One powerful way to live a more creative life is to cultivate the art of solving problems — this art helps you of looking more deeply at everything we experience with an open, inquisitive spirit. Creative people are intensely observant, paying careful attention to everything they think and hear. They realize that their environments – the people they talk to, the places they go, the things they read or hear on the radio or TV – can lead their thinking in fresh, exciting directions, which can lead to new ideas and opportunities.
Geniuses are just ordinary people who stumble on a knack or way of thinking that enables them to think and learn more effectively and creatively than others.
When you closely examine how “geniuses” like Newton or Archimedes thought, they didn’t simply sit under trees or in baths until their enlightenment: they used some very powerful and practical tools to create order out of their thoughts and find answers to problems that few people ever thought to solve.
- Clear your head when faced with a challenging problem.
- Generate more than one workable solution to your problem.
- Think creatively.
- Think productively instead of re-productively.
- Give you clear methodology that will make solving problems straight forward and stress free.
First, here are some of the common factors of the world’s great thinkers:
- The idea generation was in pictures and images rather than words. Einstein and da Vinci drew diagrams instead of writing words and sentences.
- Their thinking was unrestrained nothing was consigned to the bin until it had been fully investigated.
- They treated thoughts as things.
- Ideas were explored using association.
- They looked at ideas from different perspectives.
- They were prolific and recorded everything.
- They fuelled their imaginations with knowledge.
- Their thinking was focused.
- They were passionate and determined about discovery.
- They made mistakes but instead of seeing them as failures, saw them instead as “ways of how not to do it”.
- They saw potential in everything.
- They saw mistakes and unexpected surprise results as valuable opportunities to learn from.
- They never gave up.
Consider this definition of “problem”: a problem is an external event perceived as a mental, physical, emotional or intellectual threat to the individual/s concerned. Chances are, your problem only became “a problem” when you became personally involved causing your perception of an event to shift before that, it was just an event, when you perceived that you were potentially threatened by it, the event became a problem.
Everything (including problems) starts in your head. Using your imagination and thinking processes constructively while you solve problems gives your mind the “stuff” it needs to be productive (create new solutions) as distinct from re-productive (create more of the old which is what probably landed you with the problem in the first place).
One of the most reliable ways of solving a problem is the “systems” strategy.
This method does not allow you to add complications that do not exist and it ensures the facts are gathered without the hindrance of destructive emotion (the first indication that an event is turning into a problem).
Seeing the entire system (i.e. the problem and everything associated with it) enhances insight into a problem and allows you to deal with the real issue. Most often, when solutions don’t work it’s because they are the solution to a perceived problem, not the real one.
To develop this strategy, I recommend that you get in the habit of asking open-ended questions that help you to look more deeply at your daily encounters and experiences:
- How can I use this?
- What lessons or insights can I learn from this experience?
- What does this mean in the context of my current creative challenge or the projects I’m working on?
Creative people realize that most ideas aren’t totally new, but are adaptations of what has worked in another market, industry or field of study. History is full of examples, from Alexander Graham Bell modeling the telephone after the way the human ear operated to George de Mestral, who used the concept of plant burrs sticking to his dog’s fur to envision Velcro fasteners. Taking ideas from other environments and adapting them for use in your situation is one of the best ways of developing novel solutions.
Your brain is equipped with the awesome capability of making associations between seemingly disparate pieces of information. It’s part of what makes us human beings so incessantly creative. To help ensure that your brain has a rich pile of creative “raw material” from which to draw, try to seek out unique inputs, knowledge and experiences:
- Read a book or magazine that you don’t normally read. Reading broadly, from a variety of sources, brings your brain into contact with new ideas and concepts, and can be a trigger to your imagination.
- Discuss your problem with people from entirely different backgrounds. You may be amazed at the ideas and insights these discussions will provoke.
- Take a trip abroad and immerse yourself in another culture. International travel is one of the most mind-expanding experiences that I know of. Your senses are heightened as you experience new practices, customs and beliefs – creating a fertile field in your mind for new ideas to grow.
- As you consider the problems and challenges you face, be on the lookout for analogous situations in other industries or fields. How did someone else solve a similar problem? What elements of their solution can you adapt to your situation?
In short, cultivating these strategies are one of the most practical ways in which you can become more creative in your daily life.