Edward de Bono has been a long time promoter of methodologies which support and encourage people to think more creatively. His early work on Lateral Thinking (1990) is internationally recognised, and revered. DeBono believed that humans utilise pre-determined processes and channels to process routine thought which, although effective , are often somewhat inhibitive, rigid and restrictive. He theorised that if we could utilise parallel channels to process information, this would provide an entirely different perspective on the issue under consideration, and allow us to identify more creative solutions to problems.
In particular De Bono developed the Six Thinking Hats approach, designed either for individual or group use, to explore a topic in a structured way from multiple perspectives. Each hat has a different colour, and associated attitudinal perspective which should be considered in turn. The Six Hats are:-
White Hat: This hat is neutral, and your are encouraged to examine the facts, data, trends etc in an emotional vacuum. How can they be explained?
Black Hat: provides a pessimistic perspective, where you try to identify problems, disadvantages and difficulties.
Yellow Hat: This encourages an optimistic approach, seeking to identify benefits amd plus factors, where you delight in defining the benefits of the topic.
Green Hat: This looks for a fresh perspective, and different new ways of approaching the topic not previously considered. How else might it be explored? Have all angles been considered?
Red Hat: This is the emotional hat, which seeks to captures gut feelings, emotional reactions, hunches etc. How do you feel about this issue? What is your heart telling you?
Blue Hat: This is the Summary Hat, often adopted by the Chairperson, seeking to pull all viewpoints together to form a coherent picture, to prioritise and evaluate identified options.
The basic premis of this approach is that, when considering an issue in some detail, each 'hat' should be worn in turn to consider the problem from markedly different perspectives. This approach at first glance appears fatuous, and can be uncomfortable initially. However, it has the capacity at worst to provide a balanced evaluation of available options in a highly structured way, and at best to provide a powerful tool to provide multiple perspectives.
Edward deBono's numerous books provides an interesting insight into how we can think more creatively. You might also have a look at www.thinksmart.com for further information.