10 Fun Ways to Unlock Your Creative Potential and Become a Better Problem Solver.

Going from Ha-ha to A-ha!

We face problems every day.  Many of these problems are straight forward and with a certain amount of logical thinking you can see the patterns and use your experience to solve them.  However, for more persistent problems we often require a different approach.  An approach that requires you to unlock your mental locks and shake you loose from your paradigms. 

Great inventors and scientists like Einstein, Da Vinci, Edward Jenner and Niels Bohr understood that the key to solving problems is to unlock your creative potential and think differently.

Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different”  Albert Szent-Gyorgyi   

Let’s look at 10 easy and fun ways in which you can unlock your creative potential and become a better problem solver.

  • The right answer – why not the left answer?

If you went to a traditional school in the 70’s and 80’s like I did you would have been exposed to a system that taught us to look for one right answer.  For conventional situations the first answer you find may be fine, but what often breaks the paradigms is that the 2nd, 3rd or even the 4th answers (those answers that are left) could just be the ones to solve the problem in an innovative and unique way.

There are many ways to find those “left-over” answers.  You can play “what-if”, “reverse the problem” or “break the rule” games.  The answers that you get always depend on the questions that you ask.  So, try asking questions that make you think differently.  For example, I like to pretend I am Richard Branson and when I come across a difficult problem I like to ask “What would Richard Branson ask?”

  • Its illogical to be logical

When you are searching for new ideas and trying to be creative, being too logical short-circuits the creative process.  A great way to by-pass the logical short-circuit is to create metaphors.  A metaphor is not true, but it takes what we know and helps us understand something else. 

For example, consider how the financial sector talk as if they are plumbers:

They flood the market, increase cash flow, seize frozen assets, create a slush fund, float a loan, or drain capital

Go on a metaphor hunt and pay attention to the metaphors in yours and other people’s thinking.

  • Break the rules.

And here I mean break unwritten rules that you impose on yourself and NOT doing anything that is immoral, unethical or illegal.  Become a revolutionary and challenge the rules especially those that govern your day-to-day activities.  Go out and find outmoded rules.  In this time of Covid there are a lot of rules that no longer apply.  A simple one that applies to many of us is the commute to and from work.   My new idea for the “rush hour” is the caffeine hit I get from my coffee as I get stuck into another Zoom call from home.

In the uniquely creative movie the curious case of Benjamin Button, Benjamin is born looking like an old man and then as he grows up his appearance becomes more youthful.  I have always wondered what it would be like to have the knowledge and experience of a 50-year-old but the imagination of  5-year-old.

“The amount a person uses their imagination is inversely proportional to the amount of punishment they will receive for using it”. 

Sure, we cannot survive on imagination alone but the world was built by practical people who listened to their imagination.

 The “what-if” game is a wonderful way to encourage the imagination. 

What -if the “9-5 office job” was replaced by a “flexi-work from home approach. What-if you did not get paid in physical cash but in digital currency? “Hang on! This is not a “what-if” game anymore” 

  • Welcome to the house of fun

“If necessity is the mother of invention, then play is the Father”

Are you like many others that when they face a problem, they seriously work on it with dogged determination until you find a solution?  Next time you have a problem try and play around with it.  Make your work place a fun place to be.  Crack a joke and laugh at yourself.  Not only does playing and having fun make you feel good it also opens up new neural pathways that encourage creative thinking.  Solving problems does not always need to be serious work. 

  • Jack- of- all trades and Master-of-fun!

For  large portion of the workforce we find ourselves become specialized in a narrower and narrower field.  Such ways of handling information are not conducive to generating new ideas as you often end up focusing too narrow on the problem and it often prevents you looking outside your field for other ideas. 

A way to overcome this is to have an explorer’s attitude. Read books and articles outside your field. Go to flea markets, start a new hobby or even look to nature for new ideas.

  • Consult the Oracle

To prevent the communication problems that ambiguity may cause we are often required to avoid it.  This is fine for practical situations when your message has to be clear and to the point. But it is a creativity killer.  Tight specifications ensure that high quality products are produced but the last thing Picasso needed when creating art was a tight set of specifications.

Take advantage of the ambiguity in the world.  Look at something and think what else it could be.   Cultivate your own source of ambiguity or let the world be your oracle.

Create your own Oracle! Is this ambiguous enough for you?

  • Fools think alike, but great minds seldom differ  

If you find yourself stuck in a rut, then sometimes the best way out is to reverse and try again.  A great way to do this is to “play the fool” and see what crazy ideas you can come up with.  Rarely does the fool give you the right answer or solve the problem but he often provides the stepping stones out of the rut.

  • To err is human

A large part of creative thinking is not being afraid to fail. 

If you are not failing every now and again, it is a sign you are not trying anything innovative” Woody Allen

  • The benefits of failing are that you learn what does not work and it gives you another chance to try something new.  If you make an error use this as a stepping stone to a creative idea you may not have thought about.
  • You are what you think you are!

The worlds of thought and action overlap.      What you think has a way of becoming true. If you think to yourself “I am not creative!” – then this is what you will be.

“I am a problem solver”

“This problem is not too difficult”

“I can write a Medium article”

If you want to be more creative , believe in the worth of your ideas and continue building on them.

With this attitude you will take more risks, break some shackles, look for more than 1 answer, play a little, fool around more and be motivated to go beyond the status quo.

Looking for a fun way to solve your problems? Think differently.  Take a risk and follow the link to “Ask an Expert”.   

Credit for the inspiration and content goes to Roger Von Oech’s book “A whack on the side of the head”.   

This article was written by Anthony Raschke, who is the Technical Director at EyeOnRisk. He is an internationally recognised Food Safety Expert who aims to provide food safety leaders with the skills and opportunities to become food safety champions and excel in their field.