How to Harness Your Creativity for More Effective Problem Solving

Alyssa Gregory

Creativity can be a valuable tool when facing problems, particularly when you’ve spent a great deal of time on a difficult challenge and keep coming back to the same mediocre solution. A creative approach to problem solving can be effective for everyone, regardless of your level of creativity. Whether you are typically a creative thinker, or if you’re more on the structured thinker side of the scale, you can use creativity to solve problems and challenges through creative problem solving.

Creative Problem Solving

Creative problem solving focuses using imagination and innovation. The goal is to redefine your challenges and develop creative ideas to solve the problem you’re facing. The main methodology, the Creative Problem Solving Process, was developed by Alex Osborn and Dr. Sidney J. Parnes in the 1950s.

In practice, creative problem solving techniques are designed to shift a person’s mental state into one that fosters creativity in order to develop new ideas. This approach is based on the belief that a larger number of ideas increase the chances that one of them has value, and that many times, coming at a problem from a new angle can result in a different but more effective solution.

Techniques to Try

There are many ways to implement creative problem solving when approaching problems. The overall aim is to break away from traditional thought and allow your creativity to help you develop better solutions. Here are a few different techniques of creative problem solving.

Brainstorming and Mind Mapping

Creative problem solving can be initiated through open-mind processes like brainstorming and mind mapping. The act of emptying your mind by writing down all possible options and ideas, even those that seem unrealistic, is a useful way to kick start your creativity.

Random Ideas

Focusing on random ideas is another way to think creatively. This technique involves choosing a random object in your immediate environment and relating it directly to your problem, even if it appears to be completely unrelated. The forced association can be very effective in encouraging creative thinking.


This technique relies on making clearly unrealistic statements (provocations) about the situation. The idea is that stating and then analyzing these off-the-wall ideas will help you discover new approaches that may lead to creative solutions.

Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking is a form of creative problem solving that focuses on facing problems, not in the traditional way with direct logic, but by using a creative approach that explores alternatives and less obvious solutions. You can think of it in terms of coming at a problem from the sides, instead of head-on.

Recommended Resources

There is a lot of information available on creative problem solving and the various techniques involved, and this just scratches the surface. If you’re interested in learning more, here are a few great resources to start your research:

Do you use creative problem solving? How do you get into the “zone” so you’re successful at it?

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