Creativity and Critical Thinking: Friends, Not Foes!

Creativity and Critical Thinking: Friends, Not Foes!

We live in a world of work that requires creativity. In a creative economy, success largely depends on new ideas, new ways to think and do the work. In this world of work, creativity is not confined to just those working in creative fields. Creative thinking is required at all levels and functions within an organization.

As we already know, creative thinking is all about bringing new ideas (that did not exist before) on the table, combine two or more ideas to create a unique proposition or improve existing products, services and processes using fresh new ideas. The process of creative thinking has to be boundless and free of any judgments or evaluations. The process of creative thinking is all about coming up with the new ideas.

Critical thinking, on the other hand, is touted as an enemy of creativity – that too much of judgment and evaluation in creative process leads to resistance and disrupts the flow of thinking.

Do I agree? No! Let me explain.

First of all, there is a difference between creative thinking and creativity. Creative thinking is the process of ideation (thinking). Creativity is about bringing that idea to life (execution). If we execute all the ideas without a sound evaluation, we would end up with a lot of wasted effort. So, while thinking creatively, we can afford to be boundless and non-judgmental. But for weighing our own ideas, prioritizing them and executing on them, we need critical thinking.

Secondly, new ideas come from our understanding of existing ideas and past experiences. This makes our own understanding of existing ideas (and its respective evaluation) very important. To assimilate existing ideas, to bring all our experience on the table and evaluate all of these possibilities requires us to think critically. In a team environment, it requires us to elicit ideas from team, evaluate arguments and assess the gaps/benefits. Critical thinking plays a very vital role here.

The third most important fact is that our creativity is needed the most when we are solving important problems. To be a creative problem solver, we have to slice and dice the problem, identify the most important elements of the problem and then arrive at a solution. This process of solving important problems is a combination of our ability to analyze various aspects of the problem and then apply our creativity on aspects that are most important. It is a fine blend of critical thinking and creativity.

Finally, the aim of critical thinking is constructive. We do all the hard work of recognizing alternatives, evaluating arguments and drawing conclusions because we want to do something right the first time, because we want to improve something that has gaps or because we want to create something that is path breaking. Critical thinking helps in the creative process and is done best during the creative process. Criticism, on the other hand, is often a fault finding technique that is done after the creation.

George Kneller quoted, “Creativity, it has been said, consists largely of re-arranging what we know in order to find out what we don’t know. Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.”

Critical thinking is a very important tool in any creative endeavor. Critical thinking is a friend of creativity, not a foe!

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After writing this post, I asked the question “Does critical thinking really kill Creativity or actually feeds it? What do you think?” on Twitter. While I received great response and diverse ideas, here are some of the key perspectives that were shared.

Abhijit BhaduriCreativity needs divergent thinking. It also needs the reality check of critical thinking.

Jaya Narayan Both are required. One without the other makes no sense to me.

Kunjal Kamdar Creative thinking ideally cannot be bound by set principles, but critical thinking is.

Subir Chatterjee Progressive critical thinking feeds creativity, resistance to change through critical thinking kill creativity.

Shamik VoraCritical thinking is left brain activity, creativity is right brain. Used creatively they can compliment.

Michael WadeEverything has its limits. You could also ask if extreme creativity overloads critical thinking.

Wally BockIt’s not either or. You need critical thinking to evaluate what your creativity gives you.

Gurprriet SiinghCritical thinking too early will stifle creativity. Get all ideas on the table first.

Rajesh Kamath I think critical thinking ‘can’ feed creativity if both are by the same person. But a critical thinking culture can curb creativity!

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Over to you: Do you now agree that critical thinking and creativity go well together? Please share your ideas on how critical thinking helps in creative endeavors.

Pearson TalentLens develops and delivers scientific assessments for employee selection, development, retention and succession planning. Powered by eight decades of science, TalentLens offerings are scientifically proven and coupled with a powerful consulting expertise to enhance talent management decisions for all levels of employment – entry, middle and top. Its clients include half of the Fortune 500, expanding small businesses, and all organizations that make identifying talent and unlocking employee potential a top priority.

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