We all sometimes reach a point where we can see only one way forward – there cannot possibly be another solution, and because that solution is beyond us, we have reached a dead end and cannot make any further progress. We slump back resigned to the inevitable – this is a problem we cannot solve. We have no more leads, no more options, and there is, therefore, no solution.
But the problem is still there. It doesn’t go away just because we can’t think of a solution. So what can you do? How can you solve the unsolvable? Doing more of the same is like banging your head against a brick wall – it hurts, and it won’t hurt the wall!
But what other options can there be? Can there really be light at the end of the tunnel?
The answer, of course is yes. There is light at the end of the tunnel, there really is hope, and that hope lies in looking at the problem in a different way using some creative problem-solving techniques. Once you have found a new way to look at the problem , you just might find a solution – or even more than one solution! And if not, then try again. Perseverance, as always is key to success, but it has to be ‘intelligent perseverance’ – always trying something different. We all know that doing the same thing time after time will lead to the same results.
Step 1 – Be Open Minded – Believe there is a Solution
The first key to creative problem solving is to be open minded – to allow yourself to believe that there is a solution to the problem you once thought unsolvable – it’s just that you can’t, at the moment, think what it is!
Once you have an open minded and optimistic mindset, you can be a little more creative in trying to find solutions to your problems.
Step 2 – Really Understand the problem
So the next step is to take a really long hard look at the problem, and understand what it is.
- Try not to just make a simple statement.
- Try instead to understand what you stand to gain (or lose) by solving the problem.
- Try to understand the individual parts of the problem, and why it is a problem
That might mean going back to the beginning to understand just what you’re trying to achieve, or perhaps going back just a few steps to understand what it was that lead you to the dead end.
Understanding the problem is integral to finding a solution.
Step 3 – Understand and Challenge Assumptions and Constraints
Once you understand the problem, make a note of everything you know about that problem. What have you assumed? What do you think it is that’s stopping you?
Once you have a list of assumptions and constraints, challenge them rigorously. Are they really valid? Sometimes, we take things as read without challenge, and they are not actually correct! We focus on the wrong part of the problem because we have made an incorrect assumption.
Step 4 – Break the Problem Down
Sometimes it’s easier to solve a serious of small problems rather than one big one.
Focus on the detailed parts of the problem, and try to solve each one of those in turn.
Start at the top, with the big problem and break it down into it’s component parts – smaller problems, more clearly understandable.
If you know a solution to any of these component parts, then go ahead and solve that problem.
If however, there are some parts you don’t know a solution to, then break that problem down, and keep going until you have a series of problems that you can solve (or at the very least that you think you might be able to solve).
This top down approach enables big problems to be broken down into manageable chunks, and solved ‘bit by bit’.
Step 5 – Understand How Any Solution May Work
It helps to be challenging and use critical thinking to help solve a problem, but you must always remember to be analytical too. Whenever a solution is suggested by you or anyone else, try to work out how you can make that solution work. Looks for chinks in the armour of the solution, be be creative. The best solutions often evolve from a series of proposals, using the best bits from each. If the problem is complex, the solution will seldom appear fully formed!
Step 6 – Remember That There May Be More Than One Solution!
Many problems have multiple solutions. Finding the best is sometimes difficult, but it may not be sensible to focus only on the first solution you think of.
It may even make sense to develop more than one solution at the same time, but you must always remember that there are likely to be multiple solutions to many of the problems you encounter.
Step 7 – Remember You’re Not Alone
The old adage,” two heads are better than one.” really does have some truth to it! You should always try to listen to new ideas. You can only benefit by listening and considering. It is bound to get you closer to the solution, even if only by ruling out some options. But if the person you’re listening to has solved similar problems in the past, then you can gain an awful lot.
And also remember that in articulating a problem clearly to someone who doesn’t understand it, you may find the solution becomes clear to you!
Solutions are still solutions, whether you solve them all alone or with the help of others. You don’t need to be a her. Just to solve the problem and collective thought really can help.
Step 8 – Patience and Perseverance
There is a chance of finding a solution for as long as you keep trying.
Patience and Perseverance are key to finding the solution. Remember that very few things we know today have never been improved upon, and in many cases, many solutions have been tried before one that works has been uncovered.
And remember that through all of this, if you are going to succeed and solve your problem, STAY POSITIVE!
Exercises in Creative Thinking really can help you become more creative in solving your problems.
Here’s a simple example:
Write the first word that comes into your head in the centre of a piece of paper.
Look at that word and write down the first 2 words that come into your mind.
Carry on for a few more steps, each time writing down the first 2 words you think of when you look closely at another word.
You will quickly find lots of words related to the original – lots of analogies will be born, and you can use this ability to find analogies (or to looka t things differently!) to be more creative in looking at problems in a new way!
So, when you come across a problem that you think you just can’t solve, remember that there is a solution, and it might just be staring you in the face.
All it takes to find it is a little Creative Thinking, a little Time, and a lot of Work!