Design Your Own Creative Thinking Techniques


Creative thinking can be learnt. How? By using thinking tools.

There are many tools for creative thinking, examples can be found in the following books:

As the author of this overview, Paul E. Plsek, noticed,  there are at least 250 unique tools in these seven books.

So, if you master those 250 unique tools, are you then supposed to have a 10th Dan in creative martial arts?


As we earlier noted in our post Thinkibility Ultimately Explained we compared  Thinkibility with “football-ity”, similar to something shown by stars as Johan Cruijff. It is not just agility and ball control. Nor velocity, or skill. It is more, much more.

Thinkibility is about virtuosity in thinking. What makes  someone regarded as  one of the finest thinkers in the world  in particular for their dexterity, capable of executing extremely fast and fluent  thinking? When can we say a person has a brilliant and showy technical skill of thinking? How do we describe it adequately, like we do in “in a final bravura the ballerina appeared to be floating in water”, or “the music ends with a display of bravura”.

For sure, mere mastering the techniques is not what you makes “a thinking star”. Again we have to turn back to our metaphor that links creativity to sports:

In a weekend self-defense seminar, the training exercises go exactly as planned: the attacker throws a straight punch at your face from three feet away, or tries to stab at you with a rubber knife from just such an angle. You learn to block, counter-attack, disarm, get away, and with a little practice, you can be consistently successful employing the technique.


Then reality sets in. You spar. You change training partners. And things don’t go exactly as they did when you were learning in slow motion. The technique you thought you had mastered fails you.


That doesn’t mean that the technique was useless. The techniques work, and work well, when the principles behind them are well understood, and when practice makes them second nature.

Innovation Lessons from a Martial Arts Seminar by Brad Barbera

Basic Principles

But what are the basic concepts or principles underlying those creative thinking techniques?

1. Attention


2. Escape


3. Movement



4. Focus



The four principles in a scheme.


4. Information is channeling itself into a thinking pattern. There are many thinking patterns possible. The choice of the thinking pattern is the subject of the FOCUS stage –> 1 The information that itself organized into a thinking patterns leads to a compelling, unconscious,automatic outcome of the thinking, if left unattended –> 2 Escaping from current thinking is the next stage –> 3. Once escaped, there is a need to move away from the standard thinking and a desperate effort to move to a practical idea.

We could use these principles to design creative thinking techniques as a situation unfolds itself, as in a street fight.

See here an example about a challenge of Improving Information Flow in a Medical Clinic and one for  “I want the local business section of the newspaper to feature a story on us hailing the innovative services that we have brought to our clients.”




Thinking in Images


Most people think in words. When asked to imagine a traffic accident they come up with not very detailed descriptions, in comparison with people who are thinking in pictures. It became even worse if the words are becoming more and more abstract. Words as society, market, law, inflation etc. stay for them just words; they are unable to convert the words into images. Picture thinkers don’t have to translate, they think in pictures.


As school systems are mainly auditory-sequential oriented, it is not surprising that mainly visual-spatial thinkers will have problems at school. Usually, they encounter learning difficulties. But not only at school. Most picture thinkers don’t fit well in traditional companies and institutions. They do things in other ways than expected or “normal”, due to “weaknesses” in thinking.


Picture thinkers are also called right-brainers, as some popularisations oversimplify the science about lateralization, by presenting the functional differences between hemispheres as being more absolute than is actually the case.


We have also committed to this theoretical sloppiness with left/right brain generalisations, although, a handy mini theory to generate creative ideas as we have demonstrated in Blocking the Left Brain Functions.

As we wrote in left brain/right brain thinking, the debate regarding about what goes on in our left and right brain hemispheres seems like a never-ending story. You will find support for the idea that creative people use the right hemisphere while people who are good at organising things are using their left hemisphere. But we can also find support for the idea that creative and non-creative thinking are not two different things but are more reinforcing each other.

The idea that the brain has different specialised functions that can be used to improve memory, learning and thinking are also the part of the foundation behind mind mapping.


A Whole New Mind: Why Right-brainers Will Rule the Future, a book by Daniel H. Pink, posits that the future of global business belongs to the right-brainers. He outlines six essential senses:

  • Design – Moving beyond function to engage the sense.
  • Story – Narrative added to products and services – not just argument.
  • Symphony – Adding invention and big picture thinking (not just detail focus).
  • Empathy – Going beyond logic and engaging emotion and intuition.
  • Play – Bringing humour and light-heartedness to business and products.
  • Meaning – the purpose is the journey, give meaning to life from inside yourself.

Daniel Pink is one of an increasing number of writers on the importance of the Conceptual Economy, as a follow-up of the Information and Knowledge Age. Conceptual economy is a term describing the contribution of creativity, innovation, and design skills to economic competitiveness, especially in the global context. Other contributors to our understanding of the conceptual economy include Tom Friedman’s The World is Flat, Tom Kelley’s The Art of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation, explaining the role of assets such as empathy, storytelling, individual experiences and stimulating work environments in fostering creative ideas.

The discussion about the necessity to escape from dominant linear-sequential thinking was earlier argued by Howard Gardner. He developed The Theory of Multiple Intelligences in his 1983 book Frames of Mind:


In one of our next blog posts, we will give hints and tricks together with some useful resources to become “picture smart”. An essential skill to use mind mapping to the fullest of its advantages.

Visualise Rhythm – Thinkibility Nibble

John Varney describes the ‘wheel method’ of tracing rhythm and explores a more intuitive way of visualising rhythms. Traditionally rhythm is indicated on a musical bar line but after this musical journey around the world, you never look at a musical bar line in the same way. I might add, unless you’re a musician. Patterns are difficult to break. . .

Watch and enjoy!

Dance First

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“Dance first. Think later.  It’s the natural order.” 

Samuel Becket

A dancer uses his or her body to express emotions, feelings and moods. Body language  can be exaggerated and a dancer uses the body as an instrument to explore and express ideas. But can  you act out your problem, design, or express your feelings in a dance?

Interpretative dance  can include styles ranging from ballet to break dancing. Way one to use interpretative dance has been used in a contest where PhD students dance their PhD thesis. Also  you can dance to explain statistical concepts – Dancing Statistics. The importance for the thinking process to change medium is discussed in this blog post Extracting Concepts – Change the Medium.

Dance is one way to help us overcome a fear of expressing our emotions. Movements help stimulate us to express ourselves and to feel the joy of moving around.  Discovering the emotion when you watch a dance performance is something that has been studied by Peter Lovatt. Peter trained in ballet, tap and jazz, and worked as a professional dancer before embarking on studies in psychology. He says that dancing can transform the way we think and solve problems. Different sorts of dancing help with different sorts of problem solving. Improvisation helps with divergent thinking where there are multiple answers to a problem. A structured dance may help when you are looking for a single solution to a problem.

Dance can also be used as a tool for enhancing a group’s consciousness about the situation. Dancing may help to create a common vision and build mutual support.

But what about the ability to keep a beat? Is that something that is a skill that you are either born with or not? Can you train yourself to find the beat? And can other animals apart from humans keep the beat. In the videos below the idea that keeping the beat is a human ability is questioned.

Videos of dancing animals may be common, yet the question remains whether the animals are really hearing the music and keeping a beat. Maybe they are just moving around.

In the video below you can watch the  bobbing head of a captured sea-lion to “Boogie Wonderland” (please note, while we do not condone the practice of confining animals, we thought that this research project adds to the understanding of animal behavior and we decided to include it).

In the next video, you can see the  cockatoo “Snowball”  dancing to “Everybody” by the Backstreet Boys. Snowballs adjust his dance moves when the song slows  down or speeds up. That flexibility is regarded as a key to determining whether animals can follow a melody like we can.

Synchronous among fireflies are common, some fireflies flash synchronously. However, this is something different where the animals has to synchronize to a beat. Young children, around the age of four to five can do this if the tempo is close to their preferred tempo. As they grow older the can synchronize to different tempo. One hypothesis is that synchronization plays a role in social bonding. We feel connected emotionally and socially when we move in synchrony

Thinking and Music

How do you use your iPod music library? What sort of music do you listen to when you drive to work? Is it different from when you drive home from work? And what do you listen to while you are trying to solve a problem? By exploring our music selections, we can discover sections that under certain circumstances can help to arouse positive emotions. 

Musicians have perhaps always thought about how music affects your mood and your thinking. Lately, neuroscientists and psychologists have studied the effects of music. The search for the secret of music‘s strange powers have led to many fascinating insights. The  books Musicophiliaby Oliver Sacks and This is your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin give you insight into this intriguing area. Research suggests that you can use music to lift your moods,  to increase your memory, or to change your perception. Music influences us both in positive and negative ways. The responses to music can vary widely and the moods that people experience from the same piece of music can contradict themselves. Our responses to music can be detected in our body and certain types of music can stimulate our mind because the rhyme matches body functions. Music cause the heart beat and pulse rate to relax to the beat of the music.

Music can affect our moods and mental work by  encouraging daydreaming, sliding into old memories, exploring the past. Music can accomplish several goals at the same time and sad music can for example, encourage mental work and discharge emotions. Saarikallioand Erkkila’s study of eight adolescents from Finland.suggests that music can help us increase our understanding of emotions. A prevalent idea is that sad music may lead to a constant examination of emotional state. And this constant exploration of emotions is assumed to  lead to less clarity.

Are our responses to music acquired or are they the result of the effect of sound on our brains? Emotional impact of music is often linked to major and minor chords. Major chord sound happy and upbeat, while minor chords sounds mournful. Interestingly you can form a sad-sounding minor scale by raising the pitch of any note, while dropping the pitch gives a major chord. When we are talking a raising inflection signals questions or deference, whereas failing is used to signal dominance. This suggests that minor and major modes could be linked to basic features of how we relate to the word.

Music is tool with which we can forget all our daily problems. But music is also a tool with which we can discover things about our society and ourselves. Music ambiguity is a positive attribute – it is a virtue by offering different ways. Ambiguity means that there are different possibilities. Music may help us explore the world and welcoming ambiguity is a step towards exploring issues. Problems and issues often involve many causes and there may be many different and even contrasting and conflicting solutions.

Photo: “Speaker” by renjith krishnan