How many times have you caught yourself saying that there could be no other solution to a problem and that problem leads to a dead end?
How many times have you felt stumped knowing that the problem laying before you is one you cannot solve. No leads. No options. No solutions.
Did it feel like you had exhausted all possible options and yet are still before the mountain – large, unconquerable, and impregnable?
When encountering such enormous problems, you may feel like you’re hammering against a steel mountain. The pressure of having to solve such a problem may be overwhelming.
But rejoice! There might be some hope yet!
With some creative problem-solving techniques you may be able to look at your problem in a different light.
And that light might just be the end of the tunnel that leads to possible solutions.
First of all, in the light of creative problem-solving, you must be open-minded to the fact that there may be more than just one solution to the problem.
Also, you must be open to the fact that there may be solutions to problems you thought were unsolvable.
Like what they say, there are many ways to skin a cat.
Now, with this optimistic mindset, we can try to be a little bit more creative in solving our problems.
Creative thinking is a potential we are all born with. If you don’t use that ability, it is probably because you don’t know and apply the simple principles for developing it. And there’s a remedy for that.
The two basic principles of creative thinking are:
1. There are methods and techniques of creative thinking.
2. Making these methods and techniques a part of your mental habits will make creative thinking easy and automatic.
For example, an entrepreneur sees the potential profit in a situation, because his mind is trained for that. A lawyer sees the potential problems because that is how his mind is trained.
How we repeatedly think becomes a habit, and that is how you train a mind. Learn the techniques of creative thinking, use them until they become a habit, and creative thinking will be as natural for you.
How to be a Creative Problem Solver in 5 Easy Steps
Your brain can improve with age as long as you use it! The great thing about pursuing creative endeavors is that it keeps your mind from thinking negative, unproductive thoughts.
Keep in mind that all five of these steps are unique to you. You may come back to a step several times through the creative process. You may even get a flash of insight anywhere along the process. Have fun and enjoy the ride.
1. Gather Information
It’s important to have plenty of information about your “problem” or project.
Be resourceful in looking for information and remember that your thinking process is very visual.
Have you been to a library recently and flipped through a few books? When you look on the Internet, look at the pictures as well as the content.
Look in areas you may think are unrelated. Take a few notes but don’t be compulsive about it.
Evaluate your project. What is your desired outcome? Who else is involved and what might they want? What do you want to learn from this experience?
Don’t forget to speak with other people, people in your same field and outside of it. Ask them open-ended questions (such as “What do you think about….?” “What would you do if…?”)
Now it’s time to let it simmer and incubate. Give all this information to your subconscious and go do something else.
2. Be Active
Your brain represents only about 2% of your body’s weight, yet it utilizes about 20% of the body’s oxygen! You really have to feed your brain for it to work properly. This means physical activity.
Do something simple, it doesn’t have to be a specific exercise regimen. Go for a walk. Wash your car. Ride a bike. Take some dance lessons. Have fun!
Let your mind wander and allow your project or problem to be in the background. Your brain is working on it while you do other things.
3. Change Perspective
Look at your project from many different views. What do you see or what do you think you see?
How to see your project in a new light? Ask yourself how it would look if you were an astronaut, or an 8-year-old or had all the money in the world, or had none.
How do the other people involved see it? Compare your project to something completely unrelated. What’s the same about your project and your shoe, your dog, or the idea of tomorrow?
These are all exercises in contrast and juxtaposition that are great for fostering creativity,
We know that “thinking” is visual and symbolic, draw diagrams. Get some large pieces of paper (larger than 8.5×11). Put a circle in the middle and label that as your “problem”.
As your problem dictates, create other shapes as the different aspects of your problem. How are they attached to that original circle?
After engaging in this activity, you will definitely see things you did not see before. By now you should be able to clearly make a few statements defining the problem. Write those down.
Perhaps you have divided your problem into sections and can address each section separately.
You have heard of brainstorming. Have you ever really done it? Really generating lots of ideas?
This activity is better than collaboration. Getting more willing participants involved creates even more ideas.
Notice again, it says, willing participants. This does not work with people who are close-minded.
Review the problem, clarify the goal. Set a time period and start writing as fast as possible. Three keys to effective brainstorming are speed, quantity, and non-judgment.
Your goal should be 30-40 ideas, even a hundred ideas depending on your project.
Out of those, you will get some really good ones and a lot of bad ones. Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb on the first try.
You now have a lot of ideas to work with. Here is the time for conscious analysis.
Review and categorize your ideas. Throw out the ones that really don’t work, but not until you take a close look at them.
You are being analytical, refrain from being too judgmental. You may have found the solutions to completely unrelated problems!
Anywhere in this process, you might find the perfect idea. Or, you may have to go through these steps several times.
People that are very creative have the habit of engaging in creative mental processes. You can develop this habit, too. It’s simply a way of thinking.
Solve Problems Creatively
Maybe you’ve heard of problem-solving techniques such as “attributes listing,” and “concept combination.”
More creative thinking doesn’t come from just knowing these techniques. You have to use them until they become a part of your habitual thinking process.
Imagine you want to invent a new bicycle. If you’ve trained your mind in “assumption challenging,” you’ll automatically begin to ask things like, “Are wheels necessary?” “Does it have to go outside?”
What if the “bike” was indoors and pedaling it ran a video screen? You could “steer” through endless different scenes.
You won’t always have great ideas, but you’ll have enough ideas to make it more likely that you’ll find a useful one.
This “spontaneous” creativity will be because of your brain training exercise. Why not start developing those habits of creative thinking?
There you go, now let’s go back to the 7 creative thinking tips in problem-solving.
Problem Solving through Creative Thinking
1) Take a hard look at what the problem is.
Here, trying to understanding the problem and having a concrete understanding of its workings is integral solving the problem.
If you know how it works, what the problem is, then you have a better foundation towards solving the problem.
Not trying to make the simple statement of what problem is. Try to identify the participating entities and what their relationships with one another are.
Take note of the things you stand to gain any stand to lose from the current problem. Now you have a simple statement of what the problem is.
2) Take note of all of the limited and assumptions about the problem.
Sometimes it is these assumptions that obstruct our view of possible solutions.
Identify which assumptions are valid, in which assumptions need to be addressed.
3) Try to solve the problem by parts.
Solve it from general view towards more detailed parts of the problem. This is called the top-down approach.
Write down the question, and then come up with a one-sentence solution to that from them.
The solution should be a general statement of what will solve the problem. From here you can develop the solution further, and increase its complexity little by little.
4) Keep a creative, analytical voice at the back of your head.
When someone comes up with a prospective solution, tried to think how you could make that solution work.
Try to be creative. At the same time, look for chinks in the armor of that solution.
5) There may be more than just one solution being developed at one time.
Try to keep track of all the solutions and their developments.
Remember, there may be more than just one solution to the problem.
6) Remember that old adage,” two heads are better than one.”
That one is truer than it sounds. Always be open to new ideas.
You can only benefit from listening to all the ideas each person has.
This is especially true when the person you’re talking to has had experience solving problems similar to yours.
You don’t have to be a gung-ho, solo hero to solve the problem. If you can organize collective thought on the subject, it would be much better.
7) Be patient.
As long as you persevere, there is always a chance that a solution will present itself. Remember that no one was able to create an invention the first time around.
Creative thinking exercises can also help you in your quest be a more creative problems solver.
Here is one example.
Take a piece of paper and write any word that comes to mind at the center.
Now look at that word then write the first two words that come to your mind.
This can go on until you can build a tree of related words. This helps you build analogical skills and fortify your creative processes.
So, next time you see a problem you think you cannot solve, think again. The solution might just be staring you right in the face.
All it takes is just a little creative thinking, some planning, and a whole lot of work.