Think one step further – the simple hack to be more creative

Do you really lack of “luck”?

Did you have experience like participating an intense BP debate and you tried your best to come up with as many ideas as possible during the limited preparation time. You felt so confident and you thought you had brilliant arguments to support your side. However, you crossed out your points one by one as the debate going. All of a sudden, you found all your ‘brilliant’ ideas were addressed by your upper house and you ended up nothing novel to say when it’s your turn to present your side.

Felt frustrated? Maybe. You might think you were lacking the luck to present in the upper house.

Felt desperate? Maybe. You felt nervous, your mind went blank completely and let alone thinking of new arguments.

You may not have any BP debate experience, however, I believe everyone had encountered similar situations: like feeling all the ideas were spoken by other students and left nothing novel for you to contribute to a group project; having no chance outstanding in a company meeting as all creative ideas were presented by other employers; finding your genius thoughts about a problem were all addressed in previous research works and they did even a better job than you could think of.

At the first sight, it seems to be a time issue: people who speak/write first take all the advantages and leave nothing for others. However, that’s where the creativeness comes in. The core of creativeness is to think of something that no one has ever thought about. It sounds tricky. But, trust me, everyone can learn the method to set mind free and come up with some novel ideas. All you need to know is always thinking one step further.

How to be more creative?

What does ‘always think one step further’ mean? It’s simply asking yourself more questions. For instance, imagine you are given a question like’ why do British vote for Brexit’, instead of answering the questions with ‘they don’t want more refugees coming into England’ you may ask yourself more questions like ‘what the Britain can benefit from the Brexit?’, ‘what risks will Britain take for Brexit?’ and ‘what are the future influences for Brexit?’. By doing so, you can always come up with new thoughts or perspectives to answer the question. Sounds simple but how can we actually enact this question generation process?

Nothing magical here and everyone is able to use this scientific thinking method to generate novel ideas. Simply follow the three steps as shown in Figure 1,

a) Locate the keywords and the relation of the keywords in a question.

b) Diffuse both the keywords and the relation by using them as a centre. For each keyword, try to think about as many aspects related to this keyword as possible. As for the relation, think about general questions that can be inferred from this relation centre.

c) Combine your general question inferred from the centre relation with each aspect related to the keyword and form a more specific question. You will find you have come up with so many perspectives after you answering all those specific questions.

Figure 1: Three Steps to Think Further. (By author)

I will use the aforementioned example to demonstrate how to apply this thinking approach. As shown in Figure 2, firstly we can locate two keywords for this question: ‘Britain’ and ‘EU’ and one relation between them: ‘Brexit’. Then for the keyword ‘Britain’, we can think of its politics, economy, military, citizens as aspects related to ‘Britain’. Likewise, we can think of the motivation or purpose to form ‘EU’, member’s obligations, constrains, and relations among members. In order to diffuse the relation ‘Brexit’, questions like ‘What are the benefits/risks/future influences for Brexit?’ can be asked. Given all these diffused general questions, we are able to generate more specific question by incorporating each aspect of keywords. As the example shown in Figure 2, we may ask ‘Will Brexit have future influence on Britain’s politics/citizens/economy/military?’ By answering these specific questions, we can gain more insights of the reasons why British vote for Brexit.

Figure 2: Example of applying thinking method. (By author)

This thinking method is not just about generating more ideas but a shift in your mind set. It changes the way you perceive a question and gives you an easy-following guideline to think further. Equip your mind with this method and challenge yourself from your next thought.

To learn more about thinking methods:


7 Responses to “Think one step further – the simple hack to be more creative”

  1. Joe says:

    Good topic!
    Just arm ourselves by using a lot of knowledges. Keep healthy,or you will not go further.Stay your mind clear,or it will be at aixes and sevens.Then , have your own confidence!You are the heartbeat of this place,say what you want to say that seems right.

  2. Vivian says:

    Thanks:) Definitely will try it in problem formulation!

  3. Vivian says:

    Thanks for the comment. Hope you find it’s useful when you apply this thinking method to wherever creativeness required.

  4. Vivian says:

    Thanks for your comment. It is exactly the purpose I wrote this post to reach more people and hopefully help them cultivate this thinking habit 🙂

  5. May says:

    It’s a useful method to clarify our thought and avoid generalizations by making abstract concrete and comprehensive. If turn this way of thinking into habit, until the habit is ingrained we will find enormous benefits!

  6. skhalifah says:

    A really useful topic and good explanation of generating ideas’ method. looking forward to applying this approach on upcoming experiences.

  7. Jun says:

    A good way to develop problems. It can be widely used in scientific and technological research.