Why, how and when to use creative thinking techniques
The need for creative thinking keeps cropping up in research - and to some extent in all project work and in everyday life. Research, after all, is a journey into the unknown and it is often not immediately obvious how to handle what turns up.
Two particularly important needs in a postgraduate research programme are in recognising and focusing on significance and originality and in developing a fall-back position or safety net if the project looks unlikely to finish on time. Both these have their own page. They are by no means, however, the only reasons for learning about and practising creative thinking techniques.
Some techniques which facilitate creative thinking are well known and well practised because they are common sense, second nature or fundamental to good research. The best-known example, which tends not even to be thought about as a creative thinking technique, is talking things through with other people. Other techniques are not widely known, which is a pity because they can be very helpful - see the side menu.
The importance of delayed time and leisure for creativity
Do not expect any of the techniques to work instantly for you. What they do is to set the mind thinking, first consciously and then seemingly unconsciously. Then, when thinking about something else, a solution pops into one's mind, seemingly from no-where. There are ample examples of this in the book and you probably can recall it happening to you after talking a problem over or mulling over it in some way.
In order for a creative solution to pop into one's mind, the mind must not be fully occupied with other things. Creativity seems to happen in bed while dropping off to sleep or listening to music or walking or gardening, etc. What this highlights is the importance of taking breaks from work and including leisure activities in one's life.
In other words, do not work all the time!
Creativity and planning
As creativity relies on solutions popping into one's head, it cannot be done to order. You have to prepare your mind by using one or more of the creative thinking techniques and then wait for a creative solution to arrive. Unfortunately waiting causes delays and can play havoc with planning, as there is no way of knowing when the creative solution will strike.
The maxim is to leave as much spare time as possible for tasks which have deadlines. Do not leave them until the last minute.
You will probably feel that some of the creative thinking techniques - see the side menu - may suit you but that others will not. However, it is best not to dismiss any of them immediately. Practise them from time to time, and see which ones prove their worth. You only need one really good solution to a problem or one good idea to set your research off in a viable direction.