All humans are innately creative, but what does creativity mean to you? Do you consider it a talent, a gift, or something that can be taught as well as learned? In fact it is a mixture of talent, gift and skill, and it is invaluable to college student success. Creative thinking helps you look at problems, situations and solutions from a fresh perspective.
Think about a time when you visited a museum or a sculpture garden, or you attended an orchestral performance or a concert by a favorite performer. Did you marvel at the skill, the artistry, and the innovation? Did you imagine how wonderful it must feel to have those abilities?
If you have ever had thoughts like this, you must know you’re not alone. It’s hard for anyone to behold a great work of art or performance and not imagine standing, even briefly, in the artist’s shoes.
But when you’ve admired creative works or creative people, have you acknowledged the seeds of creativity within yourself?
You might be surprised to know that everyone has creative abilities: it’s true of everyone who fully expresses creative abilities as well as those who express them very little or not at all. All humans are innately creative, especially if creativity is understood as a problem-solving skill.
Put another way, creativity is inspired when there is a problem to solve. For example, when a sculptor creates an amazing sculpture, it’s an act of problem-solving: perhaps she must determine which artistic style to use in order to create the likeness of an object, or perhaps she is deciding which tools will most suit her purpose or style, perhaps she is assessing how best to satisfy a customer’s request or earn income from her art—you get the idea. In every case, the problem sparks the sculptor’s creativity and she brings her creativity to bear in finding an artistic solution.
Considered as an act of problem-solving, creativity can be understood as a skill—as opposed to an inborn talent or natural “gift”—that can be taught as well as learned. Problem-solving is something we are called upon to do every day, from performing mundane chores to executing sophisticated projects. The good news is that we can always improve upon our problem-solving and creative-thinking skills—even if we don’t consider ourselves to be artists or “creative.” The following information may surprise and encourage you!
Is this you? Even if you don’t yet see yourself as a competent creative thinker or problem-solver, you can learn solid skills and techniques to help you become one.
Now that you have taken the creative problem-solving self-assessment test, do you have a better sense of which creative thinking skills and attitudes you have, and which ones you might want to improve upon?
College is great ground for enhancing creative thinking skills. The following are some college activities that can stimulate creative thinking. Are any familiar to you?
The following video,
How to Stimulate the Creative Process, identifies six strategies to stimulate your creative thinking.
The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. —Linus Pauling, double Nobel Laureate, chemist, biochemist, and peace campaigner
Below are some additional tips to help you tap into original and creative thinking in your college assignments and endeavors:
As you continue to develop your creative thinking skills, be alert to perceptions about creative thinking that could slow down progress. Remember that creative thinking and problem-solving are ways to transcend the limitations of a problem and see past barriers. It’s a way to think “outside of the box.”
|1||Every problem has only one solution (or one right answer)||The goal of problem-solving is to solve the problem, and most problems can be solved in any number of ways. If you discover a solution that works, it’s a good solution. Other people may think up solutions that differ from yours, but that doesn’t make your solution wrong or unimportant. What is the solution to “putting words on paper”? Fountain pen, ballpoint, pencil, marker, typewriter, printer, printing press, word-processing . . .?|
|2||The best answer or solution or method has already been discovered||Look at the history of any solution and you’ll see that improvements, new solutions, and new right answers are always being found. What is the solution to human transportation? The ox or horse, the cart, the wagon, the train, the car, the airplane, the jet, the space shuttle? What is the best and last?|
|3||Creative answers are technologically complex||Only a few problems require complex technological solutions. Most problems you’ll encounter need only a thoughtful solution involving personal action and perhaps a few simple tools. Even many problems that seem to require technology can be addressed in other ways.|
|4||Ideas either come or they don’t. Nothing will help— certainly not structure.||There are many successful techniques for generating ideas. One important technique is to include structure. Create guidelines, limiting parameters, and concrete goals for yourself that stimulate and shape your creativity. This strategy can help you get past the intimidation of “the blank page.” For example, if you want to write a story about a person who gained insight through experience, you can stoke your creativity by limiting or narrowing your theme to “a young girl in Cambodia escaped the Khmer Rouge to find a new life as a nurse in France.” Apply this specificity and structure to any creative endeavor.|
Creative problem-solving is a type of problem-solving. It involves searching for new and novel solutions to problems. Unlike critical thinking, which scrutinizes assumptions and uses reasoning, creative thinking is about generating alternative ideas— practices and solutions that are unique and effective. It’s about facing sometimes muddy and unclear problems and seeing how “things” can be done differently—how new solutions can be imagined.
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