Think of all the people you know who inspire you, whether family and friends or public figures. Who are the most interesting, engaging and stimulating to be around? The ones with the great ideas and energy for life? These people almost certainly always ask questions and have an insatiable thirst to learn new things.
According to Donald N. MacKinnon, who is considered to be a world-leading researcher on creativity:
“Creative people have considerable cognitive flexibility, communicate easily, are intellectually curious, and tend to let their impulses flow freely.”
Creative thinkers tend to be balls of energy and productivity machines. Think of Richard Branson and Elon Musk. Another is Yoshiro Nakamatso, a Japanese inventor who claims to have his best ideas while underwater suffering from oxygen starvation. He invented the floppy disk in 1952, apparently seconds away from death by drowning.
Creativity is generally perceived to be something external, out of our control, or an inherent talent for a chosen few. But consider that creativity is fundamentally about ideas (the Oxford Dictionary defines a creative state as relating to or involving imagination or original ideas). Ideas are generated by thinking, and skills for thinking can be learned. Therefore, creativity, thinking and idea generation are skills that can be learned. Jose G. Gomez says this in “What Do We Know About Creativity?” (PDF):
“Perhaps the most prevailing view today is that beyond a minimum level of intelligence necessary for mastery in a given field, additional intelligence offers no guarantee of a corresponding increase in creativity.”
Some people do have a greater aptitude for thinking creatively and laterally, just as some people are more logic-based, but it’s a misconception that creativity is the exclusive right of a select group.Research indicates that anyone can tap into this energy and be more productive.
“Creativity is not a talent, it’s a way of operating.”
– John Cleese
Learning a variety of thinking skills will have a dramatic impact on your productivity and output. Although often considered technical and, therefore, logical disciplines, coding and web design (like mathematics) require a highly creative approach and superior problem-solving skills. Anyone can increase their creativity by learning the practical skill of thinking.
The five books we’ll explore below are my recommended reading list. This selection of material will stimulate your thinking and reflection on creativity, as well as provide valuable, practical exercises that will improve your thinking and problem-solving skills.