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Thinking Creatively

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Being creative

People who think creatively have the ability to come up with new and unorthodox ways to solve problems and meet challenges whenever called upon. Because of their adaptable approach, they are extremely valuable employees to any company. By thinking creatively, you are approaching or looking at something in a different way. You are ‘thinking outside the box’, you are focused on lateral thinking and not on obvious patterns. Your abilities to think in this way can improve with practice.

A person approaching a problem tends to think about it in either a linear or lateral way. Each approach has its own strengths and neither one is the right or wrong approach, they are just different ways of thinking.

Linear thinking

Linear thinkers think according to their held beliefs. Linear thinking is based on logic, rules, and rationality to solve an issue. The thought process is singular, methodical, and focused. Only one path is followed toward completion, which ignores other possibilities and alternatives. The linear thinking process is generally efficient and organized, and enables the thinker to get things done on schedule.

Lateral thinking

Lateral thinking allows organizations, teams, and individuals to be creative. Lateral thinking seeks a solution to an issue through unorthodox methods and techniques that are ‘out of the box’ and that would normally be ignored by logical thinkers. Lateral thinking techniques encourage thinkers to disrupt logical thought and arrive at solutions from another angle via a paradigm shift. The lateral thinking process is creative, turns problems into alternative solutions and taps into an unconventional way of thinking. Everyone can be a creative thinker, but only if you are open to thinking ‘outside the box.’

To approach a problem laterally, you need to think a little differently and challenge your held beliefs and personal paradigms. For example:

  • If you need to press a shirt and your iron is broken, why not heat up a clean frying pan on your stove and use that instead?
  • Remember Henry Ford? His idea for the mass production of his Model T came from observing the production line in a meat-packing plant.
  • And companies like Ryanair, Uber, and Airbnb have all challenged the paradigms of their marketplace and customer base.

Six Thinking Hats

'Six Thinking Hats' is a time-tested, proven, and practical thinking tool devised by the creative thinking guru Edward de Bono. His techniques focus on enhancing the structure of thinking, so that decision-making and idea evaluation can be dramatically improved.

The Six Thinking Hats method uses ‘parallel thinking’ as an alternative to traditional ways of thinking. It’s a simple mental metaphor that involves six different colored hats – blue, white, green, red, yellow, and black - that can be put on or taken off to indicate a mode of thinking. One hat is worn at a time by an individual, or group in parallel, allowing more thorough, expansive thinking, and increased creativity and decision-making.

Six Hats framework

The Six-Hats tool provides a framework to help people think clearly and thoroughly by directing their thinking attention in one direction at a time:

  • Blue Hat thinking focuses on managing the thinking process and symbolizes the thinking about thinking – that is, the thinking that will be required in order to plan for action. Questions that encourage Blue Hat thinking include: “What problem am I facing?”, “How can I best define this problem?” and “What is my goal and outcome?”
  • White Hat thinking focuses on data, facts, and information that is known or needed. It is neutral and objective. Questions that encourage White Hat thinking include: “What do I know about this problem?”, “What don’t I know about this problem?”, or “What can I learn from this problem?”
  • Green Hat thinking focuses on creativity and coming up with ideas, alternatives, possibilities, and solutions to problems. Questions that encourage Green Hat thinking include: “Could this be done in a different way?”, “How can I look at this problem from a unique perspective?” and “How can I think outside the box about this?”
  • Red Hat thinking focuses on feelings, hunches, gut instinct, and intuition with the understanding that feelings are sometimes inexplicable and can change. Questions that encourage Red Hat thinking include: “What is my gut telling me about this solution?”, “What are my feelings telling me about the choice I am about to make?”, and “Based on my feelings, is there a better way to go about this?”
  • Yellow Hat thinking focuses on values and benefits, and symbolizes positive points and perspectives. It considers logical reasons and the ways in which ideas can be useful. Questions that encourage Yellow Hat thinking include: “How can I best approach this problem?”, “What positive outcomes could result from this action?”, and “What are the long-term benefits of this action?”
  • Black Hat thinking focuses on difficulties, potential problems, and weaknesses. It looks at the logical reasons why something may not work, and the risks and dangers that may be involved. Questions that encourage Black Hat thinking include “What is the drawback to this way of thinking?”, “What are the potential risks and consequences associated with this?” and “Do I have the necessary resources, skills, and personal or operational supports?”

Six Hats benefits

Using the Six Thinking Hats method has many benefits, including:

  • Better, more productive thinking and ideas
  • Improved communication, collaboration, and understanding
  • Increased levels of creative thinking and fresh ideas, and
  • Shorter, more productive, focused, and effective meetings
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Kevin J Reid

CEO of Personal Skills Training, Senior Coach at Kevin J Reid Coaching, Co-founder and Communications Director of The Counsel.ie, and Lead Collaborator of LeitrimMade.com

  • A consummate and skillful international communications trainer, facilitator, and coach
  • Has over 15 years of learning development experience with individuals, teams, and entire organizations
  • Has facilitated communications workshops and training across numerous sectors in Ireland, the UK, Europe, America, and Africa

The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful.

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Personal Skills
Kevin J Reid
Skills Expert

When it comes to improving your personal skills in the workplace, four essential skills stand out: the ability to be more productive at work; the ability to adapt to a changing work environment; the ability to manage your time effectively; and the ability to deal with setbacks. This module focuses on enhancing your skills in these four critical areas.

When it comes to productivity, you will learn about the difference between being busy and being productive, and techniques you can use to increase your output and to deal with unwelcome distractions and interruptions.

The lesson on adaptability focuses on how to cultivate an adaptable mind-set at work, and how to find alternative – and innovative – solutions to problems by using tactics like brainstorming and mind-mapping.

The time-management lesson explains how to prioritize tasks and set goals, how to save and create time, and how to eliminate personal time stealers such as excessively viewing email or attending too many meetings.

The module concludes with a lesson on how to respond to setbacks in the workplace. You will discover the importance of demonstrating resilience in the face of adversity, and how to turn setbacks into valuable learning opportunities.