Enhancing Creative Thinking


Why enhancing? Because you should know that almost everyone has creative potential. The difference is that creative individuals have developed habits that allowed them to walk through the creative process while others do not know how to use or develop this potential (Sternberg, 2012). So how can someone improve his cognitive abilities?

To “think outside the box” implies breaking mental sets and challenging assumptions. One is often stuck by the tendency to perceive and respond in a certain way that blinds him to possible solutions. In order to think outside the box, one should develop the habit of seeking novelty. Looking for new experiences, new activities to engage the mind in order to expand the cognitive horizons (Sternberg, 2012).

Before jumping into finding solutions to a problem, one should step back and invest time and effort to understand the problem or situation in hand. In other terms, restate and define the problem broadly. This aims at identifying the central issue as well as discovering possible solutions to increase the probability of reaching the optimum outcome (Jaeggi, Buschkuehl, Jonides & Perrig, 2008).

One of the most important stages of the creative process is the incubation stage. This stage is critical to producing new ideas because allowing time for incubation is to give the mind enough time to work on the idea, to make new connections and to neglect unnecessary ideas, in order to grab new ones (Jaeggi et al., 2008). The illumination stage comes after the incubation stage, and it is defined as an unconscious process explained by the “Aha! moment”. This moment takes place when we are not thinking about the problem in hand. In other terms, in our unconsciousness, we understand more what our consciousness fails to understand (Koch, 2012). For example, when a musician invests so much time in thinking about a certain musical piece but gets tired and stops thinking about it. Two days later, while he is running in the morning, the missing part of the musical piece suddenly pops up in his head. This is what is known as the illumination stage (the Aha!Moment). Thus, in order for creativity to take place, students should be given more time to think about a certain problem and possible solutions. For this reason, drop tests should not be applied because they only make students anxious without any benefits.

In addition, students should seek to overcome obstacles and challenges instead of giving up (Sternberg, 2012). This can be achieved mainly by being aware of the fixation error and avoiding it. The fixation error is when one’s brain becomes blocked and the person becomes unable to progress anymore or find alternative solutions. Awareness of this phenomenon will help the person remember to keep looking for other solutions or ideas rather than fixating on one solution (Sternberg, 2012).

Adding to all of the above, one should be aware of the need to maintain a healthy brain. The brain needs training the same way the body needs to be fit. Doing things the hard way by using cognitive skills instead of relying on technology will enhance problem-solving skills and thus creative thinking (Sternberg, 2012).

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