Monday, May 3, 2010

With Creativity You Can Face Any Problem

I've been a manager for over 40 years. In that time, I've had to face a lot of problems. Some of these would more aptly be called disasters. But in every single case, what we did to recover and move on turned out to be superior to the path we were on before things went south.

That's 100% of the time, we ended up in better shape than if the problems had never happened. 

Now, I'm not inviting more problems. No, sir. We have our hands full with the challenges that pop up each day, thank you very much. And then of course there's the biggie, the inevitable Surprise of the Week.

But I am affirming the power of creativity. Once my rice bowl is shattered, I have to come up with something to replace it. Another rice bowl, or...something else entirely. Something better.

Most people associate creativity with the arts. But to me, creativity is a power tool for everything in life. Also, I think it's nonsense that only gifted people can be creative. I believe that anyone can be creatiive. Coming up with a new way to do something is simply one of the things any normal human brain can do.

It helps to approach problem solving with an open mind, to be willing to consider alternative ways of doing things.

The classic technique is called "brainstorming," which is nothing more than setting aside fifteen or twenty minutes when criticism or judgments aren't allowed. Write down as many ideas as you can, regardless of their practical merit. You can evaluate them later.

It also helps to consider lots of ideas. As novelist John Steinbeck said, "Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen." Which is cool, because the first creative thought you have is rarely the most useful one.

And ask the people around you for their ideas. You might hear something you can work with. Maybe not the way it was originally suggested to you, but with a little work...

One trick I use is to look at how people in vastly different activities approach similar challenges. For example, if I wanted to improve the main page on our web site, I might ask how other industries try to make a good first impression. Such as rock stars, for example. They rely on celebrity buzz, album covers and warm-up acts to set up their customers for maximum enjoyment. So I ask, how could we do something like that on our website? Not that this technique always gives us the right solution, but it stimulates our thinking. Gets both feet outside the box.

Be ready for resistance. If you believe in an idea, be ready to champion it. As creativity expert E. Paul Torrance once said, "It takes courage to be creative. Just as soon as you have an idea, you're in a minority of one."

INSIGHT - You have the power to be creative, to look at your problem in a new way and think of novel solutions.

ACTION - The next time you're faced with a difficult challenge, consider taking a different approach. It might be something like how to deal with a disruptive, emotional individual who makes the town meeting so difficult that no one wants to be a part of it.

Make a list of at least 15 ways of dealing with your problem. Consider some of the recommendations above to write down as many approaches as you can. Have fun with it. If you can, get suggestions from other people. Then pick one or two that seem interesting, and use your imagination to improve them.

Like anything else, if you do this kind of thing often enough, it will become a habit. If you know you can think creatively anytime you want, you'll be amazed at what this will do for your self-confidence!

          "The world of reality has its limits; the world of
          imagination is boundless."
               - Jean-Jacques Rouseau


Sean said...

Interesting that creativity is your first resource in a crisis. For me, it's always been focus and persistence. Creativity is an excellent resource though, and should be called upon frequently.

Megan Zuniga said...

So, it's kinda like being resourceful and thinking outside the box. It's just like my philophy professor once told us that the human mind is pregnant with ideas. We just need to give birth to them. And I love this approach to solving problems.
Here is another idea I love. Maybe it can even you brainstorm.