Top Ten Tips on...

Creative Thinking

21 August 2022
Effective Top Tens - Podcast
Quick, practical tips on a wide range of management and personal development themes.
Creativity is an increasingly valued skill, and something we can all learn. Here are 10 suggestions that can help...

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it’s not the same as invention

invention is about producing something that's brand new from scratch something that's never been there before. Creativity is using what already exists, but differently.


use the creative principle

the key principle underpinning all creativity is to take a fresh look at the familiar; it's taking what already exists and seeing it differently.


examine the front and back end creatively

imagine a pantomime horse, with a front end and a back end. The idea behind this metaphor is to look at any problem creatively from both the front end and the back end. The front is the nature of the problem. How is the problem defined? Can we define it differently? Can we look at what's causing the problem differently and how it operates differently? And looking at the back end is really looking creatively for solutions. What could we do to solve this particular problem differently?



take a current situation and reverse it. Swap from good to bad, from long to short, from, uh, old to new, outdoor to indoor, from indoor to outdoor. It’s asking what exists and test whether the reverse of it that might work better. The success of Lotus in Formula 1 racing, and how acknowledge people at football matches are both examples of successful reversal.



take a random object, and identify as many features and insights about that object, as you can in say a minute. Then having gathered your list, you look at the problem that you're perhaps trying to solve. Take that list of characteristics and see how looking at the problem from that particular characteristic it might provide a fresh and useful perspective on the problem. The development of a successful new product for Effective, and an improved visitor attraction for a London museum were both the results of this creative technique.



sometimes a creative solution can be found by taking two things that already exist separately, and combining them in a fresh, unique way. The outstanding successful example of this is the creation of Tippex.


get a fresh perspective

ask somebody else who knows nothing about your problem to have a fresh look at it. We tend to get stuck with our problems using the same thoughts but getting nowhere. If you’ve looked at several times and it's not getting solved, chances are looking at it again, isn't going to work - but a fresh pair of eyes might help. Reducing my use of flip chart paper by 75% was the result of this approach.


compare and contrast

the creativity of this is by comparing and contrasting something that are completely different from each other. Such a comparison would never be made – which is why it will produce fresh and insightful outcomes. For example, comparing a firefighter with a TV set produced the contrast that every home has one, but not the other, led to a local house builder teaming up with the fire service who’d used that technique to offer a ‘firefighter’ kit – blanket, upstairs rope ladder, extinguishers, smoke alarms – as included in the price of their new homes…



simply encourage people to generate ideas, write them all down and see if any of them might help with the particular problem being investigated. One important additional tip: separate idea generation from idea evaluation. The brainstorm is about generating ideas. There should be no description, discussion or judgment; no evaluation, because that will interrupt the flow of idea generation. Idea generation is creative, idea evaluation is analytical. They use different parts of the brain, with a different focus and skill set. So generate ideas first – which will probably last about 5 minutes – and then you can explain, discuss and evaluate.



necessity is often regarded as the mother of invention, and it is often true. Some solutions identified in a crisis just might not have been considered under less pressured circumstances. Which is why, when facing a crisis, a training team considered hiring their own aircraft to fly them to a contract, which worked out better than if the commercial option had been available…

Effective Top Tens - Podcast
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