You were born a creative genius. We all were. Most of us learned something different from our family, school and friends. Creativity is not the same as intelligence (IQ). You do not need a college degree; you are not too young or too old. As a matter of fact, your brain can improve with age as long as you use it! The great thing about pursuing creative endeavors is that it keeps your mind from thinking negative, unproductive thoughts. How to be a Creative Problem Solver in 5 Easy Steps: Keep in mind that all five of these steps are individual to you. You may come back to a step several times through the creative process. You may even get a flash of insight anywhere along in the process. Have fun and enjoy the ride. 1. Gather Information It’s important to have plenty of information about your “problem” or project. Be resourceful in looking for information and remember that your thinking process is very visual. Have you been to a library recently and flipped through a few books? When you look on the Internet, look at pictures as well as content. Look in areas you may think are unrelated. Take a few notes yet don’t be compulsive about it. Evaluate your project: what is your desired outcome? Who else is involved and what might they want? What do you want to learn from this experience? Don’t forget to speak with other people…people in your same field and outside of it. Ask them open-ended questions (such as “What do you think about….?” “What would you do if…?”) Now it’s time to let it simmer and incubate. Give all this information to your subconscious and go do something else. 2. Be Active Your brain represents only about 2% of your body’s weight, yet it utilizes about 20% of the body’s oxygen! Wow, you really have to feed your brain for it to work properly. This means physical activity. Do something simple, it doesn’t have to be a specific exercise regimen. Go for a walk. Wash your car. Ride a bike. Take some dance lessons. Have fun! Let your mind wander and allow your project/problem to be in the background. Your brain is working on it while you do other things. 3. Change perspective Look at your project from many different views. What do you see…or what do you think you see? How to see your project in a new light: ask yourself how it would look if you were an astronaut, or an 8 year old, or the Pope, or had all the money in the world, or had none. How do the other people involved see it? Compare your project to something completely unrelated: what’s the same about your project and your shoe, your dog, or the idea of tomorrow. These are all exercises in contrast and juxtaposition….great for fostering creativity, Knowing that “thinking” is visual and symbolic, draw diagrams. Get some large pieces of paper (larger than 8.5×11). Put a circle in the middle and label that as your “problem”. As your problem dictates, create other shapes as the different aspects of your problem. How are they attached to that original circle? After engaging in this activity, you will definitely see things you did not see before. By now you should be able to clearly make a few statements defining the problem. Write those down. Perhaps you have divided your problem into sections and can address each section separately. You are now at the point of… 4. Brainstorming! You have heard of brainstorming. Have you ever really done it? Really generating lots of ideas?This activity is better with collaboration, getting more willing participants involved creates even more ideas. Notice I said willing participants. This does not work with people who are close-minded. Review the problem, clarify the goal. Set a time period and start writing as fast as possible. Three keys to effective brainstorming: speed, quantity and non-judgment. Your goal should be 30-40 ideas, even a hundred ideas depending on your project. Out of those you will get some really good ones, and a lot of bad ones. Did Thomas Edison invent the light bulb on the first try? NO! 5. Analysis You now have a lot of ideas to work with. Here is the time for conscious analysis. Review and categorize your ideas. Throw out the ones that really don’t work, but not until you take a close look at them. You are being analytical, refrain from being too judgmental. You may have found solutions to completely unrelated problems! Anywhere in this process, you might find the perfect idea. Or, you may have to go through these steps several times. People that are very creative have the habit of engaging in creative mental processes. You can develop this habit, too. It’s simply a way of thinking. You are a genius!