By the time we’re done with university, we often think of ourselves as more logical thinkers, not creative ones. Image Credit: Unsplash/Alice Dietrich

When you hit a brick wall in a project and your mind shuts down, have you ever thought to yourself, or said out loud, “I’m just not a creative person…”?

Click start to play today’s Spell It, where we stop trying to find things to ‘blame’ and redirect our energy to thinking more creatively.

Formal education sets us up for more logical thinking. Most questions or problems we’re presented with, in school, ask ‘what’ or ‘how’ questions, with one clear solution. For instance, ‘how many countries are in Africa?’ or ‘what is the chemical symbol for iron?’. This doesn’t help boost creativity.

According to an August 2023 report in the US-based psychology news website Psychology Today, our educational experiences focus on learning the ‘right’ answer – a pre-determined response – and seldom do we have the opportunity to consider there may be a multitude of potential responses.

By the time we’re done with university, we think of ourselves as more logical thinkers, not creative ones. Edward de Bono, Maltese psychologist and author of Six Thinking Hats, who was a proponent of teaching thinking as a subject in schools, hypothesised that when people are faced with a creative challenge, they often resort to an ‘I can never do this’ mindset. This way, they reject the possibility of finding a creative solution, since they don’t have any expertise or experience with it.

Other phrases people might use to avoid looking for creative solutions include ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I’m too busy to do that’, ‘that will take too much time’ or ‘I’m not qualified to do this’. Sounds familiar?

Such statements restrict our ability to solve problems, and limit the opportunity to flex our creative muscles.

Instead, de Bono advocates IWW or ‘in what ways…’ questions. These kinds of questions open up our minds and trigger creative explorations of ideas and solutions. Try it out the next time you’re faced with a creative challenge. You can respond with these kinds of questions:

  • In what ways can I…
  • What if I looked at this from another point of view?
  • What if there is more than one way to figure this out?
  • How would my best friend (or worst enemy) approach this issue?
  • If it were possible, how could I…?

Note that all of these questions are open-ended, and don’t end with a yes or no response. By giving your brain the creative license to explore multiple responses, you’re creating dynamic conversations in your mind. Explore, keep an open mind, and be flexible – and the answers will come.

What do you think? Play today’s Spell It and tell us at