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Cheat Sheet

Creative Thinking For Dummies (UK Edition)

Creative thinking is hard-wired in you. If you don’t think you’re creative, it’s only because you’ve let your creative fires die down. But it’s easy to stoke them up again. This Cheat Sheet gives you the basics of a few effective creative thinking techniques you can use to get those creative fires burning brightly once again.

Generating Ideas with the Disney Model

Walt Disney devised this sequence of roles to get the best creative thinking from his team. Try on each role in turn to spark your creativity:

  • Dreamer: Let your imagination soar and explore all the possibilities. No limits, no boundaries.

  • Realist: Put your feet back on the ground and consider the feasibility of your idea. Can you actually do it?

  • Critic (originally called the spoiler): Be your own harshest critic – if you don’t find the flaws in your idea, your audience will.

Living Creatively like Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci is widely regarded as one of the most creative individuals of all time, and the principles he lived by are recorded faithfully in his journals. They provide an inspiring guide to living a satisfyingly creative life.

To apply Leonardo da Vinci’s seven principles in your life, follow these principles:

  • Curiosity: Be insatiably curious and learn continuously. Keep a journal of your findings.

  • Demonstration: Test your knowledge through experience. Be persistent and learn from your mistakes.

  • Sensation: Continually refine your senses as a means of enlivening your experience.

  • Ambiguity: Embrace ambiguity, contradiction and paradox. It’s okay to live with uncertainty and conflicting ideas.

  • Art/science: Balance the arts and sciences. Use logic and imagination.

  • Sensuality: Cultivate grace, fitness and poise. Perfect mind–body co-ordination and ambidexterity.

  • Connection: Recognise and appreciate the interconnectedness of everything.

Thinking Creatively with SCAMPER

SCAMPER is one of the most useful techniques in the creative thinking toolbox, and is widely used in all kinds of creative thinking scenarios from problem-solving to idea generation.

SCAMPER offers you seven ways to think creatively, which you can explore individually or together:

  • Substitute: Put one thing in place of another. Don’t just stick to logical choices; choose unlikely, silly or even outrageous substitutes.

  • Combine: Mix different ingredients together in fresh, inventive ways. Again, don’t be constrained by logic.

  • Adapt: Alter one, several or all of the variables. Change the functions so one aspect has a different role.

  • Modify: Increase or reduce features. Change size, shape or function. Feel free to play with the outcomes.

  • Put to another use: Create different functions for everything. Consider how you can use each variable differently.

  • Eliminate: Reduce, simplify or remove elements. Does it still work? Can you think of different applications as a result of the changes?

  • Reverse: Take the product or concept and stand it on its head. What happens when you consider it from this new perspective?

Distinguishing Convergent and Divergent Styles for Creative Thinking

Convergent and divergent thinking are two broad cognitive styles that are useful for appreciating how you approach creative thinking activities. If you’re a convergent thinker, you’ll tend to take a steady approach to tasks, whereas if you’re a divergent thinker, you can appear more obviously creative, especially when confronted with tasks that require lots of idea generation.

However, convergent thinkers often produce high-quality results through persistence, and divergent thinkers frequently discard a high proportion of ideas generated early on in a task. One style isn’t better than the other – they’re just different strategies.

Convergent Thinking Divergent Thinking
Linear style of thinking Lateral style of thinking
Fact based Eclectic
Solution focus Open ended
Logical approach Stream of thought
Steady idea generation Rapid idea generation
Conventional Unconventional

Using Mind Mapping Tips for Creative Thinking

Mind maps, with their spidery shapes and multiple colours, are a familiar image these days. You can use mind maps in many situations from organising facts to thinking creatively.

Here’s how to prepare a good mind map to get the best outcome from your creative thinking:

  1. Choose good quality paper and coloured pens, with the paper in a landscape position.

  2. Start with a single image for your topic in the centre of the page.

  3. Draw branch lines radiating from the central image, using a different colour for each theme.

  4. Draw thick lines from the centre, getting thinner as you develop sub-branches. Curvy lines are more creative and memorable.

  5. Write your key words along the branch lines, one word or phrase per branch, keeping the branch the same length as the word.

  6. Illustrate your map with images.

The illustration shows an example of how your mind map might look after following these steps.

image0.jpg

Wearing the Six Hats of Creative Thinking

This creative thinking technique, invented by Edward de Bono, is a dependable stand-by for a wide variety of creative thinking activities. Suitable for both individuals and groups, it uses the idea of wearing hats to represent different states of mind and to encourage flexible thinking while solving a problem or generating ideas:

  • White Hat – facts and figures: Analyse and deal with the problem unemotionally. Create a map of the territory and separate facts from beliefs.

  • Red Hat – emotions and feelings: Follow your hunches into unknown territory. A lot of energy gets released here, both negative (good for unblocking), and positive (leaps of imagination occur here). Note: You don’t usually pick this hat first.

  • Black Hat – caution and care: Keep your feet on the ground and ‘reality test’ your idea to see if it fits with your ethos and culture. (Note: No negative connotations are intended with this colour.)

  • Yellow Hat – speculation and positivity: Open up to new perspectives. Explore all the positive ‘What if . . .?’ questions.

  • Green Hat – creative thinking: Cultivate fertile thinking, ranging free across the creative landscape. The Green Hat works well in conjunction with the Yellow Hat, side by side or flipping from one to the other.

  • Blue Hat – controlled thinking: Often used last in the process, the Blue Hat pulls everything together. You choreograph the whole process here. You can also deploy the Blue Hat at the beginning of an ill-defined task, to clarify the optimum approach.

Taking Five Steps to Creative Thinking – The Young Technique

Created by advertising guru James Webb Young, this reliable process for aiding creative thinking is in widespread use, especially in the face of problem-solving situations:

  1. Research what you already know: Explore the subject thoroughly and put your ideas together.

  2. Digest the information: Assimilate and review the information you gathered in step 1.

  3. Drop it! Park the problem and do something else for a while until step 4 materialises.

  4. Wait for an idea to come: Often a sudden and unexpected positive outcome happens.

  5. Reassess your idea: Examine the outcome objectively.

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