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15 Key Words for Creative Thinking

By Will Brown of eyeconomy.co.uk


“Studies have shown that 90% of error in thinking is due to error in perception. If you can change your perception, you can change your emotion and this can lead to new ideas” – Edward de Bono (creator of the term “lateral-thinking” and author of “Six Thinking Hats.”)

Approach creative-thinking in an inquisitive, investigative, exploring frame-of-mind.

“The best way to get a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.�? – Linus Pauling

It’s OK to be wrong. “Wrong ideas” can contain grains of right ideas that need developing. Or coming up with lots of wrong ideas, one of which contains a golden nugget. General Alan Brooke, Winston Churchill’s chief of staff during WW2, wrote of Churchill ‘Winston had 10 ideas every day, only one of which was good’.
“The need to be right all the time is the biggest bar to new ideas” – Edward de Bono
 “It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.�? — Edward de Bono

Don’t be over-perfect, precious, possessive or fastidious about an idea at the cost of exploring others. Or possessive or fastidious about a certain idea that you don’t want touched (when it could be improved). 

Disruptive thinking is about questioning an idea when we’re comfortable with it (there might be an even better idea than this). Disruptive-thinking is, also, about exploring “bad ideas” to see whether they have any potential. Disruptive-thinking is about turning things in their head, shaking things up, seeing things from every angle – with the possibility that something quite unexpected turns up.
“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way” – Edward de Bono

We’re comfortable with logic. But creative-thinking is about not about dissecting facts and making judgments on them. It’s about trying to see interesting shapes in large patterns of of thought. This can be counter-intuitive.

Bounce ideas off each other. Not so much for the judgement of others. But whether their response helps you to generate new ideas. Being a good listen is key.

Creative thinkers are risk-takers. They don’t mind risking time and energy on exploring ideas when only one or a few are any good. They don’t mind appearing silly to others. Silly ideas can develop into great ideas.  

Creativity and images go together. It’s how the brain works. Images can help to generate ideas. For example, looking at images of people, emotions, places, brands, or using random images, juxtaposed images, or surreal images, and so on.
Einstein developed his general theory of relativity by imagining what it would be like, visually, to travel along a wave of light.  Images can also be useful in just communicating certain ideas to others that lots of words might not be so successful at doing.

Analogies can help generate ideas. Analogies should, in some way, be wrong in the sense of provoking an idea rather than communicating (a perfectly-formed) one. 

Fun or play is crucial in creative-thinking. This is known in science. And through common human experience. Play develops imagination. When we play, we forget what is practical or what “makes sense”. It breaks down routines, and in turn, habitual thinking. We experience new sensations, emotions and feelings.

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.” – Steve Jobs

“Creative thinking – in terms of idea creativity – is not a mystical talent. It is a skill that can be practised and nurtured.” – Edward de Bono

“An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.�? — Edward de Bono



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  1. Nice list. Here are a few of my own:

    Why – when faced with a concrete problem, ask ‘why’ five times to get perspective and achieve a level of abstraction that can generate new ways of solving the root cause of the problem.

    Essence – what is the essence of the situation? What is the essence of the idea? What is the essence of the way someone else has solved a similar problem?

    Reverse – list all the assumptions associated with your situation/problem, reverse them, and see what new ideas are generated by the reversals.

  2. Thanks for these. The last one seems particularly interesting and unusual – will give it a go!

  3. I’ve just come from Gregg Fraley’s site. He’s the author of Jack’s Notebook, a “business fable” about creative problem solving. He has a great list on six simple ways to more creativity

    Thought you might want to take a look.

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