How to Spot an Original Thinker

Original thinkers who drive innovation, adaptability and problem solving are highly valuable and sought-after, so if organisations were able to identify and encourage original thinkers they would have a huge advantage in the marketplace.

Can you spot an original thinker? Dr Mark Batey of Manchester University’s Manchester Business School believes you can.

In a recently produced MBS video interview, Original Thinkers, Dr Mark Batey, a world-leading psychology of creativity researcher, outlines the four dimensions he believes make up an original thinker and that organisations can look out for to identify original thinking in their current or potential employees:

Ideas generation

Original thinkers are highly fluent, which means they produce lots of ideas. Even though sometimes their ideas might not be practical, and it might be hard for other people to see how these solutions might be used, the key is the volume of ideas they are able to produce.

As well as the number of ideas they produce, original thinkers tend to produce different or unusual ideas.

In their approach to thinking, original thinkers often like to incubate, or let their thoughts percolate for while. This period will often be followed by a “eureka” experience, what Dr. Batey calls “Illuminative Moments”.

Personality traits

Original thinkers are inclined to be very curious. They ask lots of questions, and want to know how things work the way they do, and why.

The other personality trait that stands out in original thinkers is that they are comfortable with a high level of ambiguity and uncertainty. Original thinkers tend not to see things in black and white, and are quite happy with contradiction, competing evidence and shades of grey.


Original thinkers tend to be motivated intrinsically. This means that they have a strong drive that comes from within them. They will be very self-motivated.

In addition, Dr. Batey believes these people are quite competitive, and they will quite likely want to “beat” other people with their ideas.  Although they may work well in a collaborative team environment and be willing to share their ideas with colleagues, they will want the team to do better than it’s competitors.


Original thinkers tend to be very confident about their ideas. This applies to having ideas, believing in the quality of their ideas, sharing them, and being able to confidently implement them.


In September 2009, Olivier Serrat wrote in a paper for the Asian Development Bank, “Creativity plays a critical role in the innovation process, and innovation that markets value is a creator and sustainer of change. In organisations, stimulants and obstacles to creativity drive or impede enterprise.”

The ability to identify original thinkers would clearly provide huge advantages to organisations faced with the fast changing pace of a developing national and world economy.

As Mark Batey says, “It’s not just being an original thinker, it’s being an original applier as well”.

Watch Video: Original Thinkers: Dr. Mark Batey

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

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Related Posts:

The Creativity Imperative

King of the Manning River: Creativity & Problem Solving in the Workplace

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

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