Creative Thinking Styles

Creative thinking is a complex process that consists of several stages and requires mental work that combines several ways of thinking, or thinking styles.

creative thinking styles
Photo: Максим Власенко

Creative thinking is a skill which is dependent on the use of different thinking styles that play their part in the process of imagining, analysing, selecting and executing new ideas. Creative thinking does not stop with an idea being generated in your mind – unless you bring it to reality, you cannot call yourself a real creative thinker.

We are all unique, and so is our thinking. How an individual thinks depends on their intelligence, education, upbringing, current circumstances, and even current mood. Personal thinking style also depends on genetic predispositions and environment, the same as a person’s physical characteristics. If you gather a group of people and give each person a suitcase filled with identical clothing items, each one of them will dress in their fashion and look different from the rest. The same goes for personal thinking style – we are all capable of using many different thinking styles simultaneously, but we prefer some more than others.

Here are the most common thinking styles

Focused Thinking

Is the skill typically found in highly productive individuals. If you need to solve a specific problem and your mind constantly wanders around you will never be able to finish your task successfully. To be a good thinker, you must train your mind to stay focused on the problem so you can achieve great results, fast.

Associative Thinking

Is the most creative of all thinking styles because it helps you connect less obvious information to form new and unique ideas. Ideas often happen out of the blue, when inspiration strikes, but you can also train your brain to think of new ideas whenever you need them. You can become creative on demand by using different creative thinking techniques which will train your brain to freely and abundantly use creative associations.

Positive Thinking

Helps you discover values, benefits and potentials of an idea or situation. Sometimes, though, you can get carried away, even fall in love with an idea, and think it is the best-ever, only to become disillusioned by it the very next morning. Positive thinking is a valuable part of the thinking process because it can give insight into various potentials of the idea and provide arguments that can sell it better.

Negative Thinking

It is Idea Terminator. It is usually irrational, and can do no good but bring discouragement, spread bad vibe among team members, block creativity and ruin team-work. Instead of being negative, you should be cautious. Think of all the shortcomings of an idea, all the unfavourable scenarios and bad things that can happen – but always provide solid arguments for your statements. Cautious thinking can help you prevent problems and discover well in advance things that need to be avoided or improved.

Analytical Thinking

Deals with pure facts and numbers and can help you determine how feasible or sustainable is an idea. It is essential for project development and can play a crucial part in the decision process.

Emotional Thinking

Is usually overlooked but can play an important part in the decision and execution phase. If all members of the team like the idea, they are more likely to put extra effort into executing it. Similarly, if you are passionate about your idea, you will keep energy and enthusiasm to go through it even in times of crisis.

Strategic Thinking

Is most important when planning long-term projects. It requires you to think several steps ahead and be able to predict different scenarios for the idea execution. You should be ready to step aside, take a helicopter view of the situation and analyse thoroughly the context, stakeholders, resources and processes needed for the idea execution so that you can plan your next steps.

Whenever you are imagining or considering a new idea, try to combine these thinking styles to achieve the best possible results of your thinking effort.

Creative thinking exercise 1:

Rate 1-5 points:
a) How often do you use each one of these thinking styles?
b) How good are you in these thinking styles?

Think which one of these styles you could benefit from if you used them more often.

Creative thinking exercise 2:

Write on seven cards the names of these thinking styles.

Use these cards to determine the order in which you will use different thinking styles while doing your project. As you progress, you can re-combine the sequence of the cards and/or repeat some thinking styles if necessary.

Remember, the more thinking styles you use, the better results you will be able to produce.

If you are interested to learn more about the creative process, please check out the Deciphering Creativity podcast serial where I explain in details how ideas are created, what is Inspiration and what skills and habits you should develop if you want to become a better creative thinker.

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