Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Critical thinking or Creative thinking?

No! It should be critical thinking and creative thinking.

Some definitions, from Tim Hurson's book Think Better:
  • Creative Thinking: generative, nonjudgmental and expansive. When you are thinking creatively, you are generating lists of new ideas.
  • Critical Thinking: analytical, judgmental and selective. When you are thinking critically, you are making choices.
Experts in both styles of thinking will prefer more nuanced definitions, but these are good enough for my purposes.

Although individuals often excel at one ("she's very creative") or the other ("he has a mind like a steel trap"), the two modes are clearly complimentary. Sometimes they are embodied largely into different roles. For example:
  • Writer (creative), editor (critical): But writers are critical of their own work
  • Architect and client: Here who is being creative and who critical will be fluid depending on the phase of planning or construction
  • Judge (critical), lawyer (both): The lawyer must generate many attacks and defenses (creative), but must select those that appear to best conform to the body of Law and make sense of the Facts to stand a chance (critical)
Techniques (and tools) for mind-mapping had their genesis as creative techniques, at which they excel.

Rationale and bCisive (desktop and online) have their roots in techniques of critical thinking, but lend themselves to both creative and critical visual thinking, by providing convenient facilities for
  • Putting your ideas in boxes (creative)
  • Uncovering and representing relationships (creative and/or critical)
  • Categorizing (mainly critical)
  • Making judgments and choices (critical)
Not only are these tools aids to both kinds of individual thinking, they lend themselves to teamwork around planning, strategizing and trouble-shooting, and subsequent visual communication.

They are strong all-round tools for both critical and creative thinking. And most people need both.

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