TRaNSforM - Training Requirements and Nursing Skills for Mobility in health careEuropean Comission - Lifelong Learning Programme
University of Nottingham

TRaNSforM working definition of creative thinking

Co-ordinating partner United Kingdom

Creative thinking encompasses open-mindedness, flexibility and adaptability and is essential to critical thinking.

Creative thinking bridges the gap between what is dreamt and what is desired; it knows no bounds and is not restricted by possibilities. Creativity is an important element of life changes, individuals who are allowed to have creative thoughts especially in an healthcare leads to understanding and implementing change within nursing practice.

Explanation from partners


Creative thinking is described in current literature as Problem Based Learning (Thomas, 2010); and Action Learning (Jenkins et al, 2009). “creative thinking is essential to critical thinking” (Clegg, 2008). Creative thinking as “out of the box ideas” that questions the ideology of the art and science of nursing. Creativity is an important element of human endeavour (Cohen, 2002). Individuals need to be allowed to have creative thoughts especially in an environment such as healthcare that is drenched in bureaucracy (Smith, 2007). Creative thinking knows no bounds and is not restricted by possibilities. Creative thinking bridges the gap between what is dreamt and desired goals (Tarhan et al, 2011).

Creative thinking can be seen as a prerequisite to understanding, judging and implementing change within nursing practice (Seymour et al, 2003).

In German the literal translation is “kreatives Denken”. However, there is no translation in Leo for this term. Does not exist as an expression, the origin of the word kreativ is English and it has not changed its meaning in German. The term creative thinking is not discussed explicitly in German nursing literature. In everyday understanding, creative thinking is characterised by: thinking in possibilities and alternatives, flexible and playful dealing with thinking patterns and structures and thinking in new combinations of known elements of the respective situation/problem.

Psychology (one of nursing’s reference sciences) looks at creativity/creative thinking as a complex personal trait as well as a cognitive process regarding problem solving. Managers refer to creative problem solving in order to improve productivity or organisational efficiency. As a personal trait, it is debated whether creative thinking can be learned. However, as a cognitive process, methods can be learned to change the thinking process. Thormann (2007) defines creative thinking as finding ideas, developing alternatives and making decisions by going beyond the routines and the usual. In her opinion, creative thinking can be learned by training creativity and learning about creative methods. Bönsch and Kaiser (2002) defines three components of creative thinking: the intellectual aspect (ability to produce ideas), the motivational aspect (preparedness to think of something new and to articulate these thoughts) and the emotional aspect (courage to think out-of-the-box, to resist pressure to conform, to take risks).

In Finnish the translation is luova ajattelu. The skills of Creative learning and thinking will increase when education and teaching are the goals. To create a new or build a better future there is proactive expansive learning, learning by designing and innovation (Ahlberg, 2006).

Further information

  • Åhlberg, Mauri (2006). Korkeakouluopetus kestäväksi : opas YK:n kestävää kehitystä edistävän koulutuksen vuosikymmentä varten. Opetusministeriön julkaisuja: 4
  • Bönsch, M. and Kaiser, A. (Ed.) (2002) Unterrichtsmethoden - kreativ und vielfältig. Hohengehren: Schneider Verlag.
  • Ministerie de L'Education (2006). Korkeakouluopetus kestäväksi. Opas YK:n kestävää kehitystä edistävän koulutuksen vuosikymmentä varten. Helsinki: Undervisningsministeriets publikationer. 
  • Clegg, P. (2008) Creativity and critical thinking in the globalised university. Innovations in Education and Teaching International. 45 (3): pp.219–226.
  • Cohen, S. (2002) Don‟t overlook creative thinking Nurse Manager 33(8): pp.9-10.
  • Jenkins, E. R., Mabbett, G. M., Surridge, A. G., Warring, J. and Gwynn, E., D. (2009) A Cooperative Inquiry Into Action Learning and Praxis Development in a Community Nursing Module Qualitative Health Research Volume 19 (9): pp303-1320.
  • Ku Y; Chang C; Kuo C; and Sheu S (2010) The application of creative thinking teaching in nursing education. Journal of Nursing, 57(2): pp.93-8.
  • Seymour, B., Kinn, S. and Sutherland, N. (2003) Valuing both critical and creative thinking in clinical practice: narrowing the research–practice gap? Journal of Advanced Nursing. 42(3), pp.288–296.
  • Smith, J. (2007) Creative Thinking. Nursing Standard.29(39): pp.24-25.
  • Stiftung Mitarbeit Was ist kreatives Denken? [online]. Available at: [Accessed 28 December 2011].
  • Tarhan, S.,Bacanli,H., Dombayi, M. A. and Dermir, M (2011) Quadruple Thinking: Hopeful Thinking International Conference on Education and Educational Psychology (ICEEPSY 2010) Procedia Social and Behavioural Sciences12(2): pp.568–576.
  • Thomas, I. (2010) Critical Thinking, Transformative Learning, Sustainable Education, and Problem-Based Learning in Universities Journal of Transformative Education.7(3): pp. 245-264.
  • Thorman, H. (2007) Selbstlernkurs Kreativ Schreiben lernen Spielerisch ins Schreiben kommen [online]. Available at: [Accessed 5 December 2011].

Training Requirements and Nursing Skills for Mobility in Health Care


Dr Carol Hall
Telephone: +44 (0)115 8 230 906