How Creative People Solve Problems
My career’s in marketing. And if you too work in marketing, you know that most (if not all) received requests are delivered as a do-this command.
What’s frustrating to a creative person about this approach is that it ignores the creative process of problem solving. In fact, it skips all the steps of solving a problem by jumping to an assumed end.
Here’s a secret: if you want to solve a problem like a creative person, never assume anything.
I think it’s safe to say that most of us want to be creative. And what we perceive to be creativity is the end result, the delivered product, the seen solution, the revolutionary methodology to XYZ.
Yet this is merely the end result of the creative process. What makes a person creative is how they solve the problem.
If you want to expand your creativity, it’s time to think like a creative person.
Creative People Start with the Problem
As the sharks on Shark Tank say episode after episode, never try to make a product or service that your business sells solve a problem. Define the problem first, then build your business around a solution that best solves this problem.
Same goes here. It’s natural to be reactionary when a crisis arises because it’s actions that change the current situation. But a creative person is more mindful of the actions that need to be taken. In short, the wrong actions can be just as (or more) damaging as sitting still.
Start with the problem, not the solution. And to do that, you must define your problem concretely and simply.
Creative People Consider All the Problems
Explore your current situation by listing out all its symptoms. This includes consequences based on current action as well as emotions created by the situation. It’s easy to assume that a symptom is the problem, but it often is what I call a mini-problem to The Great Problem.
Your symptoms (mini-problems) will reveal The Great Problem because usually the mini-problems are all linked in some way to The Great Problem. While the situation may feel complex (as outlined by all your mini-problems), The Great Problem usually boils down to a simple statement.
Before you can jump into uncovering a solution, make sure you know what you want. To follow a pattern, let’s call it The Great Ask. I recommend listing out everything that you do want within the categories of Absolutely and Nice to Have so that you can prioritize what you genuinely want the upcoming solution to create. I like to call these mini-asks because they are the desired results of the perfect solution.
Like The Great Problem, your mini-asks should easily reveal The Great Ask. In short, all your mini-asks can be summarized by The Great Ask because it conveys what you collectively desire your solution to create.
Creative People Ask (Lots of) Questions
Creativity means exploring all your options, many of which are wrong and will not be the solution. That’s okay. Creative people do not crumble when an idea reaches a dead end. They turn around and try out another path.
Be brave when asking “why?” and “why not?” and “what if?” It’s these kinds of question-starters that help the team (or help yourself) realize some hard truths and arrive at glorious epiphanies.
Some scary questions that creative people ask are:
- Why is that the problem?
- Why are we currently approaching the problem this way?
- What have we tried so far?
- What if we tried _____?
- What if we were willing to _____?
- Why are we afraid to _____?
- What if we weren’t afraid to _____?
Creative People Define the Shared Goal Together
The creative process is more appealing when it’s a positive experience. That’s because an optimistic environment inspires free-flowing ideas and a willingness to take action.
It’s necessary to define The Great Problem so that we know what is to be solved. But a problem statement tends to be negative and lingers on the current situation. A goal focuses on the future, asserts confidence in solving the problem and encourages everyone’s participation in reaching the desired outcome.
Let’s transform The Great Problem into The Great Goal. We’re not discarding The Great Problem, just placing it on a figurative shelf that you can return to from time to time while working towards achieving The Great Goal.
You’ll find that The Great Goal embodies the following traits:
- It emphasizes positivity. Eliminate desperate words like “need” and “must.” A tone that is fear-based or dominating discourages you and your team from completing the goal because it no longer feels like a choice.
- It starts with an action verb. A journey starts with a single step, so inspire that first step to be taken. The first word of a goal is the most remembered, so choose an action that motivates action exponentially.
- It’s specific and measurable. It’s easier to determine the success of a goal with established numbers and precise outcomes. This will provide you and your team direction on the actions to take in solving The Great Problem.
- There’s a target date of completion. A deadline implies that you have no choice in when to complete The Great Goal. A target date of completion conveys an amicable challenge rather than a dictatorial demand, thus inspiring personal investment in reaching the goal.
- It Includes Everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a team of one or one thousand. The Great Goal encourages action from everyone on the team. The Great Goal is only as strong as the team that’s creating it, so craft it in a way that’s inviting for all to take action.
Now It’s Your Turn
Solve your problem creatively by following these steps:
- State your perceived problem
- List out all the symptoms of your current situation (mini-problems)
- Define The Great Problem
- Write out all that you’d like to achieve by solving this problem (mini-asks)
- Express The Great Ask
- Explore all your options by asking scary questions
- Create The Great Goal
- Go Solve Your Problem
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