In four easy steps, I am going to show you how to creatively problem solve anything, professionally or personally, in any field you are in.
Let’s start with an analogy…
It’s 7am, you’re at home and you need to be in the office by 9am.
Let’s say after a shower, b’fast, coffee and clothes, it’s 8am and you’re ready to leave… all of a sudden there’s some kind of crises and you cannot travel to work in the same way as you normally would, ie: car breaks down, no buses or trains, your bicycle has a flat tyre.
You now need to come up with a solution that will deliver you to the office by 9am.
I imagine you’ve already figured something out, it’s not too difficult.
Our car breaking down or an absence of public transport, while frustrating, isn’t ‘unsolvable’ - with a little creativity to adapt we can discover a solution.
One interesting point to note though... your solution will be different to mine.
Context is specific and relative.
I live in the city, so my commuting options, conditions and solutions reflect a hyperlocal environment.
My parents live in suburbia, a very different context, however the same conditions and outcome applies - be in the office by 9am.
So while the problem is relative within our context, any solution we discover is satisfactory, so long as we arrive at 9am.
Establish context of the problem: You, your home, 8am, your office, your commute.
Establish the outcome you need: Arrive by 9am.
Establish the conditions affecting the outcome: Standard travel isn't an option.
Establish the timeframe you have to solve this problem: In this case it’s 60 mins.
* * * * *
Let’s make it a tad more challenging.
Same scenario: 7am. Need to be in the office by 9am. You realise by 8am your standard mode of transport is defunct.
In this version you have no money (no cash, no cards) and you’re responsible for transporting two other colleagues both of whom are suffering the same issue.
All three of you need to meet at the office by 9am.
There’s a few more moving parts and a few extra conditions, with a bit of extra time, I’m sure you can come up with an adequate solution.
Again, the solutions will be relative to their context: homes, offices, standard models of transport and where your colleagues happen to be located.
We could continue to increase the difficulty by layering in extra conditions (more colleagues, it’s raining, you can’t use your phone etc… ) and with enough time, you could continue to flex your creativity and eventually solve each scenario.
(Because I'm the creative genius, who does this for a living,
I'll give you the optimal creative solution at the end).
Here’s the moral...
You, the reader, can solve this problem, since you intrinsically understand the context and possess the basic language and skills to find a solution.
You know the location of your home, the route you take, the resources you have available and the time it takes to commute.
You can compute all of these factors for yourself.
When challenged, we generally default to a standard fallback...
"I'll catch a cab"...
The more conditions we apply... "you have no cash, no cards"... the more we're forced to flex our creativity to adapt and find solutions...
“I’ll hitch a ride… I’ll take a spare change of clothes and run in”…
These are adequate (though reflexive) solutions to basic problems.
If all of a sudden you were penniless, in the rain, in suburban Estonia, co-ordinating with a dozen stranded colleagues, all requiring to be in the office in Tallinn by 9am, you would struggle and your solutions will not nearly be so elegant… (except for mine).
This is because creativity, on it own, isn’t enough to solve complex problems;
hard knowledge/skills are required — Linear expertise — to best inform our solutions.
Without Linear expertise, we are ill-equipped and guessing at options… our solutions are rudimentary and reflexive, they aren’t intelligent or insightful.
We are incapable of genuine innovation.
It’s also why attempting to standardise Creativity and innovation as a Linear formula is counter-intuitive and counter-productive.
A commuting solution for someone in the city may not be suitable for my parents in the suburbs or suitable for someone whose morning commute also includes a school run.
* * * * *
Creativity, problem solving, innovation et al… is dynamic. In this commuting scenario you’re reacting to your specific circumstances: a thorough understanding of context, as well as Linear expertise, are requisite requirements to effectively problem solve.
Creativity is also an abstract process, so we need apply an abstract language to employ it most effectively and more importantly, reliably.
This is model is representative of how different industries, corporate and creative, utilise Creativity to problem solve, innovate, compose original work and calculate risk.
*pro tip: your steps must be assessed in this order.
* * * * *
Over the last fifteen years I’ve workshopped and refined this model with creative industries, Government and private sector and proven its effectiveness on both macro and micro outcomes, regardless of the complexity of the problem, organisation or scale.
Creativity is an individual, dynamic process… this is one of its greatest attributes and why it’s as relevant to artists as engineers and surgeons.
The key for individuals and organisations alike, is utilising a model that reliably produces effective, intelligent, innovative solutions.
The good news is, you could apply this model right now since you (should) already understand the context of any problem you're trying to solve... and (should) understand the outcome or goal you wish to achieve.
Oh… and if you're looking for the optimal creative solution to your commuting problem?
Don’t go to work.
You do need to be in the office by 9am… it doesn't have to be on the same day.
Christopher. S. Sellers is an Expert on Creativity + Innovation