How to Think Creatively and Deeply
The topic of creative thinking is a perennial favorite of
the visitors to this website. It is one of my own favorites as
well. Add to this the deeper aspects of thinking and we arrive
at the first entry in this short tutorial on how to think more
To have deeply creative ideas, you have to get at the roots
of things. One way to do this is to think like a child. Have
you ever seen a child ask a question, and then follow every answer
with another question? It might start with "Why do I have
to go to school?" The answer, "To get an education,"
just results in "Why do I need an education?" Any answer
to that will be followed by another question, and another.
While this may be annoying or cute, depending on your mood
at the moment, it is a clue to what we need to do to get at the
root of things and create new theories and ideas. We have to
ask the "why" and "what for" questions that
take us to a deeper level of understanding. Let's look at some
Why do houses have windows? To let fresh air in? So we can
see outside? Why do we want to see outside? Because it cheers
us up to see what's out there? "Purpose" questions
quickly point out what is often quietly assumed. We assume we
know why we do certain things and why things are how they are,
so we forget to ask if these purposes are being fulfilled in
the best way. So a window maker might think about how to design
a "better" window but take a very narrow view. He might
assume it should be similar to existing windows, and assume that
what he creates should be a window.
If we first ask the "why" and "what for"
questions, we are open to much more creative solutions. If a
purpose is to let in fresh air, any venting system can do that,
so this could be a separate issue if we choose.
As for the "window" itself, if we want a view of
the outside world, we could have video screens that look like
windows and show what's on the other side of the wall. We get
total privacy, since nobody can look through from the other side.
We also get no heat loss in cold climates, since there is no
real opening. We could choose to see what's right out there,
or with a push of a button switch the "windows" to
more pleasant views, in the form of videos or electronic photos
that are preselected to best boost our moods.
This is a powerful way to think differently and creatively.
For another quick example, imagine others arguing about the best
way to wage war. You can ask the important "why" questions
to get more creative solutions. Why do we have wars? To defend
ourselves? Does that always work? Are there better ways to defend
ourselves than going to war? What are we actually supposed to
be defending? Our lives? Human rights? Citizen's rights? The
economy? Freedom? What do these words mean? I'll leave these
questions for you to answer. Think creatively in this area and
you might come up with some radically new ideas that will help
fashion a better world.
More Methods for Thinking Creatively
Here are a few more ways to think differently and creatively.
Some of these are covered in more detail elsewhere on the website.
I summarize them here and link to the relevant page if there
Do towns and cities need streets and sidewalks? Is it true
that you have to go to work tomorrow morning... or ever?
Explain the Other Side
You can miss a lot of ideas because of reflexively defending
our own opinions. Try to mentally take the other side of an issue.
Who Knows? You may have better arguments than your opponent.
What are some of the purposes of a television? Perhaps they
are meant to entertain us or to make us happier? How well do
they fulfill these purposes? Is there a better way to pursue
A common metaphor is "out of the box" thinking.
What about "beyond the ego-word net" instead? A spiritual
path might become a spiritual treasure hunt.
Identify Implicit Premises
Arguing about how to fight a war on terrorism requires the
implicit premise that we can and should wage war on a method
or tactic. But is this really true? Doesn't war imply something
that can be won? Could a "war on drugs" end drug use
entirely? Could a "war on stupidity" end that?
Which type of music is the favorite kind of dogs and cats?
Could we give the right to vote to smart computers someday?
Take Different Perspectives
Mentally design a house in which you have to move about very
little. Imagine how your past self would see you current life
Beyond Logic And Words
Sit and meditate on or observe something without thought.
You may see things that words prevent you from seeing.
How to Think Creatively - An Exercise
To practice your creativity choose three techniques from above
and use each one to generate new ideas. You might want to apply
each technique to the same issue, problem or topic. That way
you can see clearly how the various ways to think each generate
different ideas and thought processes.