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Creative Thinking Exercises - How to Think Out of the Box ?

Updated on February 21, 2015
The Water Building designed by Spanish architect Orlando de Urrutia
The Water Building designed by Spanish architect Orlando de Urrutia

Have you ever wondered why creative thinking or thinking out of the box is such a challenging task to some people or to you? Would you believe that it is your brains that create the obstacle to creative thinking? Think of a house and immediately you brain recalls something with a roof, square and flat walls, windows and doors. These are standard properties forming the picture of a house in your memory. Now, if you are ask to think of a creative house, you brain will stop you from making a house with oval-shaped walls with no doors or windows since this is not the usual picture you have in mind. You brain makes it hard for you to deviate from the picture or pattern you have fixed in your mind.

To be a creative thinker, you need to break away from usual patterns stored in your memory. You need to think out of the box! Creative people often ask some good questions that naturally help them to break away from the norm. For easier reminder, think of the acronym CREATE for six types of creative thinking when you want to do a little creative problem solving.

Combine : Can I combine something in a new way ?

Reverse : Can I reverse some parts or processes here ?

Eliminate : Can I eliminate or remove some part or process ?

Alternative : Can I use alternative methods or materials ?

Twist : Can I twist things around a bit ?

Extend : Can I extend, elaborate or add something ?

The Attitude

Creative thinkers possess the attitude: flexible, positive, the ability to accept change and newness, the willingness to play with ideas and possibilities, the habit of appreciating the good, while looking for ways to improve it. We are brought up into accepting only limited number of permitted or normal things, like stir-fried noodles. The creative person realizes that there are other possibilities, like adding grounded peanuts or thinly sliced fruits above the conventional stir-fried noodles. Therefore, creative thinkers possess the FIRST characteristics below:

Fantasize : They are visual people hence they often fantasize over unreal ideas.

Incubate : They often incubate or think about an idea for a long time.

Risks : They are positive thinker, they take risks to try, despite what other people think.

Sensitive : They are sensitive and appreciate the creativity of nature and humans while looking for ways to improve them.

Trigger : They trigger and generate new or different idea about things by being playful and having fun with the ideas.

Exercise to Improve Creative Thinking

“Normal” behaviour is expected at work, since it is the easiest and most efficient way to get things done. As a result, our creative self is often put aside, getting rusty from under utilization. Then one day, a manager appears and demands that we do some brainstorming to come up with an innovative solution. Ouch!

Like un-used muscles, creativity improves with exercise, so here are some brainstorming exercises to help you to warm-up those under-utilized creative brain cells:

1. Creative Consequences

Let’s fantasize. Try this “If… then” exercise with “CREATE” wherever possible, it will give you a chance to dream a little. Not everyone will have the same answers and there is no right answer; that is the nature of creativity test.

  • If I “combine” Italian food with Chinese food, then I will come out with …………

And they would taste …………

  • If aeroplane is “eliminated” in the world, then ……………..

And they would mean ……………

  • If I were given the chance to “twist” the story of “Eclipse”, then ………

And that will turn out to be ………………

2. Reverse Creative Thinking

Creative thinkers often try an opposite idea to what most people would do. They do reverse thinking which loosens the fixed patterns stored in the brain. Try these:

  • List three reasons why a person might be drawing UPSIDE DOWN
  • List three ways of drinking water WITHOUT holding the glass with your hands
  • List three things that you WOULD NOT find in a Tesco or WalMart Supermarket
  • List three ways in which a bicycle and a dog are the SAME

3. Creative Problem Solving

Creative Problem Solving demands an answer that is abnormal or unpredictable. Use CREATE to help you.

  • Think of three or more good ideas to decorate three scoops of ice-cream in order to make it more interesting to people.
  • Think of three ways to make a chair cost a million dollar.
  • Think of three ways to remove a mouse stuck in a 3 foot pipe without injuring or killing the mouse or destroying the pipe.

4. Analyzing the Creativity of Designs

Creative people are sensitive to the creativity around them. They wonder why things are made the way they are. Everything around us was designed for a purpose or function. The more you carefully observe things and ask questions on their particular colour, shape, size, material, and their movement, the more sensitive to creativity you will be.

  • Why can’t dog stand and walk with two feet?
  • Why do human walk with two feet instead of four like other animals?
  • Why don’t we make papaya or banana juice?
  • Why is the sea salty?
  • Why did God create only Adam and Eve, and not more?
  • Why does human create robots to replace human?

When is the best time to do some creative thinking?

Creative thinking is right brain dominant activity; hence the brain must be relaxed for creative thinking to take place without much effort. Right brain is active when you just wake up from sleep, or dozing off, when you are taking the morning shower, or while you are listening to soothing music. Focus on your problem at these moments, and you will be more likely to come out with creative solutions.

Have fun being creative!


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© Ingenira


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