Creative Problem Solving

Usually we think of problem solving as a mental activity, as figuring things out. And while this can work, it can also lead to rumination and anxiety. As long as we’re in our heads, we run the risk of getting stuck there. The power of imagination can help dislodge us, but when we’re overly “problem-focused,” imagination can scarcely find its way in.

When I worked as a designer, I learned that the antidote to being in my head (as a mental problem solver) was to make something. This could be as simple as a sketch, doodle, or collection of sticky notes, or as complex as a mock-up, model, or prototype. This helped physicalize the problem by externalizing it and making it tangible, no longer just an abstract idea. And as something real in the world, it became something else altogether, available to others for further exploration, feedback, and play.

Now, as I work to develop a new online business including online courses, I’m constantly prototyping my ideas:  sketching, tinkering, and building mock-ups. It’s great because I can literally see my business taking shape as it morphs from a vague concept (teaching creativity to therapists) to a tangible suite of digital products.

So the next time you find yourself getting stuck in mental places, externalize those ideas. Give them shape and form. Tinker. Play.

And see if you don’t find yourself closer to creative results.


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