Solve your problems creatively

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Are you hitting the dead end over solving a problem? Do you draw blank over a problem in your business?

We all go through it when we narrow our focus to the problem and problem only…Problem generally generates from a discomfort or an uneasiness showing up as a result of non achievement of the expected outcome. Problem may be a bottleneck to achieve those desirable results. You may not see the problem directly; it may come camouflaged in lot many hurdles. Problem Solving is the key…but creatively.

Problem solving through creativity is a process to advance toward an outcome that is new, unstructured, and open ended. Paying attention to targeting the right issues, developing solutions thoughtfully, and then implementing them with both sensitivity and determination will help find the essence of the problem and get solutions which were not obvious in the first go. It is creative problem solving, because the solutions are not obvious, but different and arrived at using divergent thinking. We’ve talked about divergent thinking in our previous blog {Design Thinking – The New Innovation Strategy}; it’s about generating multiple choices that don’t exist. Mostly people associate creative problem solving with brainstorming, but its more than just generating ideas, it’s also about implementing them.

Let’s see how the process helps solve the problem creatively.problemWhat is the actual problem? 

So start with defining what is the problem. It’s not easy as it seems. Like it’s not a problem that you wish to change the job, the problem is why you want to change the job. Similarly it’s not a problem that your team is not able to deliver the expected outcome on the expected date. You need to dig deep to find out the “WHY”. In a problem situation, I pull myself out and ask myself, “why is this a problem?”, “what do I wish to achieve?”, “What else can be the reason for not achieving the outcome?” Break down your problem and analyze what you are really looking for, it may transpire that the actual issue is something else. Keep asking yourself- “What is preventing me from solving the problem or achieving the goal?”, “Do other people also face the similar problem? How are they coping with it?” By the time you have answered all these questions, you should have a very clear idea of what your problem is.

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What bottlenecks or barriers exist? 

How does our brain works? My daughter is cranky, so immediately I assume she’s tired and sleepy. But it maybe because of staying away from home for long due to the new extended school timings. We go for the obvious reasons. Creative thinking helps you to think of reasons that ‘might be’ rather than what ‘should be’. So now you need to start with divergent thinking, an extensive search for multiple alternatives.  If you are presenting your ideas to your manager and the same are being rejected each time, start thinking “How Might I” do it so as to get the same implemented.

If you have defined your challenge you may find a logical approach to solving both problems in a coordinated way. Make sure your challenge is a simple question framed to encourage suggestions or ideas. Don’t put criteria in the challenge; you will limit your creative thinking. For example, “How might I improve my presentation skills and create my presence in meetings?” Improving presentation skills maybe a part of making your presence felt; but creating presence is a big task which must be taken up separately. Attack each challenge separately.

Have you filled a survey form at a shopping store or a supermarket?  Big companies even approach customers for getting facts on what went wrong or how might they do it to get the best results. For example when Olay’s ageing cream couldn’t make it large, they went back to the customers to find out what they want was missing. They figured out that the problem was in their approach. They were only focusing on wrinkles problem of women above 50yrs of age, ignoring a huge customer base of ages 30 to 40 who had other ageing issues. The cream now sells with fighting 7 signs of ageing.

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I’ve got an IDEA

Now it’s time to think of ways to fix your problem. Whatever approach you choose to solve your problem, make sure you pen down you ideas. Put down your ideas, mind registers faster what it can see as compared to what it can think or hear. You can tap into your network; ask your friends or colleagues for help. Try and get a difference perspective on the issue. It’s ok to seek help, because problems can be beyond your ability to solve. Learn from experiences and knowledge of people around you. Find out what’s your creative time during the day.  Like mine is in the morning. The best ideas for blog always come in the morning. And more ideas, means increased chances of getting one that has value.

Most important is no matter how ludicrous is the idea, just note it down. How will the idea work comes later, lets first collect what all comes to our mind. Sometimes when I am out of ideas, I put my laptop away and take a break. When my brains not under pressure it inspires my subconscious mind to generate ideas. Not necessarily that one winning idea can solve your entire problem, so don’t limit yourself to one. Remember that ideas should be freely proposed without criticism or evaluation.

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Will it work?

Once you’ve got all your ideas on the list, it’s time to pick the best one. Sometimes you may be doing all of this alone for a problem which is entirely yours, but at work when you are trying to solve a problem, make sure you organize your thoughts before you share your solution (the best idea). Check does this idea hit all the barriers you’ve identified earlier. You may have to dig deeper to get to the final selection depending upon how grave is the issue. You can try evaluating by giving each idea a score for meeting each parameter. And later pick the one with the highest score. Or you can do SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat) analysis. For example, if you wish to startup a new business or reorganize the team structure or implement a new policy, you need to do more research combined with prototyping sometimes.

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Let’s do it

You’ve got the solution, now it’s time to implement it. Gather what all are the action steps required in order to implement your solution. Implementing the idea doesn’t mean it will be successful just like that. You might have to try it again and again with feedback from each stakeholder each time. Rework till the time you get the perfect outcome.

The key to creative problem solving is to avoid traps that paralyze your thinking. Once you learn to re-define your problem and learn to apply creative problem solving you can achieve efficiency to strengthen your initiatives.

Nothing is more interesting for humans than human activity and the most characteristically human activity is solving problems; thinking for a purpose, devising means to some desired end. —George Polya

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