Creative thinking: What it is and how do you build this leadership skill?
Like most leadership skills, creative thinking is invaluable. And that’s whether you’re yet to reach the career market or have years of experience under your belt. You can always improve your creative thinking skills, and there’s never a better time to start than now.
What is creative thinking?
First of all, let’s look at what it means to embrace creative thinking. It’s considering something in a new way. Looking through a different lens or approaching a subject from a different angle.
You can apply creative thinking to everything from finding a fresh way to tackle a problem, to resolving conflict at work. Giving constructive feedback is a great way to build your creative thinking too. Another example of creative thinking is using fresh data to bring new meaning to a problem.
Global events need critical and creative thinking at a moment’s notice
What’s happening in the world can throw curveballs to business plans. It’s so important to develop the skills to be able to think on your feet as well, as well as plan ahead. Take for example the Press. The press industry is one that demonstrates creative thinking in a perfect fusion. On one hand, a stream of creative ideas makes for news stories. On the other hand, every press agency has or will have a need at some point for crisis management. When a crisis hits, the need for creative thinking (plus diligence, sensitivity, and split-arrow timing) is paramount.
Creative thinking fosters innovation, even in adversity
The UK’s BBC news shared this article about a doctor in Mexico. Dr. Fransisco was working in a COVID lab and he was unable to use his brand new backpack as it couldn’t be sterilized. Instead, he had to resort to using a garbage bag to carry his laptop and paperwork. The situation was understandable, yet an impractical (and costly) one.
Dr. Fransisco contacted the founder of RuitBag, Sarah Giblin, from whom he bought the bag. Her response was humble, human, and creative, “I’m the designer, and I am so heartbroken you can’t use your backpack. Please give me half an hour of your time to tell me what you need.”
The global pandemic had impacted Sarah’s small business. In response to Dr. Fransisco’s needs, she set to work sketching and prototyping a backpack that could be sterilized. The incredible Easy-Clean Backpack for travel in the COVID era: RiutBag+ is now here.
If you’re interested to see how it works, check it out.
What creative thinking looks like in practice
Problem-solving comes in all shapes and sizes. Creative thinking helps you explore and discover solutions. And the most creative thinkers will want to challenge assumptions and offer data-driven insights.
Let’s say, for example, you’re a marketing manager. Among plenty of other queries, you will want to know why people don’t open the emails you send. How are you going to do that? Cue creative thinking to solve the problem. Also as a marketing manager, you’ll be creating campaigns. You’ll need concepts for those … time to reach for the creative cap once more.
Want to know why people don’t open the emails you send? Cue creative thinking to solve the problem.
In another example, you might have an idea for a new business, and you’ll need a business plan to do that. For the sake of illustrating the point let’s say ‘Jack’ is starting a small independent company selling printed tees and sweatshirts. It takes creative thinking to come up with the initial idea and to keep it going. It also takes creative thinking to make a business plan. Jack is planning a brick-and-mortar store, but how will he let people know it’s open? How will Jack run customer events, with a discount, without hurting his bottom line as a startup? It all needs thought about with a balance of critical and creative thinking.
At the other end of the spectrum, you have global high-street store Gap. Have you noticed how their prices have shot up? That’s creative thinking in response to their bargain-hunting target market.
Gap’s business model involves sales every 4 weeks or so—and their customers know it. To keep their bottom line rosy, Gap’s prices have soared overnight … $90 for yoga pants, which quickly get reduced? We see what you did, Gap.
Holding regular sales, and upping your prices to sustain that might be sneaky, but it is still a move of creative thinking. It is after all, a business mechanism to drive website traffic and store footfall. And once in and browsing, there’s every chance customers will spend even more.
Ultimately, in business, you need a plan, a strategy. And that strategy starts with your creative thinking.
How do you develop creative thinking?
Lots and lots of practice makes perfect. And this is a fun leadership skill to explore … with many surprising directions and developments of serendipity.
To build on your creative thinking skills, solve problems that come your way with a creative approach. Put yourself in the users’ shoes. Define the problem. Then, go beyond the obvious in your search for solutions. (Practice that and you’ll use lateral thinking, which is another leadership skill, so you’ll be honing two leadership skills at once. Smart move!).
Put yourself in the users’ shoes. Define the problem. Then, go beyond the obvious in your search for solutions.
If you choose to study at Hult you’ll develop leadership skills on (or off) campus through creative thinking activities. It’s all part of the course.
Hult will help you apply your creativity to the big questions facing businesses today that no one’s found the answers to yet. Everything from what disruption and opportunity will blockchain bring to the real estate market? To what new product or service will you create in light of this? How will you ensure that your startup benefits from cybersecurity deployment in your region? Thorough investigation in your field will give you daily opportunities to challenge and build your creative thinking process.
A lot of businesses enlist team-building events to discover and push the limits of creative thinking skills too. While you could look at this as organized fun, it’s the ideal creative thinking challenge. (And if you embrace it, it’s quite revealing about your personality). So far, I’ve found myself in the Spaghetti Marshmallow Challenge–it’s an actual ‘thing’. Also, some color-based personality profiling. And also the ‘game’ Lost at Sea (though this Build-a-Boat exercise looks way more creative and fun. Who wouldn’t want to do this?).
See, creative thinking comes into play at every opportunity. And as a leader, creative thinking is something you need, but also something to empower those around you. So why not have fun with it?
If you’d like to be part of a business school that creative talent inside and outside the classroom, check out our full range of programs that are designed to suit any go-getter.