Creativity Is Your Best Problem-Solving Tool -- Here's How to Harness It
Your success as an entrepreneur is contingent on your ability to solve problems effectively, and one of the best tools you have for the job is your creativity.
Entrepreneurs are problem solvers at heart. Most businesses are designed to solve some kind of consumer problem; for example, you might sell a product that allows people to do something they’d otherwise be incapable of or sell a service that makes someone’s life easier. And in the course of business leadership, you’ll be responsible for solving a multitude of problems, from high-level challenges like how to become more profitable to low-level challenges like how to resolve an inter-employee conflict.
Your success is contingent on your ability to solve problems effectively, and one of the best tools you have for the job is your creativity. But why is creativity so valuable in solving problems, and how can you make the best use of it?
Why creativity is your best problem-solving tool
Creativity is the ability to come up with original ideas. In other words, you can think in new ways, and come up with strategies that aren’t conventional.
This is beneficial when problem solving for several reasons:
- Novel strategy discovery (and differentiation). You know that differentiating your business is vital if you want to stand out in the industry. Sometimes, coming up with unique solutions to common problems is the only way to achieve that differentiation. Is there a way you can serve your customers in a way that none of your competitors can? Is there a novel strategy that nobody has utilized to improve profitability? Creativity helps you stumble upon these unique, undiscovered tactics.
- Breaking past conventional barriers. Creativity is also important for breaking through conventional barriers to advancement. If you run into a complex problem that’s always been solved a certain way, with a handful of disadvantages, you may be able to eliminate those disadvantages with a creative new approach.
- Finding optimal solutions. Coming up with original ideas is also a way to get closer to “optimal” solutions. If you generate one or two basic ideas, you’ll have limited options for how to move forward. Through creativity, you can generate five or six ideas, and you’ll have a much better chance at improving upon your “first instinct” approaches.
How to harness creativity
Here’s the big issue with creativity: You can’t force it. There’s no way to sit down and simply power through a creative brainstorming session. Instead, the most impressive creative breakthroughs tend to happen spontaneously, and when people least expect them.
That said, there are some strategies you can use to boost your creative potential and allow yourself to think in more dynamic ways.
- Improve creativity in yourself and others. First, understand that you’re not the only person on your team — and you’re certainly not the only team member capable of coming up with creative ideas. You can easily boost your total creative potential by improving creativity in both yourself and the people around you. This means applying the same strategies to your team that you’re applying to yourself and fostering an environment that both encourages and rewards creative thinking from employees.
- Give yourself more time. One of the best steps you can take is to give yourself more time. This isn’t always possible; sometimes, you’ll need to make an immediate decision or act immediately to start resolving a problem. But if you have a few days to think about something, give yourself each of those days. More time means you’ll think through more variables, and you’ll have more time to naturally stumble upon a solution, which leads to our next point.
- Get bored. Boredom has a negative connotation, but it’s actually good for your mind. When we’re bored, our minds aren’t active, which means they can wander freely (and start connecting ideas in unique ways). This is why so many people claim to come up with great ideas in the shower, or while on a long drive; being bored helps you generate more creative concepts.
- Talk to others. No matter how naturally creative you are, your mind is still going to be limited based on your current knowledge, perspectives and experiences. If you want to expand your creative horizons, you need to talk to other people who have different sets of knowledge, perspectives and experiences. See the world through their eyes and ask what they think about your current dilemmas; they may have valuable insights that can lead you to a new solution.
- Stimulate yourself with creative work. It’s also a good idea to creatively stimulate yourself with art and creative works from other people. Even simple measures, like hanging abstract art in your office or playing jazz music while you’re working, can have a profound effect.
- Take inspiration from outside the box. Finally, look for inspiration in unconventional places. If you’re trying to solve a problem in your specific industry, you might look at businesses like yours, including current competitors and similar businesses that have existed in the past. However, it may be better to look at how companies in other industries have solved the problem; they may have a fundamentally different approach that opens your mind to new possibilities.
With these strategies, you’ll start thinking more creatively as an entrepreneur. Over time, creative modes of thinking will become more natural to you and you’ll be able to come up with more novel solutions to the challenges you face regularly. Keep improving to see even better results and start solving your business problems from entirely new angles.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor