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Creative problem-solving

What is it?

In all industries—from manufacturing and business to technology and health care—a creative approach to finding solutions equals opportunity. According to creative problem-solving expert Paul Reali, the concept “is a form of deliberate creativity: a structured process for solving problems or finding opportunities, used when you want to go beyond conventional thinking and arrive at creative (novel and useful) solutions.” Reali is the author of Creativity Rising: Creative Thinking and Creative Problem Solving in the 21st Century.

“Most entrepreneurial ventures and business startups are filled with creative problem-solving, as the founders face an endless stream of problems they haven’t yet solved and hadn’t even considered,” notes Reali.

Why is it important?

In today’s business climate, it’s adapt or die. "Change is so rapid now, and business are so competitive that constant innovation is the only way to keep up," Reali explains. "And successful innovation requires creativity and creative problem-solving at the front end."

How do you get better at it?

The good news is you can train yourself to approach challenges creatively, even if it doesn’t come naturally for you. Here’s how:

  • Decide you want to improve in coming up with creative solutions. “Robert Sternberg says that ‘creativity is a decision,’” notes Reali. So commit to it, which “might include giving yourself permission” to think in a new way.
  • Find a creative process that fits the way you think and work. “There are different models and methods, but generally the four stages we go through to solve a problem are: clarify, ideate, develop and implement,” says Reali. Find your perfect fit by educating yourself on the topic. The Internet is a great place to check out new ideas or ways to solve problems.
  • Set yourself up for success. This means beginning the process by restating your problem in a way that invites creative thinking. “I recommend this technique: Reframe the problem in multiple ways—a dozen or more ways—to uncover what is the true problem,” Reali advises.

 “For example, ‘We are brand-new, and no one knows who we are’ is information; it’s not a solvable problem when stated that way. On the other hand, these are solvable problem frames: ‘How do we help people discover our business?’ and ‘How might we find our first customers?’”

Learn more  

Continue to sharpen your creative problem-solving skills with these resources: