3 tips to Innovate and Problem Solve

Dec 19 2017, 3:07 pm

As entrepreneurs our job is to solve problems. We hit hurdles, adapt, succeed and move on. However, through our own little version of natural selection, we often end up approaching hurdles with the same mindset, regardless of the nature of the problem. If we don’t have access to a strong network of backgrounds and experiences, we can end up replicating a one-dimensional and flawed approach to solving some of the more dynamic problems we encounter.

By understanding a bit about the methodology of creativity, we can apply some techniques which give us the best chance of coming up with a strong solution. When you are acting creatively, you brain is acting in a substantially different way, according to Rex Jung, a Neuroscientist at New Mexico University. When compared to traditional analytical process thinking, a creative brain shows lower levels of certain chemicals and a thinner cortical. What I set out to do was understand what factors we can control to give that creative process the best chance of happening. Here are three ways we can get the process firing.

1. Shift Perspective

  • Remove yourself from the equation. Instead of asking ‘Why aren’t people spending more money at my shop’ ask ‘What causes people to spend less when shopping?’ By doing so, we have a better chance of identifying the problem independently.
  • Isolate and understand the assumptions you are working from. Often times we end up diving into a problem based on a single premise. By evaluating the assumptions we are making, we can obtain a more thorough understanding of the scope of the issue and why it became a problem.
  •  Try different media. Given that there are three learning styles out there (auditory, visual and kinetic), ‘brainstorming’ is really only an optimal approach for auditory learners. Being creative is about putting our brain in its relaxed and natural state, something you are far more likely to do if you are using your own learning style.

2. Break Patterns

  • Create a new approach. Think of some personality types and ask yourself, how would they address the problem? What would they do differently? How would a perfectionist act? Or an athlete? Or a lazy person? Or an academic? Or a billionaire?

  • Change your scenery. Repetition breeds repetition so why not change your location. Finding solutions is part of the job description so don’t feel guilty about moving to a coffee shop or going for a walk, whatever helps your brain move. Even our very own UBC claims the color Blue aids in the creative process.

3. Relax

  • Stay calm. When your brain shifts into stress mode it reverts to default operation. In almost all cases, this means it tries to rationalize and analyze problems, which is something you are probably good at but have also already tried.
  • Believe you are creative. We have all had flashes of inspiration or creative outbursts at one point in our lives. Unfortunately, only the most progressive corporate and academic cultures actively promote the pursuit of creativity and we end up developing what is called ‘learned non-use’. By believing we are creative, our brain relaxes and is more likely to operate with the proper chemical levels and cortical thickness.

Thanks for taking the time to check out 3 Tips to Innovate and Problem Solve. Hopefully this helps you out with writers block or find yourself being compared to John Kerry too frequently.


Written and researched by Daniel Eberhard, a Columnist at Vancity Buzz. Have questions or want to learn more? Follow Daniel on Twitter @danno_go or connect on his personal site at www.urban-sherpa.ca.

Photo Credits: Feature Image courtesy Chancellor of Design, Blue Hands Courtesy Thomas James Illustrations

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