One of the most valuable skills a person can bring is creative problem-solving — that uncanny ability to see solutions where others only see challenges and obstacles. And the larger the problem, the hairier the issue or the more difficult the challenge you overcome, the greater the respect, recognition and remuneration you’ll receive.
But if tapping the dynamic wellspring of creativity were easy, then everyone would be problem-busting savants. That’s not the case. So although few of us ooze ingenuity from every pore, there are structured strategies that can trigger inspired solutions and original thinking.
1. Walk away.
Regardless of the urgency of the problem or magnitude of the issue, when you’ve been struggling for fresh perspective or an answer that just won’t come, take a break. Take a walk outside, do some Tai Chi, make some pressed coffee. Any smallish activity can help reset your thinking.
2. Seek contradictions.
Everyone has a confirmation bias where we seek out evidence, facts and data that reinforce our existing opinions, beliefs and ideas. Confirmation bias is part of human nature, and because it happens subconsciously, it can force us into limited thinking and narrow solution sets without us even realizing it.
A quick key to turn over the ingenuity ignition is to seek out contrarian content, authors or concepts. For example, if you’re a diehard capitalist, try reading a few socialist articles to goose your mental mojo. If you’re a devout vegan, a YouTube video on dry-rub barbeque might ignite new ideas.
The point is not to get angry or change your beliefs, but rather to create some dynamic internal tension to shake loose mental shackles that could be holding you back.
3. Test alternative uses.
Alternative uses testing is where you take a common everyday item and think of as many different ways to use the object as you can. And you only have a certain timeframe to generate the list of those novel uses. This will make your creative juices moving, and you’ll be ready to re-engage the task at hand with renewed perspective and purpose.
Each of these tactics help spur creativity by reframing the problem, distracting attention from perceived obstacles as well as serving as catalysts for previously unseen connections. They don’t cost anything, and you can do each one right now.
Although they’re not magic, by combining these tricks with a bit of cranial agitation, each of us can instantly spark creative breakthroughs and problem-solving abilities.
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