If you can’t think critically, you can’t think creatively. And if you can’t think creatively, you can’t produce compelling content and copy.
To think creatively, we need to step outside the framework of what we see or hear. We have to observe, ask questions and analyze so that we can open up new thoughts and ideas on old matters or commonly-accepted arguments.
Just what is critical thinking? It generally means analyzing statements and determining their validity in support of a conclusion.
Here’s a great example of critical thinking that led to creative exploration:
Some fool once said, “The earth is round!” People shot down that conclusion without even looking at the supporting premises. “Of course it isn’t,” they shouted back. “That makes no sense!” Others tried to refute the claims. “The Earth can’t be round,” they put forth. “The ground is flat. See?”
But the believer pointed out that there was a slight curve to the horizon. The world wasn’t flat. He set aside his biases and opened his mind to analyzing what he’d been told all his life. Why should he believe it? What made it true? What made it false?
He asked questions and demanded proof. He examined the arguments of authorities who made sweeping statements and claims that didn’t hold water. This round-world believer didn’t just refute what others said. He brought up premises to support his own ideas.
He was thinking creatively, and then he took world-changing action after critically evaluating his innovative idea.
Critical thinking and creative thinking go hand in hand. Creative thinking means generating ideas and processes; critical thinking evaluates those thoughts, allowing for rational decision.
So how do you think critically to think more creatively? Here are a few quick tips:
Little Details Matter
Pay attention to words like ‘may’, ‘can’, and ‘will’. There’s a huge difference between something that will [insert marvelous benefit here] and something that might do the same. Never accept anything at face value.
Question the Authorities
If a piece of content quotes an expert to help support the argument or conclusion, ask questions. What qualifies the individual to give advice? What credentials does the person have to make claims? Why is he or she an authority on the subject?
Sweeping Away Statements
Over-generalization usually discredits an argument’s validity from the get-go. Knock down sentences that use words like ‘all’ and ‘everyone’. Not all people do, and not everyone knows. More careful wording such as ‘most’ and ‘some’ pass muster more easily.
Scarecrows and Straw Men
Watch out for fallacies. Fallacies are the tricky smoke and mirrors that divert attention from true critical thinking. There are a ton of fallacies, all built to deflect, detract, divert and discredit arguments without really doing so.
Let Down Your Guard
One of the biggest obstacles to creative thinking is bias, also the enemy of critical thinking. Your values, emotions, desires and experiences influence your beliefs and your ability to have an open mind. Set them aside and take the time to ponder information you receive wholeheartedly.
A last note: Be prepared to accept that someone’s arguments are true. Debating validity can be fun; it doesn’t always mean that you’re right. The guy with the ship and the crazy ideas about a round earth went the extra mile (literally) to test his theories. He sought proof for his own ideas and was prepared to face failure (so we assume).
But the explorer had thought long and hard about a creative idea. He wasn’t acting on a whim. He’d applied plenty of critical thinking before sailing out to discover that yes, indeed, the Earth truly is round.