When you see the phrase “creative thinking” what’s the first thing that springs to mind?
For many it would be the term “thinking outside the box”
I’m here to tell you that when it comes to creative thinking “thinking outside the box” is the worse possible thing you can do!
Many aspire to be good at it, there are countless articles and books about it but few really know what creative thinking actually is.
Which is kind of odd because most of us do it on a daily basis, (even if we don’t realize it.)
I’m going to give you a definition that will actually make you more creative!
Creative thinking is exactly the same as the telling a joke.
When you tell a joke you link a number of things together in an original way and at the end of that connection you get a laugh (hopefully).
When you think creatively you make connections between things and generate new ideas (new for you.)
Why does knowing this definition make you more creative?
Awareness of connections leads to more connections which leads to more connections and so on. We all know someone who has a reputation as an ideas guy. They have simply conditioned their brain, usually without realising it, to consistently make new intelligent connections.
Note the word intelligent!
For your creative thinking to have any real value it needs to be suitable to the context in which you are doing your creative thinking. That context is the box in which you think.
Think inside the box not out of it and your ideas will be far more useful.
Let’s look at some simple but powerful techniques you can use to condition your brain to start being more creative.
The most powerful way I know is one we use every day.
Asking a question sends a signal to the brain that forces it to start looking to make new connections. The important factor is the quality of your questions!
- Are they intelligent?
- Are they suitable to your context?
- Are they positive questions rather than negative ones?
Questions I have started to ask myself every day:
- How can I add value to this?
- How can I extract something of value from my day?
- What can I glean from the few remaining hours?
By asking these questions and acting on the answers that come to mind I have gained a lot more satisfaction and gratitude in my life (I’ve also achieved a lot more!) Start looking at the questions you ask yourself. Are they allowing your brain to make positive and most importantly useful connections?
Something else to think about is the material you are providing your brain with.
The brain is a connection making and pattern finding machine but on a daily basis most of the connections we make are ones we have made before. Reading is a really good way to make new connections. If you generally read horror fiction then read a science fiction novel. If you generally read fiction read non-fiction. The material you will feed your brain will allow it to form new connections. Read something different today.
Your creativity levels are connected to your emotional and physical states. Its far easier to be creative when you’re in a positive mood. Interestingly enough when you are being creative you tend to find you are happier than when you started – the two feed each other. Become aware of your emotional state – change it with positive questions and make new positive connections that will add value to your life and the life of others.
These three are things you can start doing right away. Focus on the one that is easiest for you and practice it on a daily base with a view to creative thinking. Watch your creativity grow!
Joseph Benn is passionate about creative thinking and the difference it can make in business and life. He’s the author of Brilliant Business Ideas which shows you how to generate business ideas in less than 15 minutes. He posts regularly on www.ideasmapping.com and if this post has interested you sign up for his free 10 day creative thinking workshop. He can also be found on twitter(http://twitter.com/ideasmapping) and facebook. (http://www.facebook.com/brilliantbusinessideas)
Photo credit: ‘Think Bubble‘ by Big Stock