Take a Creative Approach to Problem-Solving

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Photo credit: stevegarfield

“Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.” – George Lois

When we approach new challenges, we’re often held back by past experience. We expect everything to fit neatly into categories and this can lead to a pretty narrow focus of our options for solving new issues as they arise.

A recent post by Nadia Goodman on Entrepreneur.com’s blog “The Daily Dose” explains it this way:

“’The whole idea behind creative problem solving is the assumption that you know something that will help solve this problem, but you’re not thinking of it right now,’” explains Art Markman, cognitive psychologist and author of “Smart Thinking.” Put another way, your memory hasn’t found the right cue to retrieve the information you need.”

So how do you train your brain to expand its focus and make connections you might otherwise overlook?

Goodman suggests asking yourself two questions:

1.    What type of problem is this?

Before pondering possible solutions, make sure you understand the root of the problem.

Goodman cites how Sir James Dyson, industrial designer and founder of the Dyson company, revolutionized his industry by expanding his focus. Rather than focusing on how to make a better filter so vacuums wouldn’t get clogged, he questioned whether a filter was really necessary in the first place.

“James Dyson realized that the problem was actually about separation, or separating the dirt from the air, which doesn’t always require a filter. ‘That freed him to try lots of different methods of separation,’ says Markman. Hence: the Dual Cyclone vacuum that led Dyson to fame and fortune.”

Dyson has also introduced innovations in fans, heaters and hand dryers. And did I mention he’s a knight?

2.    Who else has faced this type of problem?

Once you understand the root of the problem, you’re able to draw on both your own experiences and those of others to zero in on the most relevant solutions.

“For example, Dyson realized sawmills use an industrial cyclone to separate sawdust from air and modified that technology to create the first filter-free vacuum.

‘When you begin to realize that the problem you’re trying to solve has been solved over and over again by people in other areas, you can look at the solutions they came up with to help you solve your own,’ Markman says.”

This is how creative people take problems out of the proverbial box most people would put them in, thus bringing more options to the table. From there it’s just a matter of tweaking the details to address your particular challenge.

Another great tip comes from Jaime Shine, Owner of Clearly Conveyed Communications. In a recent post on her company blog, she talks of how the seemingly unrelated task of baking cookies taught her an important lesson about flexibility in business.
Shine originally intended to ice the cookies, shaped like the infamous leg lamp in the classic holiday movie “A Christmas Story.” But her plans changed when she saw that the level of detail impressed by the cutter would make them stand out far more than the trappings of frosting and sprinkles.

Shine writes of the lesson learned:  “No matter how much we plan (and we should!), sometimes life throws you a better idea. Don’t rigidly stick to your plan (business, marketing or otherwise) and miss an opportunity to shine. Take a chance and follow the divergent path to see where it leads. It could lead to a brilliant new idea, unique product concept or branching off your business or marketing plans in a completely new direction.”

Since we’re on a roll here and could always use a little more fun, check out the link below for creative uses for common household items. See how much life can change for the better when you think outside the box?



Entrepreneur (http://www.entrepreneur.com/blog/223588)

Clearly Conveyed Communications (http://jaimeshine.com/2012/12/28/what-making-leg-lamp-cookies-taught-me-about-my-business)

Buzzfeed.com (http://www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/35-lifechanging-ways-to-use-everyday-objects)

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AboutMichelle McCafferty

Michelle joined the Proforma team in 2008. As the Manager of Business Development for Major Accounts, she helps Proforma Owners win new and grow existing programs through proposal and presentation development, as well as periodic Relationship Reviews. Before joining Proforma, Michelle attended Cleveland State University where she earned a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication.

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