3 simple creative thinking techniques for bigger, better ideas

Sometimes we forget that simple is best. Enhance your creative thinking skills with these three simple creative thinking techniques.

Creative thinking techniques

1. Change its name

For a fresh look at a challenge, just change its name! You’ll start to see new opportunities right away. For example, if you’re working on a communications campaign, and you’re stuck for ideas, think about a:

  • Communications blitz
  • Communications romance
  • Communications exchange
  • Communications assault
  • Communications speed-date

Creative thinking skills: whatever your challenge, take a few minutes to generate a list of 10, 20 or even 50 new names, new ways of describing the challenge. Then take each in turn and see what new ideas and solutions it generates.

If this feels new and uncomfortable, look at the benefits of trying something for the first time.

2. Challenge your assumptions

We all make assumptions; we use them to guide our thinking. The problem arises when our assumptions start to limit our thinking, or send us down the wrong path. Here are some classic (and amusing) examples of capable people coming to completely inappropriate conclusions:

I think there is a world market for maybe five computers. Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, 1943

I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year. Editor, Prentice Hall Business Books, 1957

There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home. Ken Olsen, President, Chairman and Founder, Digital Equipment Corp, 1977

How can we ensure that we don’t make the same kinds of mistakes ourselves? The answer is that we must challenge our own assumptions, to see if they are correct.

This is not always easy, because our assumptions are so integral to our thinking processes that often we can’t even recognize them.

Cultivating a growth mindset will help you.

Creative thinking skills: on one half of a piece of paper, write down all your assumptions (take some time to think these through). On the other half of the paper, find a way to challenge your assumption. For example: “I don’t have the resources to do this job”, challenged by “If I extend the deadline of other projects, I can find the resources!”.

3. Just ask “Why?”

Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most creative thinkers in history, tells of his inspiration:

I roamed the countryside searching for answers to things I did not understand. Why shells exist on the tops of mountains along with imprints of plants usually found in the sea. Why thunder lasts longer than that which causes it. How circles of water form around the spot which has been struck by a stone. And how a bird suspends itself in the air. Questions like these engaged my thought throughout my life.

It is easy to forget, as we rush through our lives, that curiosity is an essential foundation for creativity.

Creative thinking skills: look around your business world, keep asking ‘Why?’ and ‘Why not?’, and you will soon see new opportunities.

Explore our questioning techniques.

Put these creative thinking techniques to work

Make a note of these simple creative thinking techniques, and put them to work. Get into the habit of using them when you need a little inspiration and you’ll soon start noticing that your creative energy has increased!

Apply them as you facilitate group workshops, and you’ll see even greater value in these techniques.

And finally, as you implement the ideas you generate, try these 3 simple innovation metrics to measure the impact of your performance.