Janet Coulter is Director of Academic Enterprise in the Faculty of Art, Design and the Built Environment at Ulster University. She is also a Senior Lecturer in Fashion and Design with almost 30 years experience in the Fashion Industry.
Janet hosted a Creative Thinking workshop in the Craft Village, Derry.
In the Creative Thinking workshop Janet gave each table a large bag of Jelly Babies to start. This was to increase our blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels is good for creative thinking, it gets the brain pumping.
So to be more creative . . . eat more jelly babies!
We then started into the workshop about vertical thinking and lateral thinking.
Vertical Thinking vs Lateral Thinking
Vertical thinking is finding one answer to a problem. A logical, sequential, analytical answer.
Lateral thinking is finding multiple answers to a problem by thinking outside the box. Thinking of lots of ideas by taking different perspectives to the problem, challenging your perception and gather a range of ideas. A creative answer.
Many businesses have a vertical way of thinking. This is how we are taught in school, but looking just for one answer may risk us losing the right answer. To be lateral thinkers is to be divergent. (The movie came straight into my head. Who loves that movie, where divergent thinkers cannot be categorised into a group as they can think in multiple ways). Well isn’t that is what ever designer wants, to be different?
Thinking Laterally (Diverging)
To think lateral means to be divergent, and to put that simply means to have multiple ideas for the one problem. In the workshop we had 6 exercises to help get our creative juices flowing. In one of the exercises we had to think of ways for a Natural Burial Company to diversify their business in Armagh. We got 15mins. My team had radical thoughts of preplanning your burial and deciding if people wanted to be buried in landmark places like the Rockies or Sahara. They could be dropped from a plane to help achieve two life goals of seeing this destination and jumping from a plane. We were thinking of different packages to offer. We were planning to make peoples dreams come true. We delved into cremation, about urn tress and selling plants that grew from the graves to families. (My brothers are actually undertakers, but needless to say i didn’t give them any of our ideas, think we took the out of the box thinking a bit far, but we were encouraged).
Thinking Logically (Converging Ideas)
The next stage we had to converge our ideas and mark 3 dots, 2 dots and 1 dots on the ideas we give most/least encouragement to. Of course we had so much jelly babies at this stage we thought we had million dollar ideas. We gave our top three ideas three dots and stood up and explained logically why these ideas would help the company to diversify their business.
Other groups had very good ideas to help the company expand.
In this exercise we learned to use creative thinking to create a quantity of ideas then use logical thinking to minimize down and connect the good ideas. It created a good balance.
6 Hats Thinking
Another exercise we used was “6 thinking hats”. Each hat is explained below.
We again looked at another company – A food company who only produces duck meat meals. Duck sausages, duck l’orange etc. The argument was should they use the duck feathers to expand into the Fashion Market. Each table was given a coloured hat. Our opinions had to be based on the view of the coloured hat not our personal opinion. We were given a few minutes for our thoughts which then we expressed to the whole group, then Janet switched the hats and ask us immediately to answer in the new hats perspective. It made everyone change roles and sides in the debate and made me understand the two sides of the argument giving a better understanding to the decision.
Overall the workshop got my creative juices flowing, made me think on radical ideas, then use logic to link up the ideas and reduce and conclude on a few ideas to the problem. The six hats then made us look at different perspective on whether the concluding ideas were good or bad for the business. Janet highlighted a lot of key insights into creative thinking with these exercises. I advise if you ever see any of her talks or workshops advertise to attend them. They are very interactive and she used her own experiences to explain and slides of her work to help paint a clearer picture. It was a great workshop.
Let me know if you have any thoughts on creative thinking, do you have a method to your madness?