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This course teaches you how to use creative problem solving to make decisions and deal with problems.
Learn Creative Problem Solving which is a flexible, dynamic process used to solve challenges and make important decisions.
This course will improve your problem solving skills, your decisions will be inspired and you will have confidence in your decisions.
This course is for decision makers, entrepreneurs, managers and team leaders.
The skills that learn can also be applied to your personal life.
After completing this course your life will feel easier,less stressed and you will be more productive.
The course is in 2 parts. The first part looks at creative thinking, what it is and how to develop your creative mind.
The second part is the Solved Method which will take you step by step through the process of creative problem solving.
the Creative Problem Solving for Business and Life course consists of 17 lessons with extensive notes. Lesson last just under 2 hours.
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|Section 1: Creative Thinking|
This course teaches you how to use creative problem solving to make decisions and deal with problems.
Creative Problem Solving or CPS for short is a flexible, dynamic process that has been tried and tested over many years. It is used by many businesses to solve challenges and make important decisions.
It is not easy to make decisions or find solutions when faced with major challenges at work or in your personal life.
When you have made a decision, how can you be sure that you have made the right one?
Creative problem solving provides you with the skills and strategies to make decisions making easier.
This course has many benefits.You will improve your problem solving skills, your decisions will be inspired and you will have confidence in your decisions.
Mastering creative problem solving skills means that your life feels easier, is more enjoyable, more productive, rewarding and you feel happier.
Who is the Course For?
This course is for anybody who wants to improve their problem solving skills or wants to make better decisions.
If you are a decision maker at work, or part of a team that makes decisions, then the skills that you will learn from this course will be of great value. If you are an entrepreneur then you probably find yourself regularly having to make important decisions. This course is here to provide you with the tools that you need to help your business succeed. If you do not make decisions at work or in your business, then the course can help you find solutions and make decisions in your personal life.
Most people will benefit from this course.
The Creative Problem Solving for Business and Life course is in two sections.
The key element of creative problem solving is creative thinking. The first part of the course looks at creative thinking, what it is and how can you learn to develop and apply creative thinking.
Though some people appear to be more creative than others, all of us are creative to a certain extent. Like most life skills, creative thinking can be developed with practice and applying the right tools. In the first section of the course you will learn how to harness your creative power.
The second part of the course teaches the Solved Method which is the practical application of creative problem solving. It’s an easy to master step by step approach to decision making and problem solving. The Solved Method focuses your mind on a issue, helps you gather all the relevant information and then brainstorms ideas that enable you to find the best solutions. You then create an action plan to implement the solution.
Why is Creative Thinking Important?
Often when we think about creativity we think that it is confined to the creative arts. We think that creative people are musicians, actors, painters, photographers, dancers or writers.
Whilst it is true that such people need to be creative, creativity is useful in lots of other areas. Creative thinking is essential for business success.
The definition of creative thinking is: Finding new and novel ideas or ways of doing things.
Creative thinking is a high level skill that is especially useful when responding to change, spotting opportunities and changing habitual behaviour.
Creative ideas need not be completely original. Most popular musicians create music that has evolved from earlier works. Many rock musicians are influenced by the blues, soul and rock and roll records that they heard when younger. A song may sound new, but its structure can be heavily influenced by the blues genre.
Creative thinking is especially useful in business.
Entrepreneurs often start businesses that are not based on original concepts. They often take an existing idea and improve it. Social websites were around before Facebook was started. What Facebook did was reinvent the social media website by adding new and original ideas to the social media website model.
Often the best creative ideas are taking an idea that is already out there and adding a new twist, a new unique angle to the idea so that it becomes fresh and new.
Creative thinking is important when responding to:
In your personal life or your business life, changes happen and you need to respond to change. If you do not adapt to change in a creative way then there can be a negative effect on your business or life.
The business world is full of stories of companies that failed to adapt to changing market conditions.
The common thing missing in businesses that don’t adapt to change is creative thinkers, people who could find then implement new and novel ways of doing business when fundamental shifts occur in their markets.
Other companies such as Apple thrive on innovation and change and creative people to develop their products. Apple not only responds to trends in the market, but often sets trends that others try to follow.
Business can also be threatened from within, by inefficient or outdated systems and procedures that affect such areas as customer service, delivery and administration.
Sometimes when you look at a business procedure and ask the question, why do we do it this way? – Often the surprising answer is: because we always do it this way, or we do it this way because it works. All too often this is the end of the enquiry. Systems can become inert without changing and adapting. Systems become habits and habits are often difficult to break.
If you ask: "What would happen if we did it another way?" Then you become open to using creative thought to innovate ways to make your systems more efficient or done in such a way that money is saved.
Whether you are considering business or personal habits, creative thinking, and creative problem solving can be used to change habits by considering alternative and innovative ways of doing things. Habits are rooted in the past. Procedures may have been appropriate at the time when they were introduced, but they may not be fit for the present conditions.
Creative thinking can change habits by seeing new and fresh ways of doing things. Systems and procedures may need to be scrapped and replaced, or they may just need changing and adjusting to improve them.
Another way in which creative thinking is useful is in spotting opportunities. If you ignore an opportunity nothing bad may happen to you. However, if you choose to respond to opportunities, then very beneficial results can follow. Successful entrepreneurs usually have expertise in spotting opportunities that can make their business grow. They have the knack of spotting golden opportunities which no one else sees, or if they do notice, fail to take action.
Spot a Trend
Another situation in which creative thought is used, is when you spot a trend and decide to follow it.
Creative thinking is the key to successful business. Without the ability to use creative thinking to respond to challenges, your business could fail. Blockbuster and Kodak failed to meet the challenges of new ways of delivering media. Amazon, spotted an existing trend, digital publishing, developed creative strategies so that they became the dominant player in the digital publishing marketplace.
Other companies like Apple and Google do not simply follow trends they create trends.
Can Creative Thinking be Taught?
In many schools creativity is seen as solely part of the art, craft and music subject areas. Other subjects such as history, geography and maths are more concerned with the retention of facts. Schools encourage the finding of the right answer which is not necessarily a creative answer. In English Literature which is based on the works of very creative people you often find that little creativity goes on. Learning facts and figures is important but creativity is more valuable. Having an emphasis just on knowledge contributes little to the creative life skills that are necessary for life after school.
If you were one of those pupils who did not excel in the art or music subjects, then your creativity may not have been stimulated and this could leave you thinking that you are not a creative personality.
Creativity is an essential life skill that can be taught and this course teaches you how to think creatively, and how to use creative skills to solve problems and make decisions.
Not everyone is a genius and can be a Leonardo Da Vinci, Einstein, the next Bob Dylan or the next Steve Jobs. Genius cannot be taught. We all have the capacity to be creative to a degree, but we cannot all be a great artists, musicians or inventors. There is a distinction between creative talent which can be nurtured and developed and the genius of great artists and innovators which cannot be taught. Geniuses are born with innate abilities and all that can be done for them is to provide an environment in which their genius will flourish.
Creativity can be Developed
Some people are born creative and naturally use creative thinking skills. Others consider themselves to be non-creative and more practical personalities. However, we all possess creative potential.
Creative thinking is: The ability to come up with innovative, new or novel ideas.
Defined in this way, the creative thinking process can be taught and stimulated.
Nobody has zero creativity, though the creative aspect of the mind may have become dormant. When you were a child you loved painting bright pictures, presently you may not do any creative activities, especially if you are in a job that requires little or no creative abilities. Though inactive, your creativity is never dead. It is like a sleeping giant that needs waking up.
Different Types of Thinking
You may think that all thinking is just thinking, but as we shall see later, there are several types of thinking. These include:
In order to be a creative thinker it helps to be able to distinguish between the different types of thinking. We will examine each mode in more detail later in the course.
The skill of creative thinking is something that you can learn to use. You need to know the right way to go about making creative decisions in your business or life and this starts with an examination of the various ways in which you naturally think.
We all think and, as we will see later, there are natural processes that the brain uses when thinking. Sometimes you are just thinking nonsense, day dreaming or having an internal dialogue with yourself. At other times you find yourself focused on a particular task that requires all your attention. When I code on my computer I can spend hours on a particular section of the program, and lose all track of time.
This process of being totally immersed in a experience is called Flow.
The Power of Now
You naturally enter periods when you are creative, and at other times you are just being you, enjoying what is happening without the need to do anything. The spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle has made the phrase ‘the power of now’ popular. He talks about placing all your attention on the here and now, a state in which you do not dwell on past events, or anticipate future ones.
If you are in this state then creativity can happen spontaneously. At times like these creative thinking does not need to be taught. The only thing to learn is how to enter the now state. In a later lesson we’ll look at mindfulness which is an approach to life that pays attention to what is happening at the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or future.
At other times, when faced with making an important decision on=r when you need to find a solution to a problem, your natural creative state may not appear, and this is when you need skills and strategies that will stimulate your creative nature
Automatic and Deliberate Thinking
Most thinking is automatic. For most of our waking hours we are having an internal dialogue with ourselves, and this dialogue appears to happen spontaneously.
Sometimes automatic thinking takes the form of daydreaming. On a dull day you walk past a travel agents and see a picture of a beautiful beach then find yourself planning a holiday, imagining yourself on the beach sipping a cocktail as your skin turns a golden shade of brown under the hot sun. This all happens whilst you are walking along a wet damp high street in winter, day dreaming about a holiday.
At other times you think about past events, your successes, your failures, your regrets, thinking that life could be better if you had made different decisions at crucial points in your life.
You also ponder about the future with expectation of what will happen, or fear of what might happen.
These thoughts, these dreams, these remembrances, just seem to happen. If you are worried or anxious, you find that negative thoughts seem to appear by themselves. You are not conscious of making a decision to only think negative thoughts.
Automatic thinking is mainly influenced by the past. Your past experiences dictate your present state. Often these experiences come from childhood.
Automatic thinking occurs without any sense of there being a chooser. There is no sense of choosing your thoughts. They arise spontaneously and without consideration.
There are times when automatic thinking can be useful. If you are an experienced driver then you drive automatically, without needing to pay careful attention to what your feet are doing on the pedals, and that is fine.
Automatic thinking tethers you to the past. This is fine when doing things like driving which relies on your past experience and skills, but may not be so good when making major decisions in life or business.
Automatic thinking rarely allows new creative ways of doing things to surface. Automatic thinking informs habits and means that you always do things a certain way, which may not be the best way for you or your business.
There is a tendency to stick with the first reactive thought and believe in this thought. Proactive thinking considers all possibilities. Proactive thinkers then find ways to determine which ideas are more accurate, which often is not the initial reactive thought.
Another aspect of proactive thinking is anticipating situations. This is especially important in business. Proactive thinking asks 'what if' questions.
Without a proactive strategy, ever time major events affect your business; all you do is react.
This is ‘firefighting’ strategy where all you are doing is metaphorically putting out the fires that events cause. Proactive strategies can prevent fires happening.
Reactive thinking is automatic. What you need to be able to do is pause after a reactive thought. Then you can reflect on the thought, examine it, investigate it and find out if it is true or not.
You then realize that you have choices, especially when it comes to actions. You can choose how you deal with a situation. You can examine alternative actions and decide which action is best.
The way to do this is to use mindfulness which will be looked at in another lesson.
Reactive thinking is a natural process, but it is not necessarily an accurate process. It is a type of thinking that developed as a survival mechanism. If your ancestor on the plains of Africa heard a rustling in the bushes, he did not want to stop and reflect on the noise and ask Is it a wild animal or just the wind?
If it is a wild animal then it could leap out and kill the thinking man in the midst of his reflective thinking. What was needed was an instant reaction. If it was an animal then your ancestor survived, if it was just the wind then fine, it was not strictly necessary to take flight but no harm was done.
In most situations we are not faced with the prospect of a wild animal leaping out of the nearest bush, so we can have the luxury of stopping, reflecting, and then choosing the appropriate action. There is then also the possibility of discovering creative choices.
‘Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally.’
This quote by Jan Kabat-Zinn is the definition of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the internal world, thoughts and feelings, as well as what is happening outside of the body. In the mindfulness state automatic thoughts can continue, but we are aware of them, not lost in them.
Mindfulness is nothing new; it has been practised in the Buddhist tradition for hundreds of years. However, it is not necessary to be a Buddhist or have a Buddhist outlook on life to benefit from mindfulness.
We are often 'not present' in our own lives. We are easily distracted, habitually pondering on past events or anticipating what will happen in the future.
Mindfulness shows you how to be more aware of thoughts, feelings and sensations that are happening now, and doing this without judgement and self-criticism.
Mindfulness does not always eliminate life’s pressures, but it helps you respond in a calmer way that benefits your heart, mind and body. Mindfulness helps you recognise then step away from the habitual way your emotions and physiology react to the pressures of everyday events.
Scientific research has shown how Mindfulness brings insight, clarity and understanding to your life. It contributes to a healthy mind. Being fully present to life allows you to improve the quality of your life.
Many top companies including Google are hosting mindfulness courses as it reduces stress and increases happiness and productivity at work.
Mindfulness is not creative thinking, but it stimulates or promotes creative thinking. The mindfulness state can bring about a sense of seeing things with new eyes, a vision of a better future. Freed from worry and anxiety, fresh and innovative opportunities can be seen.
Mindfulness is an easy process to learn, there are several exercises that you can do
Simple Mindfulness Exercises
Here is a simple way to experience mindfulness. You can start to do this for just 10 minutes, though you can extend this time if you feel like it.
Sit or lie down with your eyes closed.
Gently move your attention to the motion of your breathing. Simply observe each breath as it happens. Really feel what it is like to breath but without controlling your breath. If your mind wanders from you breathing, don’t worry, simply bring your attention back to your breath. Simply note without judgement whenever you get distracted and gently bring your attention back to your breath.
Feel what it is like to just be you. Feel connected to the present moment. Stay like this for a few minutes then expand your awareness to the whole room as you slowly open your eyes.
Take a few moments to think about what you experienced in the exercise and pay attention to how you feel.
Another mindfulness exercise to try is called 'How to Eat a Grape'. Of course if you don’t like grapes you can substitute another variety of fruit.
Take a single grape and place it in your mouth without chewing. Feel its texture inside your mouth. Do you taste anything? Can you smell anything?
Slowly take a bite of the grape. Become aware of the texture your feel. Can you feel how the skin of the grape is different to the inside? Can you feel the juices running out of the grape?
Continue eating the grape but eat as slowly as you can. With each bite be aware of what you are feeling in terms of texture and taste.
Try to take at least five minutes to eat the grape, savouring each mouthful. Try not to think of anything else apart from the sensations that you feel. If your mind does wander off into thinking of other things, gently bring you attention back to the grape.
This exercise is mindful eating. Instead of automatically eating in your usual manner, you are paying much more attention to the whole process of eating. You can practice mindful eating during a meal by chewing slowly and mindfully
Mindfulness and Automatic Thinking
Mindfulness allows you to become aware of your automatic and reactive thinking. When you have this awareness you can then choose how to react rather than being a slave to habitual thought processes. Mindfulness is not creative thinking, but the awareness that it brings makes it easier for creative thinking to occur. By focusing on the present moment, automatic, choice less thinking can be observed without you being caught up in it. You then realise that you have choices, and your choices can include new ways of doing things. This is creative thinking.
Mindfulness is something that you practice and can lead to being in the mindful state all or most of the time. The way to practice is to choose everyday activities that usually require little thinking, and deliberately practice mindfulness.
For example you can mindfully have a shower, take notice of the water and soap as it flows down your body. Experience the aromas, the sounds.
Washing the dishes is great for mindfulness practice. Walking the dog, watering the garden, brushing your teeth and eating are other great activities where you can easily practice mindfulness.
When in conversation listen to the other person mindfully. Don’t judge what they are saying. Simply listen and observe without judgment.
If you work in an office and need to use lots of brain power to do your job, then it is trickier to retain the awareness that mindfulness gives you. You will tend to be caught up and absorbed in what you are doing. This is why it is important to start practicing mindfulness in situations that do not require much thought.
Divergent and Convergent Thinking
Divergent and convergent thinking is a great way of stimulating creative thought. Divergent thinking is when you generate options and convergent thinking is when you select from these options.
The divergent/convergent process is the core technique for creative thinking when it comes to problem solving. It is a process that is natural for most people. Unfortunately when we are in the grip of automatic thinking, we do not always deliberately use divergent and convergent thinking process.
Divergent and convergent thinking are two separate processes. In order to maintain clarity, the two should not be mixed.
Divergent thinking is a collection process in which negative or positive judgements are deferred. You are aiming for quantity not quality at this stage. You can also go for novel or original ideas.
Convergent thinking requires focused, careful and selective judgement. Convergent thinking need not be conservative. New and novel ideas are welcomed, but those ideas need to be practical and realisable. Convergent thinking selects, analyses and summarises the data collected by the divergent process.
Divergent followed by convergent thinking is at the heart of Creative Problem Solving which forms the basis of the Solved Method which is looked at in the next section of this course. It is especially useful when making business decisions.
Left Brain, Right Brain
The brain has two sides or hemispheres.
Stated simply, the right side of the brain is where creativity occurs and the left side of the brain deals with more logical thinking processes.
Divergent and convergent thinking uses both sides of the brain. You need to use logic, especially when researching and compiling information. When finding solutions in the convergent part of the process, right hand creativity is useful. When it comes to implementing solutions you need a good dose of left brain logic. There needs to be practical logical actions, moving step by step towards completing a solution or decision.
The right side of the brain tends to think more visually. Mind maps appeal to both sides of the brain. They are logical and structured but also are visually striking. We’ll look at mind maps in more details in a later lesson.
The brain is very good at finding patterns, associations and connections. It can combine one idea with another to come up with a new idea. Stare at clouds or flames in the camp fire for long enough and you will start to see figures, people, animals or plants. This is because your brain creates patterns out of the abstract shapes it sees.
The divergent process gathers ideas, convergent thinking discerns patterns. If you reflect on your past relationships you may at first see that your partners were all very different in such things as temperament, outlook, and style of clothes. But if you look at the role you played in the relationships you may come across a pattern.
However, it is important to discern the correct patterns. You need to look at all the information with an unbiased mind, and not just look for isolated elements that appear to confirm your biases or theories, whilst ignoring any facts that go against your theories. Do not fall into the trap of only seeing what you want to see. Creative problem solving is a process used to arrive at the most appropriate and relevant solutions to challenges.
Apophenia is the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. Apophenia is often found in gamblers when they see patterns in the occurrence of numbers in lotteries, roulette wheels, and even cards. The balls in the roulette wheel lands on a random number. The balls in a lottery machine emerge by random chance. Gamblers see patterns where there are none. They choose “lucky” numbers that they are convinced will occur more frequently to unlucky ones. In random games of chance there are no patterns.
The creative mind may see patterns, but the logical mind needs to discern whether the patterns seen are true or false.
The brain creates patterns in visual images. This pattern finding ability also applies to ideas and thoughts. However, the process of finding patterns and seeing connections is not always reliable. Sometimes you believe that you see patterns that are not really there.
When finding patterns within ideas and information it is also important to look at evidence and not be biased or only look for factors that confirm assumptions.
Part of Creative Problem Solving is collecting lots of relevant information, ideas and evidence and then seeing discerning links, patterns or associations within these ideas.
The divergent process is used to collect information and the convergent process selects or summarizes information. In the convergent process you can use the brain’s pattern recognition process to see patterns or connections between information. You see relationships between ideas. You may also create new patterns not immediately evident in the collected data.
“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few. ”
― Shunryu Suzuki
When you look at an object such as a tree, there is a tendency to comment on the tree, to name it, to compare it to other trees that you have seen, to judge its beauty and so on. If you are with a friend, then you may verbalise your thoughts and enter into a conversation about trees. Instead, sit or stand in silence before the tree, observing it as if you are seeing a tree for the first time. Become aware of its shape, its colour and texture. Be open to just seeing without comment or judgement. This is beginner’s mind.
We are all creatures of habit, with our preferences, likes and dislikes. If we never try new things, have new experiences then life can become dull. Beginner’s mind allows you to go outside your normal habits. There is innocence to this, a childlike wonder that leads you towards adventure and quests.
A beginner’s mind means having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and freedom from preconceptions in your life. Beginner’s mind is the space where the mind does not know what to do. It is that delicious state when you are sure of nothing, yet completely fearless, totally available to the moment.
Beginner’s mind is hard to describe adequately. It is a subtle state of openness, of flowing with events rather than resisting events. It is related to mindfulness. Practising mindfulness can lead to beginner’s mind.
When it comes to business you may feel that your mindset needs to be practical, serious and dedicated to the tasks that need doing. There is no rule that says that the workplace should be dull and serious. There is room for laughter, gentleness, playfulness.
In the brainstorming ideas process, beginner’s mind means being open to the new and novel.
When looking for ideas for solution, you can start with ‘don’t know’. In this state you are setting aside all previous knowledge, prejudices or assumptions. Don’t know means that you are not in a fixed state, you are not playing the role of the expert.
Sometimes it is useful to disregard common sense. Thomas Edison said that one day we will be able to concentrate and store energy from the sun. People thought he was crazy as this idea was against the common sense of the time. Now solar power panels are a common site. By releasing yourself from common sense and the normal ways of doing things, you can become more creative.
Beginner’s mind uses the spirit of enquiry. Beginner’s mind allows you to enquire without having any concepts of what the enquiry will produce. You focus on questions rather than answers.
Beginners mind can transform life, making it exciting and fresh.
Sometimes when you think you use words. At other times your thinking can be visual and images appear in your thoughts. Often you use a mixture of both. You think of someone you know and imagine their face whilst at the same time having verbal thoughts about them.
Research has shown that 30 per cent of the population strongly uses visual thinking, another 45 per cent uses both visual thinking and thinking in the form of words, and 25 percent thinks exclusively in words.
This means that when it comes to learning some people respond better to words , either through reading or listening to audio, whilst others prefer visual learning aids such as videos, diagrams, tables and charts.
Some people are more naturally verbal thinkers. They like to write down ideas using lists or outlines, whilst other people prefer using visual tools such as mind maps. There is no right or wrong way. Use whatever suits you.
When we come to look at brainstorming in a later lesson, you can use visual or verbal thinking depending on what feels more comfortable.
Visual thinkers prefer to learn using tools such as:
Visual thinkers also respond to colours.
Visual thinking can help creative thinking. One of the ways to do this is using a mind map. A mind map is a diagram used to visually outline information. It is often created around a single word or text, placed in the centre, to which associated ideas, words and concepts are added. Major categories radiate from a central node, and lesser categories are sub-branches of larger branches. Categories can represent words, ideas, tasks or other items related to a central key word or idea. Mind maps can be drawn by hand or there are several software applications available to assist you.
Some people prefer to use flow diagrams instead of mind maps. Flow diagrams can also reflect decision making using what is known as conditional branching, so that one set of ideas connects with a no answer to a decision question and another set of ideas to a yes answer.
When it comes to creative problem solving you need to use both visual and verbal thinking.
By using visual images such as mind maps, you may see patterns and relationships between ideas more easily.
At other times you may need to use word lists to clarify ideas.
There is no right or wrong way. Much will depend on whether you are predominantly a visual or a verbal thinker. Be flexible, us what works for you.
The Success Mindset
Using creative problem solving in your life is not simply about using techniques and strategies, you also need to develop the right mindset. This lesson looks at the mindset qualities that are need to be successful in business or life, and in particular when dealing with setbacks and things that appear to block success.
The first ability you need is to be able to deal with failure.
If you are using creative thinking to try out new and innovative ideas then not everything you do will succeed. Failure can be good. Creative thinkers go outside their comfort zone, are prepared to take risks, and, yes, sometimes fall flat on their face. How you deal with failure is a key element to success.
You need to be realistic. Make sure that you have the necessary skills and aptitude in whatever you try. Be realistic about your competence. No matter how much your try, if you don’t have the skills or knowledge needed then you will not succeed. The wise creative thinker may think big, decide to do wacky or outrageous things, but does not try to achieve the impossible.
The key to dealing with failure and setbacks is perseverance. Without perseverance you will stumble as soon as something goes wrong. Perseverance is the art of picking yourself up when you fall, dusting yourself off, and carrying on.
Perseverance means carrying on in the face of challenges and adversity.
Creative Problem Solving makes it easier to come up with creative solutions to problems. Once you start implementing these solutions, circumstances may change.
You need to be adaptable and flexible when things change, go wrong or obstacles get in your way.
Motivation and Confidence
If you have no passion for a solution or decision, then this can lead to lack of motivation and confidence in what you are doing. Without motivation or confidence, you will find it difficult to persevere when faced with setbacks.
You may have come up with an elegant solution, but unless you have a practical plan to implement the solution, then the solution is worthless.
Creating a new product or service may appear to be an ideal solution to falling sales, but it is vital that you have an action plan to research then develop the new product or service.
Preparedness is the ability to anticipate obstacles and things that can go wrong with your plans. Few projects go smoothly all the time, there will be difficulties.
If you are prepared for all foreseeable events, then it will be easier to deal with them.
The prepared mind says:
‘If this happens, then we will do this.’
A Sense of Humour
Life need not be taken too seriously. It helps to laugh at situations and laugh at yourself. A sense of humour can provide you with a sense of proportion, especially when things are not working out.
Laughter is a great antidote to stress. The relief that laughter can bring can also spark creative ideas.
Open to Opportunities
After you make a good decision or have found a great solution to a problem, do not be blinded and feel that the decision or solution is the best one that is possible. As you go through the process of implementing a solution you may come across an opportunity that, if used, can dramatically alter your solution or make it a much better one.
|Section 2: The Solved Method|
The Solved Method
The Solved Method uses creative thinking to solve problems, deal with challenges and make informed decisions. It guides you through the process of exploring the issue, creating ideas then implementing the solution. It utilises the divergent/convergent thinking process as a way of stimulating creative thinking.
The Solved Method is influenced by the Creative Problem Solving techniques created by Alex Osborn in the 1950’s and then further developed by Sydney Parnes. The Osborn-Parnes creative problem solving system, also known as CPS, is used mainly in business.
The Solved Method is an adaptation of Creative Problem Solving which can be used in the business context, as well as used in your personal life. It helps you make important decisions and find innovative solutions to life’s challenges.
Proactive and Reactive Thinking
Successful businesses plan strategically and proactively which means that they anticipate issues and challenges before they arise. Proactive thinking makes sure that the appropriate response is ready to meet all eventualities.
The opposite of proactive thinking is reactive thinking when events occur and reactions happen, usually automatically. Sometimes reactive thinking is necessary, in a crisis, for example, when unforeseen events occur and must be dealt with immediately.
The default mind set of most people is reactive thinking.
The key component of proactive thinking is information, to collect comprehensive data on which to base decisions. The Solved Method encourages proactive thinking so that you are no longer making decisions from ignorance. When a problem occurs in your business or life it is normal go into an emotional reactive state. Often this reaction can be negative. When you hear the bang as your car tyre bursts, the first reaction may be to utter a loud swear word. This is emotional reactive thinking. Then you need proactive thinking to kick in so that you can work out what to do; phone the breakdown service, or replace the blown tyre yourself with your spare tyre. Proactive thinking is solution based thinking. In the car example, after the initial emotional reactive response, your proactive thinking quickly examines the options for a solution and chooses one.
The Solved Method Stages
The Solved Method has three main components or stages
Each stage is divided into sub stages.
The collective name for all the sections is known as the Solved Plan.
Section 1 - Explore the Issue
The first section, exploring the issue includes the following:
Define the Area or Ask the Question
You first need to focus on what area of business or life you need a decision or solution for.
Alternately you can ask a question that needs answering
Define the Objectives
Objectives are goals, or general outcomes that you want to achieve.
Next you gather as much information as you can about the issue.
Explore the Challenges
There will be challenges or obstacles that need to be overcome in order to successfully achieve a solution.
Section 2 - Find the Solution or Make the Decision
The next part of the Solved Method is where you work towards a solution or decision.
Brainstorming is used to generate possible solution ideas. These are then examined and the best ideas selected.
Find the Solution
Based on your best ideas a solution is formulated.
Section 3 - Take Action
A solution or decision alone is worthless unless an action plan is created in order to implement the solution.
Most solutions will require resources such as equipment, finance and skills.
Create an Action Plan
An action plan includes the acquiring of resources then all the actions needed to implement the solution.
Equipment Needed To Use the Solved Plan
You can implement the Solved Method using just pen and paper or the computer equivalent such as a word processor.
I recommend using the Soled Method software that I developed. This is available for both Windows and Mac systems.
The program provides a structured and easy to use way of working with the Solved Method. You can obtain your copy by visiting www.solvedmethod.com
Define the Area or Ask the Question
First you need to define the area of your business or personal life where you need to make a decision. This is normally expressed as a main area followed by a sub area.
For example in the main area of finance, sub areas could be income, expenditure or contributions. The combined area and sub area is expressed as:
Business areas include sales, marketing, research, finance, administration, customer service and human resources, and their associated sub areas.
Alternately you can ask a question that defines the issue that you need a decision for. For example, if you are using the Solved Method to buy a new car then the question could be:
‘What car should I get?’
The next stage in Exploring the Issue is to look at your objectives which are the hopes, wishes, dreams and goals for the life or business area tat you are focusing on. If you make the right decision, what objective would it fulfil?
The way to record objectives is to use sentences starting with:
‘It would be great if…’
Objectives need not be too specific. For example, if you are focusing on the financial area of your personal life then your objectives could go something like this:
‘I wish that I had more money.’
‘I wish that I felt good about money.’
‘I wish that my bank account was in the black.’
‘It would be great if I could pay my bills on time.’
‘It would be great if I could afford to go on at least two holidays a year,’
When thinking of objectives allow yourself to dream, think about what you ideally want. Do not judge or evaluate your objectives by considering whether they are realisable or not. The divergent process is designed to stimulate creativity. Your objectives are not the solution to the issue, though they can be clues or pointers to a solution.
The Objective Statement
The next stage is to create an objective statement. This is the convergent process of reviewing and selecting.
Select the objectives that appeal to you the most, or the ones that you feel good about. See if there is a pattern or a theme to your objectives.
The objective statement should be a sentence or two that summarises your main objectives or concisely expresses the theme or pattern to your objectives. This is written using positive words and in the present tense.
So, in this finance example the objective statement could read:
‘I will clear the business debts and stop worrying about money.’
This sentence is in the future tense and states what you want to avoid which is debt and worry.
‘I have plenty of income and feel happy about it’
This statement is written as if it is happening now and uses the positive words ‘plenty’ and ‘happy’.
Your objective statement should be written as if it has already happened.
Any decision you make about how to increase the income should address this objective.
The next stage of the Solved Method is concerned with gathering information. You need as much relevant information as possible in order to make informed decisions. Decisions based on ignorance or without the full facts are usually bad decisions. Like the Objective stage there is a divergent part and a convergent stage.
Firstly gather as much information as you can about the issue. This information includes practical things including what you have already tried in this area as well as emotional factors concerned with how you feel about the issues.
Information is gathered by asking then answering questions.
Here are some questions that you can ask to gather information
Who is involved in this issue and who does it affect?
Who makes the decisions?
Do I feel in control?
What is causing this?
What do I dislike about the issue?
Am I acting according to what others expect or have decided for me?
What has been tried?
What has worked and why has it worked?
What has not worked and why has it not worked?
How do I feel and what do I believe about this?
Who could help me?
What hunches or gut feelings do I have about this?
How have others dealt with similar situations?
Why do I want to resolve this issue?
Am I motivated to find a solution to this issue?
Am I listening to advice?
Is it essential to find a solution?
What are the consequences of not finding a solution to this issue?
What are my chances of success in this challenge?
Will I feel elevated or uplifted when I have found a solution to this challenge?
Am I guided my my head or my heart?
What skills or knowledge am I lacking?
Is anyone holding me back?
Do I hold any beliefs that are hindering me?
Am I procrastinating about making a decision?
What is likely to prevent my success?
What is the worst that can happen?
Why is this issue hard to solve?
When did this issue appear?
Have I addressed similar problems in the past?
Did I create this problem?
What am I doing now that is making things worse?
Do I feel overwhelmed by this?
Do I feel guilty about this?
The Information Statement
The convergent part to the information section is where you write down a statement that summarises all the information you have gathered. You may also find patterns or connections within the information.
The information that you gathered tells a story, a narrative of factual information such as what you have already tried, as well as emotional information about your feelings and motivations. The information statement is the synopsis of the story that is found in the information gathering.
Unlike a movie or book, whose story is fixed, the story of any area of your business or life is subject to change. It may be a sad story now, but you can make decisions that write a happy ending.
In the example Solved Plan seen in this lesson, the Information Statement reads:
‘Although I have had partial success with my business ideas, I have not earned enough to be able retire soon.’
A personal health information statement could read:
‘Because of unhealthy lifestyle choices I am overweight and have a bad body image.’
An information statement can sum up what you have as well as what you have not achieved. Ideally the information statement reflects both the factual and psychological aspects of the information.
If there were no challenges in the area you are focusing on, then there would be no issues and no need for decisions and solutions. The challenge section is where you identify the challenges. You are not making decisions at this stage; they start to arrive during the ideas stage.
Challenge statements define obstacles or blockages that get in the way of success. Challenge statements can also highlight a lack of skill or knowledge as expressed in the statement ‘How can I learn about starting my first business?’
Challenge questions can also deal with psychological issues. For instance, if your objective is to find romance, but you are shy then a challenge could be:
‘How might I learn to be confident and outgoing in order to attract potential partners?’
Gather as many challenges as you can. Some areas may have only a few challenges, whilst more complex situations will have many. Be creative. Don’t just record the most obvious challenges. Review your objectives and your information as they will point to particular challenges.
Challenges are expressed as statements starting with:
Examples statements applied to a health issue are:
‘How to motivate myself to eat less.’
‘How might I get more exercise?’
‘How might I stop yo-yo dieting?’
The Challenge Statement
Review the challenges and write a statement that summarises your main challenges or expresses a theme, or pattern within your challenges.
In the finance example that we are working through, if we consider the following challenges
How might I remain focused and motivated?
How to think of the best money making ideas.
How might I learn how to run a more successful business?
A theme or pattern emerges where not only practical money making ideas are needed, but a change of mindset as well. Focus and motivation are required.
The challenge statement for the example financial issue reads:
‘How to be more confident and focus my mind on increasing income’
In the first section of the Solved Method we explored the issue. We focused on an area and sub area, then gathered objectives, information and defined the obstacles. Now that we have the full picture of the issue we can start to work towards a solution or the decision.
The first thing to do towards finding a solution is to brainstorm ideas. These ideas are then evaluated and selected to make it easier to form the solution.
Brainstorming ideas is where you gather as many possible solutions to the issue as you can think of.
Brainstorming is a very creative process in which you seek novel and new ideas that break away from the habits or patterns of behaviour you normally follow. Judgement should be deferred. Brainstorming is not primarily concerned with finding great ideas it is to do with thinking of as many ideas as possible. Each idea is a possible solution to your issue. Do not worry about whether any idea is practical or impractical.
Novel and ‘wacky’ ideas are welcome. As you think of ideas, you may find that some combine or connect in such a way as to spark off other ideas. Seek patterns in the ideas. Try to go beyond what you already know or believe is possible.
If you are a visual thinker you may use mind maps, diagrams or drawings to help you gather your ideas.
Prior to the brainstorming session, review everything that has been recorded so far about the issue, especially the challenges. Think of ideas that meet the challenges, explore ways to tear down the obstacles.
You may find that brainstorming works better in groups where one person’s ideas can act as a catalyst for other ideas. Research has shown that the best size group is between 5 and 8. Ideally the members should have variable personalities and backgrounds, introvert as well as extrovert, zany and conservative, old and young, intellectual and emotional. The golden rule in brainstorming groups is that no one is allowed to criticise or censor someone else's idea. At this stage all ideas have equal merit.
Group members should listen carefully to each other. They should be encouraged to push beyond the familiar, letting their minds wander where ever it wants to go. It is advisable to have a chairman or chairwoman of the group who makes sure that no one person dominates the sessions. She or he should not be afraid to tell people to shut up in order to hear from less vocal members.
Brainstorming, particularly in groups, can be a high energy experience. Take regular breaks in which you relax and switch off.
You may find that the best ideas do not come during the brainstorming session itself. Try to arrange a quiet period after the sessions. Take a long bath, listen to relaxing music and meditate, spending time alone, quietly, without any effort to think of ideas. Practice mindfulness where you watch your thoughts without judgement. What may happen is that a strong idea pops into your mind.
Brainstorming stimulates the brain to think of ideas, and then on a subconscious level, the mind reflects on the ideas to come up with an original or novel idea that emerges outside of the brainstorming session.
Ideally a brainstorming can be done over a few sessions with breaks between sessions giving you time to reflect.
Evaluate Your Ideas
After you have gathered as many ideas as possible, then you need to evaluate them. The best way to do this is to label each idea as bad, fair, good and great.
Look at the ideas that you have judged to be great. Pick the one that stands out and you will base your decision or solution on that. Alternately create a solution that combines two or more of these ideas.
Whilst ideas need not be too specific, the decision or solution needs to be specific, capable of measurement and time based. For example a clear decision to a financial issue could be:
‘Make £50,000 profit within one year by running a successful eBay business.’
This statement is measurable (£50,000), time based (within one year) and specific.
Write your solution in the present tense and use positive words such as success, or words that express how you feel about the solution. A decision is a firm solution to an issue; it is what you are committed to do to address the issue.
Some decisions cannot be measured numerically in such things as currency or weight. If your decision is to make your relationship more successful, then a more subjective measurement expressed as a percentage can be used. You assess the success of your relationship now on a scale of 1 to 100. If it is, say 20 now, then this is seen as 20 per cent successful. Over time, if your decision is a good one, then this success measure will increase,
After you have created a decision or solution enter a target date which is the date that you aim to have completed it.
A decision has no merit unless actions are taken towards implementing the solution.
There are two parts to the Take Action process: Resources and Actions.
To implement a solution you will need resources. There are several types of resources including:
Make a list of all the resources you need. You may already have some of these resources, but others will need to be acquired.
The Action Plan
After entering resources you will need an action plan.
Actions are the steps which you need to take in order to act on your decision or implement the solution.
After you have arrived at a decision or solution it is important to write down some actions and complete the first few actions as soon as you can. Often the first actions will be concerned with obtaining resources that you have listed in the resources section. For example, if your health decision requires that you exercise then you may need to research the best local gym to join or where to buy the best running clothes.
You may not have a complete action plan at first. Some actions can only be entered after some research has been done. If you want others to help you then obviously you cannot give them actions until they have been recruited.
As you begin to complete actions, further necessary actions will present themselves. An action plan is an on-going process that is regularly changed or revised.
You may find yourself with a long list of actions that need doing and this can seem overwhelming. To avoid overwhelm you need a system that focuses on just a few actions at a time. There are several methods of doing this. The simplest method is to give actions priorities, from low to urgent then focus on the urgent and high priority items first. Once these have been done, then lower priority actions can be converted to higher priority ones.
The basic priority system marks tasks as:
Urgent – must be done as soon as possible
High – done today or very soon
Medium – can be left a few days if necessary
Low – Non urgent. But still needs to be done at some time.
You can also create context tags. A context is a location or item of equipment need for an action. Examples of context tags are:
An action can be given a due date, a status (done or not done), and notes can be added.
There many ways of organizing actions such as Getting Things Done or Kanban. Find a system that suits the way you work. The main thing is to make sure that you are making steady and consistent actions in a strategic way that completes your solutions, and to do this in such a way that you do not feel overwhelmed by the number of actions that need doing. This requires focus and attention just on the current action or the two or three actions that you can finish today or soon.
The Solved program can also be used to organize your tasks.
It is important to regularly review your Solved Plan. The Information and challenge stages gathered all the known data about an issue. It is impossible to foresee everything. As an action plan is being implemented, unexpected events will happen. Factors that you hadn’t planned for will arise.
Sometimes your decision or solution needs modifying. Your Solved plan should be flexible, to reflect changing conditions. For example in the business area, an unexpected competing product appears which threatens your market position. This may mean that decisions about your sales and marketing need adjusting.
Most of the required adjustments should be minor, but occasionally a major unforeseen event can occur which forces you to drastically change a Solved plan.
There are times when you may feel a failure because you are unable to complete a decision or solution by the target date. If your goal is to lose 16 lbs. and at a 12 lbs. loss you go on holiday finding yourself drinking and eating too much and consequently put on 6 lbs., then it is easy to judge yourself a failure. You need to learn from this experience, become motivated again and, if necessary, extend the target date. Completing a solution is more important than how long it takes to do it.
In business you may find that a product you are planning to develop has already been developed by another company or an individual. It may be cheaper to buy the company or buy the solution of the individual than to spend money developing the product in house. Companies like Google and Apple often take this approach, buying up companies so that they have the rights to new technology.
Regularly review the action plan. Does any of it need adjusting as new information comes to light or events occur? Are your actions effective, or do they need to be replaced by better ones?
Using the Solved Method with some flexibility will ensure that you remain on track to complete your objectives.
Steve Williamson is a software developer and writer. He is a qualified teacher and teaches groups and individuals productivity, mindfulness and self development.
He created the task organizer software Life Manager Pro which is based on the Getting Things Done Method.
Steve has developed the Solved Method an adaptation of Creative Problem Solving. He has written a book on the Solved Method, 'How to Use Creative Thinking to Make Decisions and Solve Problems' which is currently available on Amazon. He has also developed the Solved software which is uses the Solved Method.
Steve teaches and writes on productivity and creativity with his blog www.positiveselfdevelopment.com.
Steve is interested in how to develop and use creativity thinking skills, especially at work or in business. Creative thinking is the key to business success.
Steve lives and works in Clitheroe,, Lancashire, England.