How to Use Creativity for Professional Problem Solving
Professional problem solving has always existed as a process of first identifying the problem, then considering alternative solutions, choosing the best solution of the bunch, and finally implementing it to see if it works. If it doesn’t, the process continues on the cycle of trying new solutions until the problem finally gets resolved.
What if tapping into your creativity could make the process easier, and dare I say, more fun? While identifying an issue and testing out solutions will always be the basis to solving problems, there are so many ways to put this into practice.
Here, we’ll share a few ways you can think creatively to better and more easily solve any professional problems.
5 Creative professional problem solving ideas
1. Make everything a question
Have you ever noticed that therapists and counselors ask a lot of questions? They do it to elicit a response from their clients. They want to help them to find their own answers without being led or told what to do. The same approach works with professional problem-solving.
If you’re working with a team, assign one person to be the question asker, while the rest of the team must provide answers. Make sure the question asker is someone persistent. Every answer given should be responded to with another question.
Here’s a short list to get you started with this exercise:
- Why not?
- What if…?
- What’s next?
- Are we willing to…?
- How would that satisfy the problem?
- How would it feel to…?
- What would happen if…?
- And then what would happen?
2. Call in new minds to assist
Sometimes bringing in a fresh mind with no bias toward the situation can completely change how an entire group approaches professional problem-solving. Let’s pretend you have a problem that you’d normally contact your customer service representatives to help you solve. Maybe customer complaints are increasing regarding a particular product or process. Instead of calling in the CS team, why not bring in marketing or even your tech team?
Explain the issue to them without suggesting any potential solutions, and ask them how they’d resolve the problem to prevent any future complaints from being filed. Then, be quiet. Sit back and take notes. If they have procedural questions for you, of course you can answer, but really let them take the lead. What they share can be eye-opening. If, at the end of the meeting, you don’t feel like you’ve gotten closer to solving the problem at hand, take some time to ask pointed or leading questions to drive closer to get commentary that may help you.
3. Be creative with professional problem solving
Stop what you’re doing, pick up a pen and paper, and just start journaling. Head to the store to pick up some paint, paintbrushes, and a canvas. Go to a dance studio and take a class. Pick up an instrument and play it. Whatever creative outlet you enjoy is a good starting place.
Creative endeavors will help to decrease stress, sharpen your mind, promote emotional growth, and even change your overall attitude.
And don’t think this is just an individual approach to professional problem-solving. A team can get in on the creative break. Work together to create a collage or other piece of artwork. Write a story by passing a paper around the boardroom table in which each person must add one new sentence to it and nothing more, until the paper gets back to them. Invite your team to share suggestions on what they do to feel creative and take their lead.
4. Try mind mapping
Finding it hard to jump into creative approaches when professional problem-solving? That’s okay. Some people need to dip their toes in first. Here’s an option for you: Start with an approach that you’re already familiar with. Mind mapping is one way to use both your analytical and creative brain space at the same time. Here, you can be organized, by keeping your ideas connected, but still give yourself some space to just let your mind wander and go in whatever direction it wants without trying to force out an answer. Mind mapping also offers teams a chance to practice professional problem-solving in real-time. It doesn’t have to only be an individual attempt.
5. Stop trying to solve the problem
Sometimes wanting a solution so badly and trying so hard to find one is what prevents you from getting the answers you so desperately want. Instead, temporarily walk away. Do something completely different. Sleep on it. Put the problem aside until you’ve gained the mental clarity to come back and work at it again. If you’re worried about the problem being urgent, talk out your concerns with your team or colleagues. Oftentimes, when people are under stress, they tend to inflate the enormity of their issues. There’s a good chance that your issue can wait temporarily, even if it means you only have an hour to run out for a coffee or take a quick walk around the block.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to creative professional problem solving, but there is one thing that’s for sure — if you don’t try something new, you will never know if it works. So test out a few of these approaches, and if they don’t work now, try them out again on a different issue in the future. Allow yourself and your team the creative freedom to come up with solutions and implement them in whatever way works best for you.