What is Creative Thinking

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Creative thinking is the thought associated with creativity that is reflected in a person’s cognitive ability to produce something new.

Creative thinking results from the interaction between semantic content of symbolic domain and certain mental procedures, although it is not done when it is hampered by lack of knowledge of the area, inexperience or lack of motivation. Creative thinking is activated through perception, the knowledge that each individual has already kept in the memory; is a complementary game between the perceived act, the alternation between analysis and synthesis, associative thinking and thought by analogy [Tschimmel, 2011].

Several creative psychologists and researchers have also studied creative thinking. Gardner [1998] argues that a conscious reexamination of one’s own experiences becomes a habit that enhances creative ability, since individuals with a capacity for re-experiencing life experiences will be able to take advantage of reexamination for creative work . Novelty is born only from what exists and in comparison with the former. The result of a creative process is only original when it exceeds the expectations and knowledge of the user or observer.

According to Bonsiepe, Adams, De Bono, Michalko and others [1986, 1994, 2000], perception is the most important element of creative thinking, as it relates to the way of seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling the surrounding environment and way of structuring our world. The perception is the organization and interpretation of the stimuli and the information collected by the senses. Perception is not just a passive record of internal and external stimuli. It is an extremely active building process [Roth, 1992]. Experiences, expectations, emotions and physical states also participate in this process, which act in conjunction with the sense organs, because it is through perception that our concepts and interpretations of known reality are formed. The brain is a system that only understands language itself and only works on the basis of its own experiences, so the signs can only mean what the corresponding cerebral parts attribute to them as meaning. In this assignment the brain operates on the basis of the individual’s life experience. What is at the basis of creative thinking and the formation of ideas is what we can perceive in a different way, different in the multiplicity of perspectives and in the combination of social, cultural or environmental backgrounds.

Creative thinking is also a divergent thinking. It is characterized by being flexible because it is used to produce several valid solutions to a problem. It is also motivating because it immediately stimulates a diversity of ideas, images, feelings and reactions. On the contrary, convergent thinking is characterized by the rational application of logical rules and learned norms, usually leading to conventional solutions. Both are necessary during the creative process, in order to generate a great amount of ideas and, later, to select them.


In fact, creative thinking can become more productive, imaginative and stimulating through various techniques and activities that encourage and help look for alternatives at the moment of generating ideas. Therefore creative thinking must be:

  • Fluid: thinking about quantity rather than quality turns off critical thinking that blocks the fluidity of ideas;
  • Flexible: thought must be divergent and be concretized in different semantic categories;
  • Original: perform unusual relationships through stimuli found, either consciously or unconsciously.

These ways of thinking: the perception of curious elements, systematic analysis and synthesis, associations, unusual combinations and the transposition of analogies boost and increase the likelihood of finding new ideas during the problem-solving process.

There are other mental procedures, whose application is necessary whenever the designer creates something new, such as analysis, synthetic thinking, intuition, hypothetical thinking and analog thinking. If you are interested in knowing more about these mental procedures, stay tuned to read the next article.

If you are interested in this topic I recommend you:

  • Moreira, J. (2016). O objecto como impulsionador do Pensamento criativo. Porto: ESAD, Matosinhos. Tese de Mestrado
  • Tschimmel, K. (2011). Processos Criativos. A emergência de ideias na perspectiva sistémica da criatividade. Matosinhos: Ed. ESAD.
  • Adams, James L. (1986). Guía y juegos para superar bloqueos mentales, 2a ed. Barcelona: Editorial Gedisa.
  • Bono, Edward de. (1994). De Bono’s Thinking Course. London: BBC Books.
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