Thinking Skills

Creativity Skills: 30 Things You Should Know About Creativity

Creativity | Problem solving



There is nothing romantic about being creative – it takes time, involves multiple mistakes, demands risks, and is mostly hard work.


Part 1: Things you should know about creative thinking first


1. What is Creativity?

Creativity is the ability to find new solutions to a problem or new modes of expression; thus it brings into existence something new to the individual and to the culture.

- Dr. Betty Edwards, 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain'


2. How does the creative process work?

The creative process normally takes five steps:


Preparation: Becoming immersed in problematic issues that are interesting and arouses curiosity.

Incubation: Ideas churn around below the threshold of consciousness.

Insight: The 'Aha!' moment when the puzzle starts to fall together.

Evaluation: Deciding if the insight is valuable and worth pursuing.

Elaboration: Translating the insight into its final work.

- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


3. The best innovation on the internet has been done by a single person, a duo or a very small group

Examples: Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, YouTube,, Metafilter, Craigslist


4. The two worst things to say to a creative person:

1. That's been done before. 2. That's never been done before.

- Seth Godin


4. Creativity works better under constraints


Dr. Seuss was given a list of 348 'important' words in 1954, to write a story using only 250 of them

- Dr. Seuss wrote Cat in the Hat using only 236 of those words.


5. Things that help boost your brainpower

- Exercise

- Diet Stimulants

- Video Games

- Music

- Meditation


Part 2: How to generate ideas and solutions


6. How to generate ideas


A checklist of creative thinking ideas for creating/inventing new products:


1. Opposite: Two different approaches (but of a similar type - e.g. left and right) to a situation.

2. Magnify/Minimize

3. Adaptation

4. Exaggeration

5. Addition/Subtraction

6. Time Frames

7. Packaging that sells

8. Specific Solutions

9. Combining

10. Re-arranging

11. General Purpose vs. Special Purpose

12. Coined Terminology [Like, the Web –WWW]

13. Symbols [like, Brands]

14. Technology

- Anon


7. The Twenty Thinker's Keys


1. The REVERSE Key: Name 10 things you cannot XYZ.

2. The WHAT IF Key: What if XYZ stopped shining?

3. The DISADVANTAGES Key: List disadvantages of XYZ, and then brainstorm various ways of correcting or eliminating the disadvantages.

4. The COMBINATION Key : List attributes of two dissimilar objects, then combine the attributes into a single object.

5. The BAR Key: Make XYZ bigger, add something to it, replace something on it.

6. The ALPHABET Key: Compile a list of words on XYZ from A to Z.

7. The VARIATIONS Key : How many ways can you XYZ.

8. The PICTURE Key : Draw a simple diagram and work out how to link it to XYZ.

9. The PREDICTION Key: Predict what XYZ will be like in 10 years.

10. The DIFFERENT USES Key: Find 10 uses for XYZ.

11. The RIDICULOUS Key: Try to justify the statement XYZ ...

12. The COMMONALITY Key: Find common points between XYZ and ...

13. The QUESTION Key: Suppose XYZ is the answer, list five questions that give only that answer.

14. The BRAINSTORMING Key : XYZ is a problem that needs to be solved. Brainstorm a list of practical, creative or innovative solutions

15. The INVENTIONS Key : Design a machine for XYZ.

16. The BRICK WALL Key : Make a statement on XYZ which could not generally be questioned or disputed, and then try to 'break down the wall' by outlining alternatives of dealing with the situation.

17. The CONSTRUCTION Key: Construct XYZ and list materials.

18. The FORCED RELATIONSHIPS Key : Do XYZ by A ..., Do XYZ by B ...

19. The ALTERNATIVE Key: Work out 3 ways to ... without XYZ.

20. The INTERPRETATION Key: Give 3 possible or unusual explanations for XYZ.


(Source: 'Thinker's Keys' by Tony Ryan)


8. Disruptive Innovation


1. Disruptive Innovation is something that transforms existing markets and creates new ones.

2. Disruptive Innovations trade off pure performance in favor of simplicity, convenience or affordability.

3. Disruptors target customers who find existing solutions too expensive or too complicated.

4. They offer 'good enough' solutions at a lower price.


(Source: 'The Innovator’s solution, and Seeing what’s next' Clayton M. Christensen & Scott D. Anthony)


9. An idea is a combination of other ideas.


10. Make combinations: Cross genres


11. Choose a type of environment that works for your line of work


12. Give your subconscious a chance: Run, walk, do something else than work...


13. Wake up your right brain: The right brain is your creativity center. Because the right brain hemisphere controls the left side of your body, you can activate this creativity center by breathing out of only your left nostril, jumping up and down on your left foot, and writing with your left hand. You can also do something artistic such as drawing, playing a musical instrument, creating mandalas, and so on. In addition, meditation stimulates the right brain hemisphere.


14. Break it down: Break a problem down into it’s smallest components and rebuild it from the ground up, questioning at every step whether that’s the best way to do it.


15. Disrupt your habitual thought patterns: Take a different route to work, try food you’ve never eaten before, listen to a music genre you normally don’t listen to, read different magazines, and so on. Explore something new, try something you’ve always wondered about.


16. Re-connect with your inner child: Buy crayons and a coloring book-the big thick kind filled with all kinds of images that you loved as a child–and sit down for an afternoon of coloring. It’s OK if you color outside the lines. Play jacks, draw with chalk on the sidewalk, build a fortress–or anything else that catches your fancy–with Lego’s, go to the playground and climb on the swings.


16. Metaphors and similes are great ways of looking at things: 'How do we push the elephant in the room?'


17. SCAMPER: A checklist to improve a product/create a new one

Substitute (components, material, people), Combine (Mix) Adapt Modify Put to another use Eliminate (simplify) Revenue


18. Attribute Listing, Morphological Analysis and Matrix Analysis: Helps with creating new products and services

First, list the attributes of the product, service or strategy you are examining. Draw up a table using these attributes as column headings. Now select one entry from each column. Either do this randomly or select interesting combinations. By mixing one item from each column, you will create a new mixture of components. This is a new product, service or strategy.


19. Brainstorming: Generating many ideas - get people to come up ideas, any ideas

Now, collect the ideas and come up with something original and interesting. It is a lateral thinking exercise.


- Individual brainstorming using Mind maps: Think of it as creating as a free flowing, often tree like table of contents for any topic on a blank page


Where you divide an issue into sub issues, and those into sub-sub-sub issues (like branches on a tree) and so on


- Group brainstorming: But first you have to encourage people to leave out their critical attitude at the door, and be enthusiastic


- Reverse brainstorming: Combines 'reversal' with brainstorming - e.g. ask a group

'How would we lose more people?'


20. The Reframing Matrix: Looking at a problem from a different perspective

Take the problem and use the 4 P POV - Product, Planning, Potential, People


21. The Professions approach: Think how different specialists would look at the problem


22. The Concept Fan: Put the problem in a circle on blank sheet

Now draw lines out from it, each denoting a solution. You can improve upon it by reframing the problem (e.g. global warming will drown coastal cities) and putting it in a new circle (joined to the original circle) and then some more lines.


23. Random input: Pick a sense word from the dictionary at random (related to touch, taste, hear, see etc.) and then using it look at the problem in new ways.

This is also a lateral thinking exercise.


24. Provocations: Carrying out thought experiments, making deliberately provocative, not necessarily true or intelligent, things about the problem/situation

We then suspend judgment and then use those provocative statement to generate ideas/solutions

We think up consequences, benefits, principles needed to make it work, special circumstances need to make it possible, how it work in reality (the provocative statement), what would happen if you change the sequence of events


25. DO IT

- Define the problem

- Open your Mind and apply creative techniques


- Identify the best solution

- Transform


26. TRIZ: A Russian acronym for 'Theory of innovative problem solving' based on logic, data, and research, not intuition.


27. Challenge assumptions

List your assumptions about a subject. Next, Write down the opposite of each assumption. Ask yourself: How to accomplish each reversal? List as many useful viewpoints as you can. Do this ‘challenge’ before you start out on any project. For example - starting a business.


28. Take Edison’s Hiring Test

Before he hired a research assistant, Edison would invite the candidate over for a bowl of soup. If the person seasoned the soup before testing it, he would not be hired. Edison wanted people who consistently challenged assumptions and tried different things, not people who had so many built- in assumptions that they would presume the soup was improperly seasoned.


29. Persist at it.


30. Situational thinking: How to think on your feet in pressure situations (Staying cool and confident under pressure)

- Relax, take deep breaths, listen to what is being said/happening, have the question repeated (this gives you more time), use stall tactics (repeat the question yourself, ask the question to clarify and to narrow it down to a manageable focus 'so you want me to shut the PC?'

- Ask for clarification

- Ask for a definition if applicable)

- Pause before you give your answer

- Stick to one point and one supporting piece of information

- Prepare some What ifs

- Practice clear delivery (strong voice, strategic pauses, change your tone and pay attention to how you are being understood

- Observe people's body language (and mind yours, look confident)

- Summarize and stop


Thank you for reading.
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