Getting Creative to Solve Problems

April 2, 2010

So many times when we think of creativity, we think of art, music, design, sculpture or photography.  These are all fine examples of creativity that have been manifested.  When we see artists, musicians and photographers produce good work (or any work for that matter), it is easy to classify these individuals as “creative.”

When we compare ourselves to these “creative” individuals, we sometimes get the feeling that we are not creative because we don’t always have anything to show for it.

Browsing the news on the Internet and talking to some friends of mine, it really struck me how all of us use our creativity every day at just about every moment.  Here are a few examples:

  • A man who completed his MBA in 2005 and was making six figures gets laid off in December of 2008.  He decides to mow lawns for a living, has over 30 customers and is making roughly $45,000 a year.  He works long, hard hours but manages to stay afloat in these challenging times.  His decision to do something many people consider “beneath” them is a simple act of creativity in order to make ends meet. 
  • Saturday in the Smith household is considered “pancake day.” Every week Mrs. Smith, the hardworking mother of two follows the directions on the pancake mix: 2 cups of pancake mix, one cup of milk, two eggs.  One Saturday, however, Mrs. Smith decides to add cinnamon, chopped walnuts and a small dash of vanilla extract to the mix.  The family is surprised by the tweak to the pancake recipe and they love it.  Mrs. Smith’s creative twist to the recipe has made an ordinary Saturday breakfast memorable for her family.
  • A very successful salesman has been out of work for more than a year.  He has spent considerable time making calls, networking, sending out resumes and creating his profile on various social media tools.  In doing his research, he discovers a company overseas that does not have a presence in the United States.  Instead of a resume, he submits a marketing plan that details how this company could expand into the U.S.  After several meetings, the salesman is hired to help the company expand into the U.S. market.
  • A recent college graduate aspires to be a director and producer of television commercials. He knows that one way he can get his foot in the door is to get hired as a production assistant (essentially a go-fer).  Because the industry is so competitive, even getting a job as a production assistant can be difficult.  In his cover letter to various production companies he offers to work for free for three days instead of the usual rate of $150 per day.  He knows that once he can demonstrate his resourcefulness, that companies will soon want to hire him.  He gets hired as an unpaid production assistant, which leads to additional paid opportunities and hasn’t looked for work since.  He knows that he is on the right track to eventually becoming a television commercial director.

The above stories are all examples of problems and situations that we encounter all the time.  These stories also involved varying amounts of skill, determination and creativity in order to stand out and be a little different… but usually they don’t involve paints, chalk or even crayons.  All of us encounter roadblocks and challenges along our daily paths…and all of us have the opportunity to use a little creativity and tenacity to get past these problems.  Sometimes the solution is just a matter of a slight tweak, a different approach to the way we do something.

How about you…have you used your creative problem solving skills to get past any obstacles recently?  Have you made any recent changes to your “usual routine?”

Creative commons photo by laffy4k.

1 Lori (JaneBeNimble) April 2, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Hi Tim,

I loved this post on so many levels.

First, the stacked Crayons bring so much color to the page! Bravo, matey.

Second, I love the vignettes of the people’s creative stories (but you already know that). 😉

Third, highlighting everyday creative examples as ways to be creative — as opposed to what we normally think of as creative pursuits really struck me. Very cool!

Finally, about your questions — the first thing that comes to mind is actually with my post I just pushed live today. I wanted to write a ‘creative’ story about something in particular, but it just wasn’t coming together. But, what was really burning my mind was all the things I’ve been through dealing with something that’s been front-and-center in my life.

So, I took a chance and wrote about something I normally wouldn’t write about. I’m not sure if that’d qualify as being creative, but maybe it was. I wrote about something different, and out of my normal ‘routine’, I suppose.

Again, great post, Tim. Thanks for the questions and post. It’s a great way to usher in the weekend!

2 Lance April 3, 2010 at 5:21 am

Hi Tim,
I love the stories you have highlighted, and how they each shine their creative spirit in unique ways. “Art” can be whatever speaks from our heart….

As I think about your question – I think about the soccer team I’m coaching – and our practice that just started up a couple of days ago. We are a real mix of players – with skill levels all over the board. We are also a recreational team. And some of the team we will play, I know will be much more skilled than we are. So – I focus our team around fun. Because the truth is – we won’t win a lot of games this spring (just like we didn’t in the fall). And the thing is – even though I know many of the kids also know that we’ll not win a lot of games (and that is just very much a simple fact…nothing more….) – we will go into all the games with an attitude that we can win. More than that, though, we focus very much around “fun”. And I think it really shows in how enthusiastic everyone is at practice and during the games. And – the creative shift is how “fun” can be just as powerful for us as a win can be. (and in fact, it sometimes feels like we win even when we have a lower score at the end of the game….because we have had fun out there…)

Tim, thanks for sharing this! It has brightened my day very much!
.-= Lance´s last post…There Are No Little Things =-.

3 Tim April 3, 2010 at 8:14 am

Hi Lori: I guess this post was another way for me to say that all of us are creative…more creative than we know. I agree with you about the crayon photo…I wish I took that picture because it is absolutely beautiful! I can really identify with your blog post…one of the more challenging things that I’ve faced as a blogger is writer’s block and many times that I just don’t know what to say (or how to say it in an interesting way). Blogging is a great challenge for me in many ways and it forces me to think, write and approach things differently – a puzzle, if you will. BTW, I did stop by and your post was very informative and entertaining (which is not always easy to pull off). I’m glad you decided to write about something you don’t normally write about…which I would agree is a creative step. Thank you for stopping by and have a great weekend!

Hi Lance: Thank you for sharing your very interesting story about the soccer team you are coaching. I think it’s awesome that you focus more on fun than the end result. I think that’s not only creative, but smart and I think it’s great for the kids, too, because they can hopefully take that approach to other areas of their life. Lance, I know you’re a great coach. My best friend has coached little league baseball and he frequently fills me in on his challenges, which are numerous. Thank you for sharing your creative example and I wish your team luck (and lots of fun) this weekend!

4 Ryhen Satch April 3, 2010 at 8:14 am

I agree. We all have the opportunity to display our own creative genius despite the challenges that we face. The problem for some is that the challenges seem to obstruct the mind from letting the ideas flow out. The attention is placed on the problems instead of the solutions. One thing that has helped me a lot in letting the creative juices flow out from the mental control center is by contemplating. A little bit of introspection and silence is all you need to produce innovative ideas. Great post, Tim!
.-= Ryhen Satch´s last post…How To Get Rich By Tapping Into People’s Fantasies =-.

5 Tim April 3, 2010 at 11:49 pm

Hi Ryhen: You make a great point about contemplating and introspection in order to foster creativity. I think that is a great thought considering we are bombarded with messages everywhere we look and everywhere we go. I can only speak for myself, but I need to let the good ideas and influences “simmer” a bit. I would agree with you that introspection and silence are both valuable. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

6 Walter April 5, 2010 at 8:16 am

Thanks you for compiling these inspiring stories about creativity. It is unfortunate that most people are stuck with their defeats rather than using their creativity to elevate their situations. :-)

7 Tim April 5, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Hi Walter: I would agree with you about a lot of people and their feelings on creativity. I’m not an art or music teacher, but it does bother me when someone says they’re not creative. Because we are all creative. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

8 Lori April 9, 2010 at 10:24 am

Hi Tim,

Found your post through Marissa Bracke and really enjoyed.

I tend to compartmentalize “creativitity” and “resourcefulness,” because they stem from different places in my brain, but with a little attenttion it’s relatively easy to see how they intertwine and support each other. And I often talk about needing “creative leaps” in my problem solving, yet even using the word doesn’t even let me give myself credit for the process.

I also feel sometimes that we elevate the creative process into realms that we feel -as mere mortals – cannot be reached without something inhuman, be it talent, vision, or suffering. The concept of the starving artist, the despondent writer. We put creativity on a pedestal (so that we can feel elevated if/when we reach it?) that leads to a pursuit of an angst that we feel we cannot be special without. So I truly appreciate the observation of creation in the modest and the everyday.

We don’t need angst to be special if we can see how powerful we are at creating on a daily basis.

Thank you for your post.
.-= Lori´s last post…I need a Mild-Mannered Alter-Ego, Too. =-.

9 Tim April 9, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Hi Lori: Wow, some very good thoughts about creativity and I would really agree with you. Yeah, I think if we were to compare ourselves to other really “creative” people most of us would give up trying, I know I would. Years ago, I put a line on my resume about being good at creative problem solving. I firmly believe now as I did then that I have this ability (and frankly so do most of us), but sometimes our stories and examples of creative problem solving are hard to remember. We all want to tell stories of how we saved the company $50,000 or whatever by a courageous, significant decision. But typically, these small things add up to something big. Anyhow, thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on this topic!

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