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Last Updated on December 22, 2020

The Power of Deep Thinking: Essence of Creativity

The Power of Deep Thinking: Essence of Creativity

True or False: “This sentence is false.”

What was your answer to the question above? Did you quickly fire off an answer or did you have to think about it and then think about it some more?

Imagine for a moment that you could put on a set of inverted goggles and see the world through an entirely different lens. On one hand, you would literally see differently, but you might not view the world differently. If we look deep enough and allow ourselves to observe from a new lens, we will. Thomas S. Kuhn remarked in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,[1]

“What a man sees depends upon what he looks at and also upon what his previous visual conceptual experience has taught him to see.”

The power of deep thinking is the essence of creativity. By learning how to think differently and deep, you will find that it is not only your creative thinking, but your critical thinking skills that vastly improve. This leads to higher levels of thinking and powerful problem-solving skills that you simply did not have before.

Let’s take a look at what deep thinking is, why you should learn about it, and what it will do for you.

How Do You Know That You Know the Stuff You Think You Know?

Have you heard the saying, the more you know the less you know? If you haven’t, take a moment and think about that phrase. By looking at the Theory of Knowledge, we can pose the following question: How do you know that you know the stuff you think you know?

Let’s look at an example. Solve the following: 2 + 2 = ?

    I am hoping you answered 4! Yet, let’s take a look at another way to look at this. In Plato and Platypus Walk into a Bar by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, we find the following story.

    A western anthropologist is told by a Voohooni that 2 + 2 = 5. The anthropologist asks him how he knows this. The tribesman says,

    “By counting, of course. First, I tie two knots in a cord. Then I tie two knots in another cord. When I join the two cords together, I have five knots.”

    Deep Thinking Is Thinking About Thinking

    Rene Descartes famously stated, “Cogito ergo sum” or “I think, therefore I am” where he believed thinking as the essential characteristic of being human.

    In Why the World Doesn’t Seem to Make Sense, Steve Hagen discussed that Descartes arrived at the cogito through an experiment in radical doubt to discover if there was anything he could be certain of; that is, anything that he could not doubt away.[2] Hagen commented,

    “He started out by doubting the existence of the external world. Then he tried doubting his own existence. But doubt as he would, he kept coming up against the fact that there was a doubter. Must be himself! He could not doubt his own doubting.”

    Essentially, Metacognition is awareness of one’s awareness. It is thinking about thinking or cognition about cognition.

    1. Meta means Beyond
    2. Cognition means Thinking

    Thus, Metacognition means Beyond Thinking.

    To be aware, it refers to the ability of the mind to stand back and watch itself in action. Here, we are able to examine the way we learn, remember, and think. The knowledge of how we process information gives us the opportunity to change how we process it. [3]

    Can We Really Know What Anything Is?

    Hagen poses the following question in his book Why the World Doesn’t Seem to Make Sense: Here it is, but what is it? Do we truly know what something is?

    Hagen remarks,

    When we try to answer this, have we merely answered the question “how do we conceive of it?” or “what do we call it?” Some deeper question remains.

    For example, if I say, “Here, in this cup, is water,” you may ask, “What is water?” But as scientists we might wish to point out, “Water is hydrogen and oxygen.” Thus, by using scientific methods it seems we can discover what water is “made of.”

    With confidence we say, “What is really in this cup is hydrogen and oxygen, combined and transformed into this unique substance we call ‘water’.” But the questions continue.

    Hagen concludes, “What is hydrogen? What is oxygen? And so we look again, using scientific methods, and say, “Hydrogen is an element made of atoms, each consisting of a single proton and a single electron.”

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    But still the questions remain: what are atoms? What are protons and electrons? It seems that we’ve started on a never-ending regression. At no time do we ever really get to the other end of the question: “What is water?” We can name the mind object, even break it down and name its parts, but we still don’t really answer the question.”

    Reading this passage leaves me to ask myself: can we ever really know what anything is? Let’s look at another example from Hagen.

    He illustrates just how strange our world is through the conversation between a physicist and a philosopher:

    Physicist: …and so we conclude an electron is a particle.

    Philosopher: But you also claim an electron is a wave.

    Physicist: Yes, it’s also a wave.

    Philosopher: But surely, not if it’s a particle.

    Physicist: We say it’s both wave and particle.

    Philosopher: But that’s a contradiction, obviously.

    Physicist: Are you then saying it’s neither wave nor particle?

    Philosopher: No, I’m asking what you mean by “it.”

    A Gap in the Stream of Consciousness

    You might be wondering what the difference is between Metacognition and Cognition.

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    • Cognition. This is the process of acquiring knowledge for understanding. Cognition is thinking.
    • Metacognition. This relies on awareness and control of cognitive processes. Metacognition will help you find gaps in your learning and thinking. However, you must have acquired some previous knowledge about a topic prior to Metacognition. As mentioned earlier, Metacognition goes beyond just thinking… it is thinking about thinking.

    Now that you have an understanding of the fundamental principle behind deep thinking, let’s take a look at how to develop it.

    In the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle,[4] we learn the following lessons.

    Constantly Observe Your Mind Without Judging Your Thoughts

    Here we should ask one simple question, “What will my next thought be?” Try it. Can you think of your next thought? Probably not.

    By continually asking this question, you can delay the arrival of your next thought. This is due to what is called the quantum zeno effect, where we can freeze our current state by observing it. Essentially, there can be no change while you are watching it.

    Life Is Simply a Series of Present Moments

    Here we are informed that the past is simply all the present moments that have gone by. Tolle posits that the only important time is the present, for which we think about the least. Furthermore, the present is simply future present moments waiting to go by.

    Imagine leaving your body and watching yourself think. Think of this as a mental movie where your goal is not to judge the actors, but to simply observe them.

    Tolle refers to entering into the Now or the Present as creating a gap in the stream of mind. Asking yourself the question What will my next thought be?” creates that gap and allows you to dis-identify from your mind. Once you do this, you have elevated yourself above thought. This is Enlightenment.

    Stages of Deep Thinking

    Before we look at strategies you can use to become a deep thinker, let’s briefly look at the stages of deep thinking known as the Three Levels of Thought. [5]

    • Level 1: Lower Order Thinking. The individual is not reflective, has a low to mixed skill level, and relies solely on gut intuition.
    • Level 2: Higher Order Thinking. The individual is selective on what to reflect on, has a high skill level, yet lacks critical thinking vocabulary.
    • Level 3: Highest Order Thinking. The individual is explicitly reflective, has the highest skill level, and routinely uses critical thinking tools.

    Strategies to Become a Deep Thinker

    To enter into the Highest Order Thinking, try the following strategies.

    Increase Self-Awareness by Thinking About Thinking

    Imagine you could become aware of how you learn. We know that we must have a baseline of previous knowledge about something to use Metacognition. Think of your Intelligence as what you think and Metacognition as how you think. Let’s look at a series of questions you can ask yourself by using the Elements of Thought.[6]

    • Purpose. What am I trying to accomplish?
    • Questions: What question am I raising or addressing? Am I considering the complexities in the question?
    • Information: What information am I using to get to my conclusion.
    • Inferences: How did I reach this conclusion? Is there another way to interpret the information?
    • Concepts: What is the main idea? Can I explain this idea?
    • Assumptions: What am I taking for granted?
    • Implications: If someone accepted my position, what would the implications be?
    • Points of View. From what point of view am I looking at this issue? Is there another point of view I should consider?

    Challenge Current Learning Methods Through Meta-Questions

    Meta-Questioning is higher order questions we can use to explore ideas and problems. Here are some examples.

    • Why did it happen?
    • Why was it true?
    • How does X relate to Y?
    • Why is reasoning based on X instead of Y?
    • Are there other possibilities?

    Let’s look at a practical example.

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    • When you say: “I can’t do this.” Change this to: “What specifically can I not do?”
    • You say: “I can’t exercise.” Then ask: “What is stopping me?”
    • You say: “I don’t have time.” Now ask yourself: “What needs to happen for me to start exercising?”
    • You discover: “What time wasters can I eliminate in order to create more time to exercise?”
    • Then imagine how you could start exercising: “If I could exercise, how would I do it?”

    View the World Through Different Lens

    Here is a technique you can use to foster a deeper understanding of a problem—Four Ways of Seeing:

    • How does X view itself?
    • How does Y view itself?
    • How does X view Y?
    • How does Y view X?

      Try to apply the technique like this: suppose we are in the United States looking at a foreign country. First, draw four boxes, then list the questions. Second, start answering the questions.

      • In box #1 ask: “How do we see the United States?”
      • Box #2: “How does China see themselves?”
      • Box #3: “How does China see the United States?”
      • Box #4: “How do you see them?”

      Thought Experiments

      One last technique you can use to become a deep thinker —Thought Experiments. This is a device of the imagination used to investigate the nature of just about anything. [7] Thought Experiments seek to learn about reality through thinking:

      • Visualize a situation and set it up in your imagination.
      • Let it run or carry out some type of operation.
      • See what happens.
      • Draw a conclusion.

      The team at Stanford describes this using the following example: Since the time of Lucretius, we’ve learned how to conceptualize space so that it is both finite and unbounded. Let’s see how this Thought Experiment can work.

      • Imagine a circle, which is a one-dimensional space.
      • As we move around, there is no edge, but it is nevertheless finite.
      • What can you conclude? The universe might be a three-dimensional version of this topology.

      Think Deep, and You Will Think Creatively

      Thinking deep will change how you think, feel, and view the world. When you understand this concept, you will start to think beyond simple beliefs.

      “When the root is Deep… There is no reason to fear the wind.”

      Deep Thinking will change how you think, feel, and view the world. When you understand this concept, you will start to think beyond simple beliefs.

      By applying all the skills mentioned in this article, you will be able to think deeper and explore more possibilities.

      Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

      Reference

      [1] Thomas S. Kuhn: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
      [2] Steve Hagen: Why the World Doesn’t Seem to Make Sense: An Inquiry Into Science, Philosophy and Perception
      [3] ThePeakLearner: What is Metacognition? 3 Key Points to Remember
      [4] Eckhart Tolle: The Power of Now
      [5] Thinker’s Guide Library: Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools
      [6] Thinker’s Guide Library: Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools
      [7] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Thought Experiments

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      Dr. Jamie Schwandt

      Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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      Published on April 6, 2021

      How To Brainstorm Ideas More Creatively And Effectively

      How To Brainstorm Ideas More Creatively And Effectively

      Do you continually look for ways and means to do things better but find yourself in a shortage of ideas? As humans, we are continually evolving and looking for ways to do what we do more efficiently—to yield the same or higher output with lesser inputs in time, resources, and effort. One way to do this is to wait for the Eureka! moment and inspiration to strike. But that is far-fetched and requires a lot of waiting around to take small steps ahead.

      However, putting in place a structure for ideation can come in handy for those looking to take giant leaps forward. And that’s where brainstorming ideas can help.

      Let’s have a look at how to brainstorm ideas more creatively and effectively. But before that, let’s dive deeper into understanding brainstorming.

      What Is Brainstorming?

      Brainstorming is an excellent tool for ideation, out-of-the-box thinking, and creative problem solving without criticism or judgment.

      Meriam Webster’s dictionary defines brainstorming as “a group problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous contribution of ideas from all members of the group; the mulling over of ideas by one or more individuals in an attempt to devise or find a solution to a problem.”[1]

      Three things stand out here:

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      1. Spontaneous contribution – Brainstorming allows individuals to share crazy, far-fetched, out of the box half-baked ideas. It does not have to be thoroughly thought out yet at the ideation stage.
      2. All members – Brainstorming is a technique where taking in diverse opinions can improve ideating offbeat solutions.
      3. Find a solution to a problem – It is fundamentally goal-oriented towards one thing—solving the issue at hand. Without a clear problem statement, brainstorming ideas will not yield effective results.

      Broadly speaking, brainstorming is synonymous with the idea-generating process that creatively solves problems.

      You Can Brainstorm Ideas on Your Own

      It is common to think that brainstorming is effective only in groups and cannot be done individually. However, that is not entirely true. Studies have shown that although both approaches have their pros and cons in catalyzing idea generation, people are more creative when they brainstorm on their own than in groups.[2]

      Individually, one is empowered to flexibly work at their pace and drive idea generation. They can set their own time and place and ideate when one is at their creative best. Additionally, there is no fear of judgment when brainstorming individually.

      On the other hand, group brainstorming holds a sacred place in innovating in workplaces. Here, you can take advantage of the diverse experience, perspectives, and creativity of all team members to ideate and develop offbeat solutions that offer outstanding results.

      Is Brainstorming Effective?

      Brainstorming delivers tremendous value, from providing innovative and offbeat ideas that would have never occurred in the ordinary course of work to building a culture of collaboration and team spirit. Here are some reasons why brainstorming is effective and beneficial.

      1. Goes Beyond Creative Blocks

      Brainstorming ideas can help individuals and teams move forward when they find themselves creatively stuck. Inspiration is hard to come by, and brainstorming is an excellent approach to access on-demand creativity without the pressure of getting it right the first time.

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      2. Encourages Divergent Thinking

      By leaving no idea behind, brainstorming can help explore diverse ideas and alternatives to grow. Brainstorming ideas offers a judgment-free space to think of as many possibilities as you can until you’re convinced of the way forward.

      3. Supports Team Building

      Compared to other techniques, you create a relaxed and informal ambiance to brainstorm ideas that encourage open participation among team members. People are offered the space to share their opinion and points of view without fear of judgment, strengthening the camaraderie among team members. Frequent brainstorming sessions instill the spirit of collaboration and help teams to rely on each other’s strengths to deliver improved results.

      How Does It Work?

      Brainstorming ideas involves 4 crucial stages:

      1. Identifying the central problem or goal: This stage defines the critical purpose for brainstorming ideas.
      2. Idea Generation: An avenue permitting free-flowing generation of ideas.
      3. Developing the idea: Deep dive into the ideas produced and build upon them.
      4. Idea evaluation: Evaluating the top ideas towards its efficacy in solving the central goal or issue.

      The process is structured to allow consideration of varied ideas objectively to achieve the solution to the critical problem at hand.

      ProTips to Brainstorm Ideas Effectively

      Here are a few #ProTips to brainstorm ideas creatively and effectively.

      • Welcome wild ideas: Make sure you encourage offbeat and non-linear ideas. The more diverse the ideas produced in the ideation stage, the better it is to allow for innovative solutions to come forth.
      • Plan ahead: Allow people to think by themselves before the brainstorming session. This tip ensures that people are allowed sufficient time to mull over the problem statement and come prepared to ideate on tackling the issue.
      • Goal-tending: As you navigate the ideation stage, focus on the central goal or problem. It is natural to stray away while opening up the forum for ideas. So, it is essential to remind the teams on the problem statement to keep the discussions relevant and identify the best solution.
      • Record everything: Record all ideas, not just the good ones. This rule is fundamental to capture all probable ideas in the ideation stage. Make sure that every single idea generated is systematically captured regardless of how useful it is. Additionally, permit one conversation at a time to ensure all thoughts are given consideration and are not missed out in parallel discussions.
      • Judgement-free: Creating a no-judgment space encourages people to speak up and express their opinions freely. Keeping judgments aside can help continue the flow of ideas and encourage teams to build and develop each other’s thought processes. One idea could spark another, leading to much more effective solutions.
      • Defer evaluation: Refrain from evaluating ideas in the ideation stage. Hold the assessments till the evaluation stage for the best results. All ideas hold some potential so enforce the no assessment rule until all the ideas are captured, tabled, and developed. Alex Osborn, who conceptualized the brainstorming technique, recommends “defer judgment” as the golden rule to brainstorm effectively.[3]

      How to Use Brainstorming Effectively on Your Own

      Here are a few tips for brainstorming ideas effectively on your own:

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      1. Ground Yourself

      Make sure to ground yourself by meditating or practicing any other mindfulness technique to ensure your entire presence before brainstorming. You could also choose a time and place when you’re most active and energetic for the best results.

      2. Minimize Distractions

      Choose a time where you can focus entirely on brainstorming ideas for the problem at hand. Minimize distractions and create space for paying 100% attention in ideating solutions.

      3. Go Wild

      Individual Brainstorming does not have worries about other’s judgment and offers a safe space to ideate as many crazy or wild ideas as they come. There’s no worry about egos or team dynamics either. So, the brainstorming can be focused on solving the core issue.

      4. Use Mind maps

      To keep the chain of thought as you brainstorm ideas, you can use mind maps to arrange, assimilate, and develop concepts further. Word association, prompts, or even visual cues can come in handy to ideate across the spectrum.

      5. Take a Break Before Evaluating

      Don’t go into assessments and evaluations right after you ideate. Take a break. Do something completely different before you consider the ideas to be objective and unbiased. Keep the overarching goal in mind to filter the best possible outcomes. You could also narrow it down to the top 2 to 3 ideas and run it past your mentors or colleagues to get unbiased opinions from trustworthy sources.

      How to Use Brainstorming Effectively in a Group

      Here are a few tips for brainstorming ideas effectively in a group:

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      1. Diversity

      Form groups across functions to bring in different perspectives as you brainstorm together. Ensure that the individuals chosen are equally vested and aligned towards the shared goal to achieve maximum results. You could also brainstorm with a complete outsider to get a fresh perspective on a problem that you’ve been stuck with for a long time.

      2. 6-3-5 Technique

      You can adapt the 6 people coming up with 3 ideas every 5 minutes to keep the ideation momentum going. You can get over 100 ideas in 30 minutes using this approach.

      3. Challenge Bad Ideas

      Ask team members to write down the craziest and most ludicrous ways to solve the problem. Then challenge other team members to make changes to flip a bad idea into a good one.

      Final Thoughts

      Brainstorming ideas is an excellent way to creatively identify the best way forward. It provides structure to unstructured thinking and delivers immense value to individuals and organizations to think beyond the conventional norms. Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ve picked up a thing or two to help you brainstorm ideas effectively.

      Featured photo credit: Leon via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Merriam-Webster: brainstorming
      [2] MindTools: Brainstorming
      [3] The Heart of Innovation: Why You Need to Defer Judgment During the Ideation Phase of a Brainstorming Session

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