5 Ways to Solve Problems Creatively

Posted by on August 20, 2012

“Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science, and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process.” – David Ogilvy

A creative problem-solver consciously or unconsciously realizes the problem at hand has already been solved – many times – but the answers have not yet been applied to the immediate situation.

Creative problem solving is merely the leveraging of trustworthy patterns – those relationships between elements in a system – to achieve an advantage previously undiscovered in the immediate application.

The critical first step in creative problem solving is to identify the defining characteristics of the problem. This is usually achieved, according to David Ogilvy, by “stuffing your conscious mind with information.” That’s the easy part. Our society swims in information. The second part, to “unhook your rational thought process,” is where it gets tricky.

I believe there are 5 ways to unhook deductive reasoning.
1. The Arts. Music speaks to us through rhythm, interval, contour, pitch, key and tempo. Theater and Dance speak through foreshadow, symbol and movement. Painting and Sculpture through shape, proximity and color. Poetry and Literature speak to depths beyond our understanding. Connect to the arts and watch the marlin rise from deep water to tail-dance across the ocean in the moonlight.
2. Humor. A statement that belongs and fits is predictable, not funny. A statement that doesn’t belong and doesn’t fit makes no sense: not funny. A statement is funny only when it “doesn’t belong, but fits.” Brilliant ideas often enter the world as jokes. An outrageous suggestion that could theoretically work is always hilarious. Humor is a slippery key that unlocks the intuitive mind as we become aware of obscure but possible connections. Laughter is a portal that takes us beyond the realms of fear and doubt. Look though that window and consider what you see.
3. Time Pressure. I once watched Keith Miller trick a roomful of people into brilliance by giving them too little time to complete a series of detailed lists. “Pick a subject that interests you. I’ll give you sixty seconds.” Keith counted down, “45 seconds… thirty seconds… fifteen seconds…” Each person was then required to stand and name the subject they’d chosen. Keith said, “Write down 16 things you’d want to include if you wrote a book about this subject. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar or putting them into any kind of order. I’ll give you 4 minutes. Sixteen things. Go.” Mild panic causes the logical mind to quit “second guessing” as the floodgates of intuition open and spray far more knowledge than you ever knew was there.
4. Play! Without keeping score. Playing to win is just another name for work. Play must be freely chosen, actively engaging and fun. Hide-and-seek. Throw a disc. Sing hit songs with a group of new friends. Play requires the relaxation of the uptight mind. We are rejuvenated and revitalized by it. Children are happy because they play. Adults are unhappy because they do not.
5. Recovery. Humans are like neon; we glow when we release the energy of overstimulation. I once mentioned to Dr. Grant that I often have my best ideas in airplanes on the way home from speaking engagements. Knowing my strong preference for introverted thinking, he said, “Well of course. Working to connect to an audience is extraverted feeling, your least preferred function.” When he saw I was confused he continued, “Psychologists have known for years that a person’s fourth function – the one least preferred – is the trap door to the unconscious mind.” Ten minutes later we created Escape the Box, one of Wizard Academy’s most heralded workshops. (We don’t have one scheduled but we could easily do so if enough of you are interested. Just call Della at 512-295-5700 or email Michele@WizardAcademy.org)
Look Inward. Laugh. Panic. Play. Sleep.

Welcome to Wizard Academy. Are you beginning to understand why the world’s most interesting business school has an art gallery, a concert hall, a star deck, a wine cellar and a student mansion?


Roy H. Williams

This week on Dean Rotbart’s Monday Morning Radio: Mike O’Neil teaches business owners and professionals how to supercharge their LinkedIn pages to generate a harvest of new customers and clients.

One Response to 5 Ways to Solve Problems Creatively

  1. Derick Van Ness

    Great ideas Roy!

    I constantly work to help my mind become ‘irrational’. Sometimes it works and brilliance is born. I’m going to try out a few of these ideas and see if I can improve my batting average.

    Thanks for the tips!

Leave a Reply