Activities to Boost Creative Thinking

Creative thinking is something we usually squash down in corporate America – you get more done if you keep your head down and follow the established path.

But creative thinking is how we come up with new and better ways of doing our work. Here are 3 exercises to enable you to think in more creative ways. You can use them alone or with your team.

✔ 21 What Ifs

Writing is something I do on a daily basis, so writer’s block comes with the territory. When you find yourself blocked or at an impasse in your work, let go of “rules” or “outcomes” and brainstorm 21 What Ifs? It will get your creative juices flowing again and often you’ll find the “answer” you were looking for.

✔ 21 What Ifs?

For example: I am trying to find a descriptive and compelling title for my podcast…

  • What if it were for children?
  • What if it were for aliens?
  • What if it was something grown / farmed?
  • What if it were a color?
  • What if people said it to invite someone else to marry them?
  • What if it were something you could buy at a store?
  • What if it had a taste?

✔ Explore Analogous Fields

On your way home from work tonight, look at the businesses along your drive / route and just pick one randomly – fast food, nursery, car repair, gym, florist – then go home and write a list of 10 ways this company is just like yours. Then do the reverse – 10 ways it is entirely different from yours. (In a thinking curriculum [with a group], we’d do this in a different way, but this is a great solo activity that gets largely the same results.) We tend to think we are so special, so specialized, that we miss out on great opportunities by NOT looking beyond the end of our nose.

Alternatives of the exercise include:

  • 10 ways your skills could improve the (observed) company
  • 10 ways your skills could put the (observed) company out of business
  • 10 one-to-one comparisons of your skills and the (observed) business, such as: my skill in making cold calls is like a growing plant in that…

✔ Stop Being so Literal

There are many objects in our daily life which we know the function of and that saves us a lot of time and has a lot of utility. We don’t pick up a pen each day and ask “What the heck is this? What does it do?” BUT that focus on the literal can also be a hindrance to our seeing possibilities.

A pen can also be a lever, an easel, a plug for a hole, used as a utensil, and so much more.

As a way to get creative juices going, alone or with your team, randomly choose an object from your desk or surroundings and imagine other uses for it. If you’re working on a new project, stop and ask, “Why are we going down this path? Is there another, alternative, path? Are there dual paths? Once we get to the end, is there more than one way to monetize or utilize that end?”


  • Post it notes were invented as a byproduct of trying to develop a stronger industrial glue.
  • Slinkys (the toy) were invented as a byproduct of developing industrial springs.

So stop being so literal and look for the possibilities.
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Originally published on LinkedIn