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It is generally believed that creativity is needed only by people of art: artists, writers, musicians. But without creativity, there is no progress. People with creative thinking create new technologies and systems, business methods and tools for solving various tasks.

In the article we tell you what creative thinking is and why a modern specialist needs it. We also analyze how to assess your level and improve your skills using proven techniques and exercises.

Creative thinking: what is it, how to develop it and where it will come in handy.

What is creative thinking

Creative thinking is the ability to find non-standard approaches and solutions to complex situations. People with developed creative thinking are able to move away from patterns and know that a problem can have more than one solution.

Creative thinking does not contrast intelligence and imagination, logic and creativity, but combines both. The characteristics of this type of thinking include the following points:

  • ability to identify a problem;
  • the ability to generate a variety of different ideas to solve it;
  • ability to see non-standard solutions;
  • the ability to deepen an idea by complementing details;
  • the ability to analyze and choose the best ideas.

Types of creative thinking

The first to describe the concept of creativity was Professor of psychology, member of the American Psychological Association Joy Paul Guilford (Joy Paul Guilford). He also identified two types of creative thinking: convergence and divergence.

Convergent thinking is needed to find the optimal solution to a problem that has many conditions. For example, the solution of a mathematical problem: there is an answer that needs to be found by performing a sequence of actions.

Most people use mostly convergent thinking. It is on its development that school education is directed: there is a correct answer to which you need to get to by reasoning in a certain way or by performing certain actions.

People who use only convergent thinking tend to believe generally accepted facts, choose from the total amount of information that confirms their belief, and deny those data that represent a different point of view.

Divergent thinking works in many directions at once. Using it, you can find several solutions for one problem. Divergent thinking is used, for example, during brainstorming sessions, when a team begins to offer different solutions to a problem, including the most original and awkward ones.

People with developed divergent thinking tend to be imaginative, original and quick to perceive. They notice details that elude most, are able to come up with a lot of ideas and solutions in a short time.

Divergent thinking also has its nuances. A person who uses only it will endlessly generate ideas, and not solve the tasks facing him. Therefore, it is important to develop both convergence and divergence.

Creative thinking: what is it, how to develop it and where it will come in handy

A clear difference between convergent and divergent thinking

Another specialist in creative thinking, the British psychologist Edward de Bono, suggested another way to think creatively — lateral thinking.

The human brain prefers to solve the tasks facing it in proven ways — templates. Lateral thinking suggests a new way of looking at the problem, sideways, from an unexpected side, including humorous.

For example, lateral marketing does not involve the release of a new product for an existing market, but the creation of a new target audience for your invention. A classic example is the Kinder Surprise, which combined a food product (chocolate) and a toy. 

The idea of lateral thinking also formed the basis of design thinking. Design thinking is a methodology for solving problems (engineering, business, and others) using not an analytical approach, but a creative one.

How does creativity differ from creative thinking

Most experts believe that creativity and creative thinking are the same thing. However, there are other opinions. If creativity is the ability to create new objects of art, creative thinking is the creation of new ideas, the ability to combine existing information in a non-standard way.

How to assess the level of creative thinking

You can determine the level of development of your creative thinking with the help of numerous tests. For example, the Torrence creativity test. Its author, Ellis Paul Torrance, an American psychologist, professor of educational psychology, specialized in the study of the nature of creativity and, based on research, proposed a system for assessing the level of human creativity development.

The Torrence test actually consists of 12 different small tests combined into modules or batteries: verbal, visual and sound. The results will help determine how much creative thinking you have developed.

Another way to test your creativity is a questionnaire created by psychologist Jerome Seymour Bruner. The test includes 75 questions that need to be answered “yes” or “no”. The results can be interpreted using the supplied key.

For those who have very little time, but a great desire to find out how creative they are, Harvard has developed a four-minute test for the level of divergent thinking. The subject must name 10 nouns that differ as much as possible in meaning from each other. Based on these words, the algorithm will determine the level of your creativity. 

Exercises to develop creative thinking

Creative thinking, like other types of thinking, can and should be developed. To do this, there are various exercises, games and workouts.

Six Hats of thinking

The method was developed by Edward de Bono and helps to structure the thought process.

De Bono defines six modes of thinking and assigns a metaphorical hat of a certain color to each of them.

White hat — facts, all the information that is currently available on the task.

Red hat — emotions, feelings, intuitive guesses.

Black hat — criticism, pessimistic forecasts, fears.

Yellow hat — optimism, positive forecasts, advantages and prospects.

Green hat — creative, the most unconventional ideas and assumptions.

Blue hat — process, planning, conclusions.

The six hats method is equally good to use both individually and for group discussions.

Casual connections

This exercise will help you develop your imagination. Take two completely unrelated words and come up with a story that would connect them. For example, you can take a book and choose words at random. The story can be any — from a possible real situation to a fantasy composition.

Association table

Creative thinking: what is it, how to develop it and where it will come in handy

Example of a table for an exercise

If you are facing some task that you cannot solve, use the exercise “Table, association”. On the board with letters, determine the word that first caught your eye. Come up with five associations for it. Then try to apply these associations to the solution of your problem.

A dreamer. A realist. A critic (Walt Disney Technique)

This technique became popular thanks to the famous animator Walt Disney, who used it to create characters. But this method was invented by one of the leaders of modern NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) Robert B. Dilts (Robert B. Dilts).

The author of more than forty books on NLP, consultant to Apple, Fiat, Lucasfilm and other major companies, Dilts suggests considering the problem from those positions:

  • through the eyes of a dreamer with the most incredible fantasies and ideas;
  • through the eyes of a realist with a sober and pragmatic view;
  • through the eyes of a critic who looks everywhere for a trick.

Creative architect

In this exercise, you have to write 10 words that first came to your mind. Then you will imagine that you are an architect, and these words are part of the mandatory condition of the customer, and you must enter them into the project by any means.

For example, a table, a ram, a pill, a double bass and others. If everything is clear with the table, then the ram can be reflected in carpets under sheep wool, make chairs round like tablets, hang a picture with a double bass and thus come up with options for the implementation of all 10 concepts.

Non-standard application

Take the most ordinary items and come up with non-standard ways to apply them. For example, you can not only write with a pen, but also make holes instead of a hole punch or twist curls.

Deciphering hieroglyphs

Another good way to develop your imagination is to find images of hieroglyphs on the web — Chinese, ancient Egyptian, any. Try to decipher them and come up with your own story about anything.


Come up with a statement. For example, “Bigfoot exists”. Split into two teams if you are in a company, or consistently act as a “prosecutor” and “lawyer” if you are alone. Give arguments for and against this belief.

If you do these exercises regularly, in a few weeks you may find that you have begun to notice more details and think more broadly. The main thing is to regularly devote time to the development of your creativity, at least 10-15 minutes a day.

How to develop creative thinking for a novice designer

  • Find out why you need to develop creative thinking
  • Learn the most effective techniques and techniques
  • Learn how to learn to think creatively
  • What professions need creative thinking

Creative thinking is not a solid skill for any particular position. The ability to think creatively is useful in any profession and in everyday life, for solving personal and everyday tasks and problems.

But there are a number of professions, apart from the obviously creative ones, in which you definitely can’t do without creative thinking.

It is difficult for marketers to successfully promote products if they cannot generate ideas and move away from templates.

Designers of all kinds need to think creatively. Drawing video game characters, creating a convenient and beautiful website, making a design studio where you need to accommodate a kitchen, a bedroom and an office at the same time — creativity is needed for these and other tasks.

Copywriters and anyone who creates texts.

Creative thinking will help software developers to find non-standard solutions.

SMM managers always need new ideas to successfully promote accounts and blogs.

For PR specialists and everyone involved in advertising, creativity is not just a quality, but a necessary skill.

Creative thinking helps engineers and researchers to solve complex problems and develop unusual projects.

Creative thinking is not only about the ability to paint pictures or create music. This is a skill that will help you realize yourself in any profession and solve difficult life situations.

Creativity is not a talent or an innate quality. It can and should be developed in itself. Creative thinking will help you perceive the most intractable tasks and problems not as dead ends, but only a challenge that can be overcome. In Grentana, we constantly work on developing the creativity of our team, so that we could provide you with new exciting ideas every day.