Creative Problem Solving.

Your first reaction to some of problems techniques may be one of mild scepticism. This is probably because you still perceive problem-solving as a logical process — and some of the suggested approaches are not very logical. It is true: they are not. Neither are they guaranteed.

They are simply suggestions that may help to unlock the potential problem-solving ability of your brain:

potential that may never be realised by the use of traditional methods. Next time you have a problem, and you have exhausted the usual channels, why not try one of these novel techniques to stimulate your creativity. Who knows? It may even work!

INTERPERSONAL

Talk to someone. Describe the problem to them as clearly as you can.

It does not matter that they are not a specialist in the problem area. Indeed, they may know nothing at all about the topic. The reason you are involving them is not because you expect them to generate answers — but because they will, hopefully, generate further questions. Even if the questions are “stupid” ones, they will nevertheless enable you to clarify the problem in your own mind. Often, as you are talking — even while you are still describing the problem — the solution springs to mind.

NATURALIST

Have you ever thought what kind of animal you’d be if you had a choice? Which creature’s characteristics most closely resemble your own? What about your family, friends and colleagues? How do you perceive them in naturalist terms and does this throw any light on your relationships? Pursuing such an analogy may help you to gain a clearer insight into some of the problems that plague your home or workplace — and may even suggest a solution or two. Although it may be a little more complicated, it may also be possible to

envisage more abstract problems in terms of the animals, plants or natural features that they resemble. This, in turn, may suggest how they can be destroyed, restrained, harnessed, adapted or trained.

PHYSICAL-KINAESTHETIC

The trick here is to represent the problem by means of a model.

The model need not be lifelike or made to scale — indeed, it is unlikely that most problems have a “shape” at all. Nevertheless, you could use pens, paperclips and rolled-up bits of paper to represent the component parts of the situation. Failing that, you could simply use your hands to identify each element of the problem, which you place metaphorically within the workspace in front and around you. Now try moving the parts about. This technique enables kinaesthetic thinkers to move and manipulate (albeit only in their imagination) the difficulties and barriers to achieving a successful outcome. Changing the position of the component parts enables you to see the problem — and its potential solutions — from different perspectives.

INTRAPERSONAL

Take time out to daydream. Find somewhere quiet. Close your eyes. Allow yourself time to think.

Instead of concentrating on the problem, focus on what a successful outcome might be like. Use “what if …” as a starting point for your imagination and place yourself in a position of having already resolved the situation. Approaching the problem from a completely different direction (not just in terms of space but also in terms of time) will free your mind to tackle it in a novel way — and could well generate a winning idea. Of course, your idea is unlikely to arrive fully-fledged and will require considerable nurturing before it sees the light of day. It is reputed that Einstein crystallised his theory of relativity while on a “journey of the imagination”. Once he had “returned to earth” he still had to struggle with the mathematics that would substantiate his theory — but the breakthrough had already happened.