Creativity Information

Problem Solving Techniques For Business And Life

Learning a few good problem solving techniques can improve your bottom line and your life.

Do you ever run out of good ideas, or go around in circles trying to come up with a solution for a persistent problem? Maybe you just need to learn some simple problem solving techniques, and then start applying them. Choose one or two of the methods below, and get in the habit of using them in your personal life and your business.

Using Your Unconscious Mind

Let your unconscious mind do your problem solving. Outline a problem in your mind before going to sleep, and tell your brain to go to work. Einstein had good luck with this technique, sometimes getting the "ah-ha" insight while shaving the next morning.

Next, instruct your mind to keep working on the problem while you do other things. There is more than we know going on inside our heads. An answer may come to you when you least expect it.

Try working on problems when you are in a drowsy state. This can result in more creative solutions.

Systematic Problem Solving Techniques

Challenge assumptions. For example, if you are assuming you need a better or higher-paying job, ask "do I really need a better job?" Maybe you can get a raise, or somehow make the job you have better. A business on the side might be an option. Don't let your assumptions limit the possible solutions.

Break it down. Buying a house is a big move that is really a bunch of small steps. This is true of many problems. Start by addressing all of the components of a problem individually, and it may not seem so overwhelming. This makes it easier to motivate yourself.

Ask others for advice. They may or may not have good ideas, but in any case this helps you be sure that you are not overlooking anything obvious.

Write it down. Then find another way to express the problem and write that down. Continue with all solutions and ideas that come to mind. Write down everything. Later you can pick the diamonds out of the dirt.

Change your perspective. Imagine you are rich, poor, a child, a visitor from another planet. How would you see the problem from this new perspective? Einstein imagined riding on a beam of light, which lead to his theory of relativity, so this technique has been known to work.

More Problem Solving Techniques

Randomly pick an object, and ask what it can teach you about your problem. If you're looking for a way to fire a bad employee, for example, a mailbox might make you think of writing him a letter (and a billboard might make you laugh). A tree might give you no ideas, but then a frail roadworker might make you think, "maybe he is just in the wrong position, and he can do a good job elsewhere in the company."

Using this problem solving technique, you'll have many silly ideas pop into your head. Don't be too dismissive of them, as they will sometimes trigger a thought that is more useful. You can use this creative technique anywhere, and it's great for putting driving time to good use.

Solve Problems By Causing Them

One way to solve problems is to ask how you can cause them. This is good technique for personal problems. Too much stress? Think of ways to cause more stress. Hmm...promise too much, don't sleep enough, allow constant interruptions, leave many decisions hanging there unresolved, and so on. Each of these ways to cause stress can show you something. If you make fewer promises, sleep more, don't allow too many interruptions, make decisions now (to get them off your mind), you might be more relaxed.

Need customers? How can you scare them away? The point is that if you only look at the problem from the perspective of "How do I solve it?" you tend to see only solutions based on your hidden assumptions. If, for example, you are assuming that your stress is simply due to having too many things to do, you may miss many solutions. So looking at how to cause a problem will show you more ways to solve it.

Still More Problem Solving Techniques

Try "assuming the absurd." Putting stores in the homes of consumers was an absurd idea at one time, but isn't that what television shopping networks and internet stores do? What at first seems crazy may lead to ideas that are useful. Backpackers get tired of carrying heavy packs, so one pursued the "crazy" idea, "What if backpacks had wheels?" It's for sale now (the "Wheelpacker"), and it can handle most rough trails with its modified bicycle wheel.

Pick a few absurd solutions or ideas related to the problem at hand, and work with them for a few minutes to see what comes to mind. If "assuming the absurd" is difficult for you, start by "assuming the opposite." Need to lower expenses? What if you raise them instead? Find a way to make sense of that, and you are on your way to creative problem solving.

Steve Gillman has been studying brain improvement, creative problem solving and related topics for years. Some of what he has discovered can be found on his website:

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