Creative and critical thinking in innovation

Last week I received quite some interesting feedback to my blog about the circular economy. Many of the reactions were about the way to approach the broad concept of the circular economy. Design thinking was suggested, but also it was suggested that the issues in our current economy should not be thought of as problems to be solved, but should be approached as conditions to be managed as if they were a chronic disease.

Looking at the feedback received, there were many creative ideas to make further progress towards a circular economy but there was also reasoning about the issues and ideas. In the innovation literature it is a normal phenomenon that both creative thinking and critical thinking are present. In the discussions I could not really experience that creative thinking and critical thinking was seperate from each other.

Wechsler et al. (2018) however come to the conslusion that there is a relative differentiation and independence (0,28) of creativity and critical thinking. Apparently in practice this does not look always as an independent process.
Further Wechsler et al. (2018) present that not all dimensions of critical thinking and creative thinking are relevent as is shown in the picture below.

Creativity Critical

The picture shows that critical thinking is highly correlated with practical reasoning, decision making and problem solving. It is less correlated with deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning (abstract reasoning). In the feedback I received it was quite the opposite. Perhaps critical thinking depends on the topic and/or the people involved. The topic of the circular economy is very abstract and was discussed with academics and professionals.

The presented outcome of creativity looked quite familiar to me with higher correlations in regard to Fluency (total number of ideas) and Originality (rarity), and lower correlations for Elaboration (amount of detail) and Flexibility (different categories).

My personal conclusion is, that from an innovation perspective it is not of the greatest importance if creative thinking and critical thinking are independent or not. Also the outcome on the specific vcorrelations between all dimensions of creativity and critical thinking is not that important. I think the deeper understanding of creative and critical thought processes can be helpful in better understanding and managing complex innovation processes.

Norbert Bol


Wechsler, S. M., Saiz, C., Rivas, S. F., Vendramini, C. M. M., Almeida, L. S., Mundim, M. C., & Franco, A. (2018). Creative and critical thinking: Independent or overlapping components?Thinking Skills and Creativity.

Photo by Radoslav Minchev on / CC BY



2 thoughts on “Creative and critical thinking in innovation

  1. Nicolas Dinter (via Linked In) I agree we don’t matter to know if creative & critical thinking are embedded or not . Some people will be more comfortable in being in a creative thinking position from their backgrounds, beliefs… so will be others as critical thinkers. This can lead to great innovation .
    But I believe that originality comes from taking new shoes and follow more difficult paths (i.e. as a critical using a creative path).


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