Improving Life Through Critical and Creative Thinking

All of these Critical and Creative Thinking skills can improve your life by helping you to solve problems, make decisions, get things done.

Here are a few ways to apply the information to improve the quality of your thinking and your life.

  1. Be metacognitive in difficult situations
  2. Use the guidelines for critical thinking.
  3. Avoid mistakes in thinking. 
  4. Find reliable resources on the internet.
  5. Honor the stages of the creative process.
  6. Brainstorm.
  7. Give yourself time to think.

The 20-Minute Problem Solving Model

Now it’s time to put the thinking skills to good use with a model of Creative problem Solving. You may get some inspirational solutions and come up with a satisfactory result. Though you can use this model by yourself, it is easier to learn the process by working with one or two other people. One person identifies a problem and the others help solve it.

Follow these steps:

Step 1

Describe the problem to the other people for five minutes. Say everything you cab about the problem. Remember the 5W’s and H: Who? What? When? Where? and How? What led to the problem? What are the consequences? What are your feelings? What are your feelings of others? If you run out of things to say, start repeating things you said before. Just keep talking for five minutes. Let the others listen and take notes.

Step 2

Allow the others to ask you questions for five minutes; then answer their questions. Some suggested questions: What do you really want? Is this a new problem? If the problem occurred before, how did you and others react? How has it worked out?

Step 3

In the group, brainstorm ideas for solutions for five minutes. One of the other two participants records the ideas for you. 

Step 4

Select the ideas that seem best to you. If you want, you can ask the others for suggestions, but you don’t have to. If you don’t ask them, they are not allowed to volunteer their ideas. As a group, develop a plan of action.

People are always amazed at what they can accomplish with this 20-Minute Creative Problem-Solving Process. The most difficult part is the first five minutes. It’s often hard for the problem owner to talk for five minutes and for the listeners to stay quiet! But it keeps everyone focused, and no time is wasted on socializing.

Divergent and Convergent Thinking

Both convergent and divergent thinking are necessary for real-life problem solving and decision making.

Divergent Thinking, mostly related to creative thinking, is thinking aimed at finding many possible answers.

Convergent Thinking, mostly related to critical thinking, looks for correct answers or guides us toward selecting from many possible answers.

The answer to the question “What work did American women do during World War II?” requires divergent thinking, while the answers to “What does WAC stand for?” and “Which aspect of American women shall I write about?” requires convergent thinking.

You may identify your learning style as leaning toward either sequential or random learning. A preference toward random learning generally means you find strength and comfort in divergent thinking (more creative), while a preference toward sequential learning generally means you find strength and comfort in convergent thinking (more critical).

Since everyone posses qualities of both types of learners, everyone is able to think both creatively and critically.

How Do You Think Creatively

You can do creative thinking alone or with others. In either case, your goal is to bring something new into existence, such as an idea, an event, a plan, an object, or a process. Creative thinking consists of five stages. Knowing about these stages can help you improve your creative thinking.

Stage 1

Insight: Insight occurs when you realize you need to think creatively about something in your life that isn’t working right. You want or need to do something about it. Insight can come from within. For example, “My study skills improvement” or “My sociology paper is due next week”.

Stage 2

Preparation: Preparation refers to naming or identifying your specific problem and gathering information. Preparation time varies based on available resources.

Stage 3

Incubation: Incubation is the mulling-things-over stage. For example, you may have a researched a paper or project and are now thinking about how to organize all the information and present the topic. What are the main ideas? What important points should be included? What can be omitted?

For scientist, incubation is a period of puzzling over the meaning of new evidence gathered during the preparation stage that doesn’t fit previous explanations.

Incubation time varies from a few minutes or days to many years in some instances. “Sleep on it” is an incubation term. Often when you wake up, you have a solution or an inspiration.

Stage 4

Inspiration: Inspiration often comes in a quick flash of knowing. Suddenly you “see” a way to solve your problem. It’s frequently called the “Aha!” experience. Your inspiration makes you feel good because you realize you can solve your problem.

Inspiration doesn’t produce a sociology paper, nor does it complete a work project. Instead, inspiration tells you how to approach the paper (what the theme will be, what you should include, and the sequence of thought) and how to proceed on your project (calling those who can help, getting the boss’s support, researching additional information). The next step, actualization, actually gets the paper written and the project completed.

Stage 5

Actualization:  Actualization is the heavy-duty work that makes your inspiration a reality. It can be very time-consuming and is often accomplished in long intensive hours of continuous work called massed practice. You get all your research together and work through the process. In school, writing marathons are often called “all-nighters.” At work, getting a project realized means hours of overtime.

The Creative Mind

Creative Thinking means “thinking about thinking in order to bring something new into existence”. This new thing can be an idea, a plan, an event, an object, a book, a play, a research paper, or a process.

It’s important to know that:

  • You are a natural creative thinker because creative thinking is part of being human. 
  • You can improve your creative thinking by learning about it.
  • You don’t have to be artistic to be a creative thinker.

There are lots of ways to think creatively, and you will learn some of them in this section.

Why and When You Need Creative Thinking

You use creative thinking when you need choices for solving a specific problem. Several situations requiring creative thinking are listed:

  • When  something you care about isn’t working out the way you want.

Example: You haven’t found enough reference material for your research paper.

  • When you want to think of ways to deal with bad situations.

Example: You have a flat tire on your way to class.

  • When you to change the way you are doing something.

Example: You are chair of an important committee, and the meetings are too long, are poorly attended, and are inefficient.

Creative thinking and critical thinking are similar. You use them in daily life to assist in problem solving and decision making. Critical thinking leads to creative thinking, and creative thinking leads to critical thinking. For example, your critical thinking tells you that you need to study more to get better grades. Your creative thinking comes up with ideas for increasing your study time. Then your critical thinking selects the best ideas. Finally, your fear of failure drives you to do the necessary work.