Creative Thinking: How To Start Thinking Creatively

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 20 December 2022

Published 26 May 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Creative thinking isn't just for people working in artistic industries; employers across all sectors appreciate seeing creative flair in their teams. Working on your creative skills helps you improve your work no matter what you do and positions you as an indispensable team member or a visionary business owner. In this article, we discuss what creative thinking is and how to enhance your creative skills in the workplace.

Related: What Are Creativity Skills? Definition, Examples and Tips

What is the importance of creative thinking?

All industries value employees with creative thinking skills. This fact reflects the wide-held belief that those who think creatively can develop new and original ideas not previously considered by others.

Related: Tips for Encouraging Innovative Workplaces (Plus Benefits)

How to use creative thinking

When you are a creative thinker, you have the opportunity to introduce your own unique solution to any problem, a trait that sets you apart. Here are some ways to practice thinking more creatively:

Look at the task as a whole

Firstly, consider the task in its entirety. Read the full brief a few times and make sure you completely understand any instructions before starting work. Doing this stimulates your creativity.

Research the problem

Once you've read the brief a few times, try to gather all the information you need to critically examine the topic. For example, suppose you run a cocktail bar and have the task of increasing the number of people who visit each night. There is quite a lot of research you might want to do to find a solution.

To begin, you could do the following:

  • Investigate what happened in the previous year, and analyse why the figures were what they were.

  • Look at other successful cocktail bars in the area, and work out how you can replicate their successes.

  • Read reports about the successes and failures of the business to have a broader outlook on the task at hand.

Related: Importance of Research Skills (With Examples and Tips)

Think about the obvious solution first

There might be an initial simple solution to your problem. Think about this first, and see if you can build on it creatively. You could use this seemingly obvious answer as a framework for your solution. For example, the obvious solution for increasing the number of people who visit your cocktail bar each night might be expanding your advertising to a wider market.

Perhaps you use Facebook advertisements as a way of letting local people know about your business. If you want to reach more people, the obvious solution would be to invest more money in these Facebook advertisements.

However, using your creativity, you might find that there are other solutions you could consider instead, and some of these solutions may prove to be more successful and even more budget-friendly.

Related: How to Become a Creative Problem Solver: A Definitive Guide

Try to find additional solutions

Your next step is to think of other solutions that your business may not have tried before. This novel approach is the main creative step of this process. Think of all the ways – obscure or commonplace – that you could tackle the problem, and concentrate on solutions across sectors and through different processes. Note down every idea you can think of, even one not feasible – it might trigger another potential solution.

Let's go back to our example of a cocktail bar. You want to attract more customers to your business, and there are several things you should consider when jotting down your ideas:

  • Advertising attracts customers: Advertising comes in many forms, including traditional media like magazines, newspapers, television and radio, and through newer channels like social media. Each medium has its strengths and weakness, so it's important to consider the best platform for you to advertise and what you want your adverts to say, and in what form. To optimise your advertisement, consider your budget and where your target audience browses most frequently.

  • Think about your reputation in the community: Positive reviews on TripAdvisor, Google and Facebook go a long way when it comes to the success of cocktail bars. To gain such an endorsement, ensure you treat every customer to a quality experience. You may also want to ask satisfied customers to leave reviews.

  • Be conscious of the competition: The competition next door might be offering similar cocktails or ambience as yours, but it is possible to position your bar to become the favourite in the area. If you are in a location with a lot of rival businesses, you should introduce something your competitors don't offer, such as promotions or unique cocktails.

When you start writing down notes, you often come up with more and more ideas. Consider making your notes on a large whiteboard or use a kind of virtual mind mapping software and, if appropriate, a group mind mapping session with other members of your team.

Read more:

  • 12 Tips for Using Outside-the-Box Thinking at Work

  • What Is Brainstorming? With Tips to Brainstorm Effectively

Decide on the most feasible solutions

Once you've made an extensive mind map, you should have various solutions, ranging from ones you already trialled to fanciful ideas you likely won't pursue. Then, it's time to assess them and decide which ones are most possible and likely to meet your end goal. This deliberate separation is an important part of thinking creatively.

You want to be able to think of unique solutions, but once this process is complete, you need to have the skills to target specific ideas. Here are some tips for filtering through your creative ideas:

  • Wait a couple of days first before revisiting them rather than reviewing them immediately.

  • Examine them with a highlighter, and mark any that you like.

  • Ask a colleague to check the notes with a different colour highlighter and mark any they think are good.

  • If appropriate, ask your customers what they think. In the case of the cocktail bar example, you may have to bring some new cocktails to your menu. You could put a poll on your social media asking your followers which cocktail they would prefer. This survey also acts as a form of advertising and shows people that you are trying to freshen your business.

Implement your solutions

Once you have decided on your solutions, it's time to implement them. Keep detailed records of how the solutions go, including any successes and failures. This might provoke even more ingenious and creative solutions later on in your business journey.

Related: How to Create an Implementation Plan (With Examples)

Tips for creative thinking

Here are some tips for getting into a creative mindset and improving your creative thinking skills:

Listen to a range of different people

Part of creativity is listening to different voices. Try to get ideas and opinions from various people, including colleagues in other sectors, your customers and the general public. This will help you capture those in your target audience as well as those who aren't.

When you speak to somebody about one of these topics, make detailed notes about their comments or suggestions. Although people's opinions reflect their personal preferences, the consensus indicates what solution resonates with the everyday cocktail lover.

Consume diverse media

Accessing diverse information from a range of sources helps you to think creatively. Listening to podcasts, browsing news sites and utilising social media ensure you follow different voices with unique perspectives on many topics. For example, if you work in the fitness industry, try to track experts from different races, religions and ages. Consuming a variety of information should further inspire you and ensure you are inclusive in your work.

Try new things

Take risks to amplify your creativity. You should be open to different processes and embrace advice from colleagues or loved ones when they suggest a different approach. That new, proposed method – which could be alternative marketing or a website redesign – might give you the boost you need to think of even more creative and innovative ideas.

Related: What Is Thought Leadership? (With Benefits and Tips)

Research your business and ask lots of questions

Make sure you fully understand your business and its needs. You can update your knowledge in this sphere by reading business documents and briefs. Combining this additional research with your firsthand knowledge allows you to see your business from inside and outside perspectives.

Also, take some time to get to know the people working in your business and their specific job descriptions. Ask them questions like:

  • What is your job description?

  • What do you like most, or least, about your job?

  • How important do you think your sector is to the business's overall success?

  • If there was one thing you could change about your sector, what would it be?

You can use these answers for future creative processes.

Creative thinking comes naturally to many people, but even if it doesn't, there are plenty of ways to unlock your creative processes. The mind mapping method is a fantastic way to create lots of good, interlinked ideas that can propel your company toward success.

Besides your innate potential, it's important to look to others to enhance your creativity, as collaboration is a great step in thinking of new ideas. Combining these tips should improve your creative thinking skills and performance.

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