(Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Creativity

13 Thinking ToolsSome straightforward answers to perennial questions about creativity.

Published on October 27, 2008
What does it mean to be creative?

Creativity is effective novelty. That is to say, it is doing or making something new that solves a problem or usefully changes how we act, think, or feel. To be creative, then, can be as simple as seeing something everyone else sees, but thinking what no one else thinks about it. (Is that a girl, or a bird’s best friend?) Other times, it requires taking ideas or processes that people usually view as being totally unrelated and finding some fruitful connection between them. Recently, we gave an interview to a Brazilizian journalist about creativity. Here are our answers – in English!

How do creative people think?

Creative people tend to utilize a wide range of thinking skills. In our book, Sparks of Genius, we have identified thirteen “thinking tools” common to creative people across many disciplines and endeavors. These are observing, abstracting, imaging, pattern recognition, pattern forming, analogizing, body thinking, empathizing, dimensional thinking, modeling, playing, transforming, and synthesizing. It may seem odd, but scientists and artists of all kinds abstract and simplify complex things and processes, play with their ideas, and empathize with the objects of their study in similar ways.

What can people do to improve their creative potential?

The best thing for enhancing your creative potential is creative practice.

Learn some new skill: writing, photography, cooking, dancing, computer programming, chess… you name it! But while you are learning, pay attention to HOW you are learning. Use your thirteen “thinking tools” to play around. Experiment. Explore. Break the rules. See what happens if you do the opposite of what you are supposed to do. Make mistakes on purpose to see if something interesting happens. Make up your own rules. By playing such games, learn what strategies work for you. And then apply your own successful strategies in other parts of your life and work. As long as you keep trying to make and invent, you build creative muscle.
Psychology Today Blog (Read All)

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