How strong are your creative problem solving muscles? What does it mean to be creative? The dictionary defines creative as 1) having the quality or power of creating and 2) resulting from originality of thought, expression, etc.; imagination.
Not every problem requires a creative solution, but when you add an element of creativity to your problem solving toolbox, you do more than react. You see past what’s in front of you right now to find a new path or a new way of looking at a situation.
Being a creative problem solver is one of the key ways to up-level your career success. The following are three ways to strengthen your creative problem solving skills:
‘Creative’ is one of those loaded words that speaks directly to our self image. We either think of ourselves as being a creative person or we say, “I’m not at all creative.”
I used to be one of those people who said, “I’m not creative” because I equated being creative with being artistic, and I don’t have any artistic talent. Just ask my high school art teacher. I think I was her least favorite student, and her criticism planted the seed of this limiting belief.
This stuck with me for years; but as I progressed in my career, I found that I could be very creative when faced with a problem. I shrugged this off at first, but after some great wins, I now own this part of my self.
I feel strongly that we’re all creative. It’s part of the human experience. The key is to figure out how creativity shows up for you. Think back and recall ideas or new perspectives that you’ve had.
Also, try to get past a narrow definition of creativity. Some people can work from a blank page and create something from nothing. Others need something to react to. Think about being an author versus being an editor. They’re both creative, but in different ways. Are you more like an author or are you an editor able to take something to another level?
There’s no better or worse way to be creative, there’s just your way. Once you own it, you’ll start to become more comfortable and conscious of your own creativity and use it more. The more you use it, the stronger those muscle will become.
When do you get your best ideas and insights? I’ll bet it’s when you’re brushing your teeth or taking a shower. For me, it’s when I’m driving. For many years people who worked for me knew to bring me a problem at the end of the day and that I’d come in the next morning with an idea or a solution. By the end of the day my brain is full. When I lived in LA and had an hour long commute, after driving for about 20 minutes my mind would just open up. I used to keep a little tape recorder in the car to capture my thoughts and ideas (in the days before smartphones). Living in Seattle, I used to get great ideas on the way to work in the morning driving across the bridge looking at the mountains. Now I go for a walk.
This is a common experience, and the reason is that when your body is engaged in a familiar activity like taking a shower, brushing your teeth or driving it frees your mind. If you’ve got a problem to solve, your brain has been processing in the background, and when your body is busy but your mind is quiet, solutions come to the surface.
Got a problem to solve? Take a walk, go for a drive, practice yoga or take a shower.
One of the best books on tapping into your creativity is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. A concept Julia recommends is morning pages, a discipline of journaling three pages every morning. Sit down with a cup of coffee or tea and do stream-of-consciousness writing. Don’t worry about the subject. Just write. You’ll be surprised how freeing it is. When I work with clients who are trying to discover and connect with their life purpose, journaling in the morning is one of the keys to success.
The action of actually writing versus just thinking or talking gets back to that body/mind connection mentioned above. Journaling is also a powerful way to capture your thoughts. The first page or even two pages might be kind of crappy, but as you continue – yes for three pages – your thinking will deepen. Try it for two weeks and see what happens.
You can strengthen your creative problem solving muscles by owning your creativity, paying attention to those routine activities that let your mind wander and journaling every morning. Try it!
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Pam Norton, Career Success Coach and founder of TransitionSpark Coaching, helps individuals and teams get more success and fulfillment from their careers by identifying and leveraging their strengths.