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What Is Creative Thinking? Definition and Examples

Zoe Kaplan

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Creative thinking is the ability to come up with unique, original solutions. Also known as creative problem-solving, creative thinking is a valuable and marketable soft skill in a wide variety of careers. In this guide, you’ll learn: 

Creative Thinking Definition

Creative thinking examples, how to include creative thinking skills in a job application, 4 ways to improve creative thinking, why is creative thinking important.

Creative thinking is all about developing innovative solutions to problems. Creative thinkers brainstorm not only a large number of ideas but also a variety and range of them. 

Once they’ve brainstormed their ideas, creative thinkers will experiment with them. They look at ideas from multiple perspectives and examine how their solutions fit into the scope of what they’re working on. Creative thinkers aren’t afraid to take risks and try new ideas. In fact, this ability to develop, test, and implement original solutions makes them a valuable asset to just about any workplace. At work, creative thinking may look like:

Creative thinking includes the process of innovative problem-solving — from analyzing the facts to brainstorming to working with others. Examples of these skills include analytical skills, innovation, and collaboration.

Analytical Skills

Analytical skills are problem-solving skills that help you sort through facts, data, and information to develop rational solutions. These skills aid you in the first part of the creative thinking process as you brainstorm and start to generate ideas. 

Analytical skills include:

Innovation is the ability to come up with something new; however, you don’t need to develop the first flying car to be an innovative thinker. “Something new” at work might mean a method you haven’t tried before or experimenting with an unfamiliar process. Innovators in the workplace aren’t afraid to step away from tradition and explore something original, even if it might fail. 

Innovation skills include:


Creative thinking doesn’t have to happen alone; you might have your most creative ideas when bouncing your work off others. Collaboration skills ensure you consider multiple perspectives and ways of thinking when you develop and refine ideas.

Collaboration skills include:

While creative thinking is a skill employers might look for, you don’t necessarily need to write “creative thinking” on your resume to show you have this skill.

“Think of your best mental strengths,” Laura Fontenot, resume writing expert, ACRW, and CPRW, recommends. “Are you a great problem solver? Do you understand how to phrase things differently? Can you learn a new skill quickly? Those questions can help you find great words for the resume. Consider adding things like problem-solving, intuition, collaboration, fast learner, organized, or communication.”

You can show these skills outside of your resume in creative ways — including your LinkedIn profile.

“Early professionals can make creative thinking a part of their professional brand by explicitly adding creative thinking or creative problem solving to their list of skills on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles — this will help with ATS optimizations,” Alejandra Garcia, manager, alumni college and career success at Code2College and Forage content development partner, advises. “They can also consider adding projects or an online portfolio website link to their resume and LinkedIn where they can showcase projects they’ve worked on that demonstrate their problem-solving skills.”

In the interview , make sure you can describe your workflow and process for these projects. Elaborate how you brainstormed ideas, what range of ideas you had, how you tested and experimented, and how you decided on a final solution.

1. Put Yourself in a Box

Creative thinking is about “thinking outside the box,” but putting limitations on your problem-solving can help you think more freely and innovatively. For example, if someone tells you to make dinner, you may struggle to come up with a meal you don’t always cook. Yet if they ask you to make a hot dinner with three specific ingredients and two spices, you’ll more likely come up with something original. 

Putting yourself inside a box, whether that’s by telling yourself you need to include three charts in your presentation or giving yourself a strict word count for an article, can help expand your thinking.

2. Switch up Your Routine

Routine can be a great productivity booster, but it also can get in the way of your creativity. So, switch up your routine for one project, day, or even an hour. This can be something as small as where you’re physically sitting when you do your work or something as big as your process for approaching projects. Challenging yourself to do something different will help you find creative ways to adapt to your new environment.

3. Challenge What’s Currently Working

Think about how you might expand or improve upon a current process. What would you do if you had more resources, whether that’s time, money, or another expert? What would you do if you had fewer resources? If this project was taking place at a different time of year? If the target audience was different? Imagining these different potential scenarios will force you to problem-solve and adjust for various (very possible!) circumstances. 

4. Find Inspiration

Creative thinking doesn’t happen in a bubble. It’s vital to ask for others’ opinions, ideas, and feedback. Creative thinkers consider multiple perspectives and are curious about how others think. Ask your colleague about their work processes, whether it’s how they research for a client deliverable or how they approach meeting an external buyer. 

A soft skill like creative thinking will always be valuable to employers, whether you’re looking for a marketing job or trying to land a career in finance . Employers need employees who can develop and experiment with new ideas to help them solve complex problems.

“Many employers seek candidates that are analytical and outside-the-box thinkers which are iterations of creative thinking skills,” Garcia says. “Thus, creative thinking, creative problem solving, innovative thinking, and analytical skills are all valuable in the current workplace — these skills are especially important in our ever-changing workplaces with new emerging technologies.”

Fontenot agrees. “The ability to navigate new challenges quickly can benefit any workplace!” she says. “The current world of work is fast-paced, technically driven, and constantly changing. Being intuitive, creative, driven, and a problem solver are key.”

Are you looking to level up your professional skills? Check out Two Sigma’s Professional Skills Development Virtual Experience Program to learn more non-technical skills for the workplace.

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Creative Thinking Skills: Definition, Examples & Creativity Tips

Creative Thinking Skills: Definition, Examples & Creativity Tips

Michael Tomaszewski, CPRW

As seen in:

Creative thinking skills are important to master in many professions and workplaces.

On the face of it, “creativity” seems like a skill useful only to artists, designers, writers, or marketers.

Truth is—creative skills are indispensable for all professionals.

Creative thinkers are able to look at things in new, unorthodox ways and come up with solutions no one previously thought of.

Creativity is what drives innovation and progress.

And you came to the right place to learn all you need to know about creative thinking! This guide will show you:

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If you want to learn more about listing all of the most in-demand skills on a resume, see this beast of a guide: Best Job Skills You Should Put on a Resume to Land Interviews

And if you want to learn more about individual skills, we've got you covered! Check out our dedicated guides:

What Is Creative Thinking?


Creative thinking is a skill which lets you consider things from a fresh perspective and different angles. It's an inventive thought process which results in surprising conclusions and new ways of doing things. Creative thinking can be aided by brainstorming or lateral thinking to generate ideas.

Examples of Creative Thinking Skills

Problem Solving

Tackling unexpected problems requires a lot of creativity. After all, employers want to hire creative thinkers not because of their creativity as such, but because they can use it to solve problems in an innovative way.

Creative Writing

One of the most typical yet in-demand creative skills. If you are able to write in a compelling, creative way, it will help you a great deal in marketing, sales and, obviously, journalism. But it will also come in handy in all other positions that require writing—even if you’re just drafting emails, reports, and presentations.


When you’re open-minded, you oppose stereotypes and look for new solutions and methods of doing things, instead of sticking to good ol’ ways which might be no good after all.

If you can gather information and data, that’s great but without creative thinking skills, you won’t be able to analyze it properly. Creativity in analytical thinking helps you extract meaning from sets of raw data.

See more: Analytical Skills: Definition & Examples for the Workplace


No matter how great your ideas are, if you’re unable to communicate in an engaging and creative way, you’ll never get to implement them.

And there are different types of communication skills. Check them out here: Communication Skills for Your Resume & Workplace Success

Active Listening

How can listening be considered “creative?” Well—through active listening you process ideas better so that you can challenge and refine them later during a creative brainstorming session.

Sales and Marketing

Selling and marketing require a great deal of persuasion. But first, you need to put together a creative message that will enhance your sales pitch .

Here’s all you need to know about marketing skills: Marketing Skills: Examples and How to Use Them

Where creative thinking meets art. Artistic craftsmanship is important in graphic design but without fresh, creative ideas, even your most beautiful sketches and projects will be dull and lifeless.

Leadership is all about inspiring others. But when you have great leadership skills based on big and creative ideas and visions, you are able to connect teams and motivate them to work together towards the end goal.

Before we move on to examples of how to use creative thinking skills in your workplace and how to show them off in the job search, one thing to keep in mind—

Two terms that people often conflate are creative and critical thinking skills. But these are not the same. 

Creative vs. Critical Thinking

Creative thinking means you can come up with new ways to think about the surrounding world in order to make something innovative.

Critical thinking can be described as “thinking about thinking:” it means you can understand the way your perception works in order to identify flaws in your reasoning and avoid biases.

How to Use Creative Skills in Your Job Search

Now that you’ve seen the best examples of creative thinking skills, think about how you can use these skills to better your career!

There are many great jobs that involve creativity—we’ve listed some of the most popular ones below.

If you’re interested in landing one of them, just click on the position name and you’ll see a dedicated guide on how to write a job-winning resume for your next creative gig.

Here’s a list of creative careers you might want to consider!

Jobs for Creative Thinkers

And what sorts of creative gigs are hot right now? Let’s see some statistics—

Recent research by The Creative Group revealed that the top 10 areas for creative hiring will be :

Creative Thinking Skills on a Resume

If you don’t want to read whole in-depth guides but just need some inspiration for putting your creative skills on a resume, see some examples below.

Creative Thinking on a Resume—Writer/PR Specialist

Creative Thinking on a Resume—Graphic Designer

Creative Thinking on a Resume—UX/UI Designer

Creative Thinking on a Resume—Marketing Manager

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Already landed an interview for a job that requires creative thinking skills? Be prepared to face some...

Creative Thinking Interview Questions

Recruiters and hiring managers won’t automatically believe everything you put on your resume. Especially when it comes to transferable soft skills such as creative thinking.

Be prepared to prove your creative prowess during an interview.

To get ready for what’s ahead of you, see these sample creative thinking interview questions and answers.

Describe a time when you had to think “outside the box” to solve a problem. How did you handle it?

My coworker let a big order of defective parts get all the way to shipping. That was bad and created a lot of scrap. After, I suggested we install mistake-proofing so it could never happen again. We created some dies with pins in them so the parts can only be put into the machines one way. We haven’t had a single defect since.

Tell me about a presentation you’ve created that you’re most proud of.

We had to convince a big client to go with a costlier alternative that would ultimately make them higher profits. I put together a demonstration based on 10 real-world applications. They not only went with our suggestion, they became a long-term client.

Tell me about a time you used writing and communication skills.

I wrote reports as part of my daily shift. I chose to prepare the reports based on single case studies and examples to better illustrate data. My department head frequently commented that my reports were the shortest and easiest to understand of all the officers.

Interview questions that test creative thinking skills are usually situational interview questions. You can learn more about them here: Situational Interview Questions and the Best Answers (30+ Examples)

How to Be More Creative: 5 Tips for Increasing Creativity Today

Most people tend to think that creativity is a gift . Something you’re either born with or just have to accept living without.

Truth it, there are ways to become creative. And creative thinking skills are one of the most fun skills to learn!

Here’s what you can do to boost creativity:

1. Step outside of your comfort zone

Research has proven that one of the biggest obstacles for creativity is working or thinking within ideas we’re already familiar with.

In an experiment, a group of college students were asked to imagine, sketch out, and describe extraterrestrial animals. As it turned out, most of the animals they initially created were very similar to the earthly ones.

The more “limitations” researchers imposed on students (e.g. animals have to have feathers and be able to survive in certain conditions), the more creative the students’ ideas became.

When you’re facing a creative challenge, try to constrain your work to a certain level (for instance, when making a presentation, force yourself to begin each slide with a verb in active voice, or set a more stringent word count limit on your writing assignment).

This way, you’ll encourage your brain to come up with creative solutions to work around the limitations you’ve set for yourself.

2. Brainstorm

Brainstorming is a perfect combination of creative thinking skills and teamwork.

It’s based on thinking about a solution to a problem or a creative task, and jotting down all ideas any member suggests—regardless of how preposterous or out-of-place these might seem.

Out of all the ideas, some will most likely be both possible and innovative. But you can add an interesting twist to brainstorming—

Instead of picking the best ideas and trying to develop them further, pick the worst ones . Then, focus on these ideas and try to find their good features. Or try to come up with solutions to transform a terrible idea into a good one.

I guarantee, you’ll find out something creative you’ll be able to transfer over to the good ideas.

3. Force yourself to work when you’re feeling uninspired

As a professional writer, I have to find ways to overcome writer’s block—otherwise, there would be weeks when I wouldn’t write a single word.

Even when you feel like creative work is the last thing you’re capable of on a given day, commit to doing it anyways, but work in limited, short periods of time (for example, 20 minutes).

During these periods, don’t let anything distract you, don’t try to do anything else—just work on the thing you’ve committed to do.

If you write only 5 words, draw just two lines, or note down a single idea that doesn’t even make sense, it’s fine. Once the 20 minutes are over, take a break. Whenever you feel ready, start another 20 minutes.

After a few iterations, you’ll notice that you get more and more done within the set chunk of time and you’ll no longer feel relieved when it’s time for a break. Soon, you’ll be back to your creative best.

4. Work, daydream, work

Many studies have suggested that disconnecting mentally, daydreaming, dancing, or even simply napping helps enhance creative thinking skills.

But there’s only one study I found that highlights a very important aspect of daydreaming: it only works once you’ve already invested a considerable amount of time in a given project.

The deeper you are in the creative process, the more unplugging for a while or daydreaming can help you further.

(So keep that in mind the next time you’ll feel like taking a nap as an excuse for leaving your workspace!)

5. Think about love (or sex)

A fascinating study has shown that thinking about romantic love helps enhance holistic thinking, thus, enabling us to be more creative when it comes to understanding a “grander scheme” of things.

Thinking about the experience of sexual encounters, in turn, boosts the perception of present, concrete details, letting us see and analyze patterns more sharply and quickly.

Plus, a great cover letter that matches your resume will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write it in our cover letter builder here.  Here's what it may look like:

matching set of resume and cover letter

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Key Takeaway

Here’s a quick recap of everything you need to know about creative thinking skills:

What creative thinking skills do you think are most important today? Do you have any questions about how to put creative thinking skills on a resume or discuss it during a job interview? Drop me a line in the comments and I’ll get back to you straight away!

Michael Tomaszewski, CPRW

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Creative thinking skills: definition and examples

Content writer

Creative thinking skills: definition and examples

When was the last time you came up with something truly new and original? Exercising your  creative thinking skills  is a critical part of life, no matter the field you work on. 

For those that consider creativity and innovation to be gifts of nature, it is important to understand it is a skill that can be improved with the right training. Not only that but you can also  make use of certain techniques to create innovative solutions  steadily.

It is also important to break the myth that creativity is fully dependent on a mystical source of inspiration. Instead, it is the byproduct of consuming all kinds of content, being able to relate to different pieces of media, and deconstruct issues to come to the appropriate answers. The proper creative thinking makes this easier.

In this post, you will find out more about:

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What is creative thinking?

Creative thinking refers to using abilities and soft skills to come up with new solutions to problems. Creative thinking skills are techniques used to look at the issue from different and creative angles, using the right tools to assess it and develop a plan.

The focus on creativity and innovation is important because most problems might require  approaches that have never been created or tried before . It is a highly valued skill to have individually and one that businesses should always aspire to have among their ranks. After all, the word creativity means a phenomenon where something new is created.

Creative thinking is a skill and, like any other, it needs constant exercise to stay sharp. You need to regularly expose yourself to situations in which a new idea is needed and surround yourself with like-minded people to achieve this goal.

Such a process is made easier with the use of certain techniques. They help get you on the right mindset and  provide the basic structure to reach new ideas  on demand.

In the video below, the Italian professor Giovanni Corazza talks about how science can be used to generate creative ideas on people. Check it out:

Creative thinking techniques

As you have just learned, creative thinking can be triggered by some widely used techniques. These are effective methods to  help you come up with new ideas , test them under new environments, and count on other people’s input to make them even more innovative.

Some of the best examples of creative thinking skills may include: lateral-thinking, visual reading, out-of-the-box thinking, copywriting, artistic creativity, problem-solving, analytical mind, and divergent thinking.

Here are the best creative thinking techniques you can use.


This technique can be very useful in small or large-scale problems that require a creative solution. The main goal is to form a group of people and throw around ideas without interference.

The general idea of brainstorming is that, by having an  excess of creative potential solutions , it gets easier to reach one with the highest level of quality.

Brainstorming has several advantages that can help you exercise your creative thinking skills. For starters, it does not require a rigid structure to function, being very informal. However,  it can be facilitated by professional guidance . Also, the people involved do not even need to be together at the same time, as you can use a virtual setting or put ideas into a shared document.

For it to work well, all participants must be aware of the problem that requires a creative solution and are familiar with how brainstorming works. In the end, do not forget to register all the ideas through proper documentation.

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Lateral thinking

Sometimes, the answer to a problem is not in front of it, but besides it. That is the general idea of lateral thinking, which is a great way to exercise your creative soft skills and come up with innovative plans.

Lateral thinking involves looking in  less obvious areas and lines of reasoning . It can work well if you and your partners try to put yourselves under different perspectives or reverse the problem to look at it differently.

For instance, the direct solution to a loss of sales online would be to put up more ads and promotions. However, lateral thinking might reach alternative paths, like using  e-mail marketing  to reach customers that have not bought from you in a while.

This can be extrapolated further, even using absurd lines of thinking to get your creative juices flowing. The most important aspect of this process is to  go where you would not usually choose to go .

Mind mapping

The process of mind mapping helps you connect ideas you never imagined could be combined. Because of that, it might help you reach appropriate solutions while using creative thinking skills.

A mind map is a chart where you input ideas and connect them. It can have possible solutions to a problem, its immediate consequences, and be the best course of action to deal with them. Alternatively, your mind map can serve as  a way to see a bigger picture regarding what you are trying to do .

Mind mapping can even be done individually. Sometimes, you may already have all the ideas you need but it is required to put them to paper. Creating a mind map helps to organize them and naturally reach conclusions.

Also, since a mind map is essentially an  infographic , those who were not part of the process can easily understand it. Therefore, it serves as a valid piece of documentation.

Examples of creativity skills

Besides these creative thinking techniques we presented in this chapter, there are several skills you’ll need to develop to enjoy the advantages of the techniques. Some of the creativity skills may include:

What are the main benefits of creative thinking?

Developing your creative thinking skills is highly beneficial for any field of work. After all, every area needs people that can come up with the best solutions to the everyday problems that arise and  creativity is critical  to do that.

You can experience advantages such as these by developing creative thinking skills:

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How to develop creative thinking skills?

Now that you know exactly what creative thinking skills are, the next step in this process involves learning how to work on them. After all,  stagnation can be the biggest threat to your creativity , as it requires constant stimulation.

Check out below the best ways to develop creative thinking skills for yourself.

Consume different kinds of content

Your creative thinking can be heavily benefited if you diversify the kind of content you consume in your daily life. After all, the information we absorb can be combined, remixed, and repurposed in several ways to provide solutions. However, this becomes impossible if there is no variety.

To do that, you can  make use of the internet’s vast selection of content types . Try to visit different blogs, YouTube channels, and social media profiles you are not used to — preferably those that deal with topics you do not usually consume.

This also works if you try to vary the forms as well as the content. This means engaging with different types of media, like text,  videos , audio, and even more specific ones like e-books, podcasts, infographics, and others.

Keep up with the trends

Much of your creative thinking can be influenced by the trends that are influencing the market right now and the ones that are  coming up in the future .

Keeping up with the trends is not just about consuming all kinds of news related to your field. It is also necessary to develop a keen eye to distinguish what has the creative potential to get viral or not. This ability will be essential to the success of your strategies in marketing.

Being able to predict trends does not require a crystal ball. Instead, you need to understand how your business segment operates and  where the innovation comes from . Having a problem-solving stance is critical for coming up with creative and original ideas.

Try to create something every day

When someone wants to lose weight, they come up with an exercise plan that requires a daily effort as commitment. The same concept applies to the workout of your creative thinking and technical skills required to stay sharp.

So, with that goal in mind, make sure to try to create something new daily. It does not have to be something large or significant, just anything new that derives from  all the new references you are absorbing .

Such creations might also serve as solutions to everyday problems you or your community face. The most important part of this process is creating a habit of coming up with new things so it begins to come naturally to you.

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Build a network for creativity

Get help from others to keep your creative thinking and technical skills in constant development. You can build a network of people with the same goals and put all these tips in action as a group.

Interacting with your peers is a great way to  exercise your creativity . It is even better when these people are also creatively-oriented and contributes to coming up with original ideas as a network. Try to come up with group projects to create a solution to a common problem or innovate on a certain aspect of work.

Be careful not to surround yourself with people that think and create exactly like you. Seek as much diversity as you can while creating this network, since all this variety can be highly beneficial to everyone’s ideas.

Realizing  creative thinking skills  require constant training is the first step in improving how you come up with new ideas. People who are experienced in this craft can improve every field of expertise. Consider the tips in this article and begin a process of self-improvement focused on honing your creative thinking skills.

Speaking of improvements, how about learning more about how to evaluate your results? Check out this post on the  14 most important metrics to measure content performance .

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What Is Creative Thinking?

Definition & examples of creative thinking.

Alison Doyle is one of the nation’s foremost career experts.

creative thinking skills meaning

How Creative Thinking Works

Types of creative thinking, benefits of creative thinking, how to showcase your creative thinking skills.

Melissa Ling / The Balance

Creative thinking is the ability to consider something in a new way. Employers in all industries want employees who can think creatively and bring new perspectives to the workplace.

Creative thinking can involve: 

Find out more about the various types of creative thinking, and why having this ability is very beneficial in the workplace. 

Creative thinking means thinking outside the box. Often, creativity involves lateral thinking, which is the ability to perceive patterns that are not obvious.

Creative thinking might mean devising new ways to carry out tasks,  solve problems , and meet challenges. It means bringing a fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, perspective to your work. This way of thinking can help departments and organizations be more productive.

Creative thinking isn't limited to artistic types. Creative thinking is a skill that anyone can nurture and develop.

A creative thinker will turn conventional thinking on its head—they'll zig, where others zag. 

Opportunities for creative thought in the workplace vary from obvious artistic positions to highly technical ones. Generally, anything that involves an “aha” moment is considered creative. Here are some examples of how to display creative thinking in different jobs.

Artistic Creativity 

You don't have to be an artist for your work to have an artistic element. Perhaps you arrange retail displays for maximum impact or shape the path of an enticing hiking trail. Other artistically creative tasks might include designing logos, writing advertising copy, creating the packaging for a product, or drafting a phone script for a fundraising drive. 

Creative Problem-Solving 

Creative problem-solving stands out as innovative. A creative problem-solver will find new solutions rather than simply identifying and implementing the norm. You might brainstorm new ways to reduce energy use, find new ways to cut costs during a budget crisis, or develop a unique litigation strategy to defend a client.

Creativity in STEM 

Some people think of science and engineering as the opposite of art and creativity. That's not true. The fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are highly creative. Designing a more efficient assembly line robot, writing an innovative new computer program, or developing a testable hypothesis are all highly creative acts.

The history of science and technology is filled with projects that didn't work, not because of errors in technique or methodology, but because people remained stuck in their assumptions and old habits. STEM fields need creativity to flourish and grow.

Creative thinking is expressed in several ways. Here are some types of creative thinking you might see in the workplace.

Before thinking creatively about something, you first have to be able to understand it. This requires the ability to examine things carefully to know what they mean. Whether you are looking at a text, a data set, a lesson plan, or an equation, you need to be able to analyze it first.


To think creatively, set aside any assumptions or biases you may have, and look at things in a completely new way. By coming to a problem with an open mind, you allow yourself the chance to think creatively.


Employers want creative employees who will help them to solve work-related issues. When faced with a problem, consider ways that you can solve it before asking for help. If you need the input of a manager, suggest solutions rather than just presenting problems.


This might seem counterintuitive: Aren’t creative people known for being somewhat disorganized? Actually,  organization  is an essential part of creativity. While you might need to get a bit messy when trying out a new idea, you need to organize your ideas so others will understand and follow through with your vision.


People will only appreciate your creative idea or solution if you  communicate  it effectively. You need to have strong written and oral communication skills.

Employers want creative thinkers because it benefits their bottom line. Companies that foster creativity may see more revenue growth. Positioning yourself as a creative thinker can make you a more appealing job candidate or leader within your current organization.

When you're applying for a job, think about how your creative nature has helped you in the past and how it might be an asset in the job you're seeking.

Here's how to showcase your creative thinking throughout the application process. 

If you're looking for creative opportunities as a means of personal fulfillment, you can find satisfaction in surprising places. Any job that allows you to put your own spin on your work will end up being and feeling creative.

Key Takeaways

Northeastern University. " The Importance of Creativity in Business ."

Forbes. " The Most Valuable Skill In Difficult Times Is Lateral Thinking—Here’s How To Do It ."

Forrester. " The Creative Dividend ," Page 3.

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How is it that some people always seem to be able to generate new ideas and think creatively, and others seem to struggle to do so? The answer lies in their ability to use creative thinking.

Creative thinking is the ability to look at things differently, and find new ways of solving problems. Creative thinking skills are definitely not just for ‘creative types’ like artists and musicians. Everyone can benefit from creative thinking from time to time.

Regardless of whether you view yourself as a creative type or not, you can learn some useful skills and techniques which will enable you to tap into that creative ‘right brain’ thinking and bring a new perspective to innovation, problem-solving and managing change.

What is Creative Thinking?

Creative thinking is:

A way of looking at problems or situations from a fresh perspective that suggests unorthodox solutions (which may look unsettling at first). Creative thinking can be stimulated both by an unstructured process such as brainstorming, and by a structured process such as lateral thinking.

Creativity is the ability to make something new. This might be a picture, or a piece of music—but it might also be a new idea.

Creative thinking, therefore, is the ability to think differently: to see a problem or issue from a new angle or perspective. This often allows you find a new solution, or even to see that the problem does not necessarily need a solution.

The need for creative thinking arises because our brains naturally tend to fall into certain ‘short cuts’. Once we have a piece of information, we tend to use it again: that’s how we learn. This has huge advantages—for example, it means that we don’t have to learn how to use a knife and fork every time we eat—but it also has some disadvantages, in that we tend to stop thinking about things that we do, see or say regularly.

Formal Creative Thinking

Of course it is possible to think creatively all the time. There are some people who simply fizz with new ideas and seem to see everything slightly differently from those around them.

These are the people who are always asking ‘ Why? ’, and ‘ Why not? ’.

They are natural problem-solvers and innovators.

However, for most people, creative thinking requires more effort. They prefer to save their creative thinking for when it is really necessary.

Typical examples of times when you might take the time to use creative thinking techniques include:

When you are facing a major problem or issue , and you cannot see an obvious way forward.

At times of change , when it is hard to see what might lie ahead, and you want to think about possible scenarios.

When there is a lot of disagreement about what needs to happen next, and no compromise seems possible without a lot of effort.

When you need something new , that hasn’t been tried before, but you are not sure what.

On occasions like this, it may be worth doing some ‘formal’ creative thinking, and using a trained facilitator to help the group get the most out of the session.

There are a number of tools and techniques that you can use to stimulate creative thinking.

These include brainstorming, drawing techniques such as mind-mapping and rich pictures, and role-play techniques. There is undoubtedly considerable scepticism about many of these techniques. However, most if not all have some science behind them, and certainly some evidence that they work. It is worth keeping an open mind when you try them.

There is more about suitable tools and techniques for creative thinking in our page on Creative Thinking Techniques .

Making Your Thinking More Creative

Beyond ‘formal’ creative thinking opportunities, there are also things that you can do to help yourself think more creatively on a routine basis.

These include:

‘ Spreading your social wings ’ to get to know a wider and more diverse group of people.

We all tend to get on best with people who are like us, and particularly people with the same background and overall views on life. However, associating with people who are like us tends to mean that our thinking gets a bit ‘lazy’. Our assumptions go unchallenged, and our views tend to get reinforced.

Taking time to actively go out and meet new people—and particularly more diverse people, who are not so like you—will help you to challenge your assumptions. Without even realising that you are doing so, you will start to think more widely, and see things differently.

That, of course, is the first step in starting to think more creatively.

Embracing new opportunities and trying new things

One particular research study tested creativity among people who had lived abroad, and those who had not lived outside their birth country. The study found that people who had lived abroad were better able to think creatively to solve a problem.

Obviously not everyone can go and live abroad for a period, but actively seeking out and taking up opportunities to do something new could have the same effect.

It is worth challenging yourself to learn a new skill, or do something you find difficult, simply for the effect it will have on  your thinking!

Challenging stereotypes and forcing yourself to think beyond the obvious

Another study found that people who were asked to think about people who did not fit a stereotype (such as a male midwife) were better able to think creatively than people asked to think about someone who fitted the stereotype.

This is a very small thing, but it shows the effect of conventional thinking on our ability to think more creatively.

Being conscious of stereotypes, and asking yourself ‘But why do I think that?’ will help to surface your assumptions, and  help you to think more creatively.

Engaging with art, theatre and music

It seems that people who visit the theatre, go to concerts, or engage with other cultural activities are also more able to think creatively. The thinking is that these activities help us to see things from a new perspective, and therefore to think more creatively. They also, apparently, can help you to feel more connected, and generally kinder.

Taking time to enjoy arts or create something in your leisure time will help you to broaden your horizons more generally.

A final thought

There are huge benefits to learning to think a little differently. It will help to improve your problem-solving ability, and also help you to see others’ perspectives. In an increasingly global world, broader horizons and an ability to think more widely is never going to hurt.

Continue to: Understanding Creative Thinking Creative Thinking Techniques

See also: Critical Thinking Skills Personal SWOT Analysis Skills Needed by Inventors 4 Learning Techniques That Are Perfect for Creative Minds

19 Creative Thinking Skills (and How to Use Them!)

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In a fast-moving world, being able to find new perspectives and create innovation is an increasingly valuable skill . Creative thinkers are often at the forefront of driving change, solving problems, and developing new ideas. Not only that, but those who bring creative thinking to how they work are often happier, more productive, and resilient too!

So you might be asking yourself, how can I develop my creative thinking skills and think more creatively at work?  Whether you want to supercharge your interpersonal skills, advance your career or be happier and more satisfied in the work you do, it pays to learn to think more creatively.

For many people, creative thinking is the key that unlocks solutions, promotes diverse thinking, and leads to better relationships and job satisfaction. So how can you get started with creative thinking?  As passionate believers in the value of creative thinking, we’re here to help and truly think unleashing your creativity can be key to your personal development!

In this post we’ll define what creative thinking is, highlight the benefits, explore 19 key creative thinking skills and give you some examples of how to apply them in the workplace . Let’s dig in!

What is creative thinking?

Why is creative thinking important, what are the benefits of creative thinking.

How to improve your creative thinking skills? 

Creative thinking is the ability to approach a problem or challenge from a new perspective, alternative angle, or with an atypical mindset. This might mean thinking outside of the box, taking techniques from one discipline and applying them to another, or simply creating space for new ideas and alternative solutions to present themselves through dialogue, experimentation, or reflection.

Bear in mind that the number of different creative approaches is as vast as the number of creative thinkers – if an approach helps you see things differently and approaching a challenge creatively, follow that impulse.

While there are some proven methods and guidelines that can help you be a better creative thinker, remember that everyone can be creative and finding what works for you is what is important, not the terminology or specific framework.

One misapprehension about creative thinking is that you have to be skilled at more traditional creative skills like drawing or writing. This isn’t true. What’s important is that you are open to exploring alternative solutions while employing fresh techniques and creative approaches to what you’re working on. 

You don’t need to be a great artist or even work in a traditionally creative field – we believe everyone is capable of creative thinking and that it enriches your personal and professional lives when you learn to be more creative.

Another misconception about creative thinking is that it applies only to the ideation or technically creative parts of the process. All aspects of our lives and interactions with people and challenges can benefit from creative thinking – from the ability to see things differently.

At work, thinking creatively might mean finding better ways to communicate, improve your working practices, or developing and implementing fresh solutions too.

Creative thinking is important because it drives new ideas, encourages learning, and creates a safe space for experimentation and risk-taking.

As organizations and people grow, they often develop tried and tested ways of operating. While it’s important to have solid working practices and processes, unswerving dedication to the norm can lead to stagnation and a lack of innovation and growth. 

Creative thinking is important because it drives new ideas, encourages learning and creates a safe space for experimentation and risk-taking. Simply put, creativity and creative thinking are part of what helps businesses and individuals succeed and grow .

Whether your team or business thinks of itself as a creative one, you can’t afford to miss out on the benefits of creative thinking if you want to grow , deliver change, and help your team bring their best selves to work. 

Using creative thinking skills at work creates b enefits not only in the ways we solve problems but also in how we approach everything from communication to self-fulfillment, task management, and growth . Bringing a culture of creative thinking into a workshop or group is often the job of a talented facilitator but whatever your role, there are benefits to thinking more creatively. Let’s explore some of the benefits of thinking creatively at work and in your everyday life!

Build empathy

Find ways to move quickly and effectively

Discover new talents and promote learning

Boost your CV and employability 

Empathy and creative thinking go hand-in-hand. By practicing creative thinking skills and regularly looking for new ideas and points of view, you can actively become better at understanding your colleagues, customers, and even your family and friends. One of the major barriers to having productive and meaningful relationships is an unwillingness to see things from a perspective other than your own or failing to understand how another person is feeling. 

By developing this skill, you can engage more meaningfully and honestly with people, ideas, and perspectives in all aspects of life. What’s more, because of the benefits that creative thinking can bring, you’ll actively want to see things from new perspectives and be more empathic : something that’s fundamental to creating real change.

Bust assumptions 

Assumptions can be harmful in both our personal and professional lives. Whether it’s making assumptions about why someone is behaving the way they are in a workshop or what features will make your customers happiest, holding onto incorrect or inadequately formed assumptions can be problematic . It can create difficulty and tension in relationships and what’s more, it can lead to the development or introduction of solutions that are simply unfit for purpose.

Using creative thinking skills to challenge assumptions, build clarity, and see things from new perspectives can be transformative. If an assumption someone else makes feels incorrect, think about why and try to find out more. If someone challenges an assumption you hold, be open and listen.

Become a better problem solver

An example of not being a creative thinker is sticking to a tried and tested approach and sticking to the norm in every situation without considering whether trying something new might not lead to better results.

When looking to solve a problem or create innovative solutions, going outside of what you know and being open to new ideas is not only exciting, but it can create more impactful solutions too. You might even try using problem-solving techniques alongside some of the creative thinking skills below to find the absolute best solutions!

Some processes and working practices can be slow, especially in large organizations with many moving parts – but do they all have to be? Thinking creatively can help you find lean, actionable solutions that you can put into practice quickly and test ahead of bigger changes .

Experimentation and a willingness to take risks are vital to growth and change, and creative thinking helps create a climate conducive to finding and trying quick, effective solutions. 

Increase happiness and satisfaction

Finding fresh, appropriate solutions to problems can be incredibly satisfying and is a fast-track to finding happiness both in and out of work. Bringing your whole self to a situation and being enabled to think outside of the box is a great way to feel valued and engaged with what you are doing.

Feeling frustrated with how a situation or process at work is going? Try developing and employing your creative thinking skills alongside your colleagues to find a better, happier way to collaborate! Feel unfulfilled or that not all of your skills and interests are being utilized? Consider how you might creatively deploy the skills or talents that make you happy and scratch that itch.

As children, we are encouraged to see things differently and try new things as part of our learning and growing process. There’s no reason we shouldn’t do this as adults too! Trying new things and learning to think creatively can help you find new skills, talents, and things you didn’t even know you were good at.

Staying curious and following what interests you with an open mind is a prime example of what a small change in thinking can achieve. Remember that creative thinking is a gateway to learning and by actively developing your creative toolset, you can grow and discover more in all walks of life – a surefire path to personal development.

Get better at dealing with adversity

It’s easy to get frustrated when problems seem to come thick and fast and existing solutions or methods don’t work. Adversity is something all of us will face at some point in our personal and professional lives but there are ways you can become more able to handle problems when they arise .

A strong suite of creative thinking skills is an important aspect of how we can build resilience and be more flexible when adapting or creating change. By exploring alternative ways of thinking, you’ll be better prepared to face adversity more openly and find alternative ways to resolve challenges in whatever context they emerge.

Creative thinkers are valuable employees at organizations of any size. Whether it’s championing innovation, creating change in policy, or finding better ways to collaborate, people who can effectively solve problems and leverage their creative thinking skills are better positioned for success at work.

Consider how you might plug your skills gap and boost your CV by developing your creative skillset and you won’t just be more successful – you’ll be happier and more engaged at work too! 

Whatever your background or role, you are capable of thinking creatively and bringing creativity into your life.

What are creative thinking skills? 

Creative thinking skills are the methods or approaches you might use when trying to solve a problem differently and explore a fresh perspective. While some of these skills might come naturally to you, others might need a more considered, purposeful approach.

For example, you might be a natural visual thinker who is great at presenting and interpreting visual information but you might not be so good at freely experimenting or creating space for reflection. In this case, you might try some brainstorming exercises to loosen up your experimentation muscles or create scheduled time for reflection in your working routine.

While creative professions like artists, writers, or designers may see more obvious uses for creative thinking skills, all professions can benefit from developing and deploying creative thinking . If you find yourself having difficulty at work or in need of inspiration or motivation, finding space to build on your creative skillset is a way to not only move forward but have fun while doing so.

If you think you’re not creative or have no creative thinking skills, we’re here to tell you that whatever your background or role, you are capable of thinking creatively and bringing creativity into your life : you might just need a little push or to reframe how you think about creativity!

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Examples of creative thinking skills (and how to use them) 

Creative thinking skills come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from things like abstract thinking and storytelling to finding ways to radically plan projects or recognize organizational patterns .

In this section, we’ll explore each of the example creative skills below and talk about how you might use them in your personal and professional practice. We’ll also point out some things to watch out for where appropriate so you can make the most out of your new creative skills and avoid potential setbacks.

We’ll also include a method from the SessionLab library that will help you practice and explore each skill, whether alone or with others .

Feel free to read and explore the creative thinking skill which feels most interesting or applicable to you and come back and experiment with others in the future!  

Some example creative thinking skills include:


Open-mindedness, lateral thinking.

Deep and active listening

Challenging norms, lean organization, simplification, radical planning.

Data collection

Interdisciplinary thinking

Frameworks and rulesets, micro and macro thinking, visual thinking, abstract thinking, storytelling.

Note that this list is not exhaustive, and there are many more ways of thinking creatively – try to see these creative skills as a jumping-off point for seeing things differently and exploring creative thinking at work . 

Let’s get started!

A core creative skill is the ability to experiment and try new things, whether that’s in your personal practice, in a closed environment, or even in the field. It can be easy to fall short of implementing new ideas or following through with creative projects because critical judgment or overthinking gets in the way . A good experimenter is a self-starter who makes informed decisions to kickstart projects and test hypotheses. 

Think of a painter who throws paint at a canvas and introduces new materials without overthinking or being self-critical. While not everything they try will be perfect, that’s the point – not every experiment needs to be successful in order to teach you something useful. By experimenting, you can try things that might prove useful or will lead you towards new solutions and better ideas. Remember that the act of experimentation is generative and often fun so be sure to give it a try!

One thing to watch out for is being sure to effectively capture the results of your experiments and to continue developing and iterating on the results. Experimentation is a great place to start, but remember that it is part of a larger process. Without effective documentation, you might not trace what delivered the best results and be unable to reproduce the outcomes. Experimentation is a great example of why creative freedom should be paired with a strong process in order to be at its best. 

Four-Step Sketch   #design sprint   #innovation   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   The four-step sketch is an exercise that helps people to create well-formed concepts through a structured process that includes: Review key information Start design work on paper,  Consider multiple variations , Create a detailed solution . This exercise is preceded by a set of other activities allowing the group to clarify the challenge they want to solve. See how the Four Step Sketch exercise fits into a Design Sprint

Four-Step Sketch is a great method for promoting experimentation. By following a process that enables quick brainstorming before development, you can help build an experimental mindset that also generates results.

Open-mindedness is a critical element of creativity and one of the best creative thinking skills you can try to build if you’re new to the practice. Being open-minded means being receptive to new ideas, different ways of thinking, and perspectives which are not your own. It means not closing down conversations or ideas prematurely and trying to actively explore what is presented to you.

Imagine that a colleague comes up with an idea that is so far out of the status quo it seems off-the-wall and bizarre. Being open-minded means actively engaging with what is presented and to refrain from forming judgments before first understanding where your colleague is coming from .

Your colleagues’ initial idea might not be perfect, but being open-minded and truly attempting to understand their perspective means you can create dialogue, foster creativity, and move forward as a team. 

Being open-minded doesn’t mean accepting every new idea and agreeing wholesale with every different opinion. While you should always try to be open and receptive to new ideas and other perspectives, you should also critically appraise and engage with them as part of a larger creative process. Don’t be so open-minded you have no strong opinions of your own!

Heard, Seen, Respected (HSR)   #issue analysis   #empathy   #communication   #liberating structures   #remote-friendly   You can foster the empathetic capacity of participants to “walk in the shoes” of others. Many situations do not have immediate answers or clear resolutions. Recognizing these situations and responding with empathy can improve the “cultural climate” and build trust among group members. HSR helps individuals learn to respond in ways that do not overpromise or overcontrol. It helps members of a group notice unwanted patterns and work together on shifting to more productive interactions. Participants experience the practice of more compassion and the benefits it engenders.

Open-mindedness is particularly useful when it comes to meaningfully communicating with others. Whether its developing the ability to walk in the shoes of someone else or building empathy and listening skills, Heard, Seen, Respected is a great method to try when learning to be more open-minded.

Lateral thinking is a prime example of how we can creatively solve real-world problems in a measurable and easy-to-understand manner. Deploying lateral thinking means using reasoning or non-traditional logic to find an indirect or out-of-the-box approach to solving a problem. 

A simple example might be a challenge like: we need to increase revenue. Traditional thinking might mean considering hiring new salespeople to try and get more direct sales. A lateral approach might mean engaging more with current customers to reduce churn, working with external partners to get new leads, working to get sponsorship, piloting an affiliate scheme or any number of new ways to solve the existing problem.

Broadly speaking, lateral thinking often means stepping back and considering solutions or approaches outside of the immediately obvious.

One potential danger with lateral thinking is spending time to create new solutions to problems that don’t need them. Not every problem needs to be solved laterally and the best solution might actually be the most straightforward. Be sure to tap into existing knowledge and appraise a problem before trying something radical to avoid wasted time or frustration!  

The Creativity Dice   #creativity   #problem solving   #thiagi   #issue analysis   Too much linear thinking is hazardous to creative problem solving. To be creative, you should approach the problem (or the opportunity) from different points of view. You should leave a thought hanging in mid-air and move to another. This skipping around prevents premature closure and lets your brain incubate one line of thought while you consciously pursue another.

Developing your lateral thinking skills comes more naturally to some than others. The Creativity Dice is a great method for getting out of linear thinking habits and moving into different ways of thinking.

Pattern recognition 

Pattern recognition is the ability to recognise existing or emerging patterns and make connections based on the patterns you have discerned . While pattern recognition goes back to our prehistoric roots, being able to spot patterns outside of the ordinary and consider what may not be immediately obvious is a vital creative thinking skill for today. 

Consider how meetings between some members of a team might often end in conflict. While it might first seem that these two people just can’t get along, it might actually be that certain emotional triggers are being tripped or the format of the conversation isn’t working. Looking beyond your initial impressions and from a new perspective might let you find a repeating pattern that isn’t immediately obvious.

When trying to spot patterns, try to be mindful of existing biases so you avoid bending what is happening to fit a pattern you might be expecting. Be sure to interpret all data fairly and honestly, even if you believe a pattern is already forming. 

Affinity Map   #idea generation   #gamestorming   Most of us are familiar with brainstorming—a method by which a group generates as many ideas around a topic as possible in a limited amount of time. Brainstorming works to get a high quantity of information on the table. But it begs the follow-up question of how to gather meaning from all the data. Using a simple Affinity Diagram technique can help us discover embedded patterns (and sometimes break old patterns) of thinking by sorting and clustering language-based information into relationships. It can also give us a sense of where most people’s thinking is focused

Pattern recognition is a skill that benefits from thoughtful practice. Try starting with a deliberate pattern-finding process like Affinity Map to build the ability to see patterns where they might not first be obvious.

While it might not seem like it at first, being a good listener is a creative thinking skill. It asks that a person not only try to understand what is being said but also to engage with the why and how of the conversation in order to reframe prior thinking and see things from a new perspective.

Deep listening or active listening is not only hearing the words that someone is saying but actively seeking to interpret their intent, understand their position, and create a positive space for further conversation. Not only does this create a deeper conversation for both parties, but this act of engagement and understanding leads to more creative and dynamic results too. 

Think of a workplace grievance that one person might have against another. Without actively listening and trying to understand the core issues from the perspective of everyone involved, you might not only fail to solve the issue but actually make staff feel less heard and valued too.

By employing this creative thinking skill in such a conversation you can see things more clearly and find a way to creatively satisfy the needs of everyone involved. 

Active Listening   #hyperisland   #skills   #active listening   #remote-friendly   This activity supports participants to reflect on a question and generate their own solutions using simple principles of active listening and peer coaching. It’s an excellent introduction to active listening but can also be used with groups that are already familiar with it. Participants work in groups of three and take turns being: “the subject”, the listener, and the observer.

Trying to be more present in conversations is a great place to begin building your deep listening and active listening skills . Want to supercharge the process as a group? Try a role-play activity like Active Listening to more thoughtfully see and reflect on how important this skill can be.

Not all established working practices are the best way of doing things. People who practice this creative thinking skill are likely to question the status quo in search of something new which can deliver meaningful change. While any challenge to the established order needs to be conducted respectfully and thoughtfully, thinking of how to go beyond the norm is how innovation occurs and where creative thinkers excel.

When trying to practice this skill, be prepared to question existing methods and frameworks and ask if there might be a better way outside of the limits of the current system. 

As with lateral thinking, it’s important to recognize that not everything is a problem that needs to be solved and so you may need to be selective in which norms should be challenged – otherwise, you may never make it out of the front door!

Additionally, challenging the established order often means questioning the work someone else has already done. While this is a necessary part of growth, it should always be done constructively and respectfully.  

W³ – What, So What, Now What?   #issue analysis   #innovation   #liberating structures   You can help groups reflect on a shared experience in a way that builds understanding and spurs coordinated action while avoiding unproductive conflict. It is possible for every voice to be heard while simultaneously sifting for insights and shaping new direction. Progressing in stages makes this practical—from collecting facts about What Happened to making sense of these facts with So What and finally to what actions logically follow with Now What . The shared progression eliminates most of the misunderstandings that otherwise fuel disagreements about what to do. Voila!

Challenging norms without a considered approach can be ineffective and potentially frustrating. Taking the time to build shared understanding and push in the same direction with What, So What, Now What? is a great way to explore how your existing process is or isn’t working and challenge norms productively.

Creative thinking doesn’t mean being disorganized or chaotic just because you have an abundance of ideas. In order to facilitate creative thinking, it’s important to stay organized and approach the process with the right framework, mindset, and space. As a creative thinking skill, lean organization means considering what you absolutely need to do in order to make things happen, versus what you don’t.

Think of how a large, multi-discipline team might go about organizing themselves for a big project. While it’s vital everyone is aligned and kept up to date, a traditional system of scheduled meetings might not be the most productive. Lean organization means considering the needs of the team, the project and thinking creatively about what you need to stay organized, and keeping unnecessary admin to a minimum.

Thinking creatively about organization is something all leaders should practice but any project can benefit from thinking through the process by which it will be accomplished. 

MoSCoW   #define intentions   #create   #design   #action   #remote-friendly   MoSCoW is a method that allows the team to prioritize the different features that they will work on. Features are then categorized into “Must have”, “Should have”, “Could have”, or “Would like but won‘t get”. To be used at the beginning of a timeslot (for example during Sprint planning) and when planning is needed.

Lean organization often means being honest and realistic about what is absolutely necessary versus nice to have. MoSCoW is an effective agile framework for planning work and also reframing your approach to organizing time, tasks and more!

Simplifying, presenting or decoding any information is a vital skill when working with others. In a creative thinking context, simplification is the act of seeing what is important about a task or piece of data and stripping away the extraneous parts to see things more clearly.

Some problems can feel unassailable because of their complexity or scale – simplification allows you to reconsider a problem in simple terms and reframe it in a way that means you can approach it productively. 

An example of using this creative thinking skill at work might be when presenting the results of a project to the rest of your organization. People working on other teams and in different disciplines could become disengaged if exposed to too many complex moving parts or it might simply be a waste of time to discuss every detail.

By simplifying a project into more succinct terms, you not only can help your group connect with the material swiftly but also boil a project down to its most important elements . This is a great way to creatively re-energize a project and identify where you can make an impact immediately. 

6 Words   #ufmcs   #red teaming   This tool is designed to help critical thinkers focus on a core idea by writing a short phrase summarizing their thoughts into a set number of words that are clear, concise, and accurate. This idea is based on a complete short story written by Ernest Hemingway: “For sale, baby shoes – never worn.” Six Words forces people to synthesize their ideas in a succinct and meaningful way, cutting away fluff and distilling the idea to its bare essence.

One way of practicing simplification is by summarising or condensing thoughts, ideas of stories into a more concise, compressed form . 6 Words is a method for cutting away extraneous material from ideas that engages creative thinking and reframing approachably – great for groups!

Any major project requires some measure of planning in order to succeed, especially when working with others. But are there times where overplanning or traditional working processes feel too slow or frustrating for the project at hand? This is where these creative thinking skills come in handy! Radical planning is a way of approaching project planning from an alternative angle in order to generate fast, effective results.  

When taking this planning approach, you will often shuffle the order of the normal planning process in order to create alternative outcomes and cut out elements you may not need. For example, with the backcasting workshop activity, the approach is to think of desired outcomes up to twenty years in the future and work backward to figure out how we can make small steps today.

You might also try planning with a mindset of what you and your team can each achieve immediately and in a more experimental fashion with an activity like 15% solutions . 

By approaching planning with a creative thinking mindset, you can surface ideas and plans which may not have come up with a more traditional planning process. Another great benefit is to question the normal manner in which your team or organisation approaches planning and can help your team find a method that works best for you!

Backcasting   #define intentions   #create   #design   #action   Backcasting is a method for planning the actions necessary to reach desired future goals. This method is often applied in a workshop format with stakeholders participating. To be used when a future goal (even if it is vague) has been identified.

Collaborative thinking 

Effective collaboration requires us to bring many different skills together, but consciously considering how to be a more effective collaborator is worth mentioning separately. When a creative thinker approaches collaboration, they will try to think of how to use alternative approaches to make the collaborative process more effective while also helping everyone on the team contribute and be heard.

An example is when it comes to getting work done in meetings – if the current process isn’t enabling everyone to collaborate effectively, you might employ creative thinking to try finding an alternative format, consider working asynchronously, or timeboxing parts of your agenda.

The best collaborators also find ways to champion the work of others and create a safe space for everyone to contribute – it might not be enough to assume collaboration will be accomplished when you get people in a room.

Employing this creative thinking skill can make all the difference when it comes to job satisfaction, interpersonal relationships and group outcomes too! Try approaching your collaborative projects more mindfully and see how it changes things for you!

Marshmallow challenge with debriefing   #teamwork   #team   #leadership   #collaboration   In eighteen minutes, teams must build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. The marshmallow needs to be on top. The Marshmallow Challenge was developed by Tom Wujec, who has done the activity with hundreds of groups around the world. Visit the Marshmallow Challenge website for more information. This version has an extra debriefing question added with sample questions focusing on roles within the team.

Working together on a task as a team is an effective way of kickstarting collaborative thinking, especially if you approach the task mindfully . The Marshamllow Challenge with debriefing is a proven method for engaging teamwork and by adding reflection time afterward, your group can share and build on what they learned.

Collecting data might seem like a solely analytical skill, but it is another area where creative thinking can lead to productive, unexpected and transformative results. Approaching the data collection process creatively might mean trying new techniques or sources, or simply reconsidering the how and why of your data collection processes.  

Imagine you are running a survey to measure customer happiness. You might try asking traditional survey questions, but find that your response rate is low and furthermore, your approach might be invasive and actively decrease happiness too!

If you were to approach this problem creatively, you might find that using a simplified form, asking for feedback at a different point in the customer journey, or utilizing an alternative measurement scheme delivers the data you are looking for. In many cases, thinking about the questions you are asking from a new point of view is what unlocks a better data collection process.

The key to this creative thinking skill is to try looking at the data collection process from a new, preferably customer-centric perspective while also considering why and how you are collecting data. You will likely find that by asking for input from your customers more creatively, you create space for more creative responses too!

3 Question Mingle   #hyperisland   #team   #get-to-know   An activity to support a group to get to know each other through a set of questions that they create themselves. The activity gets participants moving around and meeting each other one-on-one. It’s useful in the early stages of team development and/or for groups to reconnect with each other after a period of time apart.

3 Question Mingle is a get to know you activity that does double duty in demonstrating the power of approaching data collection creatively. By creating their own questions, a group can really think about what they want to know, how they ask questions, and how the results differ. Be sure to give it a try!

Interpretation and analysis

Interpretation skills can be varied though in a creative thinking context it means being able to successfully analyze an idea, solution, dataset, or conversation and draw effective conclusions. Great interpreters are people with a desire to listen, understand, and dig deeper in order to make their interpretation fully realised.

One of the ways creative thinking can improve interpretation is in helping us challenge assumptions or initial readings of data in order to consider other possible interpretations and perspectives.

Say your product is having a problem with losing lots of new customers shortly after signing up. You do a survey and people say that they leave because the product isn’t useful to them. Your initial interpretation of that data might be that you’re not the right fit for these customers or that the product needs new features.

If you were to apply creative thinking to the interpretation of this data, you might conduct further research and see that the product is fine, but people didn’t find the right features for them and that your onboarding process needs to be improved.

The key here is interpreting the data from various perspectives and then correlating that with other sources to form an accurate and representative interpretation, rather than going with your initial assumption . By following this process, you might also find that the way you are collecting data is flawed (perhaps not asking the right questions) or that more research and data collection is needed.

So long as you are sure to have data points and analysis to back up your findings, it pays to explore alternative interpretations so you can avoid bias and find the most accurate takeaways . 

Fishbone diagram   #frame insights   #create   #design   #issue analysis   Fishbone diagrams show the causes of a specific event.

Effective interpretation and analysis isn’t possible without a thorough exploration of the problem or topic at hand. Fishbone Diagram is a simple method for not only surfacing insights but framing them in a way that allows for proper and multi-perspective analysis.

Einstein is quoted as saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” In this mold, sometimes the best ideas and solutions come from fields and disciplines outside of our own. By considering how someone with a different skillset to your own would solve a problem or deploy solutions, you can often find ideas and techniques you may never have considered. 

Consider being tasked with improving employee happiness. A social media manager with a background in illustration and events management would likely try a very different approach to a sales manager who is used to a culture of incentives and bonuses. If you were trying to develop a new product, think of how a developer would approach deciding on key features versus an academic or a customer success manager? 

The important thing here is to try and use the perspective, skill set , and approach of another field or discipline to first consider and then solve a problem more fully . Where possible, try and include people from other disciplines in the process and try to avoid making assumptions.

As with all creative thinking skills, being open-minded and sourcing the expertise and opinions of others where necessary is vital when creating true innovation.

Mash-Up Innovation   #hyperisland   #innovation   #idea generation   Mash-ups is a collaborative idea generation method in which participants come up with innovative concepts by combining different elements together. In a first step, participants brainstorm around different areas, such as technologies, human needs, and existing services. In a second step, they rapidly combine elements from those areas to create new, fun and innovative concepts. Mash-ups demonstrates how fast and easy it can be to come up with innovative ideas.

Interdisciplinary thinking isn’t just for radical academics. By combining ideas from disparate fields in a fast, fun manner, Mash-Up Innovation is great for building creative thinking skills and generating results in one fell swoop!

All creative thinking skills are about reframing things in a new way of finding alternative approaches. This can often mean abandoning an existing framework and thinking outside of the box. That said , another way of applying creative thinking is by bringing rulesets, constraints, or frameworks to your approach in order to trigger deeper creative work and tap into a problem-solving mindset . 

Consider a simple task like trying to generate more customers. With free reign, there are innumerable ways to accomplish this. But what happens if you create a rule like, we cannot spend any money, or, these must be driven by social media alone. In order to accomplish your goal under these conditions, you must think more creatively and deeply, deploying more concentrated problem-solving skills than if you could try any approach you wanted. 

Alternatively, you might approach a problem with a framework that forces you to think under specific circumstances or with a rigid set of steps. Six thinking hats is a great workshop activity that asks participants to frame and reframe a problem from six different angles. While it might first seem counterintuitive, the use of rules or frameworks can create fertile ground for creative thinking and lead to more realized solutions!

The Six Thinking Hats   #creative thinking   #meeting facilitation   #problem solving   #issue resolution   #idea generation   #conflict resolution   The Six Thinking Hats are used by individuals and groups to separate out conflicting styles of thinking. They enable and encourage a group of people to think constructively together in exploring and implementing change, rather than using argument to fight over who is right and who is wrong.

Not all problems are created equal. Depending on how much it directly affects you, you might see a given problem as being more or less important than your colleagues, leading to a different response and approach to solving the problem. This creative thinking skill is all about being able to switch between seeing the bigger picture while also considering how something might manifest on a smaller scale.

Think of how frustrating it can be when an executive team makes sweeping changes that affect frontline staff in a way they might not have anticipated. Micro and macro thinking means seeing both problems and potential solutions from multiple perspectives and adjusting accordingly. 

Another key aspect of applying this approach is knowing the limits of your own knowledge and involving stakeholders from all levels of an organization to inform your ideation and problem-solving process.

If you’ve never worked in support and don’t regularly talk to your support team, you might not understand how a change to helpdesk software could impact your team and your clients – remember that a big part of any change in perspective is doing the research and talking to who will be affected ! 

Stakeholder Round Robin Brainstorm   #idea generation   #brainstorming   #perspectives   #remote-friendly   #online   A divergent process to generate ideas and understanding from different perspectives.

Learning to practice micro and macro thinking often starts with first listening to and understanding the needs and perspectives of others . Especially those who have varied positions in relation to the problem, solutions, or organization you are working with. Stakeholder Round Robin Brainstorm is an effective method of surfacing insights and perspectives quickly and productively.

Of all the creative thinking skills on this list, visual thinking might be one you are most familiar with. Visual thinking is a method of processing, learning, and presenting information and concepts with visual assets such as images.

Visual thinking is often associated with creative thinking because of the consumption and creation of images at its heart. Don’t let this make you think you have to be able to draw in order to be a visual thinker.

Applying this creative thinking skill means being able to interpret visual information, present concepts in an often simple visual manner, and communicate in a way that is more universally understood.  Drawing stick people is actively encouraged!

Visual approaches to problem-solving can help foster shared understanding and help people be more succinct or creative in their ideas. Remember: if an idea is too complex to be put into pictures, perhaps it needs further refinement .

Imagie-ination   #idea generation   #gamestorming   Images have the ability to spark insights and to create new associations and possible connections. That is why pictures help generate new ideas, which is exactly the point of this exercise.

While you might be able to jump straight into direct applications of visual thinking, it can help to try an exercise where you and a group explore using images simply and engagingly. Imagie-ination helps unlock the power of visual thinking as a team while also helping generate ideas too!

Abstraction or abstract thinking is the art of taking things out of their normal context and presenting them in a radical new light . While most creative thinking skills utilise abstraction in some form, it’s worth noting that actively trying to take an idea from one context and place it in another is a creative approach all on its own.

Think of Pablo Picasso’s cubist portraits – by taking something as common as a human face and bringing abstraction to his process, he created something radically different and innovative. You can create a similar effect by recontextualizing ideas, concepts, and problems and by looking at them from different, perhaps even conflicting points of view.

Abstract thinking is often built on engaging with absurdities, paradoxes, and unexpected connections . As such, it can often be fun, wild and surprising, and is a great way to generate creative ideas even in those who might be resistant to other forms of creative thinking. Lean into the weird!

Forced Analogy   #divergent thinking   #zoom   #virtual   #remote-friendly   People compare something (e.g. themselves, their company, their team) to an object.  

Forced Analogy is a quick, fun activity you can use to promote abstract thinking. Comparing one thing to another seemingly unrelated thing asks for a creative approach to context and metaphor and can really unlock a groups divergent thinking process.

Telling stories or narrativizing a problem can help us not only see things differently but understand where we share common ground with others. Everybody tells stories – whether that’s explaining our employment history, telling colleagues about what happened at the weekend, or when creating user personas and journeys. 

Leverage this inclination to help people not only realize they are creative thinkers by nature but to help them share something of themselves too!

As a creative thinking skill, storytelling is about applying our natural proclivity for stories into new situations or thinking about how to reappraise or present material narratively . Think of the basic storytelling concept like the idea that all stories have a beginning, middle, and end – how might we bring this thinking to a tough challenge, a new product, or when solving a customer complaint?

You might even use storytelling tropes like the hero’s journey when exploring ideas or company conflicts. Whichever way you go, remember that stories are a universal element of culture and you have a rich lineage to dip into if you need a new perspective. 

Telling Our Stories   #hyperisland   #team   #teambuilding   To work effectively together team members need to build relations, show trust, and be open with each other. This method supports those things through a process of structured storytelling. Team members answer questions related to their childhood, young adulthood, and now; then weave them into a story to share with the rest of their team.

Telling Stories in a collaborative space is one of the best ways you can approach creative thinking through narrative . By doing this activity as a team, you can help a group see the benefit of applying storytelling approaches outside of more traditional forms.

How many times have you had a tough problem that you can’t seem to solve so you get frustrated and leave your desk. Then, when you’re on a walk, standing in the supermarket, or falling asleep, a solution seems to arrive out of thin air? Often, you’ll find that creating space to reflect on a problem is an effective way to find a way forward.

The trick with making reflective space work as a larger part of your working practice is knowing when to take time to reflect, building space into your regular schedule, and finding techniques that allow things to surface effectively.

This might mean going for a walk with the intention to be present in noticing the world around you and gaining insights that can help your situation. It might also mean remembering to take time to rest or simply read and give your brain something good to chew on.

I notice, I wonder   #design   #observation   #empathy   #issue analysis   Learn through careful observation. Observation and intuition are critical design tools. This exercise helps you leverage both. Find clues about the context you’re designing for that may be hidden in plain sight.

In a creative thinking context, reflection often means giving an idea time to unfurl and to resist the temptation to force it – by creating space to observe and reflect with I notice, I wonder you might see new ways of thinking emerge naturally.

How to use creative thinking skills at work? 

At SessionLab, we’ve found many of the above creative thinking skills helpful when finding better ways to collaborate , handle workplace challenges or generate new ideas . Here are just a few small examples of things we’ve done that have benefited from thinking creatively as a team.

Using creative thinking to facilitate a site redesign

Using creative thinking to improve team communication, using creative thinking to improve collaboration.

Remember that creative thinking needn’t be explosive or radical to be useful – a simple shift in mindset or perspective can be all you need to create meaningful and impactful change.

When we began working on a site-wide redesign, we had to deploy a large number of creative thinking skills to make the process smooth and effective.

When first determining how to approach the project and scope the work, we reviewed how we had worked together on large projects in the past. While we saw there was room to improve, finding the best way to proceed and make the changes we needed was no easy task.

Challenging the entire process from start to finish with a creative thinking mindset and trying to stay open to alternative methods where possible was what unlocked the process for us. By reconsidering how we were running meetings, sharing feedback, and collaborating, we were able to identify where we were going wrong and then try alternative approaches more freely.

When it came to implementing solutions, we were also sure to  stay open to experimentation while challenging our core assumptions of what would work and wouldn’t. This really helped us refine the working process and tailor it to our particular team and goals.

Another example came with finding a new approach when work stalled on a specific page. For our features page, we began by following the standard approach we had developed – writing the copy and structuring the page first before then following with illustrations and images.

In this case, our existing approach got us to an impasse : it felt difficult for our designer to be creative and find the best way to translate ideas into images if the copy had already been defined and the structure felt too rigid. What we decided to do was to reverse the workflow completely and allow the designer to create design elements before we wrote the copy and implemented too rigid a structure.  

Throughout the project, creative thinking allowed us to challenge whether the existing way we did something was the right one and gave us scope to experiment and be open when finding solutions. Not only did this help us solve the immediate problems as they arose but they helped us come up with a great new design too! 

Creative thinking can come in extremely handy when it comes to communicating. If one form of communication or working process isn’t working, approaching the discussion with a creative thinking mindset can help resolve the immediate issue and create lasting change in how we converse and work together too. 

Like many virtual teams, we faced the challenge of some meetings feeling unproductive . The issues ranged from overrunning, crosstalk, not everyone feeling heard or able to contribute, or getting lost in ancillary discussions that were not productive or necessary. In an online setting, it can be hard to keep everyone on track and for things to run smoothly without accidentally talking over one another or causing frustration. 

When it came to crosstalk, we wanted to avoid the frustration of interruption and disruption but also wanted to ensure people did not feel like they couldn’t contribute . Using the finger rules technique in a remote setting allowed people to easily show when they wanted to speak and what they wanted to discuss without disrupting the flow of the meeting.

We also found that the reason some daily meetings felt unproductive was because the meetings were for the purpose of daily updates and there didn’t always feel like there was a lot to say, thus leading to frustration or unproductive time being spent in these meetings.

In this example, we moved to a weekly format while also ensuring that we continue daily check-ins on Slack. This approach meant that we cut down on unnecessary meetings while still ensuring everyone’s needs were met .

This method is an example of creatively approaching a communication problem by thinking outside of the box and being prepared to challenge core assumptions . While we all wanted to stay informed, it really helped to reconsider the methods for staying informed and whether our current approach was the best way to achieve what we needed. It was also useful to reassess how we approached meeting agendas and goal-setting – follow the link for more on that if you’re having difficulty with unproductive meetings!

Remember that creative thinking needn’t be explosive or radical to be useful – a simple shift in mindset or perspective can be all you need to create meaningful and impactful change .

Remember that looking to others and being inspired by how they did things can be as transformative as trying to reinvent the wheel!

A final example is how we approached collaborating on creating the new design. While all projects at SessionLab feature collaboration between multiple parties, in this case we wanted to create space for everyone on the team to contribute.

We found that when trying to collectively brainstorm in a live, remote session, it became difficult for everyone to contribute and reflect on what was being shared by other members of the team effectively .

Some people had been able to prepare less than others, other people were less aware of all the circumstances of the project, or others were less able to switch gears during their working day. This led to some contributions being missed, a messier working process, and a feeling of being rushed – all of which lead to less effective outcomes than we might have hoped for.

In this case, we thought of how asynchronous work , reflection time, and some small process changes might help solve the problems we were running into. We wanted to be able to respond to what was being shared more effectively while also creating space for everyone to contribute in a way that was most productive for them.

Starting the brainstorming session in personal MURAL boards asynchronously and on our own time meant everyone was able to ideate at the time that was best for them and without any distractions . By then encouraging review and reflection on other people’s boards ahead of the main session, we were able to properly take in ideas and let them develop without feeling hurried.

This approach reduced the amount of time we actively spent working together in a meeting while improving the quality of the work . It helped people engage with the process, reduced potential frustration, and also meant we were more able to respond fully to the suggestions of others. This was a great example of how thinking creatively and learning from others can help create better outcomes and a more streamlined process. 

It’s also worth noting that reflecting on our conversation with Anja Svetina Nabergoj regarding asynchronous learning and finding inspiration there was part of what helped this process along. Remember that looking to others and being inspired by how they did things can be as transformative as trying to reinvent the wheel!

Creative workshops and meetings made easy

creative thinking skills meaning

Whether you find that creative thinking doesn’t come naturally, if your skills need some attention, or even if you just want to try new ways of working, it can be difficult to know where to begin .

Thinking about the creative thinking skills above and considering which you might be missing or could benefit from purposeful attention is a great place to start, though there are also some concrete ways you can approach the process and improve your creative thinking abilities in a pinch. Let’s see how! 

Be present and aware of how you feel

Create space for new ideas, look to others for inspiration, throw yourself into new things, encourage creative thinking in others.

All skills get better with practice and creative thinking is no exception. Whether it’s active listening, experimentation or any other creative thinking style, it’s okay to not get it right the first time . The very act of being open to new approaches and perspectives is itself a way to improve your creative thinking skill set. However you try to implement creative thinking, know that exploration, iteration, and practice are fundamental parts of the process.

Try starting small and practice your creative thinking skills in your interpersonal relationships and collaborative projects. Take note of how it goes and try building up to larger and larger implementations of your creative thinking approaches. 

A key part of cultivating or improving any new skill is to be fully present and aware when utilizing that skill. Consider how a sculptor needs to be aware of their materials, how they handle the material and place them on the board in order to be truly successful. Being present in the moment is important for any collaborative process, but is an especially vital aspect of creative thinking.

If you find yourself frustrated, excited, engaged, or stuck, make a mental note of how you are feeling and consider how you might do things differently. Staying present and actively engaging with how a situation makes you feel before responding is one of the most effective ways of cultivating and improving your creative thinking – be sure to give it a go! 

As with many aspects of creativity, it’s not always effective to force it. Good ideas and finding new approaches can take time and an important part of the creative thinking process is creating space not only for reflection but to rest and allow things to surface. This might mean building more quiet, mindful time into your routine, reading and finding new inspiration, or simply learning to take a break. 

While this can be difficult to get into the habit of, it does get easier with time. Try blocking out reflective time in your calendar or letting others know that you are taking the time in order to make it stick and avoid interruptions. Reflective space is important and useful, and by treating it as such, you can help ensure it happens and doesn’t get discarded or forgotten about.

One of the biggest barriers to thinking creatively is simply not being open to what is in front of you. Whether it’s rushing to use an existing solution without investigating alternatives, failing to listen or be present when something new is being presented, or sticking with your existing assumptions, a failure to stay open and reserve judgment can kill creative thinking.

Try to stay open and apply creative thinking without pressure or being overly critical in order to improve those skills and let more creative approaches surface in the future. 

One of the best ways to find new perspectives and alternative ways of thinking is by looking to others. Whether it’s finding inspiration from other creative thinkers via conversation, reading and researching new sources, or simply listening and observing, looking outside of yourself is one of the most effective ways you can jolt your creative thinking. 

Try finding sources outside of your normal circles, whatever the medium. It can be very easy to get into creative bubbles that might unwittingly exclude new forms of thinking. By broadening your social, creative and critical circles , you can be exposed to all kinds of potentially inspiring or creatively engaging ways of thinking and doing.

It’s hard to create space and an opportunity for new ways of thinking if you stick to the same routines and activities. You’ll often find that trying new things and exposing yourself to new hobbies, skills and approaches can be massively engaging and exciting too.

An important aspect of creative thinking is applying the learnings from one discipline or approach to another. If a developer were to throw themselves into learning how to dance, they might learn something they can apply to their role as a developer.

An open and honest desire to explore new experiences in and outside of your working life is a vital ingredient in the creative thinking process. Try saying yes to doing new things wherever you can find them – being alive to possibility and engaging in the world is a great way of supercharging your creativity! 

Creativity is even better when shared. Whether it’s crowdsourcing new ideas, iterating together, or helping others build their creative thinking skills, sharing the experience is often a useful and generative process for all involved.

Try bringing a group together to explore thinking creatively together or run a workshop on developing creative thinking skills in the workplace. Not only will it help your participants with their own creative discovery, but it will also help you develop your own creative skills. 

Over to you

As facilitators and advocates of the power of workshops, we’re passionate about how creative thinking can improve many aspects of a group’s personal and working lives. At its heart, creative thinking is an empathic, generative act, and by bringing those concepts to the fore, we believe everyone can see better outcomes when solving problems, generating ideas or communicating with others. 

We hope we’ve given you some great examples of creative thinking at work and how you might discover and nurture your own creative thinking skills . That said, this list is by no means exhaustive and there are many more ways you might try thinking creatively. Think of this post as a jumping-off point for further exploration and creative development!

Do you have any concepts or approaches you’ve used to become a better creative thinker? Did you find any of the creative thinking methods above particularly helpful? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

creative thinking skills meaning

Very nice information. Thanks for posting such an informative blog. Creative thinking is an unconventional thinking that looks at an issue from different perspectives. Innovative thinking is a thinking that converts / commercializes a creative idea into practical application.

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Creative Thinking Skills (Definitions, Examples, And How To Improve)

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Examples of Creative Thinking Skills

Tips to encourage creativity, how to think creatively, professions that require strong creative thinking skills, how to highlight your creative thinking skills, creative thinking skills faqs, final thoughts.

Summary. Creative thinking soft skills can take you far in your career, regardless of your field, and you should be sure to include them in your resume and cover letter when relevant. Being able to evaluate your work and unexpected circumstances through a unique perspective can aid in your problem-solving skills and overall performance. Creative thinking skills are sought after by hiring managers because they want to create a team of original and analytical thinkers who aspire for innovation. Whether or not you feel like an extremely creative person, this is a skill you can hone in on and develop. Maybe you can’t produce a realistic portrait with paint on paper, but you can definitely master the conceptual steps an artist used to get there. This can be very useful in your professional life. Key Takeaways: Creative thinking requires you to think in ways that go beyond the status quo. Creative thinking skills are highly sought after in the workplace because they help with problem solving. Examples of creative thinking include being reflective, keeping an open mind, and analyzing a situation from all angles. Collaboration and asking questions are great ways to increase your creativity. There are many great jobs for creative minds, including marketing, writing, and graphic design. What Is Creative Thinking?

Creative thinking means different things for varying people and professions. Its definition can be as broad as thoughts themselves. In the workplace, creative thinking really boils down to its impact on your productivity and ability to solve challenges.

For example, you could work in an administrative position and come up with a brilliant new filing system that saves employees half the time. This end goal of productivity is your masterpiece, and you did a lot of critical creative thinking to arrive at it.

As you can probably imagine, this type of creativity can be very helpful with efficiency and tasks in the workforce. Creative thinking is also valuable to employers because it’s this type of unorthodox mindset that inspires innovation .

Creative thinking skills aren’t limited to one specific quality for success. Creativity is a culmination of many qualities and behaviors that you can always improve on with practice. Some skills in creative thinking may be a breeze to you, while others could use some refinement.

Problem-Solving. A big part of using your creative thinking skills productively in your career is creating solutions to arising or nagging problems. In the face of issues at work, a creative thinker’s mind jumps to new methods of resolution. Employers seek job applicants with these proven problem-solving abilities because they want to bring this energy to their company. When issues present themselves, supervisors need to count on their team to handle it effectively and perhaps even turn a problem into a positive situation.

Examples of Problem-Solving Skills Include:


Analytical thinking





Interpersonal abilities

Analytical Thinking. Analytical thinking and problem-solving abilities are often thought of as the same thing. In reality, analytical thinking is a mechanism that helps solve complex problems, but they are not one and the same. Analytical thinking refers to your ability to observe, logically evaluate, and come to a conclusion about anything. In the context of your job, this will often be about solving problems. Analytical thinking is a key component of professional creativity because it’s a process that allows you to channel ideas practically.

Analytical Thinking Skills Include:

Data interpretation


Openness. Creative thinking skills evolve from having an open mind to all possibilities. After all, reducing your openness to new ideas only limits your possibility of stumbling on a great one. Open-mindedness can also mean that you aren’t opposed to straying from traditional business methods. Doing things in a new way can result in improvement from the past.

Open-Mindedness Involves:


Willingness to learn


Receptiveness to other’s ideas and new information

Availability for discussion


Commitment. Even if you’re a creatively inclined person, simply thinking creative thoughts doesn’t automatically make you a better employee. For creative thinking to be useful, there must be a commitment to the plan of action. Without solid commitment and effort, a good idea is simply that.

Commitment to an Idea Involves:

In-depth research

Analyzing findings

Creating a detailed plan

Delegating tasks in a leadership position

Discussion with your team

Reviewing performance for strengths and weakness

Listening and Discussion Skills. Being part of an organization means that you consider the input of your team before moving forward with a plan. Being able to accept opinions and be open to a discussion about your new ideas is crucial in making them work on a team. Ask questions and take in their response. Listening to your co-workers and supervisors’ comments may even improve upon your proposal.

Listening and Discussion Skills Involve:

Eye contact

Paying attention to non-verbal communication (posture, smiling, etc.)

Asking questions

Clarifying concerns

Summarizing and repeating key discussion points


Noticing Patterns. Many creative thinkers devise useful solutions by noticing patterns within the workplace. Making connections between seemingly unrelated things can create drastic progression. The ability to perceive and use patterns can help you with formulating unique solutions to complex problems.

Reflection. As with any professional project, after putting your idea and plans into action, you must take time to reflect on it. Possessing reflection skills means that you’re able to give yourself feedback, and consider the work you’ve done constructively. This involves both acknowledging what parts of your plan worked well, and which didn’t live up to expectation. Reflection is an important piece of creative thinking because it allows you to take what you’ve learned onto the next project and do an even better job.

Reflection Involves:


Acknowledging achievements

Considering why mistakes happened

Asking for co-worker feedback

Conducting further research

Planning for the future

Creative thinking skills can be improved upon with a little effort if you feel your abilities are lacking in this area. Consider the following tips to upgrade your creativity and advance your work performance.

Participate in online courses. The internet is a vast place, and within it are a bounty of free courses to help you refine skills in many areas. You can find free-to-cheap classes to develop your creative thinking broadly or in your niche.

Possible Online Courses to Encourage Creativity Include:

Creative Problem-Solving

Creative Thinking Techniques and Tools for Success

Ignite Everyday Creativity

Creativity and Innovation for Business

Unlock Your Creative Identity

Collaborate with others. One fantastic way to boost your own creativity is by turning to the people around you for inspiration. Engage in thought-provoking conversation often. Some of the world’s greatest philosophies and innovations were sprung from an influential conversation. Your friends, co-workers, and even strangers can get your creativity flowing when you’re at a loss individually.

Enjoy your work. Working towards a goal you’re passionate about in an environment you enjoy encourages creative thinking. When you care about your work, you’re going to be thinking about it a lot more than if you didn’t. This time spent reflecting and honing in on your work will reflect in your creative thinking skills.

Do research. Research isn’t only helpful when you have a goal in mind. Research can mean anything from doing keyword searches on Google to reading a great book. Sometimes, conducting loosely based research can give you a boost of creativity or a new idea. Even if it’s sparked from something seemingly unrelated.

Pay attention to drifting thoughts. Creativity can be anything that sprouts from our minds. You could be having a hundred incredible ideas for revolutionizing your company every day, and just don’t notice them before they slip away. Pay close attention to where your mind wanders during the day. Sometimes it’s best to investigate these thoughts a little deeper instead of pushing them away to complete the next task.

Creativity can be intimidating. In a world with a population upwards of 7 billion people, how can anyone ever have a truly original thought? The truth is that creative thinking isn’t a tiny speck in the universe that nobody has ever discovered before. It’s a way of interpretation, and you can adjust your habits to improve your creativity. Consider the following ways to think more creatively.

Ask a lot of questions. Willingness to learn contributes greatly to a person’s creativity. One of the best ways to learn more is by asking questions. Don’t save your questions for only supervisors and experts. Ask questions to many people and gather a collection of responses. Even if you don’t receive the answer or inspiration you’re looking for from one person, another may surprise you with their insight.

Be okay with making mistakes. Not every creative idea is a winner. The most innovative entrepreneurs know this well. If you’re not open to some of your ideas resulting in failure, you’ll never have the courage to try the ones that will succeed. Be resilient. Accept mistakes, and put them to good use by learning from them.

Always be brainstorming. While you should focus most of your energy on your main project, you should also always be brainstorming new ideas. Brainstorming, either by yourself or with others, is a valuable source of inspiration. Using this tool constantly keeps your creative thinking sharp and allows you to be open to future possibilities.

Seek challenges. Without overcoming challenges, we can never grow or improve. Seeking out new and rewarding challenges can help you think creatively by pushing you to boundaries you didn’t think possible. This doesn’t necessarily only have to be directly work-related either. Participating in outside activities can stimulate your creative thinking just as effectively.

Possibilities for Challenges to Try Could Include:

Learning a new language

Participating in an improv class

Reading a book about Greek Philosophy

Joining a Sport team

Cooking a recipe you’ve never made before

Take an online course

Write a short story

Writing. The writing realm is an expansive field that encompasses many different types of careers. Creativity drives captivating writing. Whether you’re a fiction author , copywriter, or blogger , creative thinking is essential for grabbing a reader’s attention and creating an interesting piece.

Graphic Design. Graphic design is a booming industry that combines artistry with business. Successful graphic designers utilize creative thinking throughout their process. Creativity is necessary for graphic designers because a huge portion of their job is to create original, eye-catching visuals that effectively communicate an intended message.

Sales and Marketing. Sales and marketing is another occupation where having creative thinking skills can greatly improve your work performance. The purpose of a salesperson or marketer is to sway a consumer towards purchasing a product or service. While you can always just present facts for why your dewcompany is superior to competitors, creativity is what really engages a customer. Half of the battle in marketing is grabbing consumer focus in the sea of advertisements and product promotions. Creativity is extremely helpful in overcoming the initial sales hurdle of capturing a buyer’s curiosity and interest.

When applying for a job, it can be difficult to showcase your creativity. However, it is not impossible.

Like many skills, it is important to give specifics about creativity in your resume. Use buzzwords such as “analytics” and “mediation”, types of creativity that come in the workplace all the time, and pair them with data or examples that back up your claim.

Meanwhile, your cover letter and your job interview are great opportunities to show your creativity. Within your cover letter tell a story that shows how your creative mind works. In your job interview, present yourself as an open minded, multi-dimensional thinking person.

If you are lucky, some jobs also ask for a portfolio of your work . In this case, give them your best examples of your creative efforts.

Should I put creative thinking skills on my resume?

Yes, you should put creative thinking skills on your resume when relevant. Jobs that use creative thinking skills more than others include graphic design, marketing and sales, and writing jobs.

When applying to jobs in these fields, strong creative thinking skills will help you stand out.

What are examples of creative thinking skills?

Examples of creative thinking skills include problem-solving, pattern recognition, and analytical skills. Creative thinking skills can express themselves in a variety of ways for a variety of different roles, from graphic design to marketing.

While creative thinking skills are generally not considered hard skills, they are soft skills that are beneficial in a variety of different industries and roles.

Highlighting your creative thinking skills and demonstrating them with real-world examples will help you to stand out in job applications, and you can always put in work to help improve your creative thinking skills.

University of Tennessee Chattanooga – Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving

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Sky Ariella is a professional freelance writer, originally from New York. She has been featured on websites and online magazines covering topics in career, travel, and lifestyle. She received her BA in psychology from Hunter College.

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Thinking and Analysis

Photo of a young

Everybody has a creative potential and from the moment you can express this creative potential, you can start changing the world. —Paulo Coelho, author and lyricist

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

Creative Thinking

Think about a time when you visited a museum or a sculpture garden, or you attended an orchestral performance or a concert by a favorite performer. Did you marvel at the skill, the artistry, and the innovation? Did you imagine how wonderful it must feel to have those abilities?

If you’ve ever had thoughts like this, you must know you’re not alone. It’s hard for anyone to behold a great work of art or performance and not imagine standing, even briefly, in the artist’s shoes.

But when you’ve admired creative works or creative people, have you acknowledged the seeds of creativity within yourself?

You might be surprised to know that everyone has creative abilities: It’s true of everyone who fully expresses creative abilities as well as those who express them very little or not at all. All humans are innately creative, especially if creativity is understood as a problem-solving skill.

Put another way, creativity is inspired when there is a problem to solve. For example, when a sculptor creates an amazing sculpture, it’s an act of problem-solving: perhaps she must determine which artistic style to use in order to create the likeness of an object, or perhaps she is deciding which tools will most suit her purpose or style, perhaps she is assessing how best to satisfy a customer’s request or earn income from her art—you get the idea. In every case, the problem sparks the sculptor’s creativity and she brings her creativity to bear in finding an artistic solution.

Considered as an act of problem-solving, creativity can be understood as a skill —as opposed to an inborn talent or natural “gift”—that can be taught as well as learned. Problem-solving is something we are called upon to do every day, from performing mundane chores to executing sophisticated projects. The good news is that we can always improve upon our problem-solving and creative-thinking skills—even if we don’t consider ourselves to be artists or “creative.” The following information may surprise and encourage you!

Is this you? Even if you don’t yet see yourself as a competent creative thinker or problem-solver, you can learn solid skills and techniques to help you become one.

Activity: Assess Your Creative Problem-Solving Skills


Complete any further steps by following your instructor’s directions.

Creative Thinking in Education

Now that you have taken the creative problem-solving self-assessment test, do you have a better sense of which creative thinking skills and attitudes you have, and which ones you might want to improve upon?

College is great ground for enhancing creative thinking skills. The following are some college  activities that can stimulate creative thinking. Are any familiar to you?

How to Stimulate Creative Thinking

The following video, How to Stimulate the Creative Process , identifies six strategies to stimulate your creative thinking.

A Brainstorm of Tips for Creative Thinking

The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. —Linus Pauling, double Nobel Laureate, chemist, biochemist, and peace campaigner

Below are some additional tips to help you tap into original and creative thinking in your college assignments and endeavors:

Speaking and Writing

Creative Thinking Fiction and Facts

As you continue to develop your creative thinking skills, be alert to perceptions about creative thinking that could slow down progress. Remember that creative thinking and problem-solving are ways to transcend the limitations of a problem and see past barriers. It’s a way to think “outside of the box.”

Problem-Solving with Creative Thinking

Creative problem-solving is a type of problem-solving. It involves searching for new and novel solutions to problems. Unlike critical thinking, which scrutinizes assumptions and uses reasoning, creative thinking is about generating alternative ideas— practices and solutions that are unique and effective. It’s about facing sometimes muddy and unclear problems and seeing how “things” can be done differently—how new solutions can be imagined. [4]

The following words, by Dr. Andrew Robert Baker, are excerpted from his “Thinking Critically and Creatively” essay introduced earlier. Below, Dr. Baker continues to illuminate some of the many ways that college students will be exposed to creative thinking and how it can enrich their learning experiences.

Thinking Critically and Creatively

While critical thinking analyzes information and roots out the true nature and facets of problems, it is creative thinking that drives progress forward when it comes to solving these problems. Exceptional creative thinkers are people that invent new solutions to existing problems that do not rely on past or current solutions. They are the ones who invent solution C when everyone else is still arguing between A and B. Creative thinking skills involve using strategies to clear the mind so that our thoughts and ideas can transcend the current limitations of a problem and allow us to see beyond barriers that prevent new solutions from being found.

Brainstorming is the simplest example of intentional creative thinking that most people have tried at least once. With the quick generation of many ideas at once, we can block-out our brain’s natural tendency to limit our solution-generating abilities so we can access and combine many possible solutions/thoughts and invent new ones. It is sort of like sprinting through a race’s finish line only to find there is new track on the other side and we can keep going, if we choose. As with critical thinking, higher education both demands creative thinking from us and is the perfect place to practice and develop the skill. Everything from word problems in a math class, to opinion or persuasive speeches and papers, call upon our creative thinking skills to generate new solutions and perspectives in response to our professor’s demands. Creative thinking skills ask questions such as—What if? Why not? What else is out there? Can I combine perspectives/solutions? What is something no one else has brought-up? What is being forgotten/ignored? What about ______? It is the opening of doors and options that follows problem-identification.

Consider an assignment that required you to compare two different authors on the topic of education and select and defend one as better. Now add to this scenario that your professor clearly prefers one author over the other. While critical thinking can get you as far as identifying the similarities and differences between these authors and evaluating their merits, it is creative thinking that you must use if you wish to challenge your professor’s opinion and invent new perspectives on the authors that have not previously been considered.

So, what can we do to develop our critical and creative thinking skills? Although many students may dislike it, group work is an excellent way to develop our thinking skills. Many times I have heard from students their disdain for working in groups based on scheduling, varied levels of commitment to the group or project, and personality conflicts too, of course. True—it’s not always easy, but that is why it is so effective. When we work collaboratively on a project or problem we bring many brains to bear on a subject. These different brains will naturally develop varied ways of solving or explaining problems and examining information. To the observant individual we see that this places us in a constant state of back and forth critical/creative thinking modes.

For example, in group work we are simultaneously analyzing information and generating solutions on our own, while challenging other’s analyses/ideas and responding to challenges to our own analyses/ideas. This is part of why students tend to avoid group work—it challenges us as thinkers and forces us to analyze others while defending ourselves, which is not something we are used to or comfortable with as most of our educational experiences involve solo work. Your professors know this—that’s why we assign it—to help you grow as students, learners, and thinkers!

—Dr. Andrew Robert Baker,  Foundations of Academic Success: Words of Wisdom

Resources for Creative Thinking

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What is creative thinking and why does it matter?

creative thinking skills meaning

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What is creative thinking?

Types of creative thinking, why is creative thinking important, how creative thinking works, what are some examples of creative thinking, the benefits of creative thinking, how to make your thinking process more creative, start fostering your creative thinking skills.

Few things feel better than a stroke of creative genius. A new creative idea can make you feel brilliant and unstoppable.

But, when the great ideas stop flowing, it’s easy to get discouraged and declare that you’re just not a creative thinker.

Many people believe that creative thinking is something that strikes at random. In reality, there are many ways to use creative problem-solving every day, even if you don’t think you have innate creativity. While thinking creatively isn’t difficult, it does take practice. 

Building your creative skills is the key to innovation. But where do you start?

In this article, we’ll cover what creative thinking is, how it works, and how to strengthen your creative skill.


Creative thinking may feel like a superpower reserved only for a “creative person.” Thankfully, creative geniuses aren’t the only ones who can have innovative ideas. 

At its core, creative thinking is intentionally gaining new insights and different ideas through existing information.

Often, creative thought involves tapping into different styles of thinking and examining information from different viewpoints to see new patterns. Anyone can foster a creative mind with some practice!

how much time employees have to think creatively and discuss new ideas

Using a wide variety of brainstorming strategies can help you discover new solutions for issues in every area of your life, including at work.

In fact, 61% of employees say they’re expected to come up with creative ideas or new ways to do things at work. But, with only 30% of employees saying they’re given time to think or discuss new ideas daily, it’s becoming increasingly important to develop our creative thinking muscles.

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Fostering creative thinking starts with changing your perspective. Learning new and different styles of thinking can help give birth to powerful idea generation. 

Aesthetic thinking, divergent thinking, lateral thinking, convergent thinking, and inspirational thinking are five types of innovative thinking to get the ball rolling.

types of creative thinking

( Image source )

Divergent and convergent thinking are the most common ways to foster more creative thought. 

Divergent thinking is like a traditional brainstorming session, where you come up with as many possible solutions as your imagination will allow. 

Meanwhile, convergent thinking takes a more logical approach, encouraging you to gather facts and discover the most common solution to a problem. These strategies are frequently used together to conjure new creative solutions.

Inspirational thinking focuses on imagining the best-case scenarios to find a new way to solve a problem, while lateral thinking involves letting ideas flow in a step-by-step format. 

Aesthetic thinking focuses on reframing the problem to see its inherent beauty and value, like looking at a painting.

It’s easy to get stuck in the same thought patterns, especially at work. However, those thought patterns may be hampering your innovation and keeping you stuck in routines that don’t serve you. 

Creative thinking shows us that there are many solutions to any problem, and developing your creative thinking skills helps you recognize innovative solutions more quickly. 

Plus, creativity was the most sought-after soft skill in 2020, so strengthening your creativity skills can set you apart at work, too.

Alongside critical thinking and focus , creative thinking is crucial to help recognize patterns that may not be obvious at first glance. Thinking creatively makes you a better problem-solver, which has far-reaching benefits in both your work and personal life.

Expressive, creative thinking helps us challenge our own assumptions, discover new things about ourselves and our perspective, stay mentally sharp, and even be more optimistic .

Many business leaders see creativity and innovation as something unpredictable, with 53% of businesses reporting that innovation occurs by chance. However, with the right tools, you can tap into creative thinking whenever you want.

how creative thinking works

There are many ways to get your creative juices flowing, and practicing creative thinking strategies can help you think outside the box more readily and more often. 

Creative thinking works by igniting our curiosity. Getting curious about a problem looks different for various industries.

A go-to example for creative thinking may be the advertising executive coming up with creative campaigns by brainstorming with divergent thinking. However, that’s far from the only way to use creative thinking. 

In STEM industries like biomedicine, stimulating creativity by asking open-ended questions and creating fictional scenarios helps professionals find innovative solutions to health problems. 

These questions encourage medical professionals to experiment and discover new ways of solving a persistent problem. 

Through creative thinking, professionals in any field can discover unique answers to pressing problems.

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Creative thinking is valuable in many situations, not just traditionally creative industries. Whether you’re solving a problem, organizing your calendar, or at an impasse with your team, creative thinking can come in handy.

One way creative thinking is valuable is for identifying the right problem . 

Using divergent thinking strategies can help you examine a problem from every angle and identify the true root of the issue. 

Once you’ve found the root problem, you can use lateral thinking or convergent thinking to discover new solutions that may not have been available to you before.

Adding constraints , like a timeline or budget for your project, can also help you guide a creative thinking session. 

For example, you could brainstorm how you'd handle a particular problem if your existing budget was cut in half. Constraints can help spur unique ideas you may have missed.

Creative thinking doesn’t just make you a better employee; it also makes you a better parent, student, and leader, too. By developing your creative thinking skills, the benefits of thinking creatively can show up throughout your daily life.

benefits of creative thinking

Here are a few major benefits of creative thinking.

Improved problem-solving capabilities

We don’t just solve problems at work, and we shouldn’t only use our creative thinking skills at work, either! Developing your creative thinking abilities can help you solve a wide variety of problems faster. 

As your mind becomes more accustomed to using different thought techniques, you’ll quickly recognize patterns that you might not have before.

Stronger interpersonal connections

Creative thinking can help you communicate your ideas more clearly, which leads to better conversations and relationships with your friends, family, and coworkers. 

Plus, many creative thinking methods work best when they’re done in a group. Developing new ideas together can strengthen bonds and help you combine ideas to create something truly innovative.

Heightened productivity

It may seem like creative thinking is a time-consuming distraction from your work, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

When we get stuck in thought patterns, it’s easy to get frustrated when something isn’t working correctly. That frustration can cause our productivity to plummet. 

Taking a moment and engaging in a creative thinking strategy can renew your motivation, reinvigorate your passion, and help you find new solutions when you’re stuck. 

Higher self-awareness

Creative thinking allows you to try on perspectives that you may not have considered before. 

As you’re exploring new perspectives, you may discover something about your own assumptions, viewpoints, or biases that you never noticed. 

Challenging your traditional way of thinking can offer higher self-awareness and build your emotional intelligence. With creative thinking, you strengthen your ability to reframe your perspective and harness a growth mindset.

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Now that we see how important creative thinking skills are, building our creative capabilities is the next step to reap the benefits. 

There are many ways to encourage more creative thinking in your daily life. While practicing different thinking strategies and brainstorming with your team at work help to develop these skills, they’re far from the only way to foster a more creative thought process. 

One powerful way to get your creativity flowing is to meet new people, especially if they’re in the arts or in a different industry from you. Sharing your interests and listening to others can inspire you to view the world differently. 

Practicing boredom can help you develop your creativity, too. Allowing yourself to become bored and seeing what pulls your interest can help you practice letting your curiosity lead the way. 

Another tactic is to ask questions about everything that piques your interest, and come up with possible answers before you look up the actual answer.

developing creativity within company walls

Coaching can also help you hone your creative thinking. 

In fact, 71% of employers see managerial coaching as helpful for creative development. When you’re feeling distracted or uninspired, coaching can refocus your attention and help you get curious about your experience.

Breaking away from your normal routine and trying something new is the key to fostering creative thinking in your daily life.


Stay up to date with new resources and insights.

Thinking more creatively can take effort, but a little practice can offer a ton of benefits. Honing your skills to recognize patterns and find solutions shifts your perspective and offers a new vantage point for you to explore. 

Not only can creative thinking improve your performance at work, but it can also improve every other area of your life too. 

Coaching is a powerful tool to help foster your creativity skills. Are you ready to become more innovative? 

Start working with a dedicated coach today to develop your own creative thinking skills.

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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Why creativity isn't just for creatives and how to find it anywhere, thinking outside the box: 8 ways to become a creative problem solver, uncover the best talent with these 10 creative interview questions, entrepreneurial mindset: what is it & how to think like an entrepreneur, 37 innovation and creativity appraisal comments, learn how to be your own best ally for reaching your goals, has social conditioning been holding women back from leadership roles, how hr can support effective manager coaching, stay connected with betterup, get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research..

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