How to boost creative thinking (for people who think they’re not creative)

5 minutes
Written by: Natalia De la Peña Frade

Are you one of those people who think they were absent the day they were handing out creativity? If so, we need to talk. I want to tell you that I used to think the same, but with time I’ve come to realize that I was wrong; anybody and everybody can develop their creative thinking. Yes, that means you too, even if you think you can’t.

Creative thinking is much more useful than it may seem. And it’s not just for people who work in artistic fields.

Creativity is the foundation of methodologies such as Design Thinking, and Creative Problem Solving (CPS). As well as being essential for solving problems, developing your creativity boosts your self-esteem, strengthens your capacity to face challenges and, in summary, improves your quality of life.

Let’s look at where creative people come from and some tips to enhance your creativity.

Are you born creative or can you learn it?

There’s a common belief that creativity is an innate gift that some are born with. Either you’ve got it or you don’t. Many think that creative people are simply struck by blinding flashes of inspiration or that a muse whispers ideas in their ear and they just sit back and let the creativity flow… Ha!

That would be nice, of course, but that’s not exactly what happens.

All people are born with identical possibilities for developing creativity. We can’t say whether someone is born with or without creativity because it’s not something that’s tangible. It’s not like physical characteristics; ‘I have curly hair and big eyes and small creativity’. Nope.

Creativity is like a way of thinking. It’s defined as the ability to generate new ideas or make new associations between existing ideas, giving rise to original solutions.

In my opinion, one of the phrases that best defines creativity is this:

‘Creativity is just connecting things.’

Steve Jobs

So, how do we get it?

Developing our creative thinking has a lot to do with the education we receive as children, and the freedom we’re given to express how we think and feel. It’s related to curiosity, critical thinking, and nonconformity. And although these characteristics may not necessarily describe you, it doesn’t mean you can’t develop your creativity.

Of course you can! But you’ll never get there if you don’t try. It’s like anything in life: the more time you dedicate to it, the better the results will be.

There are lots of theories about the creative process, the methods, approaches, and stages to follow, but we don’t want to bore you. The idea is to get you to awaken your creative thinking and let it develop smoothly.

Leave those beliefs that limit you far behind; forget all that ‘I’m not a creative person’ stuff. If you want to, you can start strengthening your creative thinking today. How about beginning with these tips?

3 tips for developing your creative thinking

1. Break your daily routine a bit

It’s a good idea to do things a little differently from time to time; like at least twice a week. I’m not saying you have to sign up for ballroom dancing (which would also be cool), but rather do much simpler things like shop at a different supermarket, turn off the TV for a while to do something different, or take a different route home from work.

This tip may be tricky at first because our routines are convenient and comfortable and make us feel safe. But it’s also true that routines limit us; if you never do anything new, it’ll be very hard for you to have new ideas. Flexibility helps you to see things from different angles, which is one of the key elements of creative thinking.

2. Make a daily date with your creative side

We might all feel short on time, but try to dedicate some, even 20 minutes a day, to stimulating your creativity.

It’s important to be aware that you won’t achieve anything major in those 20 minutes. But even so, don’t think you’re wasting time! The benefit lies in just spending the time, and precisely in letting yourself do nothing. In order for inspiration to flow, you need to leave aside any expectations of producing anything and give yourself permission to ‘waste time’ as such.

Something that works very well is creating a little creative routine.

Hang on, which is it? Didn’t we already decide routines stifled creativity? Well, doing the same thing day in and day out does, yes. But we can also harness the power of a routine by doing little acts that you associate with the preparation of your creative process and that will help you get into the mind frame. And it should be something nice.

For example, light some incense, have a cookie, or use a special pen. Whatever it is that you choose, use it only for your creative moment and for nothing else. Why? Because that little routine will help you enter into the situation, and unlock your creativity. As the days pass, you’ll develop the creative habit and notice that it gets easier each time.

3. Try some  ‘think outside the box’ tactics

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, try this: any time you have a problem or everyday kind of setback, try to think of absurd solutions. Give yourself the freedom to think of things that make no sense for a while.

For example, the sole of one of your boots is coming off. The obvious solution would be to take the boots to a shoemaker to get them fixed, right? Well, forget it. Sit down with a pencil and paper and start writing down possible solutions.

Practice freewriting; writing without thinking and without stopping to check spelling or punctuation, just letting ideas flow freely. Write down the first thing that comes to your mind, no matter how absurd. You might write that you’re going to swap out the broken sole for a leaf of lettuce. Whatever! The key is to disregard any attempt at criticizing yourself at any moment.

It may be that in this case you don’t come up with any valid solutions (probably don’t go with the lettuce leaf idea), but you’ll be practicing creative thinking. The more you practice, the easier it’ll get to apply it, and soon enough you’ll actually be coming up with viable solutions to your daily problems.

If you follow this advice, you’ll be applying 2 creativity techniques: a kind of individual brainstorming, and free writing. There are plenty of other exercises you can try, like creating a mind map, or an Ishikawa diagram. Maybe this template will inspire you:

Experiment! Trying new things will help you train your brain and develop your creative thinking. Feel like sharing your tips for unleashing your creativity? We’d love to read them in the comments.

Natalia De la Peña Frade
Natalia De la Peña Frade
Content creator: I try to write things you like to read
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