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What Are the Different Types of Creative Thinking?

Wait, there are different types of creative thinking? When did this happen!?

Creative people don’t just, well, sit down and create – capturing ideas from the ether as they flutter by like butterflies. Not always, at least. 

Because, yeah, it does happen that way sometimes. That’s called inspirational thinking (more on that shortly). But for most creative types, it doesn’t happen that way every time. 

So Then, What IS Creativity?

That’s a pretty hard-hitting question. And it’s one that’s consumed artists, psychologists, business people, philosophers, (insert just about any other occupation here) forever.  

Humans are hard-wired to create. But it’s not something we can measure  – which happens to be something else humans are hardwired to do. At any rate, it’s rather difficult to define. 

For the sake of taking this wiley creature and placing it in a box, creativity is often defined as the ability to take its components (imagination, process, originality, pleasure, value) and bring them together to make something original and useful. That’s how the scientists see it.

At the end of the day though, creativity is a component of human thinking. And it can be broken down further from there.

Different Types of Creative Thinking

At one time, there was a notion that the left hemisphere of the brain dictated logic and the right hemisphere was in charge of creativity. That notion has since been parsed out to create a more nuanced picture in terms of how the brain works. It turns out the two hemispheres are much more connected.

With that said, we’ll take a look at five widely accepted different types of creative thinking based on the latest research.

1. Inspirational

This is the type of creative thinking that we mentioned above. It’s that force of creativity that seems to come from some outer source such as a creative muse. It may show up in a dream or another altered state. 

In the throes of inspirational creative thinking, the recipient often feels more like a conduit or vessel – channeling insights from someone or something else. It can happen in wild bursts and may feel like a deluge before suddenly going dry. 

Inspirational creative thinking feels like a revelation, flooded with powerful clarity and those a-ha lightbulb moments. It’s what every artist seeks but is rarely if ever able to conjure at will.

2. Divergent 

The basic understanding that creativity involves the ability to diverge comes as no shock. At least, not to creative people. 

Yet, American society has for a long time placed more value on convergent thinking. That the ability to focus on one idea or single solution somehow has more value. This shows up repeatedly in our conventional education system. 

Arts-integrated education, on the other hand, sees the value of divergent thinking. Educators in this system encourage flexibility, originality, and fluidity to explore multiple solutions in addressing an issue. This means sometimes entering into dispelling of strongly held beliefs and going into uncomfortable spaces. 

Both of which, like it or not, are helpful for the creative process. 

3. Lateral 

The term ‘lateral creative thinking’ came on the scene in 1967. At the time, it was developed to differentiate between artistic and idea creativity. It was also in response to ‘vertical thinking’ which put great value on solving a problem through sequential steps based on logic. 

Where vertical thinking builds solutions upward based on a foundation of established ideas, lateral thinking moves forward and away from old ideas. It challenges the brain to steer clear of distinct patterns and well-traveled paths that result in stale or hackneyed solutions. 

Lateral thinking instead challenges creative thinkers to problem solve by breaking up these established routes and venturing outside the box. It’s similar to divergent thinking in this way. But where divergent thinking is more about following an extreme path, lateral thinking encourages the least likely one. 

4. Aesthetic

Aesthetic creative thinking is all about presenting or discovering things that are beautiful and pleasing to the senses. It focuses on the visual and mathematical characteristics of how ratios, patterns, and proportions found in nature play into creative pursuits.

Artists across the board have forever been drawn to the mathematical characteristic of aesthetics. This requires some basic knowledge of composition, color, shapes, and structure. Tempo and rhythm in music are key examples of aesthetic thinking. 

Scientists also utilize aesthetic thinking in creating formulas.

5. Systems

Finally, systems creative thinking involves looking at how everything is interrelated. The next step is to then understand how they’re connected with the larger ‘whole.’ 

The idea behind systems thinking is to comprehend how changing one element can change every other element and the larger whole. It requires an understanding of the interdependence of sometimes seemingly opposite elements. It emphasizes harmony, synthesis, and balance to create an elegant and beautiful whole. 

Aristotle stated it most succinctly when he said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

What Kind of Thinker Is Your Child?

Does your child approach creativity in a way that seems foreign to you? Each of us has our own way of looking at the world. 

Now that you understand the many different forms of creative thinking, it may be that he or she would thrive in an arts-integrated environment. 

Contact us today if you’re curious to see how our school can help your child truly shine.


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