Which of these three types of creative thinking is your go to?

awareness creativity habits Apr 29, 2023
Row of dark light bulbs with the center one lit

Life is complex.  Every day we are faced with problems to solve.  Einsteins’s famous quote seems appropriate:  “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created them.”

There are so many ways we tangle ourselves up looking everywhere for solutions.  Once we identify a problem though, our brains automatically kick into gear to find a solution.

Creativity is a different level of thinking, and problem solving is creativity on steroids!  Which type of creative thinking is your go to?

The Convergent/Divergent approach

Using the convergent approach, we scan for solutions and eliminate options till we have THE answer.  It’s a vertical digging down for a precise solution.  On the other hand, the divergent approach begins with the problem and scans many possible options.  In this way of thinking, there could be more than one solution.

When thinking creatively we need both approaches. Neither approach is better or worse than the other.  Divergent thinking will scan the horizon of experience and knowledge to create options and connect different dots, then convergent thinking digs vertically into a feasible option and bring a final solution to completion.

Lateral thinking

This term was coined by Dr. Edward de Bono in the 1960’s to describe how we make cognitive leaps. Our minds, as self-organizing systems, tend to habitually think the same thoughts because that neural groove has been established.  He posits that it takes intentional practice to break free of established habitual thoughts.

Lateral thinking is a leap out of that established groove, and is always understood in reverse.  A great example is humor. 

An effective punchline is one that has us make a funny connection, a connection that we all share and could even be unrelated to the story. The joke makes sense only after we successfully look backward to the beginning to connect those dots.


When the light in our mind flips on, we suddenly comprehend what we never understood before.  These moments of insight can be as mundane as creating a special place for reading glasses so they don’t get lost to a magnificent understanding of inspirational clarity.

Dr. de Bono considers aha events and moments of insight another form of lateral thinking. When the dots are connected, they are a leap out of the established groove.  He devised a process to create provocations that spur insights and lateral thinking.

Assistance from elsewhere

Many times we can look back and see how we were guided along our path to finding solutions or creating something new. 

Suddenly, what we needed was right in front of us. We found doors open where before there were brick walls. Creativity flowed through us and our path was sprinkled with stardust. Often, the problem we faced led us down a new and better path we would have never followed had we not gone in search of a solution.

No matter what solution to a problem or creative form emerges, serendipity, coincidence and random fortunate events stand at the ready to midwife our new creations in unexpected ways.

The cycle of creative thinking

The flow of creative energy is a cycle.  We breathe in what’s been created around us by consuming and collecting what attracts us. 

The objects and ideas that attract us gather their energy to inspire us to create something new. We add our own neurons and energy and exhale that new creation into the world.  Our contribution feeds the collective supply of things to consume just as others provide inspiration for us to create. 

It’s all a beautiful cycle. We push the edge of creation whether we think horizontally, vertically or laterally, or have our own upside down way of connecting dots. 

Our thinking process is the tool creativity uses to create change.  Which is the one you use most often? Which would you like to try?

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