Creative Thinking

School is back in session! Since this is my last year and I am taking a few classes outside my major due to scheduling, I thought it would be nice to continue my posting from the summer.  I will share project progress and discussions from my Design Management classes. This week’s post asks if creativity can be taught.

I believe that we are all born with a level of creativity that we eventually apply to our respective activities and careers.  As our minds develop, some become more responsive to creativity than others and in different ways. Growing up, people would say I was “creative” because I liked to draw. For a long time I would think being able to draw made me “creative”.  Upon entering design school and working on solving problems, I understood that creativity was more than aesthetics and drawing.  Creativity is about thinking differently and innovation. Through classes, workshops and conference I have learned how to use my visual foundation to build on thinking creatively and how to apply it to projects and everyday interactions.

The opening section notes some of the difficulty and foundations that deter creative thinking.  Robert Harris points out the formal education and its emphasis on “following” and “eliminate the incorrect paths and focus on the correct one” (Harris).  When thinking creatively there is no incorrect path or following. To be innovative, an essential idea around creativity, one should be encouraged to break away and think in a more abstract fashion. Changing the way someone thinks can be difficult – ask any designer working with non-designers – but it is not impossible to cultivate creative thought. Stefan Mumaw is a creative director and author who has released several books that use exercises to facilitate and enhance creative thinking. The overall goal of the activities he uses is to get the reader to think beyond the norm.  During one of his workshops title “Becoming an Idea Witchdoctor”, he had us to list features for a baby stroller with no limit on production cost in 20 seconds. The majority of us had the same features. In the next round he encouraged us to do 3 things:

1. Change the problem

  • We did not invent the problem, we are told to solve it so we may not have control
  • When we make the problem harder we become more creative
  • Alter the problem and bring it back to the original

2. Change the rules

  • Functional fixedness is our ability to find a new use for something
  • We need the restrictions of time to make the problem harder

3. Change the answers

  • As adults we struggle with novelty
  • Ideas can come from the absurd

As the facilitator, he was not directly giving us ideas, but pushing us to think beyond what was placed before us and beyond the norm. This helped me, as it kept me from becoming fixated on his direction. As the course content notes, not thinking creatively tends to lead to ideas that lack innovation.  I think at the base of creativity is an aspiration to think differently. That aspect cannot be taught and can be difficult to influence once a person has formed a set way of thinking. We can learn and push ourselves to think different, but it takes time, encouragement and desire.

What do you think?

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