Unleashing Creative Thinking: From Memory Connections to Self-Made Success



Jul 26, 2023 β€’ 3 min read


Unleashing Creative Thinking: From Memory Connections to Self-Made Success


Creative thinking is a valuable skill that allows individuals to generate novel and useful ideas within a social context. It involves making unique connections between concepts and narrowing down to the most impactful ones. In this article, we explore the fascinating link between memory and creativity. Additionally, we delve into the importance of consuming diverse ideas, maintaining strong associations, and cultivating the ideal mental state for creative thought. Finally, we draw inspiration from the story of Bumble's co-founder, Whitney Wolfe Herd, whose entrepreneurial journey exemplifies the power of creative thinking.

The Connection Between Memory and Creativity:

Recent research has shown that the structure of semantic memory, which relates to language-based concepts, is a significant predictor of creativity. When memories move from short-term to long-term storage, they become associated with existing memories or schemas. This process subtly alters our overall understanding of the world and provides a foundation for creative thinking. Understanding the brain's role in the creative experience sheds light on the importance of attention in the creative process.

The Role of Brain Networks in Creative Thinking:

When engaging in divergent thinking, which involves generating multiple ideas, a network of brain regions known as the "default network" is activated. This network is responsible for spontaneous, self-generated thought, including mind wandering. The "control network" allows us to think flexibly, inhibit distractions, and draw from our memory. Switching between these networks is facilitated by the "salience network." Higher creative thinking scores are associated with greater coupling between these networks, highlighting their significance in the creative process.

Expanding the Divergent Thinking Funnel:

To enhance creative thinking, it is essential to consume ideas from others. Engaging in conversations, reading, and listening to diverse perspectives stimulates creativity and strengthens existing associations. However, seeking ideas that are radically different from our own may not be effective. Incremental steps outside our comfort zones, while still overlapping with existing knowledge, facilitate effective assimilation and association. Taking notes, making highlights, and revisiting relevant material helps maintain and strengthen connections, fostering creative thought.

Cultivating the Optimal Mental State for Creative Thinking:

The ideal mental state for creative thought depends on the nature of the task, attentional state, mood, and level of engagement. Being in a positive affective state, such as happiness, promotes creative thinking. Paradoxically, forcing ourselves to focus too intensely can limit our thinking. Mind wandering, characterized by a less focused attentional state, allows for exploration, retrieval, and experimentation with memory connections. Engaging conversations also serve as catalysts for sparking and sharing creative ideas.

Inspiration from Whitney Wolfe Herd's Journey:

Whitney Wolfe Herd, the co-founder of Bumble, provides a real-world example of the power of creative thinking. After experiencing sexual harassment at her previous employer, Tinder, she channeled her creative energies into founding Bumble. Through collaboration with Andrey Andreev, an experienced entrepreneur in the online dating industry, she built a successful platform that empowers women. Bumble's impressive revenue growth demonstrates the impact of creative thinking in entrepreneurship.

Actionable Advice:

1. Engage in diverse conversations, consume varied content, and actively seek out ideas beyond your filter bubble. Incremental steps outside your comfort zone facilitate effective assimilation and association of new information.

2. Take notes, make highlights, and revisit relevant material regularly. Strengthening memory connections is crucial for fostering creative thinking.

3. Cultivate a positive affective mental state and embrace mind wandering. Allow yourself to explore, retrieve, and experiment with memory connections, unleashing your creative potential.


Creative thinking is a multifaceted process that relies on the interplay between memory, attention, and associations. Understanding these connections provides insights into how we can enhance our creative thinking abilities. By consuming diverse ideas, maintaining strong memory connections, and cultivating an optimal mental state, we can tap into our creative potential. The remarkable success of entrepreneurs like Whitney Wolfe Herd exemplifies the profound impact of creative thinking in various domains. Embrace your creativity, and let your ideas reshape the world around you.

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