7 Habits of Creative Problem Solvers

Are you a creative problem solver or a complainer? Creative problem solvers add value while complainers add to the problem. And if you’re adding to the problem, what does that say about your character?

People aren’t born complainers or creative problem solvers. These roles are earned through habits and life choices we make along the way.

Fortunately, you can become a creative problem solver simply by adopting habits of creative problem solvers. Once you understand the process for solving problems creatively, you are likely to see why creative problem solvers choose this outlook on life.

That being said, the creative problem-solving process may not be simple for you. It does require a change in your mindset and your actions. By changing your habits one at a time, you can evolve from a person that stops progress to a champion of change.

Here are seven habits of creative problem solvers and how you can adopt these behaviors into your own life.

Identify Opportunities

Many people see problems at face value. They dwell on its negativity and get so wrapped up in the symptoms of these issues that they can’t see their way out of the mess.

Not creative problem solvers. A problem is merely an opportunity in disguise—that is, if you focus on how a solution can improve the situation for the better.

The first step in problem solving is to identify the problem. Because creative problem solvers want the end result more than the problem, they don’t get stuck at step one. These habits of creative problem solvers lead them to focusing more on what is to come rather than on what is happening now.

Balance Data & Intuition

Too much of one thing in the problem-solving process isn’t going to solve the problem. Too much dependence on data can stall the process in solving the issue. And too much reliance on intuition can lead the team off-course from ever resolving the issue. 

That’s why finding balance is one of the habits of creative problem solvers. Intuition is a launching point in the problem-solving process. And when that gut feeling can be backed up by data and facts, the solution becomes undeniable.

Work Backwards

Approaching an issue in a linear fashion can lead to dead-ends and off-road meanderings. That’s because when you don’t have the final destination in mind, it’s hard to plan the right route to get there.

When reverse engineering a problem, creative problem solvers start first with the desired future outcome. They then work backwards to devise all the actions that need to occur (and in which order) before solving the problem from the starting line.

These habits of creative problem solvers keep a positive perspective in place because the future is always in sight, even during the tense moments of the problem-solving process. They believe that these struggles are only temporary setbacks in getting to the wanted solution.

Ask Great Questions

The creative part of problem solving is exploring all of your options. And to know every option of any given situation, you have to ask the right questions.

Asking tough questions is how creative people solve problems. Courage and persistence are habits of creative problem solvers because they know that by addressing the elephant in the room, they are that much closer to discovering the solution.

To devise the right solution, creative problem solvers often ask these questions:

  • 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 _____?

Comfortable with Uncertainty

Nothing’s certain until it actually happens. Many people start floundering during the difficult parts of the process because they don’t know if their effort is going to make a difference in resolving the issue. Some even quit before they really start when they realize that there are no guarantees that the issue will truly be resolved in the end.

Creative problem solvers don’t need everything to make sense during each step of the journey. Rather, connecting concepts along the way is an exhilarating reward for them during the problem-solving process. Confidence and determination are habits of creative problem solvers because they are fully invested taking any step necessary to achieve the goal, even during the unsure times.

Take Failure in Stride

No one likes to fail. In fact, failure often brings feelings of shame, disappointment, fear and frustration. These negative emotions are unenjoyable to experience, so many people shy away from solving the problem to avoid any potential consequences.

Creative problem solvers don’t feel this way. Instead of taking failure personally, they accept failure as part of the problem-solving process. That way, when failure does happen, they can continue the process of finding and implementing the right resolution.

Developing habits of creative problem solvers means to separate oneself from the situation. For example, a creative problem solver would say “that attempt failed” instead of “I failed.” The failure is a lesson learned during a journey, not a stop sign that ends the process.

Make Time for Mind Breaks

Creativity is not a 24/7 lifestyle. Even the most creative problem solvers take breaks to center themselves and to let their minds wander. When you don’t take breaks, you hit a wall—and that halts the problem-solving process completely.

Mind breaks are activities that give your mind temporary space from the problem-solving process, be it exercise, socializing, driving or exploring something new. While creative problem solvers enjoy thinking creatively and solving problems, they understand that there is more value in briefly stepping away from the situation so that they can be present and give 100% when they return to solving the problem.

What habits of creative problem solvers do you carry out in your own life? Are there more habits for creative problem-solving that we should consider? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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