I recently ran a creative thinking workshop for some business students. At the end of the session one of the students asked me if I could spot a creative thinker. To my mind the question is moot as everyone whether or not they realise it thinks creatively at some point. As I pondered the question however I began to realise there were some characteristics that seemed to be present in just about every person I would categorise as highly creative.
Flexibility - its important to be flexible and to consider the possibility that problems and challenges may have more than one answer or solution. A creative thinker needs the flexibility to realise when something isn't working and its time to change the approach. Many of the creative thinkers I have met enjoyed the fact that there was more than one possibility, more than one answer. They revelled in the variety and often disliked it when they felt they were being forced into a corner.
Intense curiosity - Creative thinkers tend to ask a lot of questions. They have a deep curiosity about the world around them that is accompanied by an almost childlike excitement. This can be cultivated simply taking a proper look at the world around you and realising how fantastic and bizarre it really is. Many people never really take the time to do this.
Positive attitude - it is extremely hard to think creatively when you are feeling negative. Possibly this is linked to the intense curiosity (its also hard to be curious about things when you feel negative). People who are creative generally have a positive outlook and mindset on life. The common image of a creative who is emotionally unstable and subject to manic depression is stereotypical - they do exist but they tend to have bouts of hyper creativity followed by a depression during which there is very little creativity at all. The type of person I'm about in this article is a lot more emotionally balanced than this.
Strong motivation and determination - True creative thinking is exciting and energising but its not always easy. For it to succeed you need a high level of motivation and determination. The creative thinkers I have met tend to be high energy individuals whose speech patterns and movements tend to be pretty fast. A conversation with them can be amusing as they pepper you with questions and then change the subject completely.
Fearlessness - People who are highly creative tend to worry little about whether or not they are right or wrong. They are generally excited by the ideas or concepts they have come up with and are exploring. In my view this is fantastic but it does need to be balanced by the need to achieve a measurable outcome especially in business.
I honestly believe it is worth knowing these characteristics. If for example you own a business you will now be able to spot the creative thinkers in your workforce and deploy them where they can add the most value. If you simply want to be more creative yourself then you now know some of the characteristics you need to nurture and develop. Good Luck!