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Tips for promoting and stimulating creative thinking

If you want your employees to think creatively, you must encourage them to develop creative thinking habits. Here are seven habits of creative thinking you may want your employees to develop:
1. Challenging assumptions. Assumptions should not be taken for granted, as they may be based on false opinions and impede new ideas. Widen the span of relevance and avoid a narrow focus.
2. Welcome serendipity. Start to become aware of everything taking place, such as a fortunate accident, this permits taking advantage of lucky chance occurrences. This will mean being able to see something of value in the unexpected.
3. Listen to the voices. Creative thinkers develop a habit of hearing their subconscious mind.
4. Suspend judgment. When encouraging new ideas, you cannot evaluate too early. Also be open to constructive criticism.
5. Using analogy as a stepping stone. Creative thinkers will look for likeness in relations or attributes rather than appearance.
6. Tolerate ambiguity. Creative thinking requires a higher threshold of tolerance to uncertainty, complexity, apparent disorder and even risk. This will help develop courage, perseverance and patience.
7. Idea banking. Constantly seeking new information, new knowledge and new ways of doing things. This involves developing habits of curiosity, observation, listening, reading and recording. Reading is critical because it invites the reader to think for themselves.

There are also some practicalways your company can promote creative thinking. One way is to ask each employee to try to improve one aspect of his or her job each day. The focus should be on areas that are within that employee's control. You also may want to consider holding a monthly "idea lottery." This is done by giving a "lottery" ticket to an employee each time he or she comes up with a creative idea. At the end of the month share the ideas with the staff and then draw a number from a bowl. If the number on an employee's ticket corresponds to the number drawn, he or she gets a prize. Another great way to promote creative thinking is to give each employee a notebook, and ask them to write in the notebook a specified number of ideas on how to improve the business. At the end of the month, collect the notebooks and categorize the ideas for further discussion. You may also want to ask employees to think of three job related goals, targets or tasks they think can't be accomplished. Then ask them to figure out three ways to accomplish each one. Then do the same thing yourself.

Brainstorming in a group is another way to stimulate creative thinking. When brainstorming in a group, try dividing the group into left-brain (rational) thinkers and right-brain (intuitive) thinkers. Ask the left- brain group to come up with conventional, logical and practical ideas. Ask the right -brain group to come up with unconventional, non-logical and far-out ideas. Then combine the groups and merge ideas. Another group activity to try is provide an opportunity for employees who do not normally interact with one another to meet. Invite employees from other departments to participate in brainstorming sessions. Ask them how they would solve problems in departments that they do not work in.

The human brain needs constant replenishment, the brain uses more energy than any other part of the body. Therefore rest is one of the key components to increase personal energy, productivity and creative thinking. Make sure your employees are taking regular breaks and lunches. To function at peak levels and optimize creative thinking on a regular basis, regular breaks are essential.

There is one rule that is especially important to follow when encouraging your employees to think creatively. Never criticize or allow criticism of anyone's ideas!

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