5 Creative Ways to Solve Any Problem
"Think outside the box" may be a cliché, but too often we turn any issues over and over in our minds without finding an innovative solution for them. That's because we tend to do all problem solving in the same way, whether that means making a pros-and-cons list or calling Mom for advice.
To get out of that rut, you have to be more creative. "That allows you to see problems from different angles," says Sian Beilock, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Chicago. These tricks will help you come up with unexpected answers for just about any quandary in your life—whether it's smoothing things over with your guy or conceiving a kick-butt marketing plan that wows the entire office.
The Trick: Pretend the problem is not that important to you.
Try It:Mentally distance yourself from the issue by imagining you're solving it for someone else (literally, it's not your problem) or that the deadline is further away than it actually is.
Why it works:This helps you take in the bigger picture and opens your mind to approaches you might have missed if you were thinking too narrowly, says Art Markman, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Texas and author ofSmart Thinking.
Instead of getting caught up in, say, possibly blowing the deadline, you can see the issue as a whole and think about it reasonably or calmly. For example, compare how open-to-anything you feel dreaming about a vacation that's months away with how panicked you are when packing the night before you leave. Experts refer to this approach as creating "psychological distance"; a study in theJournal of Experimental Social Psychologyfound it helped people devise more creative solutions.
The Trick: Draw a picture of the dilemma.
Try It:Sketch out timelines, charts, or pictures to help you see solutions (and we mean really see, on paper, in front of you). If you want to improve your commute, you could draw out the different routes to find which is most scenic, the shortest, or includes your favorite coffee shop. Or, if you need to cut your department's budget, sketching an organizational chart showing each job and its function can help you see redundancies or positions that could be eliminated or merged to save money.
Why it works:We often make assumptions without realizing it (that the scenic route takes longer than the interstate route, for instance). Drawing a picture or diagram helps you address those hidden assumptions, says Markman. When you're only thinking through a problem, it's easier to gloss over the details that jump out at you when you actually illustrate them.
The Trick: Take a break from brainstorming.
Try It:Stop sitting at your desk staring at that monitor. It's not doing any good. Instead, get up and try going for a run or, if you're at home, even taking a bath (legend has it that Archimedes coined the termeurekaafter he discovered the principle of buoyancy while in the tub).
Why it works:Insights often come when people are taking a break from actively thinking about a problem, creativity researchers believe. "It allows your mind to work in the background, piecing together fragments of information about the problem that were already floating around, while it effectively 'resets,'" says Tim Hurson, author ofThink Better: An Innovator's Guide to Productive Thinkingand the upcoming bookSell Better.
The Trick: Work when you'd prefer to have your brain turned off.
Try It:No matter what the problem is that you're trying to solve, tackle it at the time of day when you think you're not at your best. For example, if you always feel foggy first thing in the morning, get started on the issue right when you get up (without coffee, if you dare). Or if your favorite thing to do at night is to veg out and watchFriendsreruns, take some time then to think about potential solutions.
Why it works:"Having less-than-laser-sharp focus can actually help you come up with a new solution to a problem," says Beilock. When taking a test that has a set answer for each question (like the SATs), you do best when you feel freshest—but when it comes to thinking creatively, too much brainpower can actually hamper your ability, per a study published in the journalThinking & Reasoning.
So when working on a problem that has endless solutions and no single "right" answer—say, if you were trying to get more people to buy a product—you're better off being less focused. Being too dialed in might make you devise an overwrought solution when a simple one would do.
The Trick: Move from your normal desk or space.
Try It:Be anywhere that's not your usual problem-solving station. Go sit in the coffee shop down the street for an hour or just find an empty conference room and set up shop for a bit.
Why it works:Think about it like the field trips you took in school—the idea was to give you new stimuli and expand your horizons while working toward the same goal you set in the classroom (so, you visited the natural history museum if you were studying dinosaurs). A change in environment can be just what you need to open up your mind.
We subconsciously associate places with what we've experienced in them, which can be good in some situations (taking a test in the same place you studied for it can enhance your performance) but can negatively affect your ability to think in an innovative way, says Hurson. Plus, a new environment means different stimuli (people, decor, etc.), which may trigger novel ideas, thoughts, and connections.
Video: 10+ Creative People Who Can Solve Any Problem
Cressida Bonas Makes a Surprise Cameo in Princess Eugenie’s Official Wedding Portraits
10 Best Aerobics Classes In Mumbai
Holiday Inspired Milkshake Recipes You Need To Try
Makeup Tips for Gray Hair
How to Find the Best Dry Shampoo for Your Hair Type
4 Reasons to Toast to Your Health
6 people rescued from John Hancock building elevator in Chicago
Novichok scientist describes convulsions, agony of poison used on spy
The Insider’s Guide to Buying Fireworks This Year
Backstage at Rachel Antonoff SpringSummer 2010Presentation
How to tie the perfect scarf, according to Coach
The Salk Polio Vaccine: A Medical Miracle Turns 60