To think creatively, we must be able to look afresh
at what we normally take for granted.
How many times have you found yourself saying that there is no solution to a particular problem. And, that trying to find solutions has only led you to a dead end? How often have you felt stumped feeling as though the solution to your problem was just out of reach, but still somehow tough to grasp? No leads. No options. No solutions. Have you ever felt like you have exhausted every avenue of thought, but still find yourself standing facing the mountain- large, unconquerable and impregnable? When encountering what seems to be an enormous problem, you may feel like you’re beating your head against the mountain. The pressure of having to solve such a problem can seem overwhelming, even anxiety provoking. But, there is always hope!
By learning how to do a few creative problem-solving techniques, you may be able to see your big problems in a different light. And that light, although it seems to be at the far end of the tunnel, can lead you to all sorts of possible solutions.
How do we think creatively?
1. Be open minded. First of all in creative problem solving, your mind must remain open to the fact that there may be more than a single approach or solution to any given problem. Armed with this more open and optimistic mindset, you can now try to get a little more creative in solving our problems.
2. Dissect the problem; take it apart. Perhaps the reason you cannot solve your problems is that you have not really taken an in-depth look at what the problem really entails. Here, you are trying to be much more detail-oriented and intentional about understanding the problem. You are trying to get a concrete understanding of its inner workings. Generally speaking, if you know how a thing works exactly, or what the problem is, precisely, then you have a firmer foundation on which to build your creative solutions to the problem.
But, do not try to make a simple statement of what the problem is, yet. Try to identify the parts and what the relationships of the parts are to each other. The questions you seek to answer at this point are: What do you have to gain by solving this problem? What do you have to lose? Is this problem worth solving? Now you can make a simple statement of what the problem is…
3. Listen. Make notes about all of the constraints and assumptions you have related to the problem. Sometimes it is your basic assumptions that obstruct your view of possible solutions. You have to identify which assumptions are valid and which of them need to be discarded, or invalidated.
4. Top-down approach. Try to solve the problem by parts. Take a look at solving the problem going from a generalized view toward a more detailed parts analysis of the problem. Write down “the big question”, and now come up with your single sentence solutions. The solution you write should be a general statement of what would solve the problem. From here you can develop the solution further and increase its complexity little by little.
5. Do not leave your common sense behind. Although it helps to have critical thinking on board as you attempt to solve complex problems, you must also keep your creative, analytical voice turned on in the back of your head. When someone comes up with a possible solution, try to think about how you could make that solution work. Push yourself creatively. At the same time look for chinks in the armor of that solution.
6. Be open. It always pays to remember that there may be more than just one solution being developed at a time. Keep track of all the solutions and their developments.
7. Don’t be a lone ranger. Remember the old adage “two heads are better than one,” this is often a lot truer than it sounds. Always be ready to think about new ideas. You can only benefit from listening to all the ideas each person has to offer. This is especially true when the person you are talking to has a different skill-set than you do in terms of experiences in solving problems similar to the one you are confronting right now.
You don’t have to be a gung ho, solo hero to solve the problem. If you can organize collective thought on a subject it will be much better in the long run.
8. Patience. Be patient with yourself. As long as you persevere, there is always a chance that a solution will present itself.
9. Exercise your brain. Creative thinking exercises can also help you in your quest to be a more creative problem solver.
Creative thinking exercise: Take one piece of paper and write any word that comes to mind in 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 build your analogical skills and fortify your creative processes.
So, the very next time you are faced with a problem that you think that you cannot solve, think again, and again. The solution is probably not as far away from you as you think. It will take some creative thinking, some intentional planning and of course, some work.