14 Creativity exercises to improve your lateral thinking
“Why do some people always seem to be having new ideas while others of equal intelligence never do?” – Edward de Bono, New Think
According to Edward de Bono lateral thinking is the process of thinking outside the box, thinking beyond norms, coming up with something that can’t be comprehended under normal thinking.
One question that pops into my mind is what kind of creative exercises could you use do to enhance lateral thinking? Well, it’s pretty easy, but first you should have an overview of the lateral thinking process. All you have to do is observe things around you. Take time to collect information (data and insights), analyze your problem and after that generate ideas to solve it. There are 4 key stages related to the lateral thinking approach:
- Impregnation: analyzing under its various aspects the portrait of the problem;
- Divergence: move away from the problem, to express a large number of original ideas;
- Convergence: transform the ideas stemming from the divergence into solutions of the initial problem;
- Evaluation of the solution: select the best idea that should be developed.
Now you have an overview of the process let’s focus on stage 2 Divergence. The creativity exercises or tips in this article will always give you alternatives to express a large number of ideas during the divergence stage.
Here are some Creativity exercises to improve your lateral thinking skills:
1 – Use your 5 senses to inspire yourself with things from around you. Look for objects, analyse their shape, their color, where are they coming from. Use all your senses, try to listen to sounds in your environment, touch the objects your are looking at, what are the odors in the room… Now try to link those elements to your brainstorming session, it will help you to generate new ideas.
2 – Use a dictionary, book or magazine for random ideation. Take a book, close your eyes, open the book and pick a word that you relate to your issue. If this word is not giving you a new idea start again.
3 – Analogies and metaphors. Compare your problem to a known natural phenomenon (storm, eco-system, river…), to a mineral, vegetal or animal. You can also compare your problem with a symbol, legend or story.
4 – Make a list of the top 5 words related to your issue. Now start your brainstorm but you cannot use those words anymore.
5 –Define your Customer journey or product/service life cycle. Divide your issue in small steps. Here is an example: in the morning I take my bike, I cycle to work, stop for a breakfast, take my bike, cross the park, get into the office … an other exemple: Customer take his car for shopping, step into the shop, look for a PC, ask for advise, buy the PC, put it in his car, go back to home, open the PC box…This approach is very useful to collect new insight and elements related to your goal.
6 – Random search on the internet: go on YouTube and click on video titles that you would normally not click on. Do that for 10 minutes. It always gives fresh and new ideas.
7 – Write a 6 word story of you problem. Make it simple avoid jargon. Your story should include images that will appeal the imagination.
8 – Brain writing. You should practice this in a group of minimum 5 people. Write your idea or goal on a paper and you give it to the person sitting on your right. This person should write a solution on your paper and give it to the person sitting on his/her right and so on.
9 – Create a Mind Map. This is a useful tool to sketch out a lot of ideas. It works like a hierarchical tree but here you start off with your problem in the center. After that you draw the major topics, continue with sub-topics…
10 – Start writing, don’t stop until you’ve hit 500 words. This is a free flow exercise. Don’t think just write.
11 – Rolestorming. What would you do if you were someone else? Think like
- Barack Obama
- Steve Jobs
- The opposite gender.
- Your father or mother.
- Your girlfriend / wife or boyfriend / husband.
- A customer.
- A colleague.
- Your enemy.
12 – Reverse Thinking. Think about what everyone will typically do, then do the opposite.
13 – Meet people you don’t know. This is a special exercise. Go outside, in the street, and ask people for solutions to your problem.
14 – Six hats of Edward de Bono. Adopt successively various attitudes (roles), through 6 hat colors.
- White hat: neutrality. Your share facts
- Red hat: emotions. Your information tinged with emotions, feelings, intuitions and premonitions.
- Black hat: negative criticism. You don’t agree, state dangers and risks. It ’s the devil’s advocate.
- Yellow hat: positive criticism. You acknowledge crazy dreams and ideas.
- Green hat: creativity. Your are very creative lots of crazy dreams and ideas
- Blue hat: organisation. You focus on the processes, the actions and the planning
In conclusion, I would like to say that most of those creativity exercises are just simple habits that you could adopt to improve your lateral thinking. But don’t forget the most important tip! Have some relaxing time to think about your problems or issues, this is a wonderful habit for lateral thinking.
- Never think that resources and solutions are limited. There are always options solutions available around you. You just have to put your mind to it.
- Creative people develop / use lateral thinking habits that produces great results.
- Keep it simple, complexity means distracted effort. Simplicity means focused effort.
- Philosophy is about analysis, not thinking. We humans are very good at analysis but useless at thinking.
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