What do you do when your business is “stuck?” For some, that can be the biggest, scariest problem!
Your product line hasn’t changed in years. You rely too much on one client. Your competitors are more innovative. You can’t find reliable employees. You can’t find a voice among the noise.
Whatever your problem is, you’re “stuck,” and it prevents you from moving forward, from sleeping at night, or from reaching your dreams.
Creative Problem-Solving can be an incredibly nuanced, detailed process. But it can also be as simple as you want it to be!
This is the first in a four-part series on How to Solve Any Problem. I’ll help guide you to finding solutions that are creative – unique, unusual, not-before-seen – and put them into use. Through this process, you will generate many more ideas than you could ever use, and most of them won’t be good ideas. However, if you generate 100 ideas, and ten are creative, then that’s ten creative ideas you didn’t have before!
Quantity breeds quality. The more ideas, the more good ideas. Let’s get started.
Please note: This is not the full Creative Problem-Solving model, just a simple, three-step process to ideating and deciding which ideas to implement.
Our goal: 50-100 ideas. 2-3 of them good, wiz-bang, boss-impressing ideas.
Step 1: Use the 10-10-10 technique
Start by generating ten possible solutions to your problem. Don’t worry about making them good solutions. I’m not asking you to find ten brilliant, earth-shattering, boss-impressing ideas. Just ten ideas.
(Your boss will be impressed, just not yet. Wait until we’re done!)
Of those ten ideas, pick one. Then, come up with ten variations of that idea.
Of those ten, pick one, and come up with ten variations of that idea. That makes thirty ideas so far! Repeat the process as much as you want.
We’re stretching your thinking. We’re forcing you into unfamiliar territory. Often times, we struggle to find unique ideas because we’re stuck in (or unwilling to leave) familiar territory. By making variations-upon-variations-upon-variations, we force you outside of familiar territory.
Being outside of familiar territory can come in especially useful in the next step.
Step 2: Make Connections
Have you ever been in a situation where someone was telling you a story, and something they said made you think of something completely unrelated? That’s the effect we’re going for here. We just need to make it happen, instead of waiting for it to happen.
Roger Firestien, in his book, “Why Didn’t I Think of That?” reminds us that, “The history of science is filled with breakthroughs in which two different worlds, originally considered unrelated, were combined to form new ideas.”
Making connections is about taking two ideas that don’t seem related, and forcing yourself to make a connection between them.
So, think about your problem, and change your environment. Go to a completely different place, and see if you can make a connection between that place and your problem. If your problem relates to social media marketing, go to a mall or an auto shop. Find a connection between social media marketing and the auto shop. See if that stimulates a new idea, and write it down.
Every new idea gets us further toward 50-100.
Another technique I like to use is a word web. Think of a word central to your problem, and then connect to it any other words – images, feelings, data, etc – that connect to your problem.
Then go a step further, and make connections to the connections. For example, I recently wrote a screenplay in which I knew I wanted one of the characters to make a sacrifice, but I didn’t know what I wanted that sacrifice to be.
So, I wrote down “Sacrifice.” I connected to it, “life,” “security,” “money,” “belongings,” “reputation,” “friends,” “dreams.”
Then I took each of those, like “reputation,” and connected to that different ways one’s reputation could be sacrificed. I went from having no ideas on how the character should sacrifice to having a dozen interesting ideas (and several dozen less-interesting ones to build on).
Making connections is powerful. Force yourself to make connections. Repeat until you have 50-100 ideas.
Step 3: Converge and Analyze
Up until this point, we have been Divergent Thinking. Now, we’re going to converge. Pick your favorite ideas from your list – the most unique, most interesting, most creative. Don’t limit yourself only to ideas that will work – pick the ones you like the best, just because you like them! Pick five or so.
Now, maybe the ideas aren’t practicable yet. Maybe they’re too expensive, too complicated, don’t fit with your branding, etc.
Take the shortcomings, and turn them into possibility questions that invite a solution.
If it’s too expensive, ask, “How can we make it less expensive?” If it doesn’t fit with the branding, ask, “How can we make it fit our brand?”
In other words, take an idea that isn’t a good idea yet and make it a good idea. Turn it into a boss-impressing idea! I have a story about this a few paragraphs down.
The “How to Solve Anything” Series
For parts 2-4 in the series, I’ll further break down the steps. How and why each step works, and the fine points of doing them really well. The cognitive neuroscience involved is fascinating, but would make for a rather long post.
I teach 8th grade Computer Science, and we have a mobile app design project. In brainstorming ideas, I specifically asked for bad ideas. One student came up with an app that played sounds of war – explosions, gunfire, sirens and emergency radio calls, etc. in order to set off PTSD.
Not a great idea, right? I love the way 8th graders think sometimes.
But, let’s turn it into a good idea: What if soldiers returning from warzones need a gradual easing in to gentler society. Maybe such an app could be developed with psychologists to gradually reduce the “war sounds” playing at night over several weeks?
That would take more investigation, but that’s how we turn bad ideas into good ones.
The book "Activate Your Genius Mode" is all about building your creative mindset. Gain practical, one-page tips to building your creative mindset, one page at a time. Visit the Conjunction Media Store to purchase.
For more tips on how to practice creative skills, to hear more, contact Creative Dave to book a workshop or motivational speech for your school or organization before his roster is full for the year!
And, check out the new, "Activate Your Genius Mode: School Edition," the complete guide to implementing creative practices inside the classroom.
Contact David about speaking or workshopping at your school or business event.