It’s the one certainty in every brainstorming session – the phrase ‘think outside the box’ is always waiting to appear.
Like many common sayings, it’s started losing all meaning from overuse.
Great and productive creative thinking and problem-solving are skills sought after, leading entrepreneurs, managers, and everyone wanting to excel at their job to scour the internet for a magic formula that will solve all their problems by helping them solve others.
Great problem-solving comes down to simplicity
Peel away the excess layers of your problem until left with the root of it all.
It could be as simple as walking back through the steps until you find an obvious roadblock in the process, or perhaps something more complex.
A great tangible metaphor for a problem is a tangled pair of earphones – unless you calm down and begin working from the end and focusing on where each knot is, you’re likely to break it or simply waste time and energy in a fruitless pursuit.
Throw out ‘should’
It’s hard to take a step back from social conventions and history, potentially turning your back on usual procedures in pursuit of a solution.
Sometimes the step back is necessary – everyone has a feeling of what they should do in a situation, but studies have found that the word ‘should’ itself can be the difference between thinking creatively to find a solution or simply thinking historically, about what has succeeded or failed in the past.
The usual ‘should’ frame of mind gets many people focusing on the consequences of potential solutions – there may be an obvious answer that your brain blocks due to perceived trade-offs and costs, whether financial or social.
It’s easy to get stuck on the answers that seem most obvious, rather than approaching open-minded and working to find a creative solution.
Some rules are made to be broken.
If a client has an issue with a project, existing processes might say you need to do ‘xyz’ – this may be a fine solution an amount of the time, but doesn’t take into consideration that every client and project has different needs and requirements.
Read more: 6 Ways to Get Great New Clients
Start embracing could.
What tools do you have at your disposal?
How could you use them to make the client happy?
If you don’t have the right tool, what else can you use or how could you get it?
Identifying the best outcome of the problem is the first step.
Innovating in a way that solves the problem provides a basic solution, but finding a solution that prevents the problem from occurring again offers the ideal scenario.
Ignoring roadblocks might not seem like an efficient use of time at first, but removing them from the thought process temporarily can be a way to let your imagination wander free, coming up with as many fanciful solutions as you can before moving to ground them in reality.
Talking to people outside your direct circle allows you to get input from people with a variety of lived experiences, backgrounds, and thought styles.
People can find problem-solving creatively harder if they function either very creatively or very logically, and external conversations can help people identify common threads and use them as a framework to build a solution.
If you don’t have ready access to a diverse group of thinkers and doers, such as those that work in coworking spaces, you may look online into a small business community, or even talk it out with some friends.
Be a leader
Just because nobody has solved your problem before doesn’t mean it can’t be done – on a larger scale, your idea could be revolutionary.
James Dyson’s initial problem was a clogging vacuum bag, and he started thinking about creative solutions to the common issue. Fast forward 5 years and he had created a vacuum cleaner that worked on cyclonic action and centrifugal force, and now the industry has started to see the demise of older bag-based styles.
Read more: How to Help Your Small Business Thrive
Problem-solving is one of the keys to every great startup and entrepreneurial dream – identify a pain-point for your customers and clients, and then work to offer them a solution.