20 Methods to Stimulate Creative/Innovative Thinking

Introduction to Creativity and Innovation for Engineerswritten by Stu Walesh, was published by Pearson in 2016. This book provides engineering students and practitioners with neuroscience-based knowledge and methods that enable them to be much more creative and innovative as individuals or as teams and, as a result, strengthen their organizations, provide more effective service and better products, and advance their careers.

The book describes and illustrates each of the 20 methods noting if it is suited to defining a challenge and/or resolving it. As indicated in the following table, every method is based on brain basics.

Method Neuroscience basic(s) applied
1) Ask-Ask-Ask The interactive and reflective process of asking and answering  questions engages both hemispheres

Stimulates the subconscious mind, after the interaction, to elaborate on the questions and the answers
2) Borrowing  Brilliance If consciously stimulated, by searching broadly, the human mind is likely to make new connections

Energized by possibilities inherent in new connections, the subconscious mind will energetically generate more connections and potential implications of them
3) Brainstorming A diverse group combined with moderate visual stimulation will generate and exchange ideas

Initiates post-process subconscious thinking and its inevitable fruits
4) Fishbone Diagramming Highly visual and non-linear features engage the right hemisphere to complement the left

The subconscious mind generates additional “bones” and elements of “bones” if the method is applied in a series of collaborative sessions
5) Medici Effect Left and right-brain individuals, who are also different in many other ways, offer widely varying views

Those views, while at time contentious, can produce surprisingly original results
6) Mind Mapping Highly visual and non-linear features, stimulated by the open-ended process, engage both hemispheres.

Intense conscious thought engages subconscious minds if done in a series of sessions
7) Ohno Circle Capitalizes on vision, the dominant sense

The  long period, characteristic of the method, stimulates conscious-subconscious interaction
8) Stream of Consciousness Writing The time requirement forces the individual  to draw  on all cognitive resources

The effort may help  to offset  a person’s limited  thinking attributed his or her negativity bias
9) SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) Highly visual and partly emotional aspect engages both hemispheres

Generates subconscious activity if applied in multiple collaborative sessions

Required balance of positives and negatives stimulates thinking
10) Taking a Break The  focused conscious mind primes the subconscious mind

The relaxed conscious mind gradually learns from the now stimulated and always active subconscious mind
11) What If? Frees, at least temporarily, the conscious mind from well-intended left-brain constraints

Explicitly challenges the natural negativity bias

The typically unusual ideas prime the subconscious mind to work and then share the resulting expanded ideas
12) Biomimicry The focused conscious mind stimulated by nature begins to see new possibilities

The subconscious mind naturally expands on the initial nature-driven ideas
13) Challenges and Ideas Meetings Brain-numbing routine reporting are diminished

Encourages, via explicit high expectations, creative/innovative conscious and subconscious thinking prior to meetings

Plants a desire to resolve  challenges and develop ideas in the subconscious minds of now-informed participants
14) Freehand Drawing Engages, out of necessity, the right hemisphere to supplement the left hemisphere

Relies heavily on the dominant seeing sense
15) Music Leverages the listening sense in that it accesses both hemispheres and the conscious and subconscious minds

Recalls memories which can lead to current and potential  applications
16) Process Diagramming Highly visual nature enables focused minds to finally see the forest, not just the trees

Enhanced understanding of the system combined with possible subsequent subconscious thought generates improvement ideas

17) Six Thinking Caps

Group members concentrate serially and collaboratively on each of six often competing thinking functions

Highly visual nature clarifies understanding of a challenge and stimulates thinking about resolving it

18) Supportive Culture and Physical Environment

Increases  productive interaction among very diverse individuals

Employs the dominant visual sense

Engages conscious and subconscious minds with the latter believing what it sees and hears about expectations

19) TRIZ – Theory of Inventive Problem Solving

Systematically draws on the successful creative/innovative approaches  of many others

Contradictions and inventive principles provide a broad and deep source of ideas for consideration by  conscious and subconscious minds

20) Taking Time to Think

The focused conscious mind plants seeds in the very active subconscious mind

The subconscious mind, which cannot differentiate between what is  real and what is imagined, generates ideas in the realm of the latter


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