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Cultivate Creativity by Changing How You Think About Thinking

The Creative Challenge book

Maybe you want to think more creatively because you’re a teacher who wants to create fascinating lesson plans your students will actually be excited about. Maybe you want to create a powerful presentation for your writing workshop, product launch or work meeting. Or you need to solve a stubborn problem. Or you dream about designing a jewelry line or penning a children’s book.

There are many, many reasons why you might want to cultivate your creativity. (Another good one is simply because it’s fun!)

In order to think more creatively, it’s important to shake up our thinking. But even more than that, as Tanner Christensen writes in his new book The Creativity Challenge, “creativity requires that you change how you think about thinking.”

In his book Christensen shares 150 prompts or creative challenges to help us access our imaginations and unlock a slew of possibilities. Christensen is a product designer at Facebook and the founder of the popular website “Creative Something.” In The Creativity Challenge, he splits the prompts into five types of thinking:

  • convergent: combining elements of more than one idea or thing (like putting a puzzle together).
  • divergent: taking things apart so you can view the individual parts.
  • lateral: using logic and following steps in order (like solving a math problem).
  • aesthetic: focusing on how an object or idea looks.
  • emergent: naturally ruminating about something (such as what happens when you’re taking a walk or daydreaming).

Below are five of my favorite prompts from The Creativity Challenge for changing how we think about thinking:

  1. Change what’s familiar. Familiarity isn’t very helpful when it comes to imagining different possibilities. That’s why Christensen suggests asking ourselves: What would happen if a part of everyday life changed? He shares these examples: “What would doors look like if you had to laugh at them to open or close them? How would you wear hats if they were all made of concrete? What would books look like if they were written entirely with blue or yellow markers?”
  2. Create a new design. Think about the creative decisions that others have made. For instance, you might consider why a designer used a certain color, or pattern or character for their piece. In this challenge find an ad or book or any other designed object. Spend 10 to 15 minutes contemplating the designer’s decisions. And draw an alternative.
  3. Start with an ending. As realistically as possible, imagine what your ideal day looks like at the end of that day. Then figure out how you can get from that place to where you are right now. “Work backwards within your imagination to outline each step it would take to get from there to here, writing them down to ensure you don’t miss a step.”
  4. Disprove the obvious. Pick something obvious (something that “goes without saying”), and question it. Question it by “taking an opposite view or thinking about what would make it false.” Then try to convince someone that the obvious thing is false using your opposite perspective.
  5. Spend a day smaller. Imagine that you’ve shrunk. In fact, you’ve become 1,000 times smaller. How do you spend your time now? What interesting things do you do? Spend part of the day acting as though you’ve really shrunk to 1,000 times your normal size.

Christensen opens the book with a powerful quote, which speaks to the importance of creativity. It comes from art director, designer and author George Lois: “Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.”

Indeed it does.

Which creative challenges are your favorites from the above? What helps you rethink your thinking and cultivate your creativity? 

Stay tuned this week for more of my favorite creative challenges from Christensen’s book. Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend!

Cultivate Creativity by Changing How You Think About Thinking

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2015). Cultivate Creativity by Changing How You Think About Thinking. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 Aug 2015
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