Critical Thinking Definition
Definition of Critical Thinking
It is important to have a clear understanding of the definition of critical thinking and how we can use it as a problem-solving skill. A Critical Thinking Definition by Wikipedia is as follows: "Critical thinking is the analysis of facts to form a judgment."
Definition of Creative Thinking
Another strategy available to us and one I’m sure you’ve heard about is creative thinking. The Business Dictionary's definition of creative thinking is as follows: "A way of looking at problems or situations from a fresh perspective that suggests unorthodox solutions (which may look unsettling at first). Creative thinking can be stimulated both by an unstructured process such as brainstorming, and by a structured process such as lateral thinking.
Critical vs Creative Thinking
We’re told to think outside the box and get creative. That's a polar opposite to the very logical approach of critical thinking. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at these two thinking styles, how they differ. Then I'll wrap things up by sharing how you can supercharge your problem-solving skills by combining the two.
Critical thinking, as we’ve already established, is a very logical approach to problem-solving. You determine what the problem is, gather as much data as needed, analyze it, and then come up with the best possible logical solution. You then apply the solution and determine if it’s a good fit or not. If it's not a good fit, you go back to collecting and analyzing more data. You continue the process until you find the best possible solution, considering alternatives and weighing up options as you go.
Creative thinking as the name implies is a much more creative and less logical way of approaching a problem. You think outside the box, looking for unexpected alternatives and different approaches to examine. Almost nothing is too far out or crazy to try and you may consider unorthodox approaches. You skip right over the obvious solutions, data, and information. There is no logical approach to the problem-solving. Instead, it’s a free-form experimentation and seeing where that leads you.
You can see that the two processes are very different. While problem-solving may seem like a situation where you would want to choose one way of thinking over the other, it serves you well to use both of them. How you combine them is up to you. It’s important, however, to remember that our brains have a hard time switching from logical thinking to creative thinking back and forth. It’s best to start with one, take a break, and then move to the other.
For example, you could start with creative thinking to come up with all sorts of different possible solutions and approaches and then use critical thinking to start to sort through the ideas and find the most likely candidates. Or you could start with critical thinking and then move to creative thinking when you’re stuck or when you are in need of more ideas and/or data points to consider.
Try it either way and see which method works best for you.
Many people don’t think of creativity as a skill. But, it is, and you can develop it. Some people will separate creativity from thinking, but others believe it is the same concept. After all, you need to use your brain to be creative. Therefore, thinking is involved.
When you sharpen your creative skills, you expand your opportunities in most aspects of your life. At work, you will be called upon to come up with new ideas that your company use to create products or sell services. In your personal life, you may help your kids when they are stuck on coming up with ideas for their projects. You can probably come up with a host of places where creativity comes in handy.
Companies like creativity, but only to a certain point. Managers may pretend as though they want creative people. But, often that requires setting them loose in an environment that allows them to come up with new ideas. That gives the managers less control over their people and many won’t like that proposition. While some managers allow for this, most will not. They become a constraint on the creative process.
If you run your own business, then you can let your creativity run wild. Of course, even here, you need to strike a balance between coming up with ideas and getting work done. Your ideas are meaningless unless put into action. It’s great to have new ideas, but you have to put them in the pipeline to let them take off.
Part of the creative process is to come up with bad ideas. That sounds counterintuitive, and the thinking behind it is not to deliberately come up with bad ideas. But, you should allow them to occur. It’s better to have hundreds of ideas which could yield a few great ideas than it is to try and think the best ideas out of thin air.
Brainstorming sessions nurture the concept of allowing for bad ideas to occur. The first stage of a brainstorming session has a rule that the participants are not allowed to criticize any presented idea. The moderator must be vigilant with this rule. After the first session is complete, the group then revisits each idea, and the critiquing may begin. Usually, at the end of the session, the group is left with a few ideas that are right for their situation.
There are no hard and fast rules for what makes someone creative. Mostly, you draw your inspiration from others and rework a new angle into the process.
The following are some of the alternative methods that organizations use in their brainstorming sessions. Not every method will be right for every group and it may take some experimenting to see which ones to incorporate and which ones to leave behind.
Mind maps are often used in conjunction with standard brainstorming activities, but not always. A mind map gives you a way of organizing thoughts and ideas as a series of bubbles or nodes. Each node is considered an idea and it is important if the node is connected to another node. Many people feel that using mind maps works because it is the method our brain uses. There are people that are not comfortable with their use and it will not serve them very well if this is the case.
One disadvantage of standard brainstorming techniques is a few of the members tend to monopolize the conversation. This stifles the ideas of the rest and it leaves the team with less than optimal ideas. One way around this is to have each member of the group write down their thoughts and ideas before even arriving at the meeting. While at the meeting, each member writes down the ideas on a common area like a whiteboard or something like it. The group discusses the ideas at length. This gives all members an opportunity to have their ideas count and prevents or reduces the stronger personalities from dominating the process. There will be common ideas with this approach but these can be combined and duplicates removed.
There is a variation on this concept of brain writing, more in implementation rather than form. Team members gather in a circle (after individually writing down all ideas) and read aloud one idea in a round robin fashion. The team discusses each idea as they are read. This can generate other ideas as well as questions. All of these conversations should be recorded. This session can also be used to remove the weaker ideas or ones that don’t seem to fit the objectives.
This actually takes on various forms and includes such concepts as time travel, teleportation, important figures, etc. Each are a form of role playing and essentially you are transforming yourself into someone else with the objective being what you would do if you were in a particular person’s position. It could be a person 100 years ago, or it could be a famous person. Some forms even go as far as imagining you are a different gender.
There are many other forms of brainstorming which serves to add to the confusion. It may be wise to start with a traditional form and with practice, incorporate others into the mix and see how effective this is for the objectives of the group.