Creative Problem Solving is
Essential to Leadership
Creative problem solving
is a skill that is necessary for business leaders. Being able to devise
creative solutions to difficult business problems will establish your
credibility as an effective leader.
Have you ever dealt with a business problem that just doesn’t seem to
have an answer? Sometimes, especially when we’re in crisis mode, a
problem presents itself that doesn’t seem to have a solution. Or maybe
you have come up with some possible answers, but you just think that you
can come up with something better.
In order to become proficient
at creative problem solving, it’s important to change your perspective.
What can you do to shift your viewpoint, expand your thinking and come
up with a creative solution?
Here are some suggestions:
Approach Each Problem Like a Small Project
- Approach every situation like it is a project and build a project plan. Most professionals are used to doing this for actual projects, but you should consider doing this for day-to-day activities as well. Putting together a project plan gives you peace-of-mind because you will have a broad view of all the activities that are going on. The plan gives you a long-term view of issues before they arise. Also, if problems come up that you don’t anticipate, you are able to assess the impact to the entire project. What might appear to be a major issue if you are managing “on-the-fly” may not seem as significant to the overall scheme of the project if you are using a project plan. Planning gives you a high-level view of the issue that will help you to calmly assess your options.
- An important aspect to creative problem solving is “don’t panic”. Some positive self-talk will go a long way towards helping you find a good solution. Rather than thinking, “I don’t know what to do” re-phrase the statement to something like, “I know there’s a better solution to this issue; I just haven’t come up with it yet”. Continue with this until you can say to yourself, “the answer is coming to me now”. The energy of this self-talk will attract new solutions and facilitate creative problem solving.
- Hold a short project team meeting with everyone who is involved. I say short, because long, drawn-out meetings tend to quash creative thinking. Explain to the team what you are dealing with and ask for suggestions. Include every level of the team from managerial to administrative. If you don’t get a lot of viable solutions in the meeting, ask the meeting attendees to think about it and send you a follow-up email with their suggestions.
- Bring in someone else who is not involved to offer a different perspective.
This is a good time to bring in your boss, who may have dealt with the
problem before. Or it could be a colleague who doesn’t have experience
in your area, but who has proven success at creative problem solving
with other types of problems. Explain the problem in terms that someone
who does not have your experience can understand and ask for their
- To access creative thinking and to stimulate creative problem solving, take a break from the problem.
No matter what type of crisis you might be experiencing, find a way to
get away from the location where the problem exists. If you have the
luxury of time, take the weekend and really relax. Creative problem
solving is a very creative process. Do something you enjoy, even if
it’s for 20 minutes. Listen to some music you enjoy without distraction,
take a walk outside, or do something recreational that completely takes
your mind off of the problem. You might think this is slacking off when
you should be working hard to resolve the issue. But, actually, the
time you spend away from the issue will open you up to new possibilities
and is just as important as the time you spend working on it.
- After you have gathered all possible solutions, evaluate the solutions by listing them on a white board.
Then make three columns next to the various solutions titled--issues,
risks and rewards. Have the project team fill out the various columns.
Laying it out in this manner will help you identify the most attractive
solution very quickly. It might be that the perfect solution is a
combination of more than one solution. White-boarding the various
scenarios makes the best pathway easier to identify.
Finally, don’t get discouraged.
Remember, you are the best person to make the decision in this
particular situation, because you have unique knowledge and you are the
closest to the situation. So have the confidence that you will come up
with the best possible solution!
If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you. You can
contact me here.
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