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Creative Problem Solving 101

Here’s a simple process our students use for solving problems big and small. Whether they’re problems for clients or practical problems in day to day life, this process can help you go from feeling overwhelmed to energy. Of course, don’t forget the most important rule of all when it comes to creativity: focus on progress and not perfection. You can move incrementally along the scale from bad to good. But never starting because you feel overwhelmed by the pressure of perfectionism isn’t even on the scale.

Step 1- Find your Problem

The first step in solving creative problems is to define which problem you are going to solve. Sometimes we focus too much on what we think the problem is and don’t look closely enough to discover what the actual problem is, so take the time to question your biases and ask yourself what problem you’re actually trying to solve.

For aspiring entrepreneurs: The best ideas solve real people’s problems: Airbnb makes it easier to find a cheap place to stay on vacation, Google makes it easier to find information online, etc. The first step in any business is finding a useful problem to solve! The easiest problems to find are those in your own life.

Step 2 – Find your Boundaries

The second step in solving a problem is to define your boundaries, don’t make them too narrow or you’ll have no inspiration. Similarly, don’t make them too broad, otherwise it’s hard to get started or create a practical solution with the resources and capacity you have right now. We often think that creativity is just floating around and waiting to happen to you. But that’s not the case, creativity takes effort and focus. One of the keys to solving creative problems is limiting yourself in order to create  focus. Creativity is not about allowing yourself to have complete freedom, creativity is about full freedom within very clear limits. For example, you can’t solve a problem in an industry you don’t know about: If you don’t understand basic physics you can’t design a rocket. You also can’t solve a problem that’s too complex for your abilities (not alone or at least fast) like world hunger. If you want to be able to solve something practical and within a reasonable time without getting overwhelmed, you have to limit yourself by setting limits.

Step 3 – Find Inspiration

The third step in this process is to find inspiration. Any creative thing that exists is just a combination of other things that previously existed. All songs are just the same 11 notes being remixed and reorganized. Art is the same colors and shapes that exist in everything we see around us. Creativity is the art of intelligent ‘theft’. You have to steal shapes, musical notes, colours or other ideas and reorganize them in a way that people cannot tell where it comes from. So, if you want to be creative, you need find places to “steal” from. You need inspiration! So, go out and see what other people have done, find people to copy, adjust ideas and pre-existing solutions, re-engineer solutions from other fields, industries or areas of your life.

Step 4 – Churn out ideas

What is the best way to come up with great solutions? It’s definitely not sitting doing nothing and waiting for a really good solution to fly into your head! Start creating solutions! Come up with a lot of them and think of them as quickly as you can. This will increase the chances that you’ll generate a good idea – if you come up with 100 ideas, the chances of you coming across one or two good ones are far higher than if you only think of 3 ideas because you are waiting for it “perfect” idea to come along. This will also improve your overall problem solving skills because you’re practicing using your “idea generation muscle”. In other words, your training your creative abilities.

Step 5 – Test

Just because you like a solution doesn’t mean it’s effective. And it definitely doesn’t mean it’s a good business idea. Just because it works for you or you like it doesn’t mean other people will find it useful or want to pay for it. When people come up with ideas they have a bad habit of holding on to them just because they like them (people feel proud about the ideas they’ve generated simply because they are theirs, not necessarily because they are objectively good). This often results in people working very hard to implement solutions or start businesses that eventually don’t work. Therefore, once you come up with an idea, you have to go out into the world and test it. Create a simple version of your problem and check if it actually solves the problem you need it to solve.

For the entrepreneurs: There are 3 criteria for a successful business idea that you should test:
1. Do people want it? Does it help them?
2. Can you make it? You have the skills, knowledge, resources, time, etc. to actually create the solution.
3. Can you make money with it? Will people pay for it so you can build your business?

If you’re interested in learning more about Team Academy and our education process you can contact us or join our next Open Day.

3. Can you make money with it? Will people pay for it so you can build your business?

If you’re interested in learning more about Team Academy and our education process you can contact us or join our next Open Day.


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