11 Creative thinking activities for employees

Published: 09/23/2020
11 creative thinking exercises

Brainstorming is a great way to pick everyone’s brain and come up with new, exciting ideas.

But we are all familiar with the usual way of doing things. You go to a meeting room, you crack a few jokes, then you start a chaotic rant, a mindless stream of consciousness. Everyone is shouting. That one person who probably has really great ideas but refuses to participate for some reason is just being quiet and further discouraged once again.

Is anyone even taking notes?

The next day, you don't even remember what you talked about. Stimulating your creativity is important but it means nothing without taking action.

Let us tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a naturally creative person who had brilliant ideas but never acted upon them. And then, there was his colleague who wasn’t as creative but followed through with their ideas. After a while, Follow-through guy advanced in his career and was quite successful while Naturally-creative guy never left his boring desk job to pursue greatness.

“Well, how else are we supposed to come up with brilliant ideas?”

11 creative thinking exercises

How about a few exercises to spark creativity? Look, there is nothing wrong with the good old brainstorming format but there are plenty of other ways to approach generating ideas.

Have you ever considered that there are creative ways to be creative? And come up with creative ideas? Creativity is a lazy beast so you have to poke it in various ways in order to make it roar with the rage of brilliance and inspiration.

Here Office Topics will look at some alternative creativity exercises for business and creatives that you can try the next time you are brainstorming at the office.

Chain writing

This is one of the best exercises to increase creativity. Present your team with a problem. For example, how do we grow the company by 20% in the next 6 months?

Then take a piece of paper, write down your ideas, and pass it to the person next to you. They read your ideas and write down their own suggestions.

Then they pass it to the next in line and so on. In the end, you have a list of ideas that you can consider and see what would work for your company.

The great thing about this method is that everyone can contribute, even the shy members of the team who rarely raise their voices.

Even those individuals who do not speak up because they are afraid that their ideas might be considered stupid.

Reverse thinking

Did you know that big corporations hire hackers to test their security?

Basically, they pay to be hacked in order to figure out their weaknesses. Now, how can we apply this to your endeavors?

Ask yourself what are your biggest challenges. What are the reasons that prevent you from reaching your goals? And figure out what conditions brought forth said reasons.

Or, what actions would you take if suddenly a big competitor appeared on the market out of the blue? How would you adapt to the situation?

Based on your answers, you can come up with actionable steps that are applicable now.

Connection finding

connection finding

Here is one of the more popular creative thinking warm-up exercises. The next time you are having a meeting to discuss brilliant ideas, bring some random items with you.

Pick two of the seemingly unconnected items and ask everyone to figure out the connection between them.

Let’s say you are discussing a Rubik's cube and a metal gas lighter.

Make a list of the things that connect them. For example:

  • Made on Earth
  • By humans
  • List of practical applications
  • Etc.

Then choose two or more concepts you are working on and figure out the connections between them. This exercise can help see aspects of your work that are not so obvious.

Alternative leaders

Here is one of the more fun creativity games that you can play with your colleagues. What would your team do if it was led by Batman? Or Elon Musk?

Choose a fictional character or a real person that would fit well into what you are trying to do and think of the outcome.

The best part is that you can pick anyone you like and the possibilities are endless. You will be able to come up with some wacky ideas. Not all of them will be doable but some might just work.

Wishful thinking

Present your team with a problem and tell them to imagine that they have unlimited resources.

What would they do to come up with a solution if they had access to vast amounts of money, connections, and power?

Write down their ideas and discuss them. Try to break down their ideas to figure out what obstacles you are facing. How would their ideas look like if they were scaled down?

Direct the answers and see what aspects of them could be applied to your current capabilities. You might stumble into actionable ideas in your wish world.

Six thinking hats

Creative challenges require creative thinking but you can’t ignore the facts, difficulties, and dangers ahead of you. So here is a very helpful method that was presented by Edward de Bono in his book Six Thinking Hats in 1985. Basically, an idea is approached through six different modes of thinking represented by each hat.

  • The Blue Hat of Logic - Facts
  • The Yellow Hat of Optimism - Values and benefits
  • The Black Hat of Pessimism - Difficulties and dangers
  • The Red Hat of Emotion - Feelings and intuitions
  • The Green Hat of Creativity - Possibilities and new ideas
  • The Purple Hat of Management - Compliance

You can use the method to have a very entertaining brainstorming session. Just assign the hats to team members and start a discussion. This will allow you to approach a project from various angles.


strengths weaknesses opportunities threats

S.W.O.T. stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It's among the basic creative thinking exercises for entrepreneurs used for creating a business model. But it can also be used as a helpful method to explore new ideas.

For example, if you are doing a SWOT analysis on a new marketing campaign, ask your team what they like about it (strengths), what is unappealing about it (weaknesses), how could it be improved (opportunities), and how does it hold up against your competitors (threads).

The Early Draft

You have a new project at hand and you feel like you have no idea where to start from. This is where the early draft comes into play.

Basically, you need to make 4 different lists that include:

  1. What you know about the matter.
  2. What you should research.
  3. The reasons this is important and logical.
  4. Free-write some ideas, whatever comes to mind naturally.

The early draft of your project will look messy and confusing. But this is exactly the point.
It is just a tool that helps you put what you already know on paper and gets your gears moving.

Word clusters

While this may seem to you like a fancy way to call word associations, there is more to this method because it forces you to dig deeper.

Word association is often limited to a small string of words but clusters force you to go into details and become very granular.

So, take a project or an idea and describe it with 4 different keywords. Let those be the pillars of your clusters.

Now, surround your pillars with terms that come naturally close to mind. Don't stop until you have at least 10 terms in each cluster. This way you will end up with 4 lists that may include important points that eluded you in the past.

Visual thinking

creative visual thinking exercises

How about some creative exercises for designers? You can still benefit from drawing things, even if you are not a designer or an illustrator.

Next time you're brainstorming, bring paper and pencils. Focus on a concept and draw an image that you associate with what you are trying to achieve. Then pass the paper to the next person and let them draw something.

In the end, you will have plenty to talk about. Examine the drawings and try to evaluate the connections that have been formed. You might stumble upon some brilliant ideas by introducing some visuals into your brainstorming sessions.

Scripting and storyboards

This is among the basic creativity exercises for writers but it can be used by anybody.

Imagine that you and your team are characters in a movie who are trying to achieve something. What would the script be and how would you represent these ideas through a storyboard.

Each section of the storyboard should represent a crucial step that you need to take in order to complete your project.

Key takeaways

  • Traditional brainstorming is stale and boring.
  • There are many alternative creative thinking activities for employees you can use.
  • Some allow you to approach problems from different perspectives.
  • Some methods might seem silly at first but they will help you think outside the box.
  • Propose any of the methods described above to make your brainstorming session more engaging and productive.
Written by:
Office Topics Logo 2 White
galin office topics square
co-founder / office worker
Alex has been an office worker for more than 10 years. He is dedicated to helping other office workers to achieve the perfect life-work balance through well-being, effective communication, and building productive habits.

Related Office Topics

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram