Eight Easy Creative Problem-Solving Techniques That Really Work

by Scott Jeffrey

No one likes the feeling of being stuck.

It creates tension. And that tension seeks resolution.

Thankfully, there are many creative problem-solving techniques for resolving this tension and revealing new solutions.

8 Creative Problem-Solving Techniques That Get Results

All of the following creative problem-solving techniques work some of the time. The key to is mix and match them until you get a workable solution.

When faced with a difficult challenge, try a combination of the following problem-solving techniques:

1) Ask Compelling Questions

Use “what if?” questions to project different scenarios into the future.

In A Whack on the Side of the Head, Roger Von Oech, says,

“In the imaginative phase, you ask questions such as: What if? Why not? What rules can we break? What assumptions can we drop? How about if we looked at this backwards? Can we borrow a metaphor from another discipline? The motto of the imaginative phase is: Thinking something different.”

Using this creative problem-solving technique challenges you to allow your mind to play out different scenarios without judgment or criticism. Judgment always comes after the creative problem-solving process—not before.

2) Find Your Center

Most problems arise because of inner confusion. Different parts of us hijack our minds and give us conflicting wants, beliefs, and perspectives. These parts keep us from thinking clearly to a workable solution.

When you’re stuck, it helps to find your center first. These guides offer effective methods for centering yourself:

  1. 15 Ways to Find Your Center
  2. How to Ground Yourself to Your Body and the Earth
  3. How to Breathe Like a Jedi

Getting in the habit of centering yourself before approaching a problem is perhaps the most powerful creative problem-solving technique.

3) Explore Context

Many problems arise because we neglect to zoom out from the content of the problem and examine the overall context of the situation.

If sales are down, for example, instead of revisiting your sales strategy examine the context of your overall industry:

  1. Has your industry changed?
  2. Are you disconnected from your customer’s needs?
  3. Is your product becoming obsolete?

Take an expansive viewpoint before narrowing in on the specific problem.

4) Seek Wisdom

In The Seven Decisions: Understanding the Keys to Personal Success, author Andy Andrews recommends putting together a personal Board of Directors—“advisors” for various areas of your life.

Asking an experienced advisor from outside your industry for their thoughts on your problem can yield insightful perspectives.

Even better: Instead of asking them what they would do in your situation, ask them what question they would ask.

5) Walk Away

Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to stop trying to solve it. Sleep on it.

Walking away from the problem brings forth the Wanderer archetype. The Wanderer is essential to the creative process because it allows you to hear your Muse.

The key is knowing when to let go of trying to solve the problem. Creativity problem solving is actually an effortless process; the key is learning how to get out of your own way.

6) Switch Roles

Our minds tend to get locked into old patterns, leading to what’s called “paradigm blindness.”

If you have a marketing-related problem, for example, try putting on an engineer’s hat—or even a gardener’s hat. The idea is to shift your perspective so you can approach the problem from a new angle.

The idea is to shift your perspective so you can approach the problem from a new angle.

7) Use the Six Thinking Hats

Speaking of hats, de Bono’s Six Hats method provides you and your team with six different perspectives to utilize when tackling a problem.

creative problem-solving techniques six hats

It’s an ideal tool for group brainstorming and creative problem-solving. Your ability to shift perspectives quickly—without privileging any one perspective—doesn’t only help you solve problems. It also helps you become a better leader.

8 ) Generate a Plethora of Ideas

Research suggests that the most effective way to uncover the best solution is to brainstorm as many ideas as you can in a nonjudgmental environment before evaluating them.

There are numerous pathways to get the answer you seek.

Some pathways, however, are more effective than others. The key is to experiment with various methods to uncover which ones work best for you.

Different methods will be more effective in different contexts.

Here, wisdom and intuition come into play. Over time, your connection with your inner guide improves and creative problem-solving can become a more spontaneous process.

How to Use these Creative Problem-Solving Techniques

Creative problem solving is a skill. And like all skills, it can be learned and developed. The more you use these problem-solving techniques, the more they become second nature.

Each technique begins to play off the other. And then the art and subtleties of the discovery process begin to emerge.

One thing I’ll point out from my study of creative geniuses: they rarely take credit for their discoveries.

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