Problems and obstacles are unavoidable aspects of life that show up in the form of challenges that need solutions.
Some may have simple solutions, but others will require you to stretch your thinking and come up with novel and creative strategies to deal with them.
To successfully meet these challenges will require you to enhance your creative problem-solving potential by expanding your thinking, perspective, and creativity.
Here are 14 ways to do so.
Tip #1 - Practice 3X brainstorming
On a piece of paper write down a problem that you are facing and challenge yourself to come up with 15-20 possible solutions. Once your list is complete, put it aside and chalk up those ideas to being run-of-the-mill ideas that were simply stored in your memory as opposed to being truly creative ideas.
Next, challenge yourself to come up with a second group of 15-20 solutions. During this process, as you feel yourself putting in a little extra effort in order to come up with each new answer, you are beginning to tap into your creative potential.
Once you accomplish this second list, once again put it aside, and challenge yourself one last time to come up with a third group of 15-20 solutions. It is during this process, where you will find yourself really working to come up with each answer, that you will be truly stretching your creativity and potentially coming up with breakthrough solutions for your problem.
Doing this regularly will train your brain to push past its tendency of simply recalling stored information, and venturing into the realm of creative problem-solving.
Tip #2 - Pursue the right question
Before you spend hours attempting to come up with the best answer that you possibly can to a question or problem... take a moment to make sure that you are chasing the right question or problem in the first place!!
A good practice to get into every time you are attempting to solve a problem is to spend several minutes making sure you are indeed solving the right problem.
Do this through strategies such as rephrasing the problem or question, attempting to be more specific within the problem or question, and ultimately asking yourself.. “what am I really trying to figure out?”
"If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster" – Stephen Covey
Tip #3 - Go for a walk
Many of us have experienced bouts of creativity and insight that bubbled to the surface during a leisurely stroll.
Now there is science that points to the fact that the act of walking itself is likely the catalyst for those moments.
In 2014 researchers at Stanford’s graduate school of education published findings in the journal of experiential psychology that showed that the act of walking can boost creativity by 60% when compared to sitting.
The research found that it did not matter whether you were walking on a treadmill inside or leisurely strolling outside for the benefits to occur.
To capitalize on this phenomenon, make it a daily practice to go on walks by yourself with a notepad in hand, or schedule walking meetings with colleagues.
Tip #4 - Use mental models
Mental models are essentially thinking tools or “rules of thumb” that help us to make sense of the complex world within which we live.
They serve as powerful tools that assist us in sorting through information, to think, and ultimately in making decisions.
Two great examples are: “Avoid 2-front wars” which is a reminder to stick to one activity at a time and avoid multi-tasking, and “Hick’s law” which states that as the time it takes people to make decisions increases with the number of options presented to them, if you want someone to make a decision faster, provide them with fewer choices.
Tip #5 - Talk to strangers
One of the fastest ways to expand your perspective is through conversations with people from outside your regular circles.
In today’s world where the forces of globalization are rapidly bringing countries and people together - those of you with a growth mindset have a tremendous opportunity to learn, interact, and share with a multitude of distinct cultures that have perspectives, wisdom, and ideas that more often than not - will positively influence how you think and see the world.
Tip #6 - Think like a contrarian
When I suggest that you occasionally aim to think and act like a contrarian, I mean intentionally looking at the way you or society normally do something, and then exploring how you can get different results by doing the exact opposite action.
Thinking like a contrarian requires you to ask yourself questions like “how can I do things opposite of how I currently am so I may save time, be more effective, and get different results?
Tip #7 - Start an inspiration log
A moment of insight is like a bird that lands on your shoulder, the moment you look away for even an instant it’s gone.
As some of our best ideas come to us when we least expect them, a priceless habit to get into is to record those ideas and inspirations as soon as they pop into your head.
Do this by typing a note on your phone, recording a voice note, or going traditional and jotting it down on paper.
Tip #8 - Practice “Brain pumping”
How we think and come up with creative ideas can be visualized as an iceberg.
The small portion of the iceberg that is visible above the water represents our intentional conscious thinking and creativity, and the vast area below the surface of the water represents the activity of our subconscious mind. And it is often the subsurface subconscious mind that gives us those “Ah-ha!” moments.
That said, we shouldn’t always anticipate that a moment of creative genius will strike.
We can however increase the chances of it happening by loading up our brain with material to help our subconscious brain come up with great insights.
Here are 4 steps how:
1. Intentionally load your brain with building material by doing extra reading on interesting topics, have conversations with all sorts of people on a host of subjects, and watch insightful educational videos and documentaries.
2. Leave it to your subconscious to sort through and create connections while you're sleeping, exercising, or simply going about your business.
3. Once your brain spits out an insight - and it will - write it down and capture it immediately.
4. Trust in this process and make it a daily habit.
Tip #9 - Ask a stranger to select 2 magazines for you
The next time you’re at a bookstore, ask a complete stranger to select two magazines for you.
The first would be a magazine that they think you would read, and the second would be a magazine that they themselves would read.
The first magazine will give you a fun sense of how others perceive you. And the second will expose you to new ideas and worlds that you would most likely never have been exposed to if you simply picked items that matched your personal interests.
Tip #10 - Ritualize creativity
People who are really good at their job aren’t necessarily more talented than everyone else, rather they consistently and intentionally practice a few habits whose combined results gives them greater results.
Similarly to this, people who are able to regularly come up with creative ideas aren’t necessarily innately more creative than everyone else, it's rather that they consistently adhere to a set of select habits that support creative idea generation.
You too can forge yourself into a creative person by consciously and intentionally making it a habit to practice creative activities such as those listed here.
Tip #11 - Guard your mind as you would a vault
Protecting what you allow into your mind through your eyes and ears is just as important if not more important than protecting what you put in your body through your mouth. Ironically a great way to do this is to approach what you read and listen to as you would a diet.
The vast majority of what you read, listen to, and converse about should be healthy and ultimately contribute to the health of your mind. Read biographies, read work done by journalists vs. people with uninformed opinions, and get rid of the people who just talk hate and B.S.
All of this good “brain food” will ensure that your thinking will have a healthy foundation upon which to build as opposed to a pile of goop.
Tip #12 - Seek out the voices of experience
With estimates pointing to the fact that over the course of history somewhere around 108 billion people have lived, died, and currently live on earth... it's highly likely that most problems that you will face have been encountered in some form or another by someone in the past.
The beauty of wisdom (as opposed to knowledge) is that it is passed down from generation to generation so we don’t make the same mistakes over and over again.
Seek out someone who is older for advice when you are faced with a problem as chances are they have been through what you are going through and can share with you insights that only those who have experienced something themselves can provide.
Tip #13 - Take a different route to work
One of the easiest ways to breathe a little novelty and change of perspective into your life is to frequently take different routes to work.
The idea is to open up your mind to new opportunities, thoughts, and information by breaking from entrenched patterns and habits - in this case, your daily commute.
If you normally take the highway, take some side streets you don’t normally take. If you normally take the train, get off one stop before or after your regular stop and then take different streets than you normally do as you make your way to your destination.
Keep your eyes off your phone and observe the stores, environment, and people you see.... your brain will feel refreshed!
Tip #14 - Search for a great mentor
If you are lucky, in your lifetime you will come across someone who completely changes your life. They inspire you, teach you, and mentor you to become more than you could have ever imagined.
These people are MENTORS and they are more valuable than gold. So keep your eyes out for them... as they may already be in your life - hidden in plain sight.
And when you find them... listen to them, learn from them, and above all cherish and thank them.
And don't forget...
To be resilient against the inevitable challenges of life will require you to forge the ability to adapt to the changing circumstances around you.
To do this, to become more adept at adapting, it's essential that you train yourself to become more creative and expand your thinking through strategies such as those listed here.
My name is John Godoy, I am a speaker and trainer who helps profesionals develop their resiliency and commuication skills so they may better handle the inevitable challenges of life. firstname.lastname@example.org