Learning to Think What No One Else Thinks

Does thinking what no one else thinks mean you must be 100% original? Not in our minds. Do you ever wonder what makes those wacky, creative types tick?

How is it that some people seem to come up with all kinds of interesting, original work while the rest of us trudge along in our daily routines?

Don’t believe you are creative? Creativity is often defined as the ability to connect ideas that are seemingly unconnectable. Connecting ideas are how new ideas originate … it is the basis for creativity.

Related: How You Can Improve Creative Thinking Skills by Adding Constraints

Contrary to what most people believe, creativity is not limited to the gifted ones of the population. It can be taught, nurtured, and enhanced.

Let’s examine these interesting questions.

Creative people are different because they operate a little differently. They:

Build on others

One of the misunderstandings around creativity is that you have to be utterly original to do it. Yet the truth is all creative people stand on the shoulders of those who came before. Writers learn to write by reading, painting students are sent to museums to copy the masters, while great chefs learn the already tested basics of cooking in order to create some new dish.

Innovation stands on a platform that already exists. Yes inspiration is involved, those flashes of insight, the ah…ha moments. Yet you start with something that already exists and takes it to another level. So relax. Let go of thinking you have to do something original. Take the pressure off. Celebrate that there is all this help available.

Question everything

Want to think what nobody has ever thought? Start by questioning all assumptions.

There comes a moment in time where everyone agrees with everybody about pretty much everything. For any sized organization that is focused on creating a culture of relentless innovation, hardened dogma is an innovation obstacle they must overcome.

And that starts best with questioning everything, assumptions included.

Pay attention to patterns

Treat patterns as part of the problem. Recognizing a new pattern is very useful, but be careful not to become part of it.

Observe with all senses

Truly creative people have developed their ability to observe and to use all of their senses, which can get dull over time. Take time to “sharpen the blade” and take everything in.

Incubate ideas

Let your ideas “incubate” by taking a break from them. For example, when I’m working on a big business project, one of the best things I can do to take a break from it is to listen to music or watch TV for a while. It shifts my brain to another place and helps me be more innovative and creative.

Continuous learning

Both creativity and innovation are based on knowledge. Therefore, you need to continually expand your knowledge base. Read things you don’t normally read as often as you can.

Defer judgment

Your perceptions may limit your reasoning. Be careful about how you’re perceiving things. In other words, defer judgment.

Widen your experiences

Experience as much as you can. Exposure puts more ideas into your subconscious. Actively seek out new and very different experiences to broaden your experience portfolio.

Reset problem definition

Redefine the problem completely. One of the lines I’ve been sharing for the past few decades is: “Your problem is not the problem; there is another problem. When you define the real problem, you can solve it and move on.” After all, if you had correctly defined the real problem, you would have solved it long ago because all problems have solutions.

Look for what is not easily seen

Look where others aren’t looking to see what others aren’t seeing.

Be curious

Ask lots of questions, but suspend early judgment on the answers. Try and connect the dots as you go.

Take challenges and risks

Be a risk taker and continually push your boundaries. Don’t worry about mistakes. Accept failures. Fearlessness is absolutely necessary for creative work, because of the possibility of rejection.

Anything new requires a bit of change, and most of us don’t care for change that much.

Immerse yourself

Put yourself deep into the topic at hand. Focus with no multiplexing.

Be able to overlook rules

Rules, to the creative person, are indeed made to be broken. They are created for us by other people, generally to control a process; the creative person needs freedom in order to work.

Ask “what if…”

Seeing new possibilities is a little risky because it means that something will change and some sort of action will have to be taken. Curiosity is probably the single most important trait of creative people.

Push the boundaries of mistakes

A photographer doesn’t just take one shot, and a composer doesn’t just write down a fully realized symphony. Creation is a long process, involving lots of boo-boos along the way. A lot goes in the trash.


The hermit artist, alone in his garret, is a romantic notion but not always an accurate one. Comedians, musicians, painters, chefs all get a little better by sharing with others in their fields.

Try new paths

Stepping off the beaten path may be scary, but creative people do it. Children actually do this very well but are eventually trained to follow the crowd.

Experiment often

Combining things that don’t normally go together can result in brilliance or a giant mess. Trial and error are necessary for the creative process.

Mike Schoultz is a digital marketing and customer service expert. With 48 years of business experience, he consults on and writes about topics to help improve the performance of small business. You can find him and his writing on G+, Facebook, Twitter, Digital Spark Marketing, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.