Creativity is something that is difficult to measure, and yet while we might automatically think of it as a valuable trait, once we enter adulthood, and consequently, the workforce, it’s not necessarily seen as a desirable way of thinking or behaving. Too many corporate structures rely on a process where things are done in a certain way, and while this certainly allows for a task to be accomplished, there is a profound lack of questioning about the way things are done, and in particular the question: isn’t there a better way?

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If you’re a person who is troubled by this lack of creativity in many everyday working situations, and the arguable lack of innovation, then perhaps many positions in the corporate world aren’t for you. We shouldn’t generalize, and of course, not all industries frown upon creative thinking, and indeed many managers would be delighted to see examples of creativity, even if their employees don’t know it yet. It’s not so easy to work in a so-called creative field, and anyway, sadly, many of us probably aren’t as creative as we might think. But however you choose to use your creativity, there are ways to train and develop this aspect of yourself. So what is creative thinking, and how can you use it to your advantage?

“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club” – Jack London
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Theory meets Practise: Creative Industries
The merging of creative thinking and how to actually use it in the business world is well illustrated by the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, who renamed their Faculty of Arts as the Faculty of Creative Industries. While this might just be an example of rebranding without changing the nature of what the faculty does, the University in fact prides itself on offering theoretical information that is mixed with more practical real-world applications; so basically helping students to use their creative skills in the working world, regardless of whether their career path ends up being something that is traditionally in a creative field.

Don’t Be Afraid!
Despite the fact that many large companies might seem like a desert when it comes to creativity, this is only because many employees are afraid to offer new ideas, for fear of being wrong. One of the fundamental tenants of creative thinking is that you can’t be afraid to be wrong. This is easily said when you’re working on a personal project in the comfort of your own home, but not so easy when you’re offering a suggestion to the person who holds your career in his or her hands.

“Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it” – Salvador Dali
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Look at it this way: it’s not like math in school, where there is one answer, and one way of arriving at this answer. To achieve an end goal in a working project, there might be multiple ways of completing the project, and the way that’s currently being used might not be the most effective.

So what is Creative Thinking and How Do I Use It?
Creative thinking is really all about looking at a problem or task and arriving at a new way of solving or completing it, using methods that might even seem unorthodox or unsuitable at face value. It’s about questioning the status quo, and wondering why something is how it is – such as vacuum cleaner manufacturers who made their product the same way for decades, until one day someone pondered, “Why do we actually need a bag?” Look at fresh options and solutions, and take inspiration where you can find it. There’s a loosely documented way of thinking known as the shower principle, when some people get their best ideas when doing something reasonably menial that distracts the brain, such as taking a shower or walking the dog. If you’re stuck for an idea or solution to the task at hand, then maybe you can jump in the shower and see what happens!

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” – Pablo Picasso
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Implementing creative thinking into everyday life is something that can be highly rewarding, but you need to be mindful of the context. If you’re a short order cook at a burger joint, your boss is unlikely to be responsive to your ideas about how to improve the burgers, and indeed, with any creative response to a problem in any kind of working environment, you also need to consider how much your idea will cost. Change can be difficult to process for companies and individuals, and so often creative thinking is devalued simply because of the impact that it will have on existing procedures and operations. Creative thinking to affect change always starts small, and you should always remember that a huge number of corporations, particularly Microsoft, Apple and Facebook all started with some highly creative thinking, and some thinkers who weren’t afraid to ask, “What if…”

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