Some people tend to think more analytically, while some are creative thinkers by nature. Is creativity an important skill for solving problems? In this lesson, we’ll learn the differences between creative and analytical thinking and discover ways to nurture creative thinking. Consider this question: How many different arrangements can there be of the letters in the word cat? How did you go about answering it? You probably either worked out the possibilities by hand (cat, cta, act, atc, tca, tac), or, if you’ve studied how to solve problems of combination and permutation in math class, you might have applied a mathematical formula called a factorial.

Three factorial is equal to three, times two, times one, because any factorial is that number multiplied by all the numbers down to one (3! = 3 x 2 x 1). At any rate, this question has one correct answer: there are six possible arrangements of the three letters.People who are good at answering questions with a single correct answer are said to have high analytical intelligence.

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Now consider this scenario: you want to sit at a given table, but the only available chair at the table is broken; the chair only has three legs. What can you do with the broken chair to be able to sit at the table?How did you go about answering this question? How many possible solutions did you imagine?Unlike our first question, this second one has no single ‘correct’ answer. Maybe you’d find something to serve as the fourth leg, or otherwise repair the chair. Maybe you’d prop the chair against a leg of the table to help stabilize it in some way.

Maybe you’d move the broken chair out of the way, and pull up something else to sit on. Coming up with multiple solutions to a single problem is known as divergent thinking. Divergent thinking has been linked to creativity, or the ability to come up with new and valuable ideas.Although some psychologists have argued that IQ tests focus too much on analytical intelligence and ignore creativity, people who score well on intelligence tests tend do well on tests that are specifically designed to assess creativity. This supports Charles Spearman‘s theory of general intelligence, which is a general level of intelligence that remains steady across a variety of mental tasks.Like other aspects of intelligence, the origins of creativity are not wholly understood. But we do know a few things that nurture it.

Practicing divergent thinking has been shown to at least temporarily increase creativity. Achieving expertise in a given subject also encourages creativity. Sometimes creative ideas seem to come out of nowhere, but studies show that people are usually experts on the topic for which they generate creative ideas. These areas of expertise are often of intrinsic interest to them; they are experts in them because they want to be, not because they have to be. Finally, creative people also possess willingness to take risks; they don’t let the possibility of failing or being wrong prevent them from trying.Creativity is an important skill because real-world problems require both analytical intelligence and divergent, creative solutions. Some problems have a single correct answer; others are far more open-ended.

Some people think of both intelligence and creativity as fixed quantities. But studies have shown that we can improve our skills in these areas. Encouraging increased communication between brain hemispheres has been found to improve creativity. Facilitating this communication is as easy as moving our eyes back and forth without moving our heads.

Analytical intelligence and divergent thinking are two different approaches to problem solving. Analytical intelligence helps us to solve problems that have single correct answers (like how many ways you can rearrange the letters in cat), and divergent thinking cultivates the appreciation of multiple possibilities (like the many ways you can solve the problem of the broken chair). Divergent thinking is associated with creativity. Aside from divergent thinking, expertise, intrinsic motivation and willingness to take risks can all help to nurture creativity.

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