Introduction to Creative Thinking

Thx na ka PBoy for recommending this article to me 4 yrs ago ^_^.
Robert Harris 
However, there is another kind of thinking, one that focuses on exploring ideas, generating possibilities, looking for many right answers rather than just one.
Critical Thinking vs Creative Thinking:   
Probability vs Possiblity
Judgment vs Suspended judgment
Objective vs Subjective
Answer vs An answer
Verbal vs Visual
Yes but vs Yes and
creativity is not the ability to create out of nothing (only God can do that), but the ability to generate new ideas by combining, changing, or reapplying existing ideas. Some creative ideas are astonishing and brilliant, while others are just simple, good, practical ideas that no one seems to have thought of yet.
In adults, creativity has too often been suppressed through education, but it is still there and can be reawakened.
We are socialized into accepting only a small number of permitted or normal things, like chocolate-covered strawberries, for example. The creative person realizes that there are other possibilities, like peanut butter and banana sandwiches, or chocolate-covered prunes.
The creative person knows that there is always room for improvement.
Here the creativity lies in the refinement, the step-by-step improvement, rather than in something completely new.
Every problem that has been solved can be solved again in a better way.
"How can I make my lectures better and better?" a revolutionary idea might be, "Why not stop lecturing and have the students teach each other, working as teams or presenting reports?"
Look at something old in a new way. Go beyond labels. Unfixate, remove prejudices, expectations and assumptions and discover how something can be reapplied.

For example, a paperclip can be used as a tiny screwdriver if filed down; paint can be used as a kind of glue to prevent screws from loosening in machinery; dishwashing detergents can be used to remove the DNA from bacteria in a lab; general purpose spray cleaners can be used to kill ants.
Many creative breakthroughs occur when attention is shifted from one angle of a problem to another. This is sometimes called creative insight. 

A classic example is that of the highway department trying to keep kids from skateboarding in a concrete-lined drainage ditch. The highway department put up a fence to keep the kids out; the kids went around it. The department then put up a longer fence; the kids cut a hole in it. The department then put up a stronger fence; it, too, was cut. The department then put a threatening sign on the fence; it was ignored. Finally, someone decided to change direction, and asked, "What really is the problem here? It’s not that the kids keep getting through the barrier, but that they want to skateboard in the ditch. So how can we keep them from skateboarding in the ditch?" The solution was to remove their desire by pouring some concrete in the bottom of the ditch to remove the smooth curve. The sharp angle created by the concrete made skateboarding impossible and the activity stopped. No more skateboarding problems, no more fence problems.

the goal is to solve the problem, not to implement a particular solution.

There is no commitment to a particular path, only to a particular goal.

The reaction to a problem is often a bigger problem than the problem itself. Many people avoid or deny problems until it’s too late, largely because these people have never learned the appropriate emotional, psychological, and practical responses. 

A problem is an opportunity. The happiest people welcome and even seek out problems, meeting them as challenges and opportunities to improve things. Definition: a problem is (1) seeing the difference between what you have and what you want or (2) recognizing or believing that there is something better than the current situation or (3) an opportunity for a positive act. 

It can’t be done. This attitude is, in effect, surrendering before the battle.

But look at the history of solutions and the accompanying skeptics: man will never fly, diseases will never be conquered, rockets will never leave the atmosphere.

Again, the appropriate attitude is summed up by the statement, "The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer."

Who were the Wright brothers that they could invent an airplane? Aviation engineers? No, they were bicycle mechanics.

The ball point pen was invented by a printer’s proofreader, Ladislao Biro, not a mechanical engineer.

The continuous steel casting process was invented by a watchmaker (fooling around with brass casting).

In a nutshell, a good mind with a positive attitude and some good problem solving skills will go far in solving any problem.

And remember that you can always do something. Even if you cannot totally eradicate the problem from the face of the earth, you can always do something to make the situation better.

Everyone is creative to some extent.

That’s childish. In our effort to appear always mature and sophisticated, we often ridicule the creative, playful attitudes that marked our younger years. But if you solve a problem that saves your marriage or gets you promoted or keeps your friend from suicide, do you care whether other people describe your route to the solution as "childish?"

What will people think? There is strong social pressure to conform and to be ordinary and not creative.

So, what will people think? Well, they’re already talking about you, saying that your nose is too big or your shoes are funny or you date weird people. So, since others are going to talk about you in unflattering ways anyway, you might as well relax and let your creativity and individualism flow.

That’s just a fact of life, so make up your mind not to let it bother you.

Thomas Edison, in his search for the perfect filament for the incandescent lamp, tried anything he could think of, including whiskers from a friend’s beard. In all, he tried about 1800 things. After about 1000 attempts, someone asked him if he was frustrated at his lack of success. He said something like, "I’ve gained a lot of knowledge–I now know a thousand things that won’t work."

Fear of failure is one of the major obstacles to creativity and problem solving. The cure is to change your attitude about failure. Failures along the way should be expected and accepted; they are simply learning tools that help focus the way toward success.

Not only is there nothing wrong with failing, but failing is a sign of action and struggle and attempt–much better than inaction.

THE solution to putting words on paper? Fountain pen, ball point, pencil, marker, typewriter, printer, Xerox machine, printing press? The word processor? Is that the last invention? How about voice recognition, or thought wave input?

As another example, when hot dogs were first invented, they were served to customers with gloves to hold them. Unfortunately, the customers kept walking off with the gloves. The solution was not at all complex: serve the hot dog on a roll so that the customer’s fingers were still insulated from the heat. 

Mental Blocks to Creative Thinking and Problem Solving

Prejudice. The older we get, the more preconceived ideas we have about things. These preconceptions often prevent us from seeing beyond what we already know or believe to be possible.

How to divide a piece of cake equally between two kids so they won’t complain that one kid is preferred over the other: "You gave him the bigger piece; you like him better! Waaaah!" Solution: Put the kids in charge of dividing the cake. Our prejudice is that immature, selfish kids can’t do the job. But the solution, one cuts the cake, the other has first choice of pieces, works very well.

Similarly, when the telephone began its rise, some of the telegraph companies said, "That’s not our business; we’re telegraph companies." But if they had said, "Hey, we’re in the communication business, and here’s a new way to communicate," they would have grown rather than died. Compare Western Union to AT&T.

Think of those statements like, "I can’t believe he said that," or "Imagine her doing that," and so on. But recall the proverb, "The goal of my life is not to live down to your expectations."

Psychological blocks. Some solutions are not considered or are rejected simply because our reaction to them is "Yuck." 

Overcoming such blocks can be really beneficial. Navy commandos in Vietnam overcame their blocks and put on women’s panty hose when they marched through the swamps and jungle. The pantyhose cut down on the friction and rubbing from the plants and aided in removing the dozens of leeches after a mission.

The question, "Why do you want to know that?" seems strange to the creative person, who is likely to respond, "Because I don’t know the answer." 

Nothing can come from nothing.  

Constructive discontent. This is not a whining, griping kind of discontent, but the ability to see a need for improvement and to propose a method of making that improvement.

Constructive discontent is a positive, enthusiastic discontent, reflecting the thought, "Hey, I know a way to make that better."

Even previously solved problems can often be solved again, in a better way. A constructively discontent person might think, "This is an excellent solution, but I wonder if there isn’t another solution that works even better (or costs less, etc)."

The ability to suspend judgment and criticism

The first rule of brainstorming is to suspend judgment so that your idea-generating powers will be free to create without the restraint of fear or criticism.

Seeing the good in the bad. Creative thinkers, when faced with poor solutions, don’t cast them away. Instead, they ask, "What’s good about it?" because there may be something useful even in the worst ideas. 

How can we get college students to learn grammar better? Solution: Spank their bottoms with a hickory stick. This isn’t a good solution, partly because it’s probably illegal. But should we just toss it out? Why not ask what’s good about it? (1) it gives individual, attention to the poor performers, (2) it gives them public attention, (3) it motivates other students as well as the student being spanked, (4) it’s easy and costs nothing. The next question is, Can we adapt or incorporate some of these good things into a more acceptable solution, whether derivative of the original or not?  

changing the physical spanking to a verbal spanking changes the entire aspect of the solution while keeping all the good points we identified.

A problem can also be a solution.  

3M chemists were experimenting with adhesives and accidentally came up with one that was so weak you could peel it right back off. Hold strength, shear strength, all were way below the minimum standards for any self-respecting adhesive. A glue that won’t hold? Quite a problem. But this problem was also a solution, as you now see in Post-It Notes. 

Perseverance. Most people fail because they spend only nine minutes on a problem that requires ten minutes to solve. 

There is no quick and easy secret.

A belief that mistakes are welcome.

mistakes show that something is being done.

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