Top Advice on Critical & Creative Thinking

Critical & Creative Thinking

When you think about creativity, what do you imagine?

A small child playing with their toys?

An artist drawing a masterpiece?

A fantastic performance at the theatre?

Innovation and Problem-Solving

It is true that all these things are creative – but the ability to think creatively and having a critical and creative mindset is becoming increasingly important in the workplace.

Creative thinking and critical thinking leads to greater innovation and problem-solving and ensures businesses remain agile, moving forwards and staying ahead of the competition.

According to the World Economic Forum, three of the top skills needed to succeed in 2020 include complex problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity.

Defining creativity is one thing but implementing it in the workplace is far harder. So, what is creative and critical thinking; just why is it so important; and what can people and businesses do to help foster creative and critical thinking skills?

Those are all the questions we try to answer in this post.

Creative and Critical Thinking Podcast

What is Critical Thinking?

There are many definitions of critical and creative thinking.

Since the days of Ancient Greece, where philosophers like Plato and Socrates debated the topic, critical thinking has remained a hot topic.

Albert Einstein said:

“To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.”

Clear Independent Thinking

Many definitions highlight the ability to think clearly and independently and to connect different ideas together to reach a solution.

It can also help to resolve conflicts in the workplace and when individuals consider a range of differing approaches, the optimal solution can be found. Critical and creative thinkers are active learners, rather than passively receiving information.

They question current ideas and assumptions and ask new and different questions, to see if what they think they know represents the whole picture.

People With Critical Thinking Skills Will:

Draw connections between questions, problems and ideas

  • Consider all reasonable ideas and possibilities
  • Be self-confident and motivated in their ability to reason
  • View problems as a challenge, rather than a hindrance
  • Evaluate and assess a broad range of ideas and viewpoints
  • Be open-minded and actively learning, without bias
  • Gather new information, explanations and findings
  • Take time to come up with solutions
  • Network with people with different ideas and perspectives
  • Take risks and understand that there is success in failure
  • Communicate effectively with others when finding solutions to complex problems

Creativity Gap

Currently, we have a ‘creativity gap’.

An Adobe study on creativity found that 8 out of 10 people felt that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth.

Yet just 1 in 4 people felt they lived up to their own creative potential.

75 per cent of people said they felt under growing pressure to be productive rather than creative at work.

Are Only Certain People Creative?

Many people believe it is an innate trait and only certain people are creative and critical thinkers. They view creativity as outside their skillset, which they do not see as expansive.

The human brain is naturally creative and it is the way that we grow up where we start to become less creative, as we start to stick to the ‘rules’ and question assumptions and ideas less.

It has been found that whilst a quarter to a third of creativity is innate, the remainder can be cultivated and developed over time.

Therefore, creative thinking techniques can be learned and nurtured. It is also not a domain-general thinking skill; whether you work as an engineer, teacher, lawyer or in any other profession, critical thinking and problem-solving skills are an extremely valuable asset.

Why are Critical and Creative Thinking Skills so Important?

The importance of critical thinking cannot be underestimated. In our daily working lives, we all make thousands of decisions, some bigger than others.

We often make hasty choices or we simply do things in certain ways through habit or routine, usually relying on the ‘tried and proven methods’ because they are easier.

In a world, where everyone is increasingly busy, we do not take time – or have the foresight – to examine whether there are better and more optimal solutions to the problems we encounter.

Speed and Efficiency

Creative and critical thinking is important across all levels and functions of any organisation, both in their current and future guises.

Technology and the working world are moving faster than ever and the level of connections make it more complex. We have to deal with changes quickly and effectively.

AI is becoming increasingly commonplace and whilst machines are excellent at storing information, they cannot come up with creative solutions to data problems in the way that we do.

There is an increasing focus on our flexible intellectual skills and creative skills when it comes to solving issues.

Planning Strategy

Critical thinking is essential for managers when it comes to planning strategy. Why creative thinking is important in strategic planning is not only realising the best solutions but being able to express and communicate these to a wider audience.

By design, creative processes encourage collaboration, teamwork and more effective communication. Team bonding also helps engagement and to retain employees.

Businesses and staff need to challenge assumptions about what we are doing and why – and importantly, if it will still work or if there are better solutions to business problems.

Businesses who embrace uncertainty and demand innovation and who do not fear failure will reap the biggest rewards.

How to Promote Critical Thinking in the Workplace

Businesses may understand that they need to be more creative and ask staff to think ‘outside the box.’ At the same time, businesses cannot expect their staff to magically offer innovative ideas.

A creative strategic thinking environment needs to be carefully nurtured and developed and given time to flourish.

Companies need to foster open discussions, encourage open and honest feedback, embrace the real issues rather than the symptoms.

They should not place incentives on goals that work against critical thinking, such as over-emphasizing deadlines and output. It also means taking time to understand the creative needs of team members, including their workstyles and personalities.

Ideas to Improve Critical and Creative Thinking

Bespoke Training

We offer Open Courses, for the public and run regular Creative Strategic Thinking Courses, suitable for anyone involved in developing or implementing strategy or who has a project or initiative that needs a boost of creativity.

Tailored Training Programmes

These are designed in partnership with the organisations we work with to respond to their specific people-driven challenges and help them meet their business objectives.

Both these courses can help to clarify creativity and offer critical thinking exercises and techniques to expand participants’ skillsets.

Make Time for Progress

One of the biggest challenges for businesses looking to forge more creative and critical thinking within their organisations is being able to focus on strategy, rather than day-to-day tasks.

Employees also need to be given time to experiment with ideas. Fifteen per cent time was invented by William McKnight at the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, or 3M.

Employees spent 15 per cent of their time daydreaming, doodling and experimenting to foster innovation. Google employees now dedicate 20 per cent of their time to side projects and ideas.

Reward Experimentation and Ideas

Nothing dulls creativity and innovation faster than the fear of failure so a certain amount of risk-taking should be promoted.

Businesses should be encouraged to celebrate their employees’ ideas, even if they fail. The idea that ‘no idea is a bad idea’ is always a productive one.

Actively solicit suggestions and encourage people to share ideas. Leaders also need to be ready and willing to bring fresh ideas to the table.

Build Diverse Teams

It is important within teams to have people with different skill sets, backgrounds and strengths. Hire diverse teams to encourage healthy debate and different points of view.

The term for this is the Medici Effect, which argues a more diverse team has a better chance of generating disruptive ideas. Allow everyone to give equal input and see how brainstorming and idea sessions run.

Optimise Your Workspace

Does your physical environment lend itself to creativity?

A Cornell University study found that the physical environment at work has a big impact on how employees feel about productivity and creativity.

Create clear and clutter-free space with plenty of natural light and good airflow to encourage creative and critical thinking abilities.

Critical & Creative Thinking Training

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