitations of a problem and allow us to see beyond barriers that prevent new solutions from being found.

Brainstorming is the simplest example of intentional creative thinking that most people have tried at least once. With the quick generation of many ideas at once we can block-out our brain’s natural tendency to limit our solution-generating abilities so we can access and combine many possible solutions/thoughts and invent new ones. It is sort of like sprinting through a race’s finish line only to find there is new track on the other side and we can keep going, if we choose. As with critical thinking, higher education both demands creative thinking from us and is the perfect place to practice and develop the skill. Everything from word problems in a math class, to opinion or persuasive speeches and papers, call upon our creative thinking skills to generate new solutions and perspectives in response to our professor’s demands. Creative thinking skills ask questions such as—What if? Why not? What else is out there? Can I combine perspectives/solutions? What is something no one else has brought-up? What is being forgotten/ignored? What about ______? It is the opening of doors and options that follows problem-identification.

Consider an assignment that required you to compare two different authors on the topic of education and select and defend one as better. Now add to this scenario that your professor clearly prefers one author over the other. While critical thinking can get you as far as identifying the similarities and differences between these authors and evaluating their merits, it is creative thinking that you must use if you wish to challenge your professor’s opinion and invent new perspectives on the authors that have not previously been considered.

So, what can we do to develop our critical and creative thinking skills? Although many students may dislike it, group work is an excellent way to develop our thinking skills. Many times I have heard from students their disdain for working in groups based on scheduling, varied levels of commitment to the group or project, and personality conflicts too, of course. True—it’s not always easy, but that is why it is so effective. When we work collaboratively on a project or problem we bring many brains to bear on a subject. These different brains will naturally develop varied ways of solving or explaining problems and examining information. To the observant individual we see that this places us in a constant state of back and forth critical/creative thinking modes.

For example, in group work we are simultaneously analyzing information and generating solutions on our own, while challenging other’s analyses/ideas and responding to challenges to our own analyses/ideas. This is part of why students tend to avoid group work—it challenges us as thinkers and forces us to analyze others while defending ourselves, which is not something we are used to or comfortable with as most of our educational experiences involve solo work. Your professors know this—that’s why we assign it—to help you grow as students, learners, and thinkers!

Foundations of Academic Success: Words of Wisdom Copyright © 2015 by Thomas Priester is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Thinking and Analysis

Thinking with technology.

Photo of one woman sitting in front of a computer station in a lab, with another woman leaning over her. Both are smiling and looking at a monitor, with other people at other computers around them

The number-one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn’t think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential. —Steve Ballmer, American businessman and former CEO of the Microsoft Corporation

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Identify technology tools that enhance student learning
  • Explain how technology skills relate to critical/creative thinking skills
  • Examine online learning in the context of organizing, communicating, reading, and researching online
  • Assess student readiness to use technology

Technology for College Learning

In November 2001, an exciting $700 million-dollar project began in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: The public school system would be modernized and upgraded. Part of the renovation would take place in the Emerson School, a 120-year-old building—one of the first public schools built in the city. Slated to be removed and replaced with Smart Boards were four old green chalkboards still hanging on several classroom walls.

When the contractors removed the green chalkboards, though, they made an amazing discovery: They found a set of untouched blackboards hanging behind the green chalkboards, which contained writings and drawing of students and teachers in 1917. On one board, for instance, were notes in a treble clef, apparently from a music class. On another blackboard were illustrations of Thanksgiving pilgrims. On still another was a multiplication wheel—a teaching device of yesteryear that the then-current school employees did not understand. And the Pledge of Allegiance was written on one of the boards in pristine cursive penmanship. The renovators also found old report cards, as well as a newspaper clipping advertising “Women’s shoes, $3.00!”

Teacher Sherry Read reflected on the meaning of this discovery: “I think they [the teachers in 1917] left them there on purpose to send a message to us, to say, ‘This is what was going on in our time.’”

Today, the formerly hidden chalkboards are protected with acrylic glass. Controls are also in place for light and temperature exposure. With this care, the chalkboards could last another one hundred years. To see photographs of the find, visit Oklahoma’s Hidden Chalkboards of Yesteryear .

Indeed, 1917 was another era of classroom teaching. Just imagine if the students and teachers from that day were to visit your college classrooms today. How much culture shock would they experience? Do you think they would be able to catch on to your level of technology skill and awareness?

Clearly, the technological differences between 1917 and now are staggering. Today we have online classes, blended learning, and flipped classrooms, MOOCs, microlectures, and mobile learning. We have blogs, wikis, podcasts, clickers, cloud computing, virtual reality and gaming. And we have laptops, tablets, smartphones, 3D printing, eye tracking, and LCD touch boards. Then there’s the explosion of social networking explosion—Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Google+—not to mention the invention of Apple, Microsoft, and the Internet, and, well, online dating!

What’s next, and how soon will it come?

Word cloud. Phrases it contains: cloud, virtual, printing, tracking, reality, class, supplement, Web, Gaming, touchboard, Webe-enhanced [sic], MOOCs, CD-ROM, Web-based, blended, smartphone, instructor-led, micro-lecture, wifi, asynchronous, purely, mobile, learning, internet, computing, classroom, tablet, tape, online, video/audio, synchronous, laptop, eye, device.

It’s no wonder that colleges and universities today place a heavy emphasis on teaching and learning with technology. Consider the following statistics:

  • 85 percent of college-bound students say technology in the classroom and the availability of online classes are their top determinants in choosing a college. [1]
  • The total of 5.8 million distance-education students in fall 2014 was composed of 2.85 million taking all of their courses at a distance, and 2.97 million taking some, but not all, courses at a distance.
  • One in every seven students studies exclusively online; more than one in four students takes at least one online course.
  • Public institutions command the largest portion of distance-education students, with 72.7 percent of undergraduate and 38.7 percent of graduate-level distance students.
  • Students favor laptops as their digital technology of choice. In a study conducted by Harris Poll for AMD (a technology company), 85 percent of study respondents own a laptop, used variously for taking notes during class, doing homework and projects, watching television shows and videos, and conducting multiple other tasks. Forty-one percent of the AMD study respondents reported that they consider the laptop to be more important than a TV, bicycle, car, or tablet. [2]
  • Distance-education enrollments continue to grow.

Critical and Creative Thinking with Technology

Why is there such a powerful thrust behind technology in education? How significantly is technology contributing to our ability to be critical and creative thinkers? After all, technology, by itself, cannot create critical or creative thinkers. But when it’s used with the guidance of a teacher who understands how to use it, and by students who also have sufficient technology skills and resources, the teaching and learning process can be considerably enhanced. Consider the following:

  • Computer software and Internet resources allow students to record, defend, and challenge their thinking.
  • Digital camcorders allow students to observe and analyze the world—to resee and reimagine it in a way that appeals to them.
  • Interactive whiteboards are helpful for class discussions about ideas or Web content; they facilitate whole-class display and hands-on participation.
  • Student-response systems, like clickers , allow students to respond to questions and then debate the answers.
  • Blogs can serve as personal journals, where students can record, share, and reflect on field experiences and research activities. Students can also use blogs as a preestablished environment for critically responding to assigned readings.
  • Wikis can help students coordinate, compile, synthesize, and present individual or group projects or research, as well as build and share group resources and knowledge. Wikis can also help students provide peer review, feedback, and critiques.
  • Discussion boards can help students establish a sense of community with their class and engage in ongoing threaded conversations on assigned readings and topics highlighting diverse points of view.

The following graphic illustrates how different digital technologies can help faculty and students with critical and creative thinking. Notice the six main categories in the graphic. They correspond with Bloom’s taxonomy, discussed in the section on Patterns of Thought.

The red and blue arrows outside the diagram indicate the fluidity with which the tools can travel through the different levels in the taxonomy. All in all, the diagram, below, shows the interconnectedness of technology resources in helping users increase their critical and creative thinking skills.

A rhomboid shape contains logos from various technology tools, corresponding to Bloom's Taxonomy levels. From the top: "Creating": Prezi, Wikispaces, VoiceThread, iTunes, YouTube, Powerpoint, Blogger, Moodle, Lectora, Camtasia. "Evaluating": Moodle, Ning, YouTube, Tumblr, Del.i.cious, elgg. "Analyzing": Mindomo, Zoho, Dmdm, YouTube, elgg, VoiceThread, Del.i.cious. "Applying": Prezi, Jing, iTunes, iGoogle, Ning. "Understanding": Skype, Tumblr, RSS, Gmail, Evernote, Blogger, Ning, YouTube. "Remembering": Firefox, YouTube, Flickr, Del.i.cious. Outside the rhombus, a blue arrow on the left points down from the top; a red arrow on the right points up from the bottom. At the bottom is a credit for the image from

Getting Tech-Ready

If you are thinking about taking an online course or even a blended or hybrid-format course, you already know that it will require some basic technological skills. And while you don’t necessarily need to be a computer scientist to take a class that involves a lot of online work, you should have a solid understanding of the basic technical skills needed to succeed. Understanding what these skills are up front will make things much easier for you as a student.

The Getting Tech-Ready tutorial, below, is from the California Community College system. It is specially designed to help California’s online community college students, but it is widely applicable to college students taking technology-enhanced courses anywhere. It will help you becoming familiar with the following:

  • the hardware and software requirements of most online and hybrid courses
  • the value of a fast Internet connection
  • how to locate and download the free plugins that your course might require
  • the basics of email
  • how to obtain tech support when you need it

When you have finished this first Getting Tech-Ready tutorial, complete the computer-readiness activity, below.

NOTE : You will find additional tutorials, below, from the OEI Online Learner Readiness project. All are geared to help students develop skills required to be successful online learners. Remember that even though you may be a savvy smartphone, tablet, and/or computer user, you may not be prepared for the particular challenge of college-level learning in the online environment. The tutorials below are engaging and interactive, and are designed to address the real challenges that both experienced and novice online students may encounter.

Activity: Online Learning and Computer Software Readiness

  • Test your computer software to ensure that you are ready to access online resources
  • Assess your readiness to participate in online learning
  • Identify key factors in being a successful online learner
  • Start by going to the Computer Readiness Test . It will test your current browser for specific plugins and versions of Adobe PDF Reader, the Adobe Flash Player, Oracle Java, Microsoft Silverlight and Apple QuickTime Play. These plugins help you better navigate and participate in typical technology-enhanced activities in college. When you are finished with the quick test, it will output the results.
  • Now visit the Online Learning Readiness Questionnaire . You will be queried about your interests in and aptitudes for online learning. Your answers will help you determine what you need to do to succeed at online learning. Post-survey feedback will also provide you with information on what you can expect from an online course.

Introduction to Online Learning

In tutorial #2, below, also from the OEI Online Learner Readiness project, you will investigate online learning as an alternative to a traditional classroom. What will this mean for you as a student? In the tutorial you will be introduced to the world of online learning: how it works, a few of the common misconceptions about online learning environments, and some differences you will encounter when taking courses online rather than in a traditional classroom.

Organizing with Technology

Tutorial #3, below, will help you organize for online learning success. This is important for online learners because the format is quite different from a face-to-face (f2f) course on campus. In a “f2f” course, for instance, you’ll typically meet with your instructor and the other students in your class at least once a week and receive frequent reminders about when assignments are due.

In an online environment, though, it’s up to you to remind yourself. Luckily, there are a lot of tools available to help you get started. But first it’s important to get organized.

Tutorial #3 will help you to do the following:

  • organize your physical study space
  • organize your course materials
  • develop a scheduling system that will help you turn all of your coursework in on time

Communicating with Technology

Good communication skills are essential in online and blended courses. There are many different ways you’ll communicate with your instructor and other students in your class. Tutorial #4 introduces you to common terms you’ll need to know and some concepts that can lead you to success in your class. The following important topics are covered:

  • the vocabulary that may be used to describe communication in your online class
  • how communication is different for you as a student when you’re learning online
  • some of the advantages and disadvantages of academic online communication
  • how to become an effective communicator in an online or blended course

Reading and Researching with Technology

In an online learning environment, you’re probably going to do more reading than listening. You may do some of your reading in printed form—say, an assigned novel or textbook—but some of it might also be online in the form of a Web page. Reading online isn’t the same as reading in print, so it’s important to practice some strategies that will improve your online reading comprehension and speed. Some of the strategies described in the next tutorial will help you with any kind of reading you’re doing—not just online material. Tutorial #5 discusses the following:

  • some of the differences between reading print and reading online
  • strategies for staying focused when reading online
  • ways to maximize your reading speed and comprehension

Below are two additional resources that complement the online reading strategies tutorial. They will help you use the Internet to find scholarly material and evaluate Web sites for accuracy, relevance, etc.

Mobile Learning and Social Networking

Mobile learning and social networking are both major players in college life and learning. You are likely quite adept at both! Consider the following statistics:

  • Mobile Learning : By the time the class of 2016 graduates, close to 91.4 percent of U.S. college students will own a smartphone. See the eMarketer data graph showing U.S. college student smartphone users, 2010–2016. In 2010, the number was 8.14 million; the number projected for 2016 is 17 million. Students want and need to use their mobile device for learning. [3]
  • Social Networking : See the data graph showing the daily time spent on select social networks by U.S. college student Internet users, as of May 2015. The graph answers the question about whether or not young people have given up on Facebook. Clearly, Facebook is still a winner. Social networking can readily facilitate learning. [4]
  • Top 100 Tools for Learning
  • Are You Ready To Be An Online Student?
  • UCF Knights Online Course Tours
  • Student Success – Thinking Critically In Class and Online
  • Technology and Classroom: MOOCS, Flipped Classroom and Micro-lecture
  • The Case Files: What college was like before modern technology
  • "Digital Capabilities at Universities Key to Draw Students." CareerIndia . 28 Nov 2014. Web. 16 Feb 2016. ↵
  • "Survey Reveals How Much College Students Rely on Technology." SchoolGuides . 13 Jul 2014. Web. 16 Feb 2016. ↵
  • "College Students Adopt Mobile Across the Board." Newsroom . eMarketer, 28 Aug 2012. Web. 16 Feb 2016. ↵
  • "College Students Still Spend Most Social Time with Facebook." eMarketer . 8 Sept 2015. Web. 16 Feb 2016. ↵
  • Technology Wordle. Authored by : Linda Bruce. License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Thinking with Technology. Authored by : Linda Bruce. Provided by : Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Image of two women looking at computer monitor. Authored by : US Department of Education. Located at : . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Using Technology to Promote Creative and Critical Thinking Skills. Provided by : Fostering Creativity and Critical Thinking with Technology. Located at : . License : Other . License Terms : GNU Free Documentation License
  • Image of technology paired with Bloom's Taxonomy. Authored by : M. Fisher. Located at : . License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Getting Tech Ready. Provided by : California Community Colleges. Located at : . Project : Online Education Initiative. License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Guidelines for Communicating with Instructors. Authored by : Ronda Dorsey Neugebauer. Provided by : Chadron State College. Project : Kaleidoscope Open Course Initiative. License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Internet Skills 3: How to Use the Internet to Find Scholarly Material. Authored by : UBC LEAP. Located at : . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Internet Skills 1: How to Evaluate a Website. Authored by : UBC LEAP. Located at : . License : CC BY: Attribution
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Critical and Creative Thinking: What is Which and What are the Advantages

Russell Heisler · March 8, 2018 · Leave a Comment

The two contrasting hemispheres of the brain illustrated by two people

When dealing with problems, there are two ways to approach them. One might find solutions by applying critical thinking, while someone might find it more suitable to use creative thinking. Critical and creative thinking are essential during the learning process, which requires students to resort to different methods. They can use reason and logic when acquiring their knowledge, or be innovative and use imagination when finding solutions.

What is creative thinking?

Creative thinking is a form of innovation which seeks to find new answers and allow new perspectives on a problem. The outcome of this process should be original and unique. Through it, people might find unexpected solutions and increase productivity.

Through creative thinking, one starts by putting up lists of possibilities on a quest for ideas. Any unconventional proposition is welcome as, in the end, the product consists of various theories on the same issue. To come up with ideas, people can use both structured and unstructured methods.

Brain colored in rainbow shades

Brainstorming vs. lateral thinking

Brainstorming is the unstructured type of process. It consists of a free discussion, where everyone contributes with ideas and suggestions. Those who are part of a brainstorming process are encouraged to voice all their ideas. Sometimes, they might have some unorthodox propositions, but this is all for the better.

Lateral thinking is the structured alternative to achieving creative thinking. It might seem a little too critical as, in the end, it reaches logical conclusions. However, the thinking process does not follow the classic line, and the ideas produced are attained from many points of view. In fact, the purpose of creative thinking is to supply some ideas which are then filtered through critical thinking.

Skills related to creative thinking

People who use this process have to be open-minded and flexible to outlandish ideas. Also, they need the imagination to produce the original ideas, and the creativity to make them unique. To produce alternatives and make them possible, it’s necessary to elaborate on a basis and even take some risks.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking makes use of logic, reason, and analyzing to reach a conclusion. The subjects first have to observe and have a certain experience with the elements of the problem. Then, they closely ponder all possibilities and analyze the reality. The final judgment is empirical and educated.

In critical thinking, people learn how to question everything. They do this by using logic to filter through all the alternatives. For the results to be the best, they also have to remain objective and thoroughly analyze everything that’s given to them.

Two heads constructed of gears

What to use critical thinking for?

This process is best in debates, when people are trying to build up arguments to support their convictions. Also, some questions require a single answer, but more alternatives are offered. This is the best method of sorting the real one out. As mentioned above, critical and creative thinking are related as the former is used to sift through the variety given by the latter. Cortactors CRM. Best crm for construction companies .

Critical and creative thinking – main differences

Critical and creative thinking both seek to find answers and promote learning, but they use opposing principles and techniques. First of all, creative thinking is all about innovation. It wants to come up with new theories, while critical thinking explores the already existing options and the truth present in them.

Also, creative thinking seeks to generate. The main purpose of critical thinking is to be purely analytical and explore everything that is given. This is offered by the widely accepted principles which are closely followed in critical thinking. In the other variant, they are disregarded and challenged.

In the end, the main purpose of critical thinking is to reach one single answer. Therefore, all the methods are convergent, and carefully remove the options one by one, until the best is left. Creative thinking is clashing, divergent, and encourages diversity.

How do critical and creative thinking work together?

When solving problems, one may opt for one alternative or the other. However, in the context of learning, the two processes are not mutually exclusive. Both are essential for the development of thinking abilities. If students develop both their logic and imagination skills, they will later be able to choose their preferred strategy. Also, they will spontaneously use whatever suits the situation.

Critical and creative thinking in learning

To make kids develop critical and creative thinking, they first have to learn a few investigation techniques. Working in teams teaches them to listen to others’ opinions and thus develop a set of theories. On the other hand, working individually enhances their logical skills, and encourages them to ponder each result.

Critical and creative thinking are good for developing the inquiry skills of the kids. Both of them make the students ask more questions and be more curious about the options they have. Also, they get to compare all the information and be more attentive to where it comes from.

The analytical and the creative hemisphere of the brain

The two processes increase both the creativity and pragmatism of a child

Of course, these techniques increase the creativity of a child. By knowing how to come up with ideas and then judge them, students can then identify common points and find out how they are related. By connecting them, they might even find new solutions, or establish on the best strategy to apply.

These processes are essential for the development of a child into an adult endowed with reason. They teach them how to apply reason and logical concepts, and then reach conclusions. These skills are what it takes to help kids take decisions on their own, as they become capable of analyzing the consequences of their actions.

Drawing to a Close

Critical and creative thinking are two opposed methods to rationalize, which can often complete each other. Although one seeks to generate ideas and the other wants to sort out the existent options, they can both train the brain to be more creative and find solutions quickly. It also develops one’s logical skills, thus improving decision making and the analysis of consequences.

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Critical thinking vs Creative thinking

critical thinking vs creative thinking

Both critical thinking and creative thinking are used for solving problems , only in different ways. For critical thinking, the process is structured and methodical. For creative thinking, the process is fluid and somewhat experimental. Both thinking strategies are useful, with neither being innately superior to the other and in some unexpected ways even being linked. Now without further ado, let us explore the various components of critical thinking and creative thinking.

Critical Thinking vs Creative Thinking

Critical thinking:.

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Critical thinking as we understand it can be traced all the way back to Ancient Greece in the thoughts of Socrates as recorded by Plato. Critical thinking can be summarized as the careful analysis of facts in order to form judgments. With critical, being derived from the word critic, to think critically is to critique the process of thinking itself. In layman’s terms, this means to develop an efficient and ordered system of both written and oral discourse. There are different subsets of critical thinking, which broadly speaking are; unbiased, skeptical, and rational. Let’s break down these different sections individually.

The unbiased system attempts to remove all possible biases from thinking. Everybody has some form of bias or another. Perhaps a personal bias that one has towards someone or something. Or be it a more ethnocentric bias that prevents an individual from being able to see past the beliefs instilled in them by their culture. The unbiased analysis aims to view things from an objective instead of a subjective stand-point.

The skeptical system is one that encourages both doubt and constant questioning. That includes careful examination of both longstanding beliefs and dogmas. As far as skeptics are concerned nothing is beyond the realms of inquisition. If evidence is not available to support beliefs, then they should not be accepted.

The rationality system is based on obtaining rationality, which can be defined as one being agreeable to reason. What is reason? In philosophical terms, reason is the ability to make sense of the world around us through the application of logic. Logic is a key tenet of the three systems and the cornerstone of critical thinking.

Logic is the systematic study of premises and the arguments that they form and is judged based on their validity (whether the statements make sense and lead to the conclusion) and their truth value (whether or not statements are true or false). There are three primary types of logical reasoning; deductive, inductive, and abductive. Deductive reasoning leads to certain conclusions, inductive reasoning leads to probable conclusions, and abductive reasoning is a quick and practical approach to logic.

When examining deductive arguments, we begin by not looking at the truth value of the premises, but if they lead to the conclusion in a coherent manner. If they do not then the argument is deemed invalid and unsound. If the argument is deemed valid we then examine the truth value of the premises. If true, then the argument is sound, if they are not true then the argument is still valid but unsound.

For inductive arguments, a very similar approach is taken to deductive arguments. First, we begin by examining the validity of the premises. If they are invalid the argument is weak and by extension uncogent. If the premises are valid, the argument is strong and we then examine their truth value. If false then the argument while strong is uncogent, if true however the argument is both strong and cogent.

Abductive arguments are drawn from the heuristic technique. The heuristic technique entails non-optimal problem-solving solutions, but are none the less sufficient for immediate decisions and approximations. Abductive reasoning includes such tactics as making an educated guess, following the general rule of thumb, or simple trial and error.

Creative thinking:

Creativity itself is the process where something truly new, but also valuable is formed. Be it a new idea, invention, or piece of art. Unlike logical thinking, there is no stringent set of rules or guidelines for how to undergo creative thinking. The process itself isn’t even entirely understood and there is much speculation and theorizing as to how creative thinking works, with no theory currently set in stone. This makes it a little more challenging to explain how to become a creative thinker. In attempting to do so we will go over some general principles of creative thinking and theories that may explain it.

One of the most obvious traits of creative thinkers is that they are open-minded individuals. Basically, they are willing to at least consider new ideas that other people would either never have thought of or would outright refuse due to a close-minded nature. Being open-minded doesn’t mean automatically accepting every new idea that comes your way. It just means having the willingness to unbiasedly look at things from a new perspective.

In a sense being open-minded can be viewed as somewhat pragmatic as it allows people to examine, chose, and combine different aspects of various ideas to make something both new and useful. Creative thinking also enhances communications as through being open to new experiences a person is better able to talk and work with those with different beliefs than oneself.

Creative thinking has been hypothesized by some scientists as being a part of the evolutionary process. Some scientists think that by thinking of things in abstract terms we were better able to come up with new and innovative solutions in changing environments. Various scientists and academics have attempted to map out the process of creative thinking, one popular theory being largely developed by the psychologist J.P Guilford. Guilford helped develop the theory of divergent thinking.

Divergent thinking is the process some think is responsible for producing creativity and this is done by examining many possible solutions. Divergent thinking is more spontaneous and doesn’t occur in a linear manner. With divergent thinking a great many possible activities are explored over a short period of time, often with unexpected yet original connections being made. Common activities to help engage in divergent thinking are to create a list of questions, taking the time to think and meditate on ideas, artistic endeavors such as writing and drawing are also encouraged.

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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

critical and creative thinking tools

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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critical and creative thinking tools

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critical and creative thinking tools

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