Written by: Deric Ma – The Pro Forum Community of Practice

In today’s dynamic business environment, fostering critical and creative thinking among employees is essential for innovation and maintaining a competitive edge. While traditional methods are effective, integrating professional and out-of-the-box activities can further enhance these skills, driving better problem-solving and innovative solutions. Here are some professional and some alternative activities to boost critical and creative thinking in the workplace.

Brainstorming Sessions

Brainstorming is a classic method for generating a wide range of ideas in a short period. To enhance its effectiveness:

  • Encourage wild and out-of-the-box ideas.
  • Set a clear objective for the session.
  • Use techniques like mind mapping or the “Six Thinking Hats” method by Edward de Bono to explore different perspectives.
  • Ensure an open and non-judgmental atmosphere where all ideas are valued.

Reverse Brainstorming

Reverse brainstorming involves identifying potential problems or obstacles rather than solutions:

  • Problem Identification: Teams brainstorm ways to cause a problem or failure.
  • Critical Analysis: This reverse approach helps in understanding underlying issues and developing preventive strategies.
  • Creative Solutions: Once problems are identified, teams work backward to find innovative solutions.

Design Thinking Workshops

Design Thinking is a user-centered approach that drives innovation through a structured yet flexible process:

  • Empathise: Understand the end-user’s needs through observation and interviews.
  • Define: Clearly articulate the problem to address.
  • Ideate: Facilitate sessions to generate a wide range of ideas.
  • Prototype: Develop simple models to explore potential solutions.
  • Test: Evaluate prototypes with users and iterate based on feedback.

Scenario Planning, Role-Playing & Role Reversal

Creating hypothetical scenarios, role-playing and role reversal can prepare employees for real-world challenges:

  • Scenario Analysis: Develop and discuss potential future scenarios and strategies to address them.
  • Role-Playing: Simulate business situations where employees must navigate and resolve issues, enhancing their strategic thinking and empathy.
  • New Perspectives: Understanding different job roles can provide fresh insights.
  • Empathy: Experiencing another’s challenges fosters empathy and teamwork.

Escape Room Challenges & Escape Room Kits

Escape rooms are immersive games where teams solve puzzles to “escape” from a themed room within a set time. Or bring the escape room experience to the office with portable kits:

  • Critical Thinking: Participants must think critically to solve puzzles and find clues.
  • Teamwork: Collaboration is key, encouraging diverse perspectives and communication.
  • Creativity: Innovative thinking is needed to connect disparate clues and solve complex problems.

Innovation Challenges and Hackathons

These events promote rapid ideation and problem-solving:

  • Hackathons: Organise short-term, intense events where teams work on innovative solutions to predefined problems.
  • Innovation Contests: Encourage employees to propose and develop creative solutions, with rewards for the best ideas.

Outdoor Team-Building Activities

Outdoor activities like scavenger hunts, obstacle courses, or adventure games can promote creative thinking:

  • Physical Movement: Being outdoors and active can stimulate mental processes.
  • Team Challenges: Collaborative outdoor games foster teamwork and innovative thinking.
  • Fresh Environment: A change of scenery can refresh minds and inspire new ideas.

Straw and Marshmallow Tower challenge

The Straw and Marshmallow Tower Challenge, is a team-building activity that involves constructing the tallest possible structure using only straws, marshmallows, tape, and string.

  • Team Bonding: Encourages Teamwork and Collaboration
  • Creative Thinking: Pushes participants to think creatively and come up with unique solutions.
  • Problem-Solving / Critical Analysis: Analyse the materials and constraints and then devise a strategy to build the tallest structure.

Cross-Functional Team Projects

Bringing together employees from different departments can spark new ideas and approaches:

  • Job Shadowing: Allow employees to spend time in other departments to gain new perspectives.
  • Collaborative Projects: Form teams with members from various departments to work on specific challenges, leveraging diverse skills and viewpoints.


Integrating these professional and out-of-the-box activities into the workplace can create a stimulating and dynamic environment. By breaking away from conventional methods, employees are encouraged to think in new and innovative ways, driving both critical and creative thinking. This not only enhances problem-solving capabilities but also fosters a positive culture of continuous improvement and adaptability.


Did we miss any activities? Which one do you prefer? Comment and let us know. 


NOTE: The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter, and specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. The content must not be relied upon as legal, technical, financial or other professional advice.