John sat at his desk and stared at the phone he’d just hung up. He sighed, picked up the receiver, and punched in his boss’s extension. “Hi Bob, just got off the phone with Acme. They want a new system set up by the end of this year! No, there’s no way that we can meet that schedule. My whole team is overworked as it is. We simply don’t have the manpower, Bob, and you know about the hiring freeze. Yes, I know we need to bring in more work to meet our minimum requirements, but this one’s too big. We’ll have to tell them we can’t do it. There’s just no other option!”
Has something like this happened to you before? A problem
that seems so monumental that there just doesn’t seem to be a solution? In our busy day-to-day life, it’s easy to get so caught up in the daily grind that we tend to become very regimented and short-sighted – which prevents self
improvement. If none of the obvious solutions will work, we give up in
frustration – or worse yet, miss out on lucrative opportunities or experience
loss of income.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Here are some self improvement methods that will help you sharpen your creative thinking skills.
Open Up Your Mind
Instead of saying “There’s no way…,” assume “There IS a way, I just have to
find it.” Nothing will stunt self improvement progress more than giving up before you’ve given creative thinking a fair chance.
Ask for Help
As the old saying goes: two heads are better than one – and in the case of problem solving, three or more is even better. Since everyone has his or her own set of knowledge and experience, other people will bring different perspectives and ideas to the table. Look for people who have experience with a problem similar to yours, and sometimes a complete outsider’s fresh perspective might see a solution that you’re blind to. Self improvement comes through learning from others, so don’t try to solve your problem alone. Tap into your resources!
Define the Problem
The problem in front of you may seem like a huge mountain. Whe excavators
blast a tunnel through a mountain to create a road through it, they first analyze the type of rock the mountain is made of in order to choose the correct type and position of their explosives. They do this for safety reasons as well as to do the work most effectively.
Don’t skip this analyzing step in breaking through your mountain. Even if you think you know what the problem is, take a few minutes to write it down. I like to use a large, blank piece of paper or a white board. Write the problem in the center, and then look for root causes and write those as well. What are the outcomes of the problem? What will or will not happen because of the problem?
Brainstorm all the “properties” of this problem, and physically write them where you (and others helping you) can see them. Sometimes thinking through these basics can open up interesting fissures in the mountainside to investigate.
Identify Constraints and Assumptions
Make a list of all the reasons you can’t overcome the problem, and any
assumptions you may have. These are your “blockers”. Now try to look around those blockers – what if they weren’t there? What would you do if they weren’t? (This tip applies to all areas of self improvement: you can’t work through your blockers if you don’t know what they are.)
Break the Problem into Little Pieces
Now work on breaking your mountain into boulders, then chip those boulders down into smaller rocks that you can work with.
Find the smaller problems within the problem and look for ways to solve those. Sometimes when you’re able to solve small bits of the problem, the bigger problem changes form and becomes more manageable.
Listen to All Ideas
Listening effectively and creatively is a very effective self improvement
tool. Don’t automatically assume that someone’s idea to solve the problem can’t be done. Refocus your attention away from the problem and how big it is and onto analyzing solutions and finding ways to make them work. Many times, even if someone’s idea is far-fetched, you can “piggy-backs” onto it and morph it into something workable.
Thomas Edison created hundreds of prototypes before he was able to finally
make the light bulb glow. Stick with it, and don’t give up unless you’ve truly
exhausted all possibilities. Expect the creative thinking process to take time,
effort, and dedication.
A Great Skill for Self Improvement
Exercising your creative thinking muscle is not only helpful on the job, but
also in every area of your life. We’ve all done a little creative financing
with our checkbooks from time to time, and I’m sure you’ll find other aspects
that it will benefit.
With a little elbow grease and a lot of creative thinking, the next time you come face to face with a mountainous problem, you’ll be equipped to forge your tunnel – and on the road to greater self improvement in general.
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