5 Steps for Creative Problem Solving

The old adage, “think outside the box” is well known and somewhat overused, but the theory behind it is sound. Not every problem has a straight forward solution just like every road isn’t flat and straight. Sometimes it takes insight, creativity and sheer determination to get the solution necessary to solve a difficult problem.

Here are some steps to help with creative problem solving:

  1. Identify the problem or goal and clearly define the parameters. The purpose of this is to completely understand what the issues are; it isn’t always exactly as it seems and breaking it down can help challenge the original interpretation to best identify strategies moving forward.
  2. Review any steps already taken to deal with the issue and what the results were. Research solutions others might have also used and their outcomes. This may help with processing the right information to find a solution.
  3. Simplify with challenging questions to find solutions and then generate creative ideas for solving them. For instance, if the issue is making more money, a challenging question would be “How might I go about making more money?”
  4. Realistically evaluate these ideas. It may be worthwhile to take a break between steps 3 and 4 to let things set in. Additional ideas may come to mind in the meantime or focusing on other things in life could provide a necessary break to help with better concentration upon returning.
  5. Make an action plan and pursue it. Base the plan, or plans, on the ideas that work for the goal. Creative ideas may mean taking risks and this can sometimes dissolve some of the motivation, but a simple action plan can help alleviate this concern with straight forward steps that one can focus on. Follow these steps but be prepared to adapt them as situations change. Don’t be afraid to come back and re-write if the situation changes – nothing is set in stone.

Creative problem solving is a thought process and not necessarily just a series of “Aha!” moments. The ultimate goal is to move through the problem to the solution as efficiently as possible. The steps above will help to form processes for not only current situations but future ones as well. It may also lead to automatic creative solutions based on previous experiences using these steps. Never underestimate the abilities of the mind to find solutions to all of life’s problems, even if they are “outside the box”.

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