The single most important thought model for a designer, that which he must train his brain to keep going back to, is to unfocus need and focus might.
Unhappily, that is exactly what design education seems to be trying to suppress.
A designer must get rid of “i got to” and put “i fancy if”.
That’s just common sense. Without the “might” mode of thinking you can’t diverge from established ways of doing. Needs, by definition, are things you can’t negotiate. Thus, need-oriented thought is mostly rule-following supplementary-only change-avoiding reworking of past experiences. It is restricted to problem solving. It does not think outside the box — it couldn’t even if it wanted!
If you question about what might, it’s like you are walking into uncharted territory: you don’t even know what you can expect to find. Might-mode of thinking, likewise, is willing to propose ideas that might not work. Ideas that might not even make sense.
Need-mode of thought, even when you “need to make something different”, is unable to do the same — simply because it gets all it’s ideas from assumptions. Thus need only goes to rooms that have been visited before.
The usual fallacy is that need could lead to new ideas if you need something you didn’t have before. But even your searching will be framed. If you search based on assumptions, the results of the search can’t fall outside the horizons of the assumptions of the searching agent. Framed search is like picking a list and checking every item, it is not like adding new items.
Obviously, no man’s brain can keep only one mode of thought for more than a fraction of an hour, so neither need-mode nor might-mode can be said to monopolize a given thought process. Thus, even the most anal “design by need” advocate will have some wild thoughts now and then. But if you condition yourself to have might-mode as a fall-back, the very scope of your thoughts is altered.
The advantage of this is you become independent from rules or principles. You can use them, but you can also forgo them and overturn the game board. You can change the laws.
This is what need-oriented people call creativity, but it is much better described as curiosity.