Careers Blog

The latest events, opportunities and news from the Careers and Employability team at the University of Brighton

How can I think more creatively?

Brain and lamps
Creative thinking is a skill which we can all develop (Dyer et al., 2011). Consider it a muscle which we can flex. It is a process fuelled by conscious and unconscious insight: of generating ideas, concepts and associations (Serrat, 2009), and an ability to make connections between seemingly unrelated things – like a subconscious game of ‘join-the-dots’. Creative thinking is a skill we use to produce ideas, and to develop new ways of looking at problems as opportunities. As children, there are no limits to our imagination. An ugly concrete pavement can suddenly transform into a flowing river, and a toilet roll can magically turn into a powerful telescope for pirates. However, as we get older, we find ourselves using our creative muscle less and less; more often than not, our daily routines, work environment, and self-confidence, all play a part in diminishing our ability – and desire – to think creatively.

Creative thinking is essential for the workplace. Not only does it enable you to solve problems and come up with innovative ideas, it can also help you to stand out from the crowd among a sea of nay-sayers! At the end of the day, employers don’t want a team of pessimists – they want colleagues who can respond positively to the challenges they face, and who waste no time in coming up with possible solutions – however feasible they are in reality. Creative thinking is needed just as much in new ventures and public sector organisations, as it is in established businesses. In the words of entrepreneur and author James Altucher (2013), ‘ideas are the currency of the 21st century’.

Brainstorming is probably one of the most common and well-known creative thinking techniques, although it is not the only method, nor the most effective one. There are many other creative-thinking techniques you can experiment with to help you generate ideas and solve problems in imaginative and unorthodox ways. So, the next time you find yourself stuck in a creative rut, why not try one of these approaches?

  1. Mix things up. Combine two completely different concepts and functions to come up with something new.
  2. Make incremental improvements. Rather than changing things dramatically, are there any small steps to make things better gradually?
  3. Think of the best case scenario. What would this look like? Is there anything from this vision which you can apply to your current situation?
  4. Flip things. Turn things on their head (i.e. do the opposite to normal) to see if you can achieve your desired results whilst using radically different methods.
  5. Ask yourself the “Big 6” questions: Who? What? Where? Why? How? When? The answers to these questions will help you find the root of the problem and explore potential solutions.
  6. Reapply existing functions and products to new contexts and uses.
  7. SCAMPER! Ask yourself how you could:

S = Substitute?
C = Combine?
A = Adapt?
M = Modify? (Or Magnify?)
P = Put to other uses?
E = Eliminate? (Or Minimise?)
R = Rearrange? (Or Reverse?)

  1. “What If” your thoughts. If you want to come up with revolutionary new ways of doing things, imagine some “What If” scenarios.
  2. Break down the components of a product, service, project or context, and concentrate on these rather than the subject in its entirety. This can help you look at the matter from a different perspective.
  3. Take a break. Have a nap. Have a drink. And, most importantly, switch off!

If you have enjoyed reading this blog post, and would like to have more opportunities to develop your creative thinking, as well as other key enterprise skills, why not come along to one of our FREE beepurple workshops? For more information, please visit beepurple.co.uk.

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Clare Griffiths • 02/10/2015


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