What Is Creative Thinking and Why Is It Important?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 11 October 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 is a skill that most businesses and organisations value. Employers across all sectors and industries appreciate people who bring new perspectives to the workplace. Developing creative thinking skills can help you approach challenges at work in a new way. In this article, we explore what is creative thinking, how you can expand your creative thinking skills and how this talent can help you in your career.

What is creative thinking?

Creative thinking means generating original ideas. It can help you develop new solutions or new ways to address a challenge that others have not yet tried. Anyone can develop their creative thinking skills. Even if you don't consider yourself to be a creative person, there are ways you can evolve your thinking so that you approach difficulties with an innovative attitude and an actionable plan.

Related: A Guide To Analytical Skills: Definition, Examples and Tips

Why is creative thinking important?

Creative thinking is important because it drives new ideas and encourages innovation and learning. It provides a space to experiment and try out new ways of working, rather than repeating established methods and processes. Creative thinking is not just for artists, musicians and writers. Rather, you can use it in every type of workplace, from science and education to manufacturing and business.

How do you use creative thinking in the workplace?

You can use creative thinking in many situations. Here are some examples of how you might see it at work:

Analysis

Before you can think of new solutions to a challenge, first try to analyse and understand your circumstances. Whether you're looking at data, a lesson plan, a new equation or a manufacturing process, study the details first. Analysing situations in detail can help you devise better solutions.

Problem-solving

Employers want employees who can help them solve work-related issues. When you encounter a challenge, try to consider how you can solve it before asking for help. Look for solutions from different sources before seeking the help of a manager.

Organisation

Learning to be more organised can enhance your creative process. Try to present your work in a structured and neat way. This can help others to understand your ideas.

Communication

People can only understand and appreciate your creative ideas if you communicate them effectively. Working on your writing and speaking skills can help you communicate your creative ideas effectively. Understanding a situation fully and knowing how it might affect your workplace can help you explain it to others.

Related: 10 Effective Communication Skills for Career Success

How to develop creative thinking skills

Here are some techniques you can try to develop or improve your ability to think creatively:

1. Brainstorming

One of the best ways to come up with an excellent idea is to generate lots of ideas and then choose the best one. You can carry out brainstorming in a group, with everyone encouraged to have a say, or you can brainstorm individually. The goal of brainstorming is to draw associations between different ideas without judging or criticising them.

2. Mind mapping

Ideas may lead to other ideas, which is where mind-mapping can be useful. Mind mapping is an image-forming technique and can be helpful for people who think visually. In this technique, you start with one idea written on paper and then draw lines connecting sub-ideas to the first idea. By using a diagram, you can organise information and build on ideas to create new concepts and solutions.

3. Lateral thinking

Creative thinking means approaching a topic from different points of view. Lateral thinking uses reasoning or non-traditional logic to find an indirect or unconventional solution to a challenge. An example might be that you need to make more sales as a sales manager. Rather than continuing to sell in the same way, a lateral thinking approach would be to think of new solutions from a new perspective. This might mean seeking sponsorship, setting up a new advertising campaign or finding out what your customers really want.

4. Listening actively

By listening more carefully, you don't just hear what someone says, but you can also understand why the conversation is taking place. This can help you see things from other people's perspectives. You can start to understand different points of view and why they matter, which in turn often leads to new ideas.

5. Storytelling

Storytelling can allow you to exercise your creative thinking skills. The ability to create and share compelling narratives can help you express ideas in a way that others can easily understand and appreciate. Crafting a cohesive story about a situation is a good way to find creative connections.

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What are the benefits of creative thinking?

Creative thinking can bring a whole range of benefits to your professional and personal life. Here are some of the ways it can help:

Boost your employability

Creative thinkers are valuable employees across all sectors and industries. Whether you're finding more effective ways of working together, developing innovative business ideas or creating changes in policy, creative thinking skills at work can help you succeed. It can set you apart from other job candidates, leading you to greater opportunities for career advancement.

Improve your problem-solving capabilities

Developing your creative thinking ability can help you solve a wide variety of challenges faster. As your mind switches to using different thought techniques, you learn to recognise patterns that you might not have noticed before. It helps you to become a better problem-solver, which has far-reaching benefits in both your work and personal life.

Help you build stronger connections

By practising creative thinking skills and regularly seeking new ideas and points of view, you can start to understand your colleagues and customers more. Considering things with a new perspective helps you to see how others feel. This, in turn, helps you to develop empathy and to be more considerate of others.

Increase your job satisfaction

Finding new, appropriate solutions can be very satisfying and may even help you feel happier at work. If managers and colleagues value your ideas and solutions, you feel more valued. This may lead to greater job satisfaction.

Discover new talents and hobbies

Learning to think creatively can help you discover new skills and talents. Trying out new ways of working can help you discover tasks you didn't know you were good at. Creative thinking is a gateway to learning and opens up new paths to explore.

Learn to manage adversity

Building your creative thinking skills helps you develop resilience and flexibility. By exploring alternative ways of thinking, you may be better prepared to face adversity. This helps you find solutions to challenges in everyday situations.

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

6 steps to becoming a more creative thinker

You can use creative thinking in your career in lots of ways. Here are six steps to improve your creative thinking skills:

1. Gather and analyse the information you have

Preparation is a key skill in the creative thinking process. Collect the information available about the challenge and research anything that you're unsure of. If a colleague has already researched the issue, you can ask them to share their data and findings with you.

2. Look at the challenge from different angles

There might be a more simple solution to the challenge, therefore it's advisable to look at a challenge from many angles. For example, if you're working on a product launch, perhaps you need to source a new type of packaging to the one you usually use. The new packaging might be more expensive and take longer to make, but if this makes your product more attractive, this could lead to more sales.

3. Brainstorm new ideas

Allow a free flow of ideas and write everything down. Then, go through each idea and choose which ideas are worth further exploration and which you can discard. Once you have a list, try approaching the topic from a new perspective. Think about your motivation for starting a project, who would benefit from it, and how it would work in practice.

4. Try new things

Getting to know more people and seeking new activities and experiences helps develop creative thinking skills. Having an open mind can help the brain forge new, creative connections. Think new ideas through, even if the idea may seem a little unconventional.

5. Be open-minded

Using creative thinking can help you lay aside assumptions and traditional ways of thinking. It may help you imagine how other people would tackle a similar challenge. Try to approach a challenge with an open mind to create completely new ways of solving the issue.

6. Test things out

Apply the process or idea that you believe to be most effective. As you test ideas, you may discover additional ways to improve business practices, services or products. Testing and measuring the results can help you determine what works and what doesn't. Try to practise new ways of generating ideas regularly.

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