A List of CREATIVE Thinking Techniques

I have re-posted this article from a website that I have since closed down.

This list is to help introduce you to some creative (divergent) thinking techniques. There is also a list of critical thinking techniques here.


  • Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify (maginfy, minify), Put to another use, Eliminate, Reverse

The 5 W’s and an H

  • Who, What, Where, When, Why and How
  • Classic brainstorming technique that can be used in conjunction with other techniques to help get the ball rolling and make sure you cover all bases.

Visually Identifying Relationships

  • Use 4 (typically) photographs, shown like a slide show. The first one to relax the mind, then the next three to jog ideas, and how the image relates to the problem/opportunity at hand.

Analogical Thinking


  • The use of brainstorming and metaphors to create ideas
    • I.e. This situation is like another situation.
    • Direct analogy
    • Personal analogy
      • Where you become the problem
        • i.e. You are the space where the solution (i.e. bedside storage) will go. What do you see, feel, hear etc.
  • Further Reading


De Bono’s 6 thinking hats

  • Use ‘hats’ to get everyone thinking the same way at an ideas session
  • Further Reading

De Bono’s PO (Provocation Operation)

  • Ask a perfect world question and then ask yourself (or the group) ‘What would that entail?’
  • Further Reading

Random word

  • Taking a random word (for example from a random page in the dictionary) and asking what inferences it has for your challenge/opportunity


  • Continually asking ‘Why?’ to the problem you are facing
  • When you want to start critical thinking, then ask ‘What’s stopping you?’


  • The classic technique used by groups
  • Remember that judgement and evaluation does not happen during the session, only after.

Reverse Brainstorming

  • Reverse the problem so it is the opposite of what you want, come up with ideas that are the opposite, and then at the end of your session reverse back the ideas
    • i.e. How to build a table becomes ‘how not to build a table’
      • Ideas might be ‘build it so tall that you cannot sit at it’, ‘have the surface space so small that you cannot eat or work at it’ etc.
      • Then reverse these ideas. I.e. ‘how to find the perfect height for table’ or ‘how can we maximise the workable space on the table’

Brain Writing

  • Similar to brainstorming, except instead of coming up with ideas as a group, you do it individually on a piece of paper
  • Then the group comes together to evaluate ideas
  • Further Reading

Forced Relationships

  • Suggestions for our problem from other objects
    • I.e. ‘How does a leaf relate to our challenge/opportunity’
      • Answer ‘A leaf only stays on a tree for half the time’- maybe the solution could be one that’s only designed to last for a certain time period.
      • Answer ‘A leaf changes colours’ – maybe the solution could have parts about it that the end-user can change.

Attribute listing

  • Break down problem into separate pieces
    • i.e. a chair, what can the legs do better/differently, what can the backrest do better/differently, etc.

Morphological matrix

  • 2 axis of different things on a grid, then use the combinations

Further Resources

This list would not be possible without:

The Creative Thinkers Toolkit – from the great courses. You can also get it on Audible here. I recommend it as it’s a great resource and insight on creative and critical thinking.