Creative Thinking Techniques

To start off this was a seminar about creative thinking techniques. This seminar was meant to help us to learn to think outside the box. The lecturer gave us a list of many techniques to help us thinking creatively, we then had to form groups of 3 to 4 and learn about them, research them, then create a presentation of which we would eventually be presenting to the rest of the groups and vice versa.

However, we started off talking about the importance of mind mapping and brainstorming, these are the two different things that work best together. Basically, these two can help us come up with lots of ideas for our design. This is a classic and a basic way of approaching creative thinking.

1. Brainstorming is a technique for recalling what you know about a topic. Mind mapping can then be used to work out the relationship between those points and ideas. When you set down your ideas visually in this way, you can make connections and develop a greater understanding of information. It is a good way to begin planning for an assignment, essay, research topic or oral presentation.

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2. Mind mapping involves gathering in all your ideas about a particular concept and organising them into a pattern that shows the relationships between the ideas. You can order the information into important points and less important points. You can compare and contrast different points, and show problems with their solutions and causes with their effects. Mind maps let you see the big picture of a topic as well as the details that make up the picture.


In conclusion, brainstorming is more about writing down all of your ideas, stating them without going in depth, write everything down on a sheet of paper until there isn’t anything left to think off. Next, you select out by circling your best ideas and start by creating a mind map of those words.

3. Attribute listing is a very useful technique for quality improvement of complicated products, procedures for services. It is a good technique to use in conjunction with some other creative techniques, especially idea-generating ones like brainstorming. This allows you to focus on one specific part of a product or process before generating a whole lot of ideas.


4. Whilst developing ideas, if we asked more questions, our content might be a little bit more imaginative. This is where the checklist technique can help. This is a list of questions which you should ask yourself before beginning your work.
There are six universal questions that can be asked:

A checklist is a standard collection of items (things, verbs, questions, approaches, attributes) used to remind the creative thinker of ways to approach a problem or shape solution. A student might have a list of common revision sites, creative thinking techniques, and information storage methods (like writing, drawing, typing, voice and video recording). These checklists simply save the mental effort required to bring up what’s available when that list gets longer than six or seven.

5. Lateral Thinking is a mind game for you to take things to a whole new level and think outside the box. A good example of lateral thinking are quizzes that are meant to help you develop your lateral thinking. Lateral thinking is meant to train your brain to think laterally and not to see everything as it appears at first but identify and apply different answers.

 However, here is a quiz to show you what I mean. speech_bubble_question-512

There is a brown wooden box outside your house, what would you put in it to make it lighter and as you put more the lighter it gets, despite that the box is still empty?

Leave a comment below with your answers.

Ways to think laterally:

  • Think like someone else, Steve Jobs, Buddha, a musician or a scientist.
  • Reverse Thinking.

6. Lotus Blossom is more like a more advanced and more structural mind mapping solution. And it looks something like this.


7. Picture association: If you’re truly stuck for ideas, perform an image search on your topic of choice, pick a random photo. Work backwards from the picture, developing a story around how the photo was taken.

For example, if you see a picture of a dog looking up at the night sky, ask yourself what it could be thinking. Is it a stargazing dog? Does that dog secretly long to be an astronaut? Perhaps a story about a space dog would be awesome! In fact a space dog would make a great mascot for any business so we could look at the best business mascots. So on so forth.


How picture association could be used in practice (for graphics):

Pointout/highlight words that the pupils are having difficulty identifying when responding to a brief. Choose the words that can be easily visualised and portrayed in an image sense, write the word onto a piece of card and on the other side of the card draw the image that word/words describes.

1. Place the card/cards onto the table and ask the students to read the words and turn the cards over so they can see the image that responds to the word.
2. Remove the cards from the students.
3. Write the words on a whiteboard at the front of the class where all students can see the word and ask them to draw the image that goes with the word:
3. Or alternatively, draw the image on the whiteboard and ask the student/students to write the correct word that identifies with the image.
4. if correct then move on to the next word/words that they were having trouble with, if incorrect then revisit the word and again visualise the word to them by drawing the correct image yourself to give them a visual stimulate to help them learn and understand the word/words they are having trouble with and do not understand.
5. Revisit this, later on, to make sure that the students understand the words.
Picture association can be done in several ways, simply combining two random images and seeing where their attributes converge in whatever way, or using said images to create a scene in one’s imagination and through its visualisation give you a story behind your design.

8. Reframing Matrix is useful for problem-solving, if you have troubles trying to solve a design problem or a general problem, this is the technique you should use. This technique is usually used in product design, although it is also a main tool to use in bussines. However this is the way you approach problems from different perspectives by breaking down the problem into various viewpoints.

First you need to create a grid system like the one below.


It uses what is called the 4Ps, Product, People, Planning and Potential. For example, the problem could be a product isn’t selling, so you would consider what the product is, who is
the target audience, then you consider your current plans or marketing strategies (how they either work or don’t) and finally how you could potentially improve the product and
how it’s marketed (tying in everything you looked at before). However, you could put whatever you wanted in the grid making this approach suitable for all the manner of problems!

9. SCAMPER is another form of developing ways of becoming more creative and it stands for:

Substitute – Remove some part of the accepted situation, thing, or concept and replace it with something else.
Combine – Join, affiliate, or force together two or more elements of your subject matter and consider ways that such a combination might move you toward a solution.
Adapt – Change some part of your problem so that it works where it did not before.
Modify – Consider many of the attributes of the thing you’re working on and change them. These could include: size, shape, other dimensions, texture, colour, attitude, position, history, and so on.
Purpose (put to another use) – Modify the intention of the subject. Think about why it exists, what it is used for, what it’s supposed to do. Challenge all of these assumptions and suggest new and unusual purposes
Eliminate –Remove any or all elements of your subject, simplify, reduce to core functionality
Reverse – Change the direction or orientation. Turn it upside-down, inside-out, or make it go backwards, against the direction it was intended to go or be used.

The SCAMPER technique provides students with a template for thinking of different ways existing designs could be improved. Each letter of the acronym represents a different way of approaching the task. This method provides students with a tool that they can utilise to further improve and question their own designs, and ideas.

10. Six Thinking Hats is a creative technique developed by Edward De Bono, he describes a tool for group discussion and individual thinking involving six coloured hats. Six distinct
directions are identified and assigned a colour.

Here is a video explaining the meaning of each assigned colour and the system on how it works and how to apply it. I found this really helpful for us designers as it helps us memories the colours and make it easier for us to apply our visual memories.

11. However, during this lecture about the creative thinking techniques, here is the last and my favourite technique that we have been shown and talked about in class. For this technique we have worked in pairs and have been asked to pick two random words and we were asked to think of things related between the both. Other groups had some random and funnily interesting words to work with as well, ours was a Melon and a Newspaper.

The related things we could of think of were:

  • They both have seeds, metaphorically and physically speaking.
  • They are both fairly cheap.
  • They both have sections.
  • Both have colours.
  • They both are made of organic material.
  • Ephemera – Melon runs out, and newspapers are initially made for a day use.
  • “They are both Juicy”.
  • Both could maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  • They could both have an iconic appearance.
  • Finally, they could both explode. Yes, you got it, explode!

The idea of this technique is to think of things differently and not obviously. The relation between two objects could bring new innovative concepts that could most of the time work towards new ideas.

What do you have to be careful of when using the technique?

You must be careful of deciding that a specific word is of no use and getting another instead. If you do this then often you are just trying to choose a random word which fits into the problem you are trying to solve and therefore you end up with a word which is not random. Again, the skill is to work out HOW the word can be made to fit.

Be careful of creating too many steps in between the Random Word as a stimulus and coming up with a relevant idea, or you run the risk of ending up with an idea you already know works. e.g. A suggests B, which suggests C, which suggests D which is what we are already using

You also have to be careful of linking the word with an idea you already know about. You have to train your mind not to do this and should take the word at face value. You must guard against using the technique to come up with an old idea to show that the old idea is good. E.g. I already like the idea of using brushes on the inside of the wheel arches to clean the tyre so I will link Toothbrushes to a wheel to come up with the same idea. Wow, it must be a good idea because this random technique came up with it.

Other Factors for using the Random Word technique:

Some words will work and others will not, depending on the individual and the problem. No word is guaranteed better than another, it just depends on the situation. You could use a large number of words for each problem or a small number but if you find yourself using a large number then you should question yourself as to how you are using the word. You may be just searching for a word to fit with an idea you have already. Of course, sometimes using a continuous stream of different words can get a large number of ideas too, but … cest la vie.

You can also use the Random Word technique for assessing the current situation. Often by having a word in front of you, you are stimulated to think about different aspect of the problem. E.g. When I brush my teeth the forces on the toothbrush are in all different directions, is there a problem with having suspension which only goes up and down? or When I was a child I hated brushing my teeth, is the problem with a lot of car journeys that the people in the back hate being there because they can not see anything?

Often using a Random Word can just remind you of something which you knew all along but you had forgotten to write it down in your investigation. If you have thousands of aspects to a problem then even if you know them all it is hard to remember them all when it actually comes to writing them all down. A Random Word can often help remind you of them again.


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