‘Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.’
Mary Lou Cook


Creativity is a great way for you to explore a wider range of options and to discover new things. It is a useful tool for solving problems or for when you need to explore new and innovative ways of doing things. You may also need to be creative in challenging economic times in order to cut back on expenditure and save money.
Although creativity is an inborn attribute for all human beings, it can also be developed. It is creativity that makes you unique and sets humans apart from the other mammals on this planet. When you face challenges that you are unable to solve in a conventional way, you seek creative solutions, whether knowingly or unknowingly. In fact, in many ways, the more creative you are, the more successful you can be.

Whatever your profession, as well as making you more successful, being creative can also make your work easier and sometimes more exciting. By being open-minded to exploring creative channels, you can discover a whole range of options. New doors will open and fresh opportunities will arise.

Being creative can, at times, take you out of your comfort zone and challenge you. However, it is also very good for you to use creative thinking to keep your brain stimulated and alert, so there are actually lots of benefits to braving this approach.

For some people, taking risks can be quite difficult. If you like to stay well within your comfort zone, you may see creativity as change for change’s sake.

On some occasions you could well be right; however, until you are prepared to take some calculated risks, you will never know whether there is a better or more efficient way of doing something.

When you are in a relaxed state, your mind is actually processing previous thoughts and will provide creative solutions only if you give it enough time and rest. Endlessly pondering over problems keeps your mind occupied and prevents creativity. Managing your stress levels and de-cluttering your mind is therefore key to creative thinking.

‘Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.’
Edward de Bono

Creativity – Six Steps to Success

  • Be open-minded and receptive to exploring creativity
  • Always carry a small notebook with you to jot down ideas
  • Go for a walk in the fresh air to stimulate your mind
  • Brainstorm with others and share ideas
  • Use Edward De Bono’s ‘Thinking Hats’ as a creative thinking tool
  • Step out of your comfort zone and take some risks

Fresh Thinking

Brainstorming can be an effective way to generate lots of ideas on a specific issue and to determine which idea is the best solution. These guidelines will help you get the best from your brainstorming sessions.

Brainstorming is most effective with groups of eight to twelve people and should be performed in a relaxed environment. If participants feel free to relax and joke around, they’ll stretch their minds further and therefore produce more creative ideas. A brainstorming session requires a facilitator, a brainstorming space and something on which to write ideas, such as a white-board, a flip chart or a software tool. The facilitator’s responsibilities include guiding the session, encouraging participation and writing ideas down.

Brainstorming works best with a varied group of people from different departments across the organization and who have varied backgrounds. Even in specialist areas, outsiders can bring fresh ideas that can inspire the experts.

There are numerous approaches to brainstorming, but the traditional approach is generally the most effective because it is the most energetic and openly collaborative, allowing participants to build on each others’ ideas.

Creativity exercises, relaxation exercises or other fun activities before the session can help participants relax their minds in order to be more creative during brainstorming.

Define your problem or issue as a creative challenge. Creative challenges typically start with: ‘In what ways might we. . .?’ or ‘How can we. . .?’ Your creative challenge should be concise, to the point and exclude any information not

related to the challenge itself. For example: ‘In what ways might we improve product X?’ or ‘How can we encourage more local people to join our club?’ Give yourselves a time limit. Around 25 minutes is about right, but larger groups may need more time to communicate everyone’s ideas. Alternatively, give yourself an idea limit – a minimum of 50 ideas would be good, but 100 ideas would be much better!

Once the brainstorming starts, participants shout out solutions to the problem while the facilitator writes them down – usually on a white board or flip-chart – for all to see. There must be absolutely no criticising of ideas. No matter how daft, how impossible or how silly an idea is, it must be written down. Laughing is to be encouraged. Criticism is not.

Once your time is up, select the five ideas that everyone likes best. Make sure everyone involved in the brainstorming session is in agreement.

Write down five criteria for judging which ideas best solve your problem. Criteria should start with the word ‘should’, for example: ‘it should be cost effective’; ‘it should be legal’; ‘it should be possible to implement before March 12th’.

Give each idea a score of 0 to 5 points depending on how well it meets each criterion. Add up the scores.

The idea with the highest score will best solve your problem. However, you should keep a record of all of your best ideas and their scores in case your chosen idea turns out not to be workable.

Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats

This simple, robust and powerful parallel-thinking method has been used across a wide range of age groups, cultures and abilities to problem-solve from various perspectives.

The human brain thinks in a number of different ways, but we don’t all use each method of thinking, and in problem solving discussion groups, people in different thinking modes can clash, challenge one another, and cause argument and confusion. The ‘Six Hats’ method allows groups (or individuals) to think in six different modes in turn without challenge or confusion. Confusion is the biggest enemy of good thinking. We usually try to do too many things at the same time; we look for information; we are affected by feelings; we seek new ideas and options; we are cautious; we want to find benefits; we have a number of tasks to complete. Juggling with numerous metaphorical balls at the same time is rather difficult.

The Six Hats method ensures that one ‘ball’ is tossed in the air at a time. It avoids time-wasting argument by ensuring that the participants are aligned and looking in the same direction. The emphasis is on ‘what can be’ rather than just on ‘what is’, on the way forward, and not on who is right and who is wrong.

With the Six Hats method, the intelligence, experience and knowledge of all group members are fully utilised. Focusing the mental ability of a number of people on a problem can result in easier resolution of the given problem.

However, group problem solving can often result in argument, although people do not choose argument because it is the preferred method. They simply do not know any other way. The Six Hats method provides an alternative.

The Six Hats

The colour of each hat relates to its function. If you remember the colour and the associations of each hat, remembering the function of the hat will then follow. You may also think of three pairs of hats: white and red, black and yellow, and green and blue.

White is neutral and objective. The white hat is concerned with objective facts and figures. It asks people to think about what information they need, what detail might be missing and how they might get all the facts required.

Red suggests anger (seeing red), rage and emotions. The red hat gives the emotional view. It gives people permission to say what they feel without any apology. For example ‘my gut feeling tells me that this won’t work’, or ‘my intuition tells me that our customers won’t like this’.

Black is sombre and serious. The black hat is cautious and careful. It points out the weaknesses in an idea. It allows people to bring out all their doubts and concerns and helps to point out obvious traps for over-ambitious expectations.

Yellow is sunny and positive. The yellow hat is optimistic and covers hope and positive thinking. It looks for benefits and considers how something can be done.

Green is grass, vegetation and abundant, fertile growth. The green hat indicates creativity, new ideas and possibilities. It considers how something could be done in a different way.

Blue is cool and is the colour of the sky, which is above everything else. The blue hat is concerned with control, the organisation of the thinking process and the use of the other hats.

In practice, the hats are always referred to by their colour and never by their function. There is a good reason for this. If you ask someone to give his or her emotional reaction to something, you are unlikely to get an honest answer because people think it is wrong to be emotional. But the term red hat is neutral. You can ask someone to ‘take off the black hat for a moment’ more easily than you can ask them to stop being cautious or negative. The neutrality of the colours allows the hats to be used without embarrassment.

Thinking becomes a game with defined rules rather than a matter of exhortation and condemnation. The hats are referred to directly:

‘I want you to take off your black hat.’

‘Let us all put on our red thinking hats for a few minutes.’

‘That’s fine for yellow hat thinking. Now let’s have the white hat.’

There are two basic ways to use the hats. They can be used singly to request a type of thinking or in a sequence to explore a subject or solve a problem.

  • Any hat can be used as often as required.
  • There is no need to use every hat.
  • The sequence may be made up of two, three, four or more hats.
  • Discipline is very important. Members of the group must stay with the hat that is in use at that moment.
  • A member of the group is not permitted to say ‘I want to put on my black hat here’ as that would result in regression to the usual argument mode.
  • Only the group leader/chairperson/facilitator can initiate a change of hat.
  • As a guide, allow one minute per person present for each hat; so if five people are present, allow five minutes under each hat. If genuine ideas are being put forward after that time, you can extend it.

A blue hat should always be used at the beginning and end of a session.

The Disney Strategy

The ‘Disney Strategy’ is a creative technique that enables you to move from one thinking mode to another. It uses past experiences and memories alongside a spatial anchor in order access specific thinking modes.
There are three distinct stages, or ‘states’, to the Disney Creativity Strategy:
1. Dreamer

When you freely associate with a topic, your perception is widened and you start to explore without constructively assessing your exploration. Quite often ideas emerge for no apparent reason and are often unconnected to the original topic. This is the stage when the ideas pop into your head before you start to evaluate, accept or dismiss them.

2. Realist

This is a way of considering and balancing the necessary resources required to make the creative idea or dream a reality. This is the time when the real world encroaches on the great idea. . . can it be done?

3. Critic

This is when you critically evaluate an idea and search out its weak points. At this point, you freely weigh up the chances of success given the idea and the balance of available resources. 

Seven steps to a creative solution:

  1. Pick out three specific locations in the room – spots on the floor, or spaces that you can move in to – and label one ‘creative’ (dreamer), another ‘realist’ and the third ‘critic’.
  2. Step into your ‘creative’ space and remember a time when you were really creative. Close your eyes and try to think of as many details of that time as possible. In your mind’s eye, intensify the pictures, sounds and feelings that you associate with this memory. Try to relive that time in exact detail. Step off the ‘creative’ spot, and onto the ‘realist’ spot. Remember a time when you were truly realistic, and repeat the process. Then move to the ‘critic’ spot, and repeat the process for a time when you were especially constructively critical.
  3. Now repeat the entire process, making sure you evoke really strong feelings, pictures and sounds for each of the modes.
  4. Now think about your problem only from the creative position. Let yourself just be a creative person whilst thinking about the issue. Look for new ideas that may solve it. Note down the ideas that come.
  5. Now take one of the ideas you noted down in Step 4, go into the ‘realist’ position and think about the idea from that mode only.
  6. Note any changes you may need to make to that idea as a result of having gone into ‘realist’ mode. Then take this new solution, go into the ‘critic’ position and consider it as a critic only.
  7. Note any changes required following your critic stance, and again take it to your creative ‘dreamer’ position to check whether it still holds good there. Continue to cycle through all three positions making amendments until you are comfortable with the idea and solution in all three modes.

How to be More Creative

Although it is true to say that creativity is skill that we are born with, and some are more naturally creative than others, it is also a skill that can be learned. Follow these simple steps in order to tap into your creativity:

1. Decide to be creative

Sometimes you may hear yourself saying ‘I am not a creative person’. The first step is to tell yourself that you have the ability to be as creative as the next person. So make the decision to be creative and adopt a creative attitude.

2. Deliberately seek inspiration

Don’t sit around and wait for it to happen. Look through books, look at photographs and pictures, read, talk to others, search the internet, go window-shopping, or walk around the garden. Open a dictionary, randomly select a word, and try to formulate ideas from there. Or pick up a newspaper or magazine, open it at random and study the pictures and headlines. Try and turn each one into a solution to your problem.

3. Try new things in order to enrich your store of experiences and ideas

Travel, listen to music by Bach or Mozart, watch TV programmes you would normally ignore and look for opportunities to do something new.

4. Be curious and ask more questions – there must be another way

‘What happens if. . . we do it backwards or at double speed? I wonder why she said that? Why do we do it like this? What is that for?’ Curiosity is the art of being interested and the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask. Curiosity is the key to perpetual learning. Without it, life can become habit and ritual.

5. Listen, not just to what is said, but also to thoughts that are triggered by what you hear

Keep two pads in front of you at a meeting – one for notes on what is said and the other to record other thoughts you may have. The second one often yields the more interesting list.

6. Always carry a small notebook and pen around with you

That way, if you are struck by an idea, you can quickly note it down. Upon reading your notes, you may discover that 90 per cent of your ideas are daft. Don’t worry, that’s normal! It’s the other 10 per cent – the brilliant ideas – that are important.

7. Associate with creative people and join in their fun and games

It’s worth remembering that children can be very creative!

8. If you can’t think, go for a walk

A change of scenery and atmosphere is good for you and gentle exercise helps shake up the brain cells.

9. Tackle the occasional seemingly impossible problem

For example: ‘How could we reduce staffing costs by 10 per cent?’ Or, ‘how can we make our response speed ten times quicker?’

10. Exercise your brain

Brains, like bodies, need exercise to keep fit. If you don’t exercise your brain, it will get lazy.