Professional development ~ Thinking Creatively

5 Ways to Inspire Creative Thinking

by Dan Finerty, Director of Marketing, MWCUA

Creativity should surface and thrive at every level of an organization. Do you agree? The ability to think outside the box and find creative solutions to common and uncommon problems is the foundation for improved decision making that leads to change, transformation, vision and innovation. Organizations that inspire employees to think creatively are more likely to thrive – becoming leaders in their industry.

One common obstruction to creative thinking is the (largely subconscious) perspective that curiosity and time devoted to creative projects is an indulgence. We need to give ourselves – and those around us – the room to explore new ideas and new ways of thinking.

In this post, I’ll list 5 ways to improve creative thinking skills and create an environment conducive to creative thought.

 1. Improve your knowledge base.

While knowing a lot about a subject, tool or technology doesn’t guarantee creative thinking, when you have a deep understanding of a topic, you are in a better position to think about it in innovative ways. One quick peak at some of the most famous inventors in history proves the point…. Did Thomas Edison know a little something about electricity?

2. Don’t be afraid to take a few risks.

“Ideas that most people deride as ridiculous have produced the best outcomes. Don’t do the obvious thing.” (Fred Wilson, cofounder of Union Square Ventures).

When it comes to creative thinking, inhibition is your worst enemy. Are you going to suggest something embarrassingly silly from time to time? Sure. Are you going to try things that fail? Absolutely. But it’s unlikely you’ll come up with a truly innovative idea while encouraging your brain to play it safe. To develop your creative skills, you must get comfortable moving around in uncharted territory. This is risky – but necessary. Bonus: The more comfortable you become with taking risks, the more you’ll build your confidence. Insecurity can suppress creative thinking, confidence promotes it.

3. Be happy.

Quite simply, happy people are more creative people. According to Alice M. Isen of Cornell University, “A growing body of research indicates that positive affect is associated with greater cognitive flexibility and improved creative problem solving across a broad range of settings.” If you want to think creatively about a subject, you’ll be more likely to do so from a positive mindset. Think about it. Which scenario is more likely to encourage innovative thought?

Scenario #1: You are tense and upset. Stressed out and a little exhausted. You are feeling critical – about other people and yourself.

Scenario #2: You are happy and relaxed. You’ve set aside your never-ending to-do list for a while and given yourself some space to explore new ideas. You are feeling supportive – of yourself and of others.

4. Get those creative juices flowing with brainstorming.

There’s a reason why brainstorming is a common technique for producing creative ideas in both academic and professional situations – it works. The key to effective brainstorming is creating a judgment-free zone. Check your self-criticism at the door, and try to generate as many ideas as you can in a short period of time. Most of what you come up with will be discarded, but the worst ideas are often stepping-stones to one or two brilliant gems. Take the best ideas from the session and work on refining them into workable solutions.

5. Try the “Six Hats” technique.

This powerful technique was developed by Edward de Bono in his book ‘6 Thinking Hats’, and allows you to examine a problem or idea from six different perspectives. In doing so, you will discover ways of thinking about a topic that are impossible when only examining it from one or two points of view. This tool is especially helpful when working on a team with a diverse group of people because it atomically blocks criticism for unique points of view.

Red Hat: Look at the situation emotionally. What do your feelings tell you?

White Hat: Look at the situation objectively. What are the facts?

Yellow Hat: Use a positive perspective. Which elements of the solution will work?

Black Hat: Use a negative perspective. Which elements of the solution won’t work?

Green Hat: Think creatively. What are some alternative ideas?

Blue Hat: Think broadly. What is the best overall solution?

Recommended Reading

Want to learn more about how to improve creative thinking skills? Here’s some recommended reading:


Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi









Gamestorming by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo










The Innovative Mind by Gene N Landrum








What am I missing?

What tools and tips do YOU have to inspire creative thinking in the workplace? Please leave a comment share!

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