Creative Problem Solving at Work - 5 Simple Questions to Ask

"Creativity now is as important as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status." - Sir Ken Robinson, creativity and innovation expert


Problems can be the seed of your creative reinvention

You may be feeling stuck about a technical issue, or how to persuade a decision-maker to accept your idea, or trying to work with someone who grates on your nerves. The truth is, problems are actually the basis of all creativity. They are like the soil into which new possibilities can flourish. You would not be challenged to be creative if you didn't have a problem to solve in the first place. The real problem would be not activating a creative mindset in the face of problems. That is why creativity can be as important as literacy.

The top 5 questions to ask yourself

Answer these questions on a sheet of paper. It should only take a few minutes and can really help out when solving problems.

1. What is the problem you face in terms of a state of mind?

This question helps you to get clear on your current issue. Many times you can't fix a problem because you don't even know what it is. It also focuses your attention on the state of mind that is feeding the problem. For example: "I am overwhelmed by my priorities."

2. What is your ideal outcome?

As Albert Einstein once said, "You cannot solve a problem with the same mindset that created it." Your ideal outcome would therefore be a mindset that allowed you to solve the problem. For example: "My ideal outcome is to be confident about how to deal with my priorities."

3. What's good about having this problem to deal with right now?

Chances are you looking at this issue as "the glass is half empty". All situations have their pros and cons. This question can help you see "the glass as half full". Look at what you answered to Question #1 and see if you can find any benefits from working through this issue. It might be helping you build skills, activate your creativity, or allowing something else to occur that might otherwise not happen.

4. What needs to burn away so that the right solution can manifest?

Naturally occurring forest fires happen to keep the eco-system in balance. The canopy of old growth trees can completely block sunshine from reaching the forest floor where important plant life needs to flourish in order to feed the rest of the eco-system. Metaphors like this help open up the creative mind. What needs to burn away in terms of an assumption, a mindset, or point of view that's blocking you from getting back in the flow with this situation?

5. If I were exceptional at (the task required), what would I do that I am not doing now?

This question helps you think outside of a limited view you may have of your abilities. You can "download genius" just by imagining you are someone who could easily sort this situation out. For example: "If I were exceptional at confidently dealing with my priorities (instead of being overwhelmed by them), what would I do that I'm not doing now?"

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Case study #1 - Overwhelmed by your priorities this week

Question #1: "I am overwhelmed by my priorities."

Question #2: "My ideal outcome is to be confident about dealing with my priorities."

Question #3: "What's good about having to deal with this situation right now?" I have a fascinating project I get to work on right now that is inspiring me to grow, to better prioritize, and to be more innovative about how it gets done.

Question #4: "What needs to burn away?" Thinking that I need to be perfectionistic about this project, that I need to do it all myself, and that I need to spend as much time on low priority aspects as I am right now.

Question #5: "If I were exceptional at confidently dealing with my priorities (instead of being overwhelmed by them), what would I do that I'm not doing now?" I would delegate the task of formatting the document to someone who is better at it than me, such as Linda.

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Case study #2 - Dealing with negative behaviour at work

Question #1: "I am unclear and anxious about how to confront negative behaviour at work."

Question #2: "My ideal outcome is to be confident about how to deal with negative behaviour at work."

Question #3: "What's good about having to deal with this situation right now?" I am getting to practice assertiveness skills, I'm helping our entire team by dealing with this situation openly, I'm getting to see how to use that negative behaviour for a positive outcome.

Question #4: "What needs to burn away? Thinking that I don't know how to do it, and thinking that this negative behaviour can have no positive outcome.

Question #5: "If I were exceptional at confidently dealing with negative behaviour at work, what would I do that I'm not doing now?" I would make a list of all the ways I could direct this person's behaviour style in a more positive direction.

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Next steps

Act on the wisdom you receive as soon as possible, as this will train your brain to start thinking like this more often. In other words, once you show your brain a less stressful way to deal with your most common problems, you will no longer feel triggered by them.  That is why action is so important.

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Feel free to comment below-what questions do you use to activate your problem solving brain?



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