Tag Archives: creative thinking techniques

Ten Creative Tools

“It’s tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything like a nail.” In this memorable line, Abraham Maslow nails (forgive the pun) the problem of innovation. Too many of us only have one or two ways of working. That means we come at problems the same way again and again. Sure, it works. But will it keep working as the world around us changes? And will the same-old approach ever produce surprisingly new ideas?

Remember the Orange Test? Try it again, but this time with different colours. What’s the first thing you write down for white, green and blue? I bet it’s snow, grass and sky or sea.

Under pressure, your first answer will be obvious. So you have to push beyond your first answers to get to new and unusual. The best way to prompt this kind of divergent thinking is to say to yourself (or others) “Yes, what else?” every time you come up with an idea.

Tools 1 & 2 help you come up with lots of options right at the start, when you are looking at the problem you’re trying to solve:

  1. Why? What’s Stopping You?
  2. Questions for Insights

Tools 3 – 8 help you find lots (and I mean LOTS!) of possible ideas in response to your creative challenge:


4. Brainwriting

5. Lateral Nudge

6. Break the Rules

7. Steal from the Thesaurus

8. The Shock of the Old

The last two tools give your new ideas growing space and spot the problems that might be lurking behind them.

9. Pluses, Potentials and Concerns

10. Pre Mortem

And remember, as Margaret Heffernan says, “great ideas don’t come from offices”

The worksheets from this session are downloadable here as PDFs.

The slide deck is downloadable here as a Keynote file (117Mb).

Postcards from Estonia

Here are all the resources I used in my classes and talk at World Usability Day Tallinn 2017:

Stupid Mistakes Smart People Make (and what you can do about them) was my attempt to introduce the fascinating topic of cognitive bias in a light hearted way. I’ll post a link to the video when it’s ready, meanwhile here’s the slide deck and your own printable version of the Sunk Cost Fallacy worksheet.

10 Creative Tools gives you a selection of deliberate creative thinking techniques to use by yourself or with your team. Just like picking up any other kind of tool, some of them take a bit of getting used to. Here’s the slide deck and the worksheets.

Storytelling will help you turn your ideas into stories. Storytelling is the best way we’ve developed to remember and spread information, so why not use it for your business? Slide deck and worksheets here.

If you want to ask any questions about these, email me steverawling@gmail.com


BBC Apprentice & Trainee – Creative Thinking

Creative thinking isn’t something reserved for a few special geniuses. It’s a skill – or a way of operating – that we can all learn.

This presentation looks at three different “ways of operating” that increase your chances of coming up with new ideas.

  1. Divergent thinking; coming up with lots of possible options, rather than looking straight away for the “right” idea.
  2. Lateral thinking: breaking the rules just to see what happens.
  3. Development thinking: how to give new ideas the space to grow.

This is the presentation I used, which also covers advice on telling stories on social media.

And here are links to the individual techniques we used:

  1. Brainwriting
  2. Metaphor Mash
  3. Pluses, Potentials and Concerns