In Search of Creative Problem Solving - part II
Recently I offered some thoughts concerning my search for creative problem solving with the brilliantly titled blog post - In Search of Creative Problem Solving - part I. With the original web post my most favourite geophysicist commented, and I quote in part, " P.P.S.: Just to make sure you don't forget: You still owe us a definition for creative problem solving". ;-)".
With that, I bring you the just as brilliantly titled, "part II".
"The devil is in the detail" they say and I believe this can be directed towards creative problem solving... so with this in mind, I want to spend some time on the word "problem" (I am sure this will help with my search and obligation for a definition). For the sake of getting us started, let's define a problem as, "a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful that needs to be dealt with and overcome". I should also add that problems tend to come with an emotion(s) attached to them; an aspect of the "unwelcome or harmful" part of the definition I suppose.
I think I may be on to something here... let's go with it!
Problems, by their very definition, bring feelings with them that fall into a wide spectrum of emotions such as fear, sadness, anger and frustration. If I use the following example, how many emotions come to mind?
"You have a job interview at 10:30 am and you have left yourself ample time to get there... all of a sudden there is a multi-car pileup in front of you and traffic has come to a dead stop; no sign of movement for a while."*
Let me offer a few that have come to mind:
- Angry because this happened to you on such an important day.
- Frustrated that the traffic is not moving and you will be late.
- Worried that this may impact your chances of getting the job.
Depending on the individual, these emotions may range from fleeting expressions to pounding violently on the steering wheel and openly sobbing - We tend to "humanize" problems and offer them a very human and social response.
Let's just suppose for a moment that problems are in fact "human" - they would be totally indifferent, slightly twisted, sociopathic individuals, with a very creative sense of humor tossed in. At the very most, the response you would get for your pounding and sobbing would be a slight head tilt and small wry smile of recognition.
Lucky for us, problems are not human and we don't have to socialize with them at parties. This is an important recognition in two respects: 1) it helps us understand how to deal with problems more effectively and 2) it helps me with my search for a definition.
Emotions are reserved for people, pets and maybe a couple of other things, but definitely not for "problems".
Dealing with problems is an intellectual exercise and should be treated as such... with this said, here are a couple of points for consideration:
- Emotions can be extremely fatiguing, so much so, you may be too exhausted to work on the problem.
- Emotions distract and impact the thinking process.
- Emotions will not solve your problem.
I want to point out here that I am not saying don't be emotional**, but rather learn how to compartmentalize emotions when you are dealing with problems. I will be the first to say compartmentalization can be difficult but it can be done...
- Develop the mantra that problem solving is an intellectual endeavor.
- Put your problem down on paper; this way it becomes a "tangible inanimate object".
- As you verbalize the problem, do not legitimize it with human characteristics or words of emotion.
- Involve other people. They will not hold any emotion with the problem and help with the intellectualization.
Well there you have it... by no means a definition for creative problem solving but knowing that dealing with problems is an intellectual exercise helps me get there.. stay tuned for my brilliantly titled blog "part III".
I wonder what my geophysicist thinks?
* We have all been there, and up front I will tell you I'm rather good at "screaming at the wind"
** Having emotions is one of the greatest gifts we were given as humans, so get the most out of them... just focus them where it matters, that's all.