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Creative Thinking

Published onApr 02, 2019
Creative Thinking

Both the rational traditions of mathematical thinking and computational thinking as well as the open and sometimes subjective approaches in design thinking need lateral or creative thinking. Creative problem solving has been seen as a central skill of engineers throughout history, even if there is no consesus on what constitutes creative thinking.

As school historically leaves little room for creativity in places other than art, the expectations of our students are shaped accordingly. We try to break this association with the context of artistic practice by exploring unifying characteristics of creativity across all fields. Based on this discussion we show factors that stimulate or hinder creativity, as well as the areas of informatics where creativity needs to be given room to emerge. For example, many engineers pride themselves of a quick grasp of feasibility when presented with an idea. While this is certainly a useful skill in some situations, it also has the power to quickly shut down creative, outside-the-box thinking through which new and novel ideas can emerge.

This leads us to discuss the concept of reflective practice by Schön (1983) and how reflecting on and in action can help to continuously evolve the practice of students, be it in terms of their learning, their research or within their chosen professional path. This also creates a link back to design thinking where the theory of reflective practice was already used to argue for design as an open process.

We take a brief detour to talk about open source software, and how the culture of FLOSS has changed the views on problem definition and problem solving in computing. Coming back to creativity, we list some of the conditions that help creativity to unfold, such as stopping the noise, minimizing sterss, or an open, trusting environment. We close the chapter with an overview over some of the creativity tools like IDEO method cards, the catalyst kit, or frog design’s collective action toolkit.

Next: responsible thinking

Calls for discussion

  • Where do you think we could improve this chapter? Are we missing essential bits?

  • We always appreciate ideas for exercises that can help students comprehend creative thinking core concepts.

  • Do you have good examples that can be used to explain creative problem solving in other ways of thinking, eg. math, science or computational thinking? What kind of exercises could be derived from these examples?


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