Creative problem solving is a skill that is necessary for business leaders. Being able to devise creative solutions to difficult business problems will establish your credibility as an effective leader.
Have you ever dealt with a business problem that just doesn’t seem to have an answer? Sometimes, especially when we’re in crisis mode, a problem presents itself that doesn’t seem to have a solution. Or maybe you have come up with some possible answers, but you just think that you can come up with something better.
In order to become proficient at creative problem solving, it’s important to change your perspective. What can you do to shift your viewpoint, expand your thinking and come up with a creative solution?
1. Approach Every Situation Like It Is a Project
Most professionals are used to doing this for actual projects, but you should consider doing this for day-to-day activities as well. Putting together a project plan gives you peace-of-mind because you will have a broad view of all the activities that are going on. The plan gives you a long-term view of issues before they arise.
Also, if problems come up that you don’t anticipate, you are able to assess the impact on the entire project. What might appear to be a major issue if you are managing “on-the-fly” may not seem as significant to the overall scheme of the project if you are using a project plan. Planning gives you a high-level view of the issue that will help you to calmly assess your options.
2. An Important Aspect to Creative Problem Solving Is “Don’t Panic”
Some positive self-talk will go a long way towards helping you find a good solution. Rather than thinking, “I don’t know what to do” rephrase the statement to something like, “I know there’s a better solution to this issue; I just haven’t come up with it yet.”
Continue along this train of thought until you can say to yourself, “the answer is coming to me now.” The energy of this self-talk will attract new solutions and facilitate creative problem solving.
“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” – Albert Einstein
3. Hold a Short Project Team Meeting with Everyone Who Is Involved
I say short, because long, drawn-out meetings tend to quash creative thinking. Explain to the team what you are dealing with and ask for suggestions. Include every level of the team from managerial to administrative. If you don’t get a lot of viable solutions in the meeting, ask the meeting attendees to think about it and send you a follow-up email with their suggestions.
4. Bring in Someone Else Who Is Not Involved to Offer a Different Perspective
This is a good time to bring in your boss, who may have dealt with the problem before. Or it could be a colleague who doesn’t have experience in your area, but who has proven success at creative problem solving with other types of problems. Explain the problem in terms that someone who does not have your experience can understand and ask for their opinion.
5. To Access Creative Thinking and to Stimulate Creative Problem Solving, Take a Break from the Problem
No matter what type of crisis you might be experiencing, find a way to get away from the location where the problem exists. If you have the luxury of time, take the weekend and really relax.
Creative problem solving is a very creative process. Do something you enjoy, even if it’s for 20 minutes. Listen to some music you enjoy without distraction, take a walk outside, or do something recreational that completely takes your mind off of the problem. You might think this is slacking off when you should be working hard to resolve the issue, but actually, the time you spend away from the issue will open you up to new possibilities and is just as important as the time you spend working on it.
6. After You Have Gathered All Possible Solutions, Evaluate Them by Listing Them
Then make three columns next to the various solutions titled “issues, risks and rewards”. Have the project team fill out the various columns. Laying it out in this manner will help you identify the most attractive solution very quickly. It might be that the perfect solution is a combination of more than one solution. White-boarding the various scenarios makes the best pathway easier to identify.
“There’s no use talking about the problem unless you talk about the solution.” – Betty Williams
7. Don’t Get Discouraged
Remember, you are the best person to make the decision in this particular situation because you have unique knowledge and you are the closest to the situation. So have the confidence that you will come up with the best possible solution! In this case, you should be rational and pay attention to everything. If you cannot cope with your problems or make a decision, just ask somebody to help you. It can be a stranger as well as your close friend.