Whether you are by yourself or on a team, creative thinking games are a great tool to expand in your mind in a fun way. These exercises place your mind in unfamiliar territories and require you to use a variety of different parts of the brain to accomplish the goal at hand. Creative thinking games can make you a better leader and allow you the flexibility to create innovative ideas for your company or yourself.
If you are hitting a creative block and not sure where to go, there is an exercise for all types of people. If you are a writer trying to expand on a topic and overcome writer’s block, there is an exercise for that issue. If you are on the marketing team for your firm and not sure how to evaluate a new channel, there is an ideal creative game for that. If you are an artist that wants to think deeper, there is a game for that!
In this article, we examine various games that you can play to develop your creativity. We list out options for when you are by yourself, and other choices for when you are operating on a team. Regardless, try to pick a game that forces you outside your creative comfort zone. By taking on unfamiliar challenges, you can reach a whole new level of thinking that you never thought was possible.
Individual Creative Thinking Games
Although the games listed below can work for groups, these are all games that you can play when you are working by yourself. Self-evaluation is critical here, but it can be useful to do this individually and then compare your results with a partner. The best thing to do here is to record your results and track your progress on the exercises. It is fascinating to track your improvement and applaud yourself.
Look Away While You are Developing Your Creation
In this exercise, you focus on drawing what you see instead of what you think you may see. When you play this game, grab a piece of paper, a pencil, and allow yourself five minutes to complete. When you begin, turn away from the sheet and hold up your non-drawing hand. Then, begin to draw your hand on the paper while focusing only on your hand and not the paper. You cannot pick up your pencil for the time.
When you do this exercise, devote 100% of your attention, the folds, and creases of your hand. Do not draw your whole hand at once, but focus on the small intricacies of your fingers, palm, and knuckles. This exercise gives you an appreciation for the process and not the result. Remain loose throughout the whole activity and make sure to maximize your performance on the small parts and steps.
Complete the Incomplete Figure Challenge
Complete the incomplete figure tests derives from a psychologist named Ellis Paul Torrance. The initial goal of this test was to deliver an enhanced I.Q. analysis with a creative focus attached to it. Whether you look it up online or get it from someone else, you start with an incomplete image. Your goal as an artist is to use your imagination and finish the picture. This exercise can be between five and fifteen minutes.
The significant part about this game is that it can take so many different turns. The beginning of the incomplete image is vague enough to the point where different levels of creativity can transform it into anything. When you score the result, higher points assigned for final products that incorporate vivid and imaginative images, exciting narrative, or enhanced fantasy components.
Complete the Picture
The complete picture creative exercise is an extension of the incomplete figure exercise, except there is more flexibility for variations. You start with the same concept and have a bunch of one-lined scribbles. You give the person a short phrase, which gets picked from a pool. These phrases can list things such as:
- “Here comes trouble.”
- “it’s a beautiful life.”
- “human nature.”
- “where in the world.”
- “and everything was right.”
- “it was a great day until…”
This activity allows the person to complete a photo but take a theme and implement it into a final product. When you choose the phrase, you can write them on scraps of paper and put them in a bowl or hat. Then, you can have the person pick it randomly and apply it to the doodle that they receive. Just like the previous exercise, top scores are given for amazing storylines, implied narratives, and fascinating figures.
Turn Everything Upside Down and Draw
This upside-down exercise motivates you to think deeper about a concept that has remained constant in our whole lie. Start by finding a picture of a person’s face and turning it upside-down. Then, give yourself 15-30 minutes to draw the face just how it is. When you create your drawing, do not see it as a flipped face. Shift your focus to the different shapes, straight and curved lines, angles, and light and dark patches.
We are so used to seeing people’s faces how they are, and we are conditioned to viewing it from this perspective, which can limit us looking for recognizable features. By doing this exercise, you can pave your path and place things where you think they ought to go. When you finish creating the final product, flip it over again, and reflect on what you see. What are the most significant differences that you see?
Focus on Quantity with the Circle Game
This circle exercise game focuses on the quantity of content over quality, which can be useful for creative expression. You start with a piece of paper with 30 blank circles on it. For beginners, you can set the clock for one minute, but if you want to challenge yourself, set it for thirty seconds. Once the clock starts, your goal is to complete and fill as many circles as you can. Do not focus on what you draw, but how many.
You can complete this challenge in many ways because there is no restriction on what you draw in the circles. It can be differentiations of a theme, different emoji expressions. The more critical creative lesson that this game provides is to prohibit yourself from censoring your ideas and speech. Striving for quality blocks you from sharing an opinion. The goal is to put your thoughts out there then improve it later.
Initial idea generation is the stage where creativity flows the fastest. This exercise will shift your mindset to produce many great ideas. In the end, share and reflect on the correlation, similarities, and differences between your collection of circles. You will be surprised at the results that you find!
Find Value in Your Trash
We often see trash as something physical that useless to us. We usually dispose of it and never view something that can produce more value. However, you can always ask yourself: “what else can I do with this?” this exercise allows you to completely reframe your way of thinking toward something that you have consistently paid no attention to your whole life.
For this game, we will primarily redirect your focus from your physical trash can to the junk mail folder on your computer. Take a moment out of your week to go through all your coupons, credit card offers, surveys, and ask yourself how you can create value from these pieces of mail. Create folders in your email and assign the junk mail into different categories of importance.
Perhaps you could compile a spreadsheet of all the coupons that you have thrown away. You can sort it by the vendor and total dollar amount of coupons you have. There might be something that you need for your home or your desk at work and could use a discount on a product that you could use. This exercise expands your mind and creates something from nothing.
Mind maps are for people that are trying to think more creatively about a topic he or she is stuck in. When trying to come up with a lot of ideas at once, mind maps help you gain clarity about an exploratory topic. Our brains often operate through tangents, and mind maps build off this concept. You start with a central idea and then branch off from the theme, depending on where your mind takes you.
The further away you go from the center of the mind map, the deeper you can delve into your mind and retain ideas that could have hidden in any other context. This exercise can take anywhere between 15-60 minutes, and all you will need is a piece of paper and a pencil.
On a more massive sheet of paper, write the central idea, challenge, issue, or topic in the center. Then, draw connections to the primary purpose and branch away throughout the process. You should always ask yourself what you can add that relates to what your original theme is. If you anticipate that thought will lead to a new chapter, make a rectangle or oval around it to mark it. Ask what, how, and why.
Empathy maps are an excellent tool for synthesis of the way people interact with others. This activity could be in a work setting, a family environment, or some other extracurricular environment, such as a sports team. You already went out in the world and searched for knowledge, met different people, listened, and watched. But now, with this game, you can record and think about what you witnessed.
This exercise takes between 30-90 minutes, but you take all the time you need to gain clarity. To start, draw a map on a whiteboard or poster paper with four different quadrants. Label the different sections with the following labels:
Now go through and populate each section with sticky notes on the interesting observations that you took note of from your experience. Use one post-it note per idea, and color code the representations: green for positive, yellow to reflect neutral, and red or pink to symbolize confusion, frustration, or other pain points. You do not need to record all observations but only the main things that stand out to you.
As you go through this exercise, pay close attention to people’s body language, tone, and choice of wording. Notice the small things and the factors that influence people’s lives. What motivates them? What mindsets keep them reaching their full potential? What do they care about or treasure? Draw insights about your map as to what seems surprising, any connections, disconnections, or patterns.
Alternative Uses Game
This activity is another great exercise that focuses on the number of ideas as opposed to the quality of ideas. The goal is to take an ordinary object, like a paper clip, and think of all possible uses for it. Think of the many different methods that the object could be used as a tool or for entertainment. Give yourself two minutes and write down all the possible uses and record the results.
Once you get done, get with a partner or self-evaluate your answers by ranking them according to the four different areas of divergent thinking:
- Fluency – this reflects the number of ideas that you created
- Originality – this component scores you on how common your answers were
- Flexibility – this category scores your results based on how many unique subjects that you covered
- Elaboration – this part details your level of detail in your solutions for the standard object
Group Creative Thinking Games
Group creative thinking games are especially useful in a corporate or business setting. Multiple brains are often better than one, and if your team is working to solve a solution or think of new ideas to advance the vision of the firm, creative thinking games can help you move to the next level. These games can satisfy anywhere from two to ten people, and they are designed to involve everybody in the room.
Word banking is an excellent way for your group to form connections between words, phrases, and concepts that come up consistently throughout a project or challenge. Think of 5-10 themes and topics, and then assign any word, phrase, product, or idea to these themes. The goal is to help you dissect a project into smaller, more manageable components. It is like a mind map, except that you work backward.
Word banking enables your team to create links between the words and phrases you come up with. Then, you synthesize these connections to develop innovative ideas that incorporate your more essential phrases. It helps you gain clarity, simplify your idea generation processes, and organize your word bank.
The SCAMPER game pushes your team outside its comfort zone and look at your issue or problem uniquely and unexpectedly. You have the convenient ideas and systemized process of doing things, but this game forces you to ask questions that dig deeper and consider new pathways. It is designed to question and challenge the status quo and look at a typical concept from a variety of different angles.
The for each letter in the SCAMPER acronym, as a relevant question about your project, process, or issue:
- Substitute – what happens if we exchanged x for y?
- Combine – what would result if we combined or mixed both x and y?
- Adapt – if we were to implement this project in a different context or environment, what changes would we need to make?
- Modify – when looking at the result of this project, what other ways can we apply it besides the original intent?
- Eliminate – is there any dead weight from this project that we could remove to simplify it?
- Reverse – are there any other ways that we could reorganize this process or project to make it more effective?
A SWOT analysis is especially useful in a business or strategic environment? Many firms use this creative thinking exercise or game to envision a brand change, the introduction of a new product in a new market, implementing a new concept in an already-existing market, or when deciding to acquire or merge with a new business. Entrepreneurs often use this strategy when forming a whole new business concept.
When performing this analysis, you can put four columns on a whiteboard for the following four categories that make up the acronym “SWOT”:
- Strengths – why is this concept better than the alternatives, and what makes it unique?
- Weaknesses – what are some of the reasons why this concept might not succeed, and how could it be improved?
- Opportunities – what are some areas and conditions where this concept could excel, develop, and expand
- Threats – what external forces or other concepts could outperform or limit the success of the idea at hand?
Each one of these concepts is essential to think about. When reflecting on the results of your exercise, focus on doubling down on your strengths and area of opportunity. For the weaker parts and threatening forces, implement adaptive changes that will help your concept withstand these challenges.
Six Thinking Hats
The six thinking hats exercise forces you to think about a concept from a variety of different viewpoints. Each type of perspective is essential in gaining clarity about your issue. It also helps you keep an open mind and develop empathy. When sitting down to evaluate your idea, have each member of your team put on a different “hat” for discussion. Each person has valuable input in this talk.
Each hat or person represents a unique collection of priorities and goals, and every comment should gain equal respect from the group. When you assign the roles to each team member, explain each of these hats in detail:
- Logic – this viewpoint represents the facts, the data, and aligns with the historical success and performance of the idea
- Optimism – this perspective focuses on the values, potential, and benefits of the idea
- Devil’s advocate – this hat is dedicated to uncovering the weaknesses, dangers, threats, and reasons why the idea or comment will not succeed
- Emotion – this vantage point is for intuition and feeling, and it focuses on the emotional impact that the plan will have
- Creativity – this viewpoint highlights brand new ideas, possibilities, and epic results of the vision at hand
- Management – this person ensures that the various rules and regulations of the different perspectives are respected and observed for the exercise
Evaluate what each viewpoint brought to the table and come back as a group to a follow-up meeting to discuss the course of action going forward. When doing this exercise multiple times, make sure to switch roles so that each person can think in a different capacity.
What Would the Alter-Ego or Hero Do?
This game is a fun exercise that allows you to think outside your traditional frame of reference. When evaluating an idea or issue to solve, the small group will genuinely imagine how they would go about navigating through the situation if a famous character-led it. The chosen person can be either a fictional or real person, and it can be a figure that is either dead or still alive.
You can ask yourself what Don Draper from the show Mad Men would do to pitch your product or marketing concept to a specific type of niche. You could envision how batman would position your solution to help save the world from a common problem. The team could also think about how Abraham Lincoln would approach a business situation ethically and truthfully.
The alter-ego exercise is excellent because it makes you imaginative and makes the conversation fun to bring in popular concepts that everybody can rally behind. It is best to select a figure that best symbolizes the qualities for the job that takes your vision to a new level. You could also choose someone who sits at the other end of the spectrum to bring unconventional concepts and ideas to the table.
Brainwriting is an excellent way to involve everyone in a discussion and make sure all ideas get heard. The individuals in the group begin by writing down a couple of undeveloped ideas for solving a given problem. Each design goes on a separate piece of paper, and then these concepts get passed around to someone else in the circle or at the table.
Everyone then silently adds his or her ideas to the page. The process gets repeated until everyone in the group has had the opportunity to expand on all approaches. Once the team finishes, the notes get organized and made ready for the discussion. This exercise is great because everyone gets the opportunity to have their ideas and thoughts analyzed by the group.
Another significant aspect of brainwriting is that it eliminates the more extroverted or loud people to dominate the conversation. Everyone can have their own opinion on each topic, express it, then bring the best ideas to the full group once each concept gets evaluated.
Reverse brainstorming gives an exciting twist to the devil’s advocate concept because it is designed to produce problems instead of solutions. The reason why this game could be successful is that creating issues can often teach you what do not do so that you can connect yourself deeper with the actual needs of your project or system.
Companies often hire convicted hackers to come in and break into their systems so that they can find the weaknesses and implement crucial improvements. The same idea applies here, and it focuses your attention on what your vision would look like without the necessary components.
When your team is developing a process or system, storyboarding can be an excellent game to help provide clarity and interconnectivity. It also aids in teaching, giving you an update to see if your conceptual understanding of an issue aids or discourages your solution to it. Storyboarding can also direct your attention to areas where your idea or process could use more research or support.
Start with a stack of sticky notes and have the team members write their ideas on the individual pieces of paper. Then, have everyone arrange the pictures, quotes, and other information on board as a progression and organize the concepts into a story-like series. When reflecting on the final product, get rid of any unneeded material that does not contribute to your vision or end goal.
As you can see, there are many different exercises that you can implement to expand your mind in both an individual and group setting. In a world where we favor tradition and rules, it is excellent for your brain to get used in unfamiliar ways. It is healthy and will make your mind smarter when you look at things from a different angle, write down your reflections, and incorporate it into your vision or solution.
The critical thing to remember is always to be open to new experiences and do not be hesitant about altering your process because it might make it more efficient. Great ideas and organizations adapt because everyone is dedicated to a common goal, and they recognize there are thousands of ways to get there. When choosing which game to play, have fun with it, and explore new worlds!