Do you know how to engage in creative problem solving? How many times have you caught yourself thinking that your problem has no viable solution? How many times have you said that trying to find a solution to your problem just leads you to a dead end? Have you felt trapped and stuck knowing that the problem laying before you is one you cannot solve?
You’re out of ideas. Out of options. You surely felt like you had exhausted all possible alternatives and yet, you are standing still before the unconquerable, huge mountain. What now?
When you are facing enormous problems, you almost feel stumped, as if you are banging your head against the wall or hammering against a steel mountain.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all felt the overwhelm and frustration of having to solve a big problem while feeling you have exhausted all of your options.
Do not despair just yet. Most likely, there is still hope and a few things still need to be explored!
Your subconscious mind and some creative problem solving tactics can offer a new perspective so you can look at your problem from a different angle. And that might just be the light at the end of the tunnel, one that leads you to a possible solution.
Creative Problem Solving
The very first thing to do is to relax and get your mind away from the problem for a while. I suggest you go for a walk, preferably in nature. Enjoy the trees, the birds chirping and remember to take a few deep breaths. Try not to think about the problem at all. No worries, the problem will be there when you come back.
Next, engage your logical mind and dedicate some uninterrupted time to analyze the problem. By this I mean that you must have an open-mind and ‘know’ that there might be a solution to your problem that you have not considered just yet. From this optimistic mindset, your mind opens to the possible solution that you might have skipped.
Now it is time to start thinking for creative problem solving. Start by disecting the problem. The idea is to get to the root cause of it, while having a concrete understanding of its workings. Once you know what the problem is, how it came to be and how it presented itself, you’ll have a better foundation towards solving it. This process is an integral part of creative problem solving.
Try to avoid making a simple statement of what the problem is. Instead, identify the participating factors and the relationship among them. Take note of the things you stand to gain and of the things you stand to lose due to the current problem. At this time, if you truly have an open mind, you’ll be able to clearly identify the gain as much as the loss. Oftentimes, problems present themselves for us to evolve and learn something, which is a gain.
Once you’ve done this, take note of the opinions and assumptions you have had about the problem and state this in a few words. Realize that these assumptions and opinions might have obstructed your views toward possible solutions. I suggest you jot them down. This will help with identifying which assumptions and opinions are valid, and which ones need to be addressed.
The next step is to try to solve the problem in sections and ask questions as you go. This is called the “Top Down Approach.” Just to clarify, you are going to cut the problem in segments starting from a general view and working towards its detailed parts; then, formulate a question for each part.
Write down each question, and then come up with one sentence to answer each of them. Once you’ve finished, you can see what answers give you hints to develop the solution. Now, increase the problem’s complexity little by little, by trying to make sense of the answers you got, much like completing a puzzle.
Although your critical thinking is crucial, you must also keep a creative, analytical mind to expand your perspective. Look at all of your answers from different angles and keep on asking “what if…. (I do this)” and “what if… (I do that).” Entertain in your mind a variety of options and scenarios and see what else you come up with. Try to think how you could make that solution work. Be creative. At the same time, look for flaws in the armor of that solution. Keep on writing down every possible scenario. This will help in the creative problem solving final phase.
You don’t have to be a solo hero to solve your problem either. Remember that old adage,”Two heads are better than one” and be open to new, fresh ideas from others. If possible, ask for feedback from a good friend or a person you trust. Even if they can’t help you with an exact solution, you may gain a different insight or idea from their input that might help you come up with another option or the solution itself. This is especially true when the person you’re talking to has had experience solving problems similar to yours. Such is the case of a business management problem, for instance.
Another idea is to organize a collective thought meeting on the subject matter. If you have read “Think and Grow Rich“ you know what I’m talking about. Napoleon Hill use to seek council from his “mastermind group” and even though it all happened in his imagination, he claimed it helped him solve problems when he was stuck. Some also believe that Carl Jung seeked council from the Universal Counsciousness, or what we commonly know today as The Akashic Records.
Be patient. When you are in a rush to solve a problem, especially a significant one, the answer may not come to you all at once. However, as long as you persevere, there is always a chance that the perfect solution will present itself. One thing you may want to try is to ask your subconscious what to do as you go to sleep. Many inventors and musicians throughout history have claimed that the best of creative answers came in the middle of the night or as they woke up. If you want to give this a try, I suggest you keep a pad and pencil on your nightstand, so you can jot down your ideas immediately as you wake up. Otherwise, you may not remember them later.
One last piece of advise is to practice creative thinking exercises often. You will become a more effective problem solver for a variety of situations. Here is an example of this…
Take a piece of paper and write any word that comes to mind on the center of the page. Now look at that word and write the first two words that come to your mind after having looked at it. Keep on doing this. Now, come up with two more words for each one you came up with, and so on and so forth. This can go on until you build a tree of related words. This exercise will help you build analitical skills, and fortify your creative problem solving process.
So, next time you feel you have hit the end of the road with a problem, think again. The solution might just be staring you right in the face. Follow the steps above and engage your mind in creative problem solving. Pretty soon you’ll become so good at solving problems you’ll surprise yourself!