Creative Flexibility—Thinking Outside the Box

Flexibility is an element to be considered when encouraging creative thought and actions. While fluent thinkers try to come up with many ideas, flexible thinkers look for variety.

Flexible thinkers go beyond the bounds of orthodox thinking and look for alternatives others fail to see. While rules are used as guidelines, they should not be used as straightjackets that curb thinking. Flexible thinkers are those who are able to solve problems creatively.

Flexibility requires that people escape from ruts and try new ideas. These thinkers are able to shift gears easily. They look for new ideas everywhere. They are not afraid of change.

Flexible thinking also can help a person move through difficult situations more easily. Imagine a violent wind. Some of the older trees are large and rigid and stand firm against the gale-force winds, but that same rigidity may also cause them to snap and break. The younger, smaller trees are very flexible. Their coping mechanism for survival is to bend with the wind. This bending gives them resilience, and they are able to withstand great adversity. People are much like the trees. At some time during one’s lifespan, everyone has to endure difficult times. Sometimes it is helpful to be strong and rigid, but other times it is flexibility that allows one to be resilient—to bounce back more quickly—to see that there are choices and that there are different ways to look at problems and solutions—to be creative.

The following are some activities for practicing flexibility:
  • Take a concrete object, such as a table, and have students imagine what it would look like from the point of view of an insect, a baby, an adult, and an elephant.
  • List as many unusual family vacations as possible. The wilder and wackier the better (i.e., taking a trip to the moon, spending time in a cave or underwater sea area, visiting different amusement parks and riding all the roller coasters).
  • Share fairy tales that have been written from different points of view.
  • Read books such as history, biographies, or political accounts that are written from various perspectives and discuss.
  • Think of all the ways you could make it fun to clean your room or do other chores? (i.e., race against a timer, reward yourself every half hour with a small treat, pretend you are preparing for the visit of a queen)
  • When helping to resolve a conflict between students, have each young person analyze the disagreement from the other person’s viewpoint.
  • Give students a list of 50 inventors (or any other group of people, animals, objects). How many ways can they categorize this group? (Examples of categories for inventors: male/female, century in which the inventor lived, types of inventions, native countries, last names that begin with the same letter)
  • Discuss the way one family member’s actions might be interpreted by other members of the household. (Kids being noisy at bedtime might be seen as fun for the children but disturbing for the parents. Mom or dad telling kids to go out and play might feel like a healthy suggestion for the parents but rejection for the youngsters. Kids not wanting to eat certain foods may feel like an exertion of choice for the children but rudeness to the cook.) Try to explore these options in a nonjudgmental manner. You may find the different interpretations interesting.
  • Practice switching activities quickly and efficiently (i.e., school, to home, to piano lessons, to soccer practice, to dinner, to homework, to bedtime).

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