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Creative Thinking Tools

Now that we’ve established that creativity is a skill you can grow and develop; And knowing that it needs the right mindset, atmosphere and some effort to flourish; let’s look at some of the tools that can help us come up with a new idea or an innovative solution to a problem. Whether you’re thinking alone or with a team, these simple yet effective tools can make your creative problem solving - or your life - easier. By: Eman H. Omar


A common technique used in the workplace, that best works with teams. The trick however, is that you need to follow its rules in order not to restrict your ideas. 1. In a team, every member needs to attend with the problem in mind. Give them time to understand the problem/issue and its dimensions before sitting (or standing) for a brainstorming session. 2. Start by ignoring your urge to judge and criticise your own ideas and others’. Even if a thought seems “silly” at first, it can eventually lead to an amazing idea. 3. Write down each and every idea that anyone in the room utters out loud, and urge people to say their ideas out loud. Follow no specific order and don’t “box” or label ideas on the board yet. 4. When everyone is done saying their spark of ideas (make sure you makes several rounds and that everyone has spoken), start grouping related ideas and possible solutions and putting them into categories. 5. Next, talk about each idea briefly, clarifying and refining each one while deleting redundant ones and combining those who can work together. 6. Eventually you will arrive at the best possible choice(s), which you will work on prioritizing and putting into action.

Mind Mapping

A mind map is a great way to connect ideas and look for innovative answers to questions. It can work when you’re thinking on your own or with a team, and it doesn’t need a specific time to start and finish it. You can start a mind map and keep adding to it for days/weeks if necessary.

Check out the smart apps article for a digital mind mapping app

1. Start a mind map by writing down a topic or word in the center of the page/board, try to make it visually appealing to you. 2. Next, using brainstorming or just your own flow of ideas link related terms or ideas around the central word, using large arrows

preferably a different color for each arrow.

3. Whenever a new idea comes out, make sure it either relates to an existing branch or needs a new one and put it in the map accordingly. *Try using symbols, drawings and different colors to let the map speak to both sides of your brain. That is the best thing about mind maps; if done right, it efficiently utilizes our whole brain and helps us come up with our best ideas.

Random word generation

This technique is designed to get your creative juices flowing and free you of any “mind-rust”, it could work as a game before a real brainstorming session. However, it can still be used in coming up with real creative ideas for new products, features, brand/product names and even services. The tool is very simple:

  • Just pick two random - totally unrelated - words

  • Put them in two different columns

  • Start listing words related to each word and put them in their corresponding columns

  • Mashup up any two words from the columns, including the two main words Using the newly formed two-word phrases, tons of ideas can come to you, not to mention a good laugh when it’s done in a team. When this technique is used for a specific purpose, the invented phrases can actually lead to innovative products that solve real problems.

Six thinking hats

Every new endeavor we’re diving into, be it big or small, urgent or relaxed, has different perspectives to it and plenty of factors affecting it. And one cannot be fully aware of or in touch with all of them. You must change your perspective in order to see those other sides of the story - and this is where the hats come in! Each of the hats represent a mindset from which to look at the problem, project, task, or even a new idea you want to execute.

White Hat - “Neutral”

offers objective facts and figures and is used near the beginning of the meeting to establish relevant facts and information about the issue to be discussed.

Blue Hat - “Organizing”

sets objectives, outlines the situation, and defines the problem in the beginning of the meeting and returns at the end to summarize and draw conclusions.

Red Hat - “Emotional”

used to get people’s intuitive, gut reactions to an idea or when you want the team to express their emotions freely.

Green Hat - “Creative”

comes on when you want to generate fresh ideas and new directions. This is a very powerful hat each player needs to wear.

Black Hat - “Cautious”

used when you want to get the critical viewpoint of an idea or situation. The “devil’s advocate” hat helps decrease the chances of making a poor decision.

Yellow Hat - “Positive”

helps identify the value of ideas and plans. The Yellow Hat helps counterbalance the judgmental thinking of the Black Hat.

In a team meeting, you all put on the same hat and take turns sharing your thoughts while wearing this virtual (or real) hat. Example: when we’re all wearing the white hat, then we’re all sharing information, statuses, numbers and facts - but not opinions. If you’re leading the meeting, make sure everyone takes a turn in all hats, so people can force themselves to think different than what they’re used to (their original hat).

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