Creative Thinking in Business

85Humans automatically relate new things that happen with something within our experience. We are biologically primed to learn from past events .This is usually helpful to us as it lets us draw on our background and experience, and build on what we have previously learned.

We are naturally lazy thinkers and so we tend to think in clichés or established patterns. But this restricts our ability to think creatively and we have to actually force ourselves to think “outside the box“

Creative thinking then, is looking at things from a different perspective from the obvious one, developing new ideas, asking different questions, restating the question, broadening the issues. It is truly a state of mind.

What is creative thinking?

Creative thinking is the ability to come up with a new and different perspective –breaking down the topic and restructuring it to gain new insights, by organising our thoughts differently. There are many definitions of creativity, ranging from a process of identifying gaps in knowledge, searching for solutions and formulating hypotheses, the personal discovery process, problem solving, to escape from assumptions.

It can be seen as the ability to think beyond the obvious and avoid the pitfalls of making assumptions, thinking new and different thoughts, producing new ideas. Perhaps a good definition is seeing the same thing everyone else sees, but interpreting opportunities differently, putting a different spin on things, thinking “outside the box.”

Creative thinking can lead to the invention of a new product or service, or process. Or it may lead to the combination of existing things in a new, different way. In business this can lead to new products or new processes that can perhaps reduce costs. It can help a business stand out from the crowd by doing something different from its competitors, and allow them to gain a competitive edge.

An accelerating pace of technological change means that many business problems we encounter now have no precedent. Doing things the way we have always done them is no longer going to be effective. Creative thinking is now accepted as important to business success, and to anyone in a leadership role.

What business tools are there?

There are some business tools that can help. Brainstorming is probably the best known and there is also lateral thinking. Blue sky thinking is also commonly used in business as is the 6 Thinking Hats.

Great ideas do not usually arise by chance, you need to create the “head space “for them, think about the problem, allow your brain to do its work. To do this creatively you need to release yourself from the normal constraints your brain has to work under, the “rules”, mind-sets, and preconceptions we have set for ourselves.

You need to forget conformity. Don’t check that your ideas conform to your experience of what works. Explore different approaches, avoid rigid thinking. Logical thoughts, existing ideas, accepted mores, can all limit your creativity. Let your imagination loose!

Our instinct when faced with a problem is to consider solutions that have worked for similar problems, and adapt them. But creative thinking works best when people look at the problem from a new perspective, several or even many perspectives, consider unconventional ideas, and search for new and different ways to address the problem.

Restructure the problem by viewing it from different perspectives and you gain a different view of the problem. Generating associations between unrelated things, and making unexpected connections can make you think differently.