- Olga Zbarskaya, Ph.D
English physicist and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton contradicted the ancient Greeks’ ideas about light by demonstrating that sunlight consists of a spectrum of colors. Newton realized that the earliest telescopes, in which glass lenses were fixed in a tube, distorted colors as the lenses broke the white light of bright astronomical objects into a rainbow. He constructed a new reflecting telescope that used mirrors instead of lenses to focus the light. Newton’s innovative approach was made possible by his ability to see conventional ideas from a different angle.
New and original solutions to the same old problems lead to more effective decision making—greater choices among alternative sequences of actions and inactions. Seeing the world in a novel way leads to innovation and change. And a willingness to embrace change is necessary if one is to examine predetermined conditions and boost innovation. It is natural human tendency to perceive as a threat change, which is associated with the destruction of established patterns of thinking and fear of failure. Resisting change is often followed by countless justifications as to why no changes were made. Welcoming change, on the other hand, opens the door to the very fluency, originality, flexibility, elaboration, and ability to postpone premature closure that are needed for creative problem solving—which is a driving force behind improvement in any area of life. These major characteristics of creative thinking produce a “survival kit” in a complex environment. Enabling fluency, flexibility, and originality while postponing premature closure leads to self-empowerment and a concomitant greater chance of succeeding.
The link between the five major characteristics of creativity—fluency, originality, flexibility, elaboration, and postponed premature closure—can be outlined as follows:
- Creative thinking is defined by the postponed closure of flexible combinations among fluent thoughts with original interpretations of the interconnections among elaborated details defines.
- Fluency—the ability to generate multiple responses, ideas, and alternatives—increases the potential connections among various selections and, subsequently, the likelihood that one of these ideas will be developed into a great invention. Fluency additionally refers to an aptitude for expressing ideas simply and coherently.
- Originality is essentially a trend of being able to generate unexpected responses to a challenge; it increases the possibility of novelty. Originality prevents reproductions, imitations, and clichés.
- Flexibility entails looking at the same problem from different perspectives, which permits new connections and unexpected combinations. Flexible associations increase the likelihood for coming up with novel and successful combinations.
- Elaboration is the ability to expand and improve ideas through embellishing their details. This personality trend assists in forming more flawless, precise, and pleasing ideas with better logic and more in-depth analysis. Elaboration results in amplifying the initial idea and moving it toward enhancement and implementation.
- Suspending premature judgment or criticism effectively delays the disapproval of new thoughts and thus prevents the reduction of possible ideas and their combinations.
There are various techniques for enabling major characteristics of creativity, nurturing that creativity, boosting innovative problem solving, and make improvements in the overall quality of life.
Creative thinking results from a complex amalgamation of different characteristics that allow the mind to think in different directions and entertain alternative solutions. During the trainings and workshops on creative decision making I’ve presented for licensed administrators in NYC, I have asked my participants to practice fluent thinking by creating as many ideas as possible in a short period of time. My students have generated ideas for how to utilize familiar items—such as cups, scissors, and paperclips—in a novel way. They’ve additionally drawn pictures representing new designs for their houses and apartments, thought up alternative titles for their favorite books and songs, rewritten the epilogues of famous movies, and generated solutions to various issues, such as budget cuts and even global warming. Sometimes these exercises involved thinking of new ways to host a party or cook unusual dishes. Having as many ideas as possible and easily drifting among them prompts a novel viewpoint. Fluency refers to both the quantity and flow of generated thoughts and associations among them.
As it involves flexibly shifting one’s thoughts from one area to another, fluent thinking allows the development of unique ideas. Fluency boosts metaphorical and symbolical thinking, because the informal associations it encourages easily form new expressions and restructure preconsumed notions. Fluent thinking furthermore allows one to tolerate semistructured concepts and uncertain notions, which is important—combining incomplete thoughts may form unexpected ideas. The novel combinations and surprising reasoning inherent in fluent thinking open into new experiences.
Creative thinking assists in the process of restructuring perspectives and producing unexpected combinations. Creative thinking allows us to connect pieces of information into meaningful and unexpected patterns—a critical ability when you consider that we perceive the world around us based on our interpretation of patterns. Creativity is a meaningful modification based on the new patterns of meaning. When we are creative, we feel we are living more fully.