When talking about the different types of thinking of the human brain, many people use terms such as critical thinking and creative thinking interchangeably. Some believe that these terms mean the same. However, that’s not the case at all. Critical thinking and creative thinking are as different as chalk and cheese. Yes, thinking is a mental activity that involves lots of work for your brain. However, what you think depends on which part of the brain you use for the process.
This article will give you some of the key differences between critical thinking and creative thinking. After reading this, you will know that you shouldn’t use one in place of another.
The basic difference
Before we get into the details of the differentiating factors, here is the basic difference you should know between these two terms. Creative thinking, as the name suggests, is a process that helps you think differently and come up with totally new and out-of-the-box ideas. On the other hand, critical thinking is a process where you process and analyze existing ideas to come up with deeper and more detailed ideas than before. There is no innovation or creativity involved here.
Some other key differences
Which part of the brain is used?
Creative thinking helps you generate new ideas and thoughts. The right hemisphere of the brain is responsible for creativity, free-flowing thoughts, imagination, and the like. Therefore, for creative thinking, you use your right brain to come up with ideas that are out of the world.
Critical thinking involves dwelling on the details and analyzing existing ideas like never before. The left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for analysis and decision-making. Hence, you use the left brain to assess the existing ideas and identify their real worth or validity.
Is there logic involved?
We all think that all decisions need to be made logically. However, that’s not the case always. Logic may not work all the time. Sometimes, we should just go by our gut feeling, also known as intuition. Great leaders follow their intuitions while making crunch decisions, instead of relying on logic. That’s how creative ideas are formed. So, there is no room for logic in creative thinking because the process heavily depends on one’s intuition.
Critical thinking, on the other hand, is a structured and detailed process that depends a lot on logic. Critical thinkers spend a lot of time on the logical side of the existing problem to arrive at solutions. All their analyses, statistics, and research are entirely dependent on logical thinking.
What about reality and practicality?
In the processes of critical thinking and creative thinking, reality and practicality have different meanings. A creative thinker always focuses on the question, “why not” when thinking about extraordinary and out-of-the-box ideas. He may not be very realistic while he churns out creative ideas in his mind; however, he is confident about implementing them practically in the future.
On the contrary, a critical thinker focuses on the question, “why” while making analytical decisions. Reality, reasonability, and practicality are very important for him to come up with solutions for his problems. Before making a decision, he analyzes all the possibilities in detail. He has enough reasons for why a certain decision needs to be made at a particular time.
How important are existing rules and standards?
One of the major differences between critical thinking and creative thinking is the way these processes look at existing rules and standards. Creative thinkers are always rule-breakers. They come up with out-of-the-world solutions for different scenarios because they don’t accept the existing norms in place.
On the other hand, critical thinkers give a lot of value and respect to the existing standards and rules. They abide by the rules and always follow a proper structure when arriving at decisions. They think from their minds and come up with practical solutions unlike creative thinkers, who think from their hearts.
Convergent vs. divergent process
When you analyze the differences between critical thinking and creative thinking, you might read that critical thinking is a convergent process, whereas creative thinking is a divergent process. Here is a brief explanation of these terms, so that you exactly know what drives these two types of thinking. Critical thinking is convergent because it is a well-defined process. The thinker asks the relevant questions, analyzes all the pros & cons, observes previous patterns, and comes up with analytical solutions.
On the other hand, creative thinking is a divergent process. This is because the thinker considers or generates different solutions for the same issue. The thinking process is open-minded, and the thinker is curious, anxious, intuitive, and spontaneous while making these decisions. He is also open to taking risks and bearing the consequences of decisions taken based on his gut feeling.
The entire process
Critical thinking is a verbal process, with lots of data and statistics involved. A lot of attention is given to detail in this type of thinking. Creative thinking, on the other hand, depends on visuals and imagination. There is no structure or format involved in this type of thinking. This is exactly why it is a non-judgmental type of thinking as well.
Unlike critical thinking, which is a close-ended process, creative thinking is an open-ended and subjective process that varies from person to person. A creative thinker doesn’t follow any previous patterns or logic; he only speculates on certain decisions based on his instant intuitions. He thinks laterally and arrives at spontaneous solutions, which he thinks can be possible in the future.
In short, creative thinking is an imaginative process, and there is no end to it. You can stretch your visualizations to any extent you want, which is why this type of thinking can be of great help to poets, writers, actors, and more. Critical thinking, on the other hand, depends on data, facts, patterns, and logic. It is a structured and well-defined process, as a result of which it is used mostly by businessmen and entrepreneurs.