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Jan 1999 Vol. 3   No. 1

........   TECHNOLOGY  ........
IT is Creative
By Ms Cynthia Lau
Management Training Officer
Civil Service College

On 24 October 1998, Associate Professor Ian Smith, with the assistance of Assistant Professor Steven Coombs presented a seminar at CDTL entitled, “The Integration of Creativity and IT in the Teaching of Thinking”. In the following pages, CDTLink presents an essay based on the seminar, as well as a response from Ms Cynthia Lau, a participant of the same seminar.

During his lecture “The Integration of Creativity and IT in the Teaching of Thinking”, Ian Smith presented two examples of how IT can be integrated with the teaching of creativity. The Reflective Log helps one to reflect on points achieved after a task is finished; the Spidergram, a creative thinking conversational template, helps organise one’s thoughts and feelings about a subject matter visually.

However, I believe there are more novel ways of using IT, especially in generating new ideas. A quick search over the Internet yielded me a list of over 50 IT product titles alone with similar applications and features that can be used for such a purpose. What really surprised me was that a few of the applications are in common programmes like MS Word and WordPerfect.

Understanding Creative Thinking

Basically, IT applications used for creative thinking can be classified under the following:

  • Idea Generation, where one creates new ideas, thinks of alternatives, explores possibilities and novel ways of thinking;

  • Idea Evaluation, where one assesses the feasibility of ideas against a list of criteria and chooses the best option;

  • Idea Management, where one organises, records and manages the thoughts and ideas during the thinking process (e.g. the Reflective Log and Spidergram).

For easy recall, just think of Idea GEM. In particular, I wish to feature IT applications that can help generate new ideas, which is what creative thinking is most often used for.

IT Can Generate Ideas!

In teaching creativity, thinking techniques are employed to deliberately force the mind to think in another paradigm. This usually provides the thinker with fresh insights and concepts, which when applied back into the context of the problem, may yield novel solutions. Using the operational principles of these techniques, we can further classify our software list as follows:

Problem Reframing
(e.g. Thesaurus and Dictionary Features in word processors, Paramind)

Rearranging or substituting the words of a problem statement can present new meanings and insights. Standard features in a word processor like MS Word, e.g. thesauruses and dictionaries, can help us in this area. We can achieve the same effect if we use manual dictionaries and thesauruses, but electronic versions are faster and easier for cross referencing. In addition, the programme, Paramind, forms new ideas by “meaningfully exhausting the interaction of words”. It basically generates new text from a given input and expands it logically by using related words. The original idea, modified in several ways, is then presented in a fresh perspective.

Random Selection
(e.g. Ideas Fisher, Innovation Toolbox, Internet Explorer, Netscape)

The use of random words to stimulate the production of new ideas in a short time works on the principle of creating a forced connection. Your mind basically tries to associate the concepts and features of random word to the problem/thought to yield new ideas. By employing the randomizer feature of the computer, software applications have been developed to generate random words for getting new ideas. We can also extend this technique to using pictures, videos and sounds available on the Internet to do a forced connection and to stimulate more creative thinking. One can use a computer programme to suggest a random word or ask a friend to suggest and then search the sites related to that word. By visiting the sites listed, one may find new and interesting ideas along the way.

Asking Questions
(e.g. The Creative Whack Pack, Ideas Fisher, Innovation Toolbox, MindLink)

Asking questions is a useful way to direct the thinker to look at the problem from another perspective, and perhaps even challenge the basic assumptions in the existing paradigm of the problem. The software classified here basically takes in the input from the user and then poses sets of questions and keywords to provoke the person to think of new ideas.

Brainstorming and Group Processes
(e.g. BizIdeas for Windows, Group Systems, Grouputer, The Electric Mind, Simplex)

In brainstorming more ideas and perspectives can be derived through a group process: ideas are not evaluated in order to produce as many ideas as possible, and individuals are encouraged to piggyback on the suggested ideas to come up with new ones. Through the Internet, groups can now brainstorm virtually via resources such as Internet Relay Chat and Online Chat Rooms. There are also several meeting room programmes designed to facilitate the group process more effectively. Some even allow members to key in their ideas simultaneously and anonymously.

IT is the Thinkers’ Assistant

As IT becomes more accessible to everyone, it may seem that the need for man to think for himself decreases. However, the rapid advent of these new technologies in fact forces us to think more creatively and critically as we need to know how to manage, apply and give new meaning to the vast amount of data now available on our desktops. Instead of hindering, IT can increase our creative and thinking capabilities.

NB: This article is not an exhaustive one. For more details, please visit Creativity Web at:




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