Change ‘How You Think’ & Nurture Your Creativity

With the fast evolving perspectives, irrespective of who we are, what profession we are in, we want our creative juices to be flowing. This is especially true for people who are engaged in not so creative but monotonous routines of life. Deprivation has brought upon the realisation, and in whatever little ways possible given the contours of schedules and limitations, we all want to be more creative.

I have always believed, and advocating the same through THOTS Lab, that in order to create something new, we need to shake up our pre-set thinking patterns and form new thinking patterns. Which is, by consciously thinking about what we are thinking. So, that we are entrapped by our fixated thinking habits. In simple words, if we are able to think something new and make it a process of our thinking, it’s called being creative. So, creativity requires us to make a shift in how we think. For some of us, at times this shift in thinking could come easily without any conscious effort. While for most of us, at most of the times, it requires some effort on our part. As our mind get hard wired through our set thinking patterns, we get habituated to follow these thinking patterns. And, as various cognitive researchers mention, not just our repeated behaviours but even our thinking is also a consequence of our habits.

Being a psychotherapist myself, I would like to quote that even most of the psychotherapies aim to bring subtle shifts in the thinking of clients whereby releasing psychosomatic blockages being formed by thinking habits.

Found an echo of the same by Tanner Christensen in his new book ‘The Creativity Challenge’ where he beautifully summarises the solution – “Creativity requires that you change how you think about thinking.”

Christensen is a product designer at Facebook and the founder of the popular website “Creative”. As he writes for his book, “This isn’t a book that you pick up right before bed in order to help lull yourself to sleep. This is the sort of book you wake up early for so that you can be sure to get your challenge in first thing.”

In ‘The Creativity Challenge’, Christensen shares 150 prompts or creative challenges to help us access our imaginations and unlock a plethora of possibilities. Further, he categorises these prompts into five types of natural thinking processes:

Convergent Thinking – A process of combining elements of more than one idea or thing (like putting a puzzle together).

Divergent Thinking – A process of taking things apart so you can view the individual parts.

Lateral Thinking – A process of using logic and following steps in some order (like solving a math problem).

Aesthetic Thinking – Focusing on how an object or idea looks.

Emergent Thinking – Naturally reflecting about something (such as what happens when we are taking a walk or daydreaming).

Given below are 5 prompts from the book, ‘The Creativity Challenge’ for changing how we think about thinking, one from each of the thinking processes mentioned above.

1. Change What Is Familiar –
Familiarity triggers habits and doesn’t help in imagining different possibilities. That’s why Christensen suggests asking ourselves – What would happen if a part of everyday life changed? He shares these examples – “What would doors look like if you had to laugh at them to open or close them? How would you wear hats if they were all made of concrete? What would books look like if they were written entirely with blue or yellow markers?”

2. Create A New Design –
Think about the creative decisions that others have made. Find a painting or an advertisement or any designed object. Spend 10-15 minutes contemplating the designer’s decisions. For instance, why a designer used a certain colour, or pattern or theme. And, then draw or construct an alternative.

3. Start With An Ending –
It is about visualising your goal and planning backward from the goal to the present to figure out all what is needed to achieve the goal. Start by imagining what your ideal day looks like, at the end of that day. Be as realistic as possible. Now work backwards within your imagination to outline each step it would take to get from there to here, writing them down to ensure you don’t miss a step.

4. Disprove The Obvious –
Pick something very obvious that goes without saying. Now question it. Question it by “taking an opposite view or thinking about what would make it false.” Then try to convince someone that the obvious thing is false using your opposite perspective.

5. Spend A Day Smaller –
What if you’ve shrunk down in your height? Imagine, you’ve become almost the size of an ant, around 1,000 times smaller. How do you spend your time now? What interesting things would you do? Spend some time acting as though you have actually shrunk to this size.

Hoping this inspires you to explore your creativity, irrespective of who you are.

If you are a person responsible for cooking for the family, create interesting looking meals packed with taste and nutrition; if you are a teacher, create engaging and fascinating lesson plans to seize students’ interest; if you are a management professional, create powerful convincing presentations for your product or annual report….or create something totally different like designing a new range of fashion wear or accessory line or maybe start a blog or write a story, poem, book….or buy a new board game and create new rules to play the same game. Address this need of creativity, that too in a fun and fulfilling way.

Would like to conclude by the quote being used by Christensen in the opening of his book,

“Creativity can solve almost any problem.

The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.”

– George Lois, American art director, designer and author.

So, take out time to think about your thinking and do at least one task a day to think something new to shake the pre-set way of thinking!

– Blog by Sangeeta A. Khurana, Director @ THOTS Lab