Characteristics of Creative Thinkers

Creative and unconventional thinkers have many traits in common. Following, you will find those traits and examples of how each trait has played a role in moving humanity forward.


Creative and unconventional thinkers have compassion. They see a problem in society and they try to solve it in ways that are new and helpful. They have a great deal of respect and compassion for others.

In 1980, a little boy with a terminal illness told of his wish of becoming a police officer. Through a friend of the family, he was allowed to be a “policeman” for a day with the Arizona State Police. The boy died not long after, but his special day had planted the seed of an idea in the minds of the police officers, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation was born. The mission is “to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy.” Today, the foundation has served over 97,000 children and operates with the help of over 25,000 volunteers. It is the result of creativity and compassion.

Courage and Risk

Courage and risk are major requirements for unconventional and creative thinkers. They are not afraid to take chances and try new things. They stretch the boundaries of what is known and acceptable. They understand that new frontiers have dangers.

In the early 1980s, a researcher named Barry Marshall bucked the trend of modern medical thought when he refuted the theory that ulcers were caused by stress or excess stomach acid. He staunchly believed that the H. Pylori bacteria caused them. He presented his theory at scientific meetings, but no one paid much attention or even gave his idea a chance. Everyone felt his theory was too unconventional. So, finally, he decided to prove his theory on himself. He swallowed the H. Pylori bacteria and gave himself ulcers and was able to provide enough evidence to convince the scientific world that he was right. Today, many treatment plans for ulcers are based on Marshall's work.


Creative and unconventional thinkers are not satisfied with “maybe” or “I think so.” They are truth seekers and work hard to prove and stand by what is not only unpopular, but what is true as well.

Around 1530, the astrologer and scientist Copernicus began to quietly circulate his theory that Earth was not the center of the universe and that the universe did not revolve around Earth. This was a very unpopular view because most philosophical and religious study had been written and executed based on the theory of Ptolemy. His theory was that Earth is a fixed body and that all celestial bodies moved around it. For anyone to deny this theory was near heresy. He died never knowing how much controversy his theory would cause.

Later astrologers who supported Copernicus's theory, such as Galileo and Bruno, suffered greatly at the hands of religious and political leaders. The astrologer Bruno was burned at the stake for touting the Copernican theory. In 1633, Galileo was brought before leaders of the day and at the threat of death and relentless torture, he was forced to renounce all belief in the Copernican theory. As you know, modern astrology and science later proved all three, Copernicus, Galileo, and Bruno, to be correct. They sought truth.

Dreams and Imagination

Creative and unconventional thinkers are not afraid to take time off and just think. They are not afraid to lie under a shade tree and ponder new avenues, uncommon methods, and uncharted paths. They have trained themselves to practice the gift of “What if …”

The Great Depression of the 1930s reshaped the American landscape. Millions were unemployed and most had lost their life savings. Few programs existed that could help anyone. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dreamed of a way to help Americans so that they, and the country, would never have to suffer this way again. He examined the few programs available and in 1935, he proposed to Congress a legislation program of social insurance. These programs, a part of the New Deal, would later become known as Unemployment Insurance and Social Security. His dream of helping in a way that had never been known before still exists today.


Creative and unconventional thinkers do not concern themselves with fitting in. They are more concerned with “what is possible” than “how would I look doing it.” They are not concerned with being just like other people.

If you have ever seen the fictional movie Billy Elliot, you understand the power of individuality. Billy Elliott is an eleven-year-old boy in strike-ridden England. His mother has died and he, his father, and his much older brother live in a flat together. Billy is in school and is supposed to be taking boxing when he discovers a dance class. He secretly begins taking ballet instead of boxing. His teacher takes a keen interest in his innate talents and encourages him to audition for the Royal Ballet School. When he misses the audition, she comes to his home, and this is the first that his father and brother know of his ballet interests. They are ashamed and embarrassed by his acts, but Billy is undeterred. He practices and later gains his father's consent to audition. His is accepted and later goes on to join the Royal Ballet. Though fictional, Billy Elliott embodies the individuality in all of us; he was just strong enough to keep his alive.


Perseverance is a prime trait of people who are creative and unconventional. They do not give up easily, or at all. They have the courage to see things through to fruition.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a person of perseverance. He knew that civil rights for African-Americans would not come overnight and that it would not come easily. He understood that the battle was bigger than he was and he understood that the price for equality might very well be death. He was undeterred by setbacks, violence, jail time, verbal slurs, and threats. For years and years, he fought the good fight knowing that he might never see equality in his lifetime. But, he understood that the fight had to begin and he was willing to be the person to carry the torch.

Creativity involves taking risks and not worrying about what others might think of you or your ideas. By taking risks, you are more likely to engage in creative projects than if you simply do what others think is “right” or safe.

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