Understanding a way to creatively think

‘Being creative’ is a skill that many companies require employees to be, but sometimes neither the company nor the employee have a basic understanding on how to leverage a creative thinking. For the last few weeks I’ve been taking a Coursera course (On Strategy : What Managers Can Learn from Philosophy – PART 1) and Luc de Brabandere shows a simple but effective way of differentiating when you are thinking about something new or when you are just applying logic or past experiences.

Human beings apply models to solve a problem, i.e. they make a simplification of the problem and try to fit it in a pre-existing box that may have address a similar issue in the past. Basically, when we see a problem in the world, we pick one of the models in our mind and then we come up with a proposal of solution. This is called deduction and is the most common and faster way of thinking, since our brain is ‘lazy’ and tries to follow the shortest path to answer such a question.

However, creating something new goes a way beyond of only applying pre-conceived models. Inventing something is more related to analyze a real-world issue and then come up with a new model for handling that. This is called induction.

Deduction vs. Induction


To exemplify, think on how to categorize the following words:

  • Rio de Janeiro
  • San Clemente
  • Dallas
  • Rome
  • Washington DC
  • Jeffreys Bay
  • Buenos Aires
  • Miami

You may think about separate these cities in two groups: capital or non-capital. Or maybe in US cities and non-US cities. Thinking in this way, you are applying models you have on your mind to solve the problem of categorization and that are widely adopted, what makes your brain bringing them firstly. This exemplifies deduction. However, if you try to think out-of-the-box, you can come up with a new model (at least for you) to separate cities that 1) are in the coast and which name is composed by more than one word and 2) cities that does not satisfy the aforementioned condition. This is an example of induction.

The very first step for creatively thinking may be to understand when you are deducting and when you are inducting, so that you can switch them when necessary. Both deduction and induction are important and compliment each other. Although induction is not the approach adopted by us in most cases, training our mind may help us to be more creative.

If you get interested about this topic, I’d suggest you to take the Coursera course to go deeper. Thank you.