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Innovation Cafe Podcast

In this episode, Sandie Glass, host of the Innovation Cafe Podcast, shares the differences in thinking styles between Creative Thinkers and Critical Thinkers and which you should include in your innovation efforts.

Creative thinking is sometimes referred to as right brain thinking. It involves creating something new or original.

Critical thinking is sometimes referred to as left brain thinking. It involves logic and reasoning. This is what is taught through our education system so it’s the most prevalent style of thinking.

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Hi and welcome to Innovation Café. You’re about to listen to Episode 3, where we will be talking about Creative Thinkers and Critical Thinkers. I’m going to explain the difference between the two, sharing the skills each thinking style has, and helping you determine who you should include in your innovation efforts.  So don’t go away, I’ll be right back.

When I take on an innovation project, we begin by committing to a date and then determining the participants that will be attending so we can get the brainstorming day on everyone’s calendar. Inevitably, the client will tell me that not many people from their team are very creative, so we may need to supplement with outside people. I’d like to clear up any misconceptions about creative thinkers versus critical thinkers to help you determine what type of team is better to assemble when it comes to creating those Big Ideas. Here are the primary differences.

Creative thinking is sometimes referred to as right brain thinking.  It involves creating something new or original. It involves the skills of flexibility, originality, fluency, elaboration, brainstorming, modification, imagery, associative thinking, attribute listing, metaphorical thinking, and forced relationships. The aim of creative thinking is to stimulate curiosity and promote divergence. Creative thinking questions everything – and you’ll find this mindset when dealing with qualitative and ethnographic research moderators, innovators and entrepreneurs, design partners and advertising agencies.

  • Moves thought away from a single answer
  • Generates more possibilities
  • Looks at what is possible
  • Suspends judgment


Critical thinking involves logic and reasoning. It  includes skills such as comparison, classification, sequencing, cause/effect, patterning, webbing, analogies, deductive and inductive reasoning, forecasting, planning, hypothesizing, and critiquing. It’s sometimes referred to as Left Brain Thinking. This is what is taught through our education system so it’s the most prevalent style of thinking.

Critical thinking mimics the well-known method of scientific investigation: a question is identified, a hypothesis formulated, relevant data sought and gathered, the hypothesis is logically tested and evaluated, and reliable conclusions are drawn from the result.

  • Convergent toward a single answer
  • Reducing possibilities
  • Looking for the likely correct answer
  • Remaining objective in thought


So now that I’ve armed you with the differences in thinking styles, What type of team is better to assemble when it comes to creating those Big Ideas? While one might think that all you need is a team of creative thinkers, you actually need both thinking styles to be successful. If you’ve heard the expression Right Brain Left Brain, then you know that we all have the capacity to think both ways, although one side of our brain may be more dominant than the other. While many stages of the innovation process may seem like one thinking style is more preferable than the other, the truth of the matter is that both thinking styles are needed throughout ALL stages of the innovation process.

Let me explain why. Before approaching an innovation project, you need to set both the objective and the guardrails for ideation – which is done by analyzing the problem. That is critical thinking. Then you go into an ideation session to generate possible solutions – that involves creative thinking. Next, you select the top “best solutions” from all of the ideas created using some form of metrics or success criteria – again, using critical thinking. So basically, throughout the process, you are alternating or toggling between critical and creative thinking where both kinds of thinking operate together much of the time, and not really independent of each other.

I have found that most people are very effective at straddling both thinking styles when given guidance on the creative piece. But there are always exceptions. That’s why being selective in choosing your innovation team is so important for the success of your project. Assemble a diverse innovation team that is not only multi-functional but has a good mix of thinking styles to best tackle your business challenge. If your left brain is taking over and wants to know “how do you know people’s thinking styles,” I typically just use my judgment based on personality and role in the organization. But if that doesn’t work for you, there are several tests available to determine dominant thinking styles. Two that I’ve personally used are the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking and the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI)

And that’s our show for today – and Thanks for listening. If you like what you’ve heard please go to iTunes and subscribe to the Innovation Café podcast. And while you’re at it, please give me a Rating & a Review. This will make it easier for other to find this podcast. Plus, you’ll be automatically entered to win a $25 gift card to Target or Starbucks. We will be announcing a winner each month for at least 3 months to celebrate the launch of Innovation Café. So make sure you get yourself entered.

And make sure you tune in next week where we will be discussing the Different Types of Innovation and which one you should consider for your next Product & Services project. Until then, I’m wishing you blue skies and great ideas!