Critical and Creative Thinking
If asked to define your thinking style, you might find yourself gravitating toward calling yourself more of a critical thinker or more of a creative thinker. It is amazing to me how many people will even say, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body!” The truth is, however, that problem solving in general requires both critical and creative thinking and each of us problem solves multiple times a day.
The painter must have a vision but also has to decide the most effective way to communicate her ideas. The attorney has to build a logical series of questions but must also brainstorm all of the possible responses of the witness on the stand. According to Treffinger, Isaksen and Dorval in Creative Problem Solving, critical and creative thinking are complimentary, equally important and work harmoniously to reach success. Here’s a quick overview of each kind of thinking and the types of questions we ask ourselves and others to spark the brain.
Creative Thinking is divergent and leads to many different possibilities. Creative thinkers are sometimes thought to come up with “out there” ideas, they like to think about “what if” questions, they may ask lots of questions, they take risks without fear of being wrong and have their own style or way of doing things and thinking. When we’re thinking creatively, we might ask:
- What would happen if I tried to solve this problem using the reverse steps?
- How could I modify this tool to make it serve other purposes?
- What would happen if I mixed soy sauce and chocolate together?
- How can I develop a new treatment for this illness?
- How could I write a poem that sounded like a song when you read it out loud?
Critical thinking is convergent and leads to choosing one answer or option. Critical thinkers ask questions to clear up any misunderstandings, look for and compare different opinions on an issue, try to find the truth even if it means their opinion might be wrong, look for evidence from trustworthy sources and try to form their own opinions rather than just following the crowd. When we’re activating our critical thinking skills we might ask:
- Could this ever really happen?
- Is there anything important I left out of my explanation?
- How can I prove that my idea is correct?
- What is the most logical way to get this job done?
- What is the best way to solve this problem? How can I make sure it is correct?
In the Creative Problem Solving process, the individual moves back and forth between critical and creative thinking (What one challenge do I want to focus on? How many different ideas can I come up with to solve the challenge? What one solution would be most effective?).
Where does your strength in thinking skills lie? How might you challenge yourself to develop complimentary skills? How can you nurture both of these thinking skills in your child?