Technical Artist,

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How to support creativity in problem solving?

Hi everybody,

I recently wrote an article on how I try to support creativity in my process of problem solving.

I was hoping this could be the start of an interesting discussion around the question "How to support creativity in problem solving?"

I am quite sure there are many ways for supporting creativity because I believe every person is able to be creative, but is not always inspired to use it.

I am looking forward to hear from you :)


  • May 12 2013: As Fritzie pointed out, many TED talks provide insight and are a great resource.

    Some of techniques i use include:

    1. Cross pollenating aspects of one technology or art form into another.

    2. Industry surveys, by going through catalogs and brochures

    3. Looking at existing patents

    4. Watching how nature solves similar problems

    5. Review the list of resources available (human and material) available

    6. Visiting art galleries and museums to see how they solved the problems.

    7. Reading the SkyMall catalog in the back pouch in airplanes and visiting toy stores to see how they solved the problem

    8. Googling the key words in a problem, then looking in the images section.

    9. Going to a wiki for the general topic associated with the problem to look at how experts have organized it, and seeing if this leads to either a re-undertsanding of phyics behind or a re-evaluation in the priorities associated with the problem.

    10. Looking at the books in my professional library, or scouring many databases of relevant subject matter, or visiting the local University's library.

    11. Consulting with my colleagues, friends and family about how they might solve the problem, or any ideas they might have on were to look for solutions.

    12. Looking back at history and seeing how our forefathers either solved or dealt with the problem. Sometimes, seeing how it was done in different cultures or different parts of the world can be enlightening.

    13. Sketching pictures of ideas or thoughts, then sticking them up some where or taking them when I talk to friends and colleagues as innovation soup starters.

    14. Just taking a long peaceful walk somewhere like the beach or a garden and thinking through the various elements of the problem, breaking them down if possible into elemental issues or contributions.

    These things appear linear, but they are a decaying spiral that converges towards a solution.

    The process is iterative.

    Repeat spiral wraps as needed until a solution is reach
  • May 30 2013: Hi Robb
    I loved your blog topic...I teach creativity. i work with students, we think and learn together, share a dialogue each session based around the thinking and learning in which we have participated/ what we have observed.
    Im sure the following things you will hve considered...I'll write it all down anyway...

    share the dialogue. everyone thinks/ learns in a different way. Mood must be taken into account. We discuss thinking and learning in terms of howard gardners 9 intelligences and consider which intelligences support different learning challenges.

    Creativity? Starts with mood, predisposition, emotion, comfort, confidence, Playfuness is a great icebreaker for the reluctant. For the relucta nt andfearful, break it up into smaller stages. I start a new class off with getting to know you games, random pairs.

    The playfulness bit is integral and crucial. Fun overcomes the fears. sharing ideas to also crucial - listening to others share crazy ideas really encourages them to let go and join in.

    Time. An open ended workshop session, over days instead of a limit of forty minutes - the realisation that there is no time limit has an amazing and wonderful effect on creativity. people finding out how to be creative or rekindling their lost creativity relish the freedom of time.

    sharing. I know ive mentioned this. Some people have a hang up about copying or being copied. we call it interdependence or using our interpersonal intelligence. workshopping, marketplace, drama games are great for this jigsawing of ideas. Some people have received different attitudes towards thinking and the ownership of innovation. sharing gets us more ideas, faster.

    Designing a challenge - by combining the different intelligences ie combine musical with bodily kinaesthetic - listening to music whilst catching and throwing/balancing... it doesnt matter - the designing of the task betweeen them seems to be key - planning the learning, Motivation and fun.

    My group are 6 and 7 year olds.
    • May 31 2013: Hi Rachel,

      I am glad to hear you liked my blog topic :)

      I am happy that you mention that the mood has to be taken into account. I recently read that what we can remember is related to what mood we are in. This means for me that if we can control the mood, we can have more control about what we remember. And this is valuable for creativity as we build from previous experiences to reflect on.

      Playfulness is another great point. I am a professional game developer myself and I believe in using games for problem solving. We are reusing habits from gaming that we already know to solve unnecessary obstacles in life or maybe even remove frustrations. Jane McGonical made an interesting presentation about this.

      Creativity in my opinion should be a fun process where we can use the negative to create the positive.
      In this blog post that I wrote is goes more about what is working against you can be used to improve your own creativity

      Sharing can be indeed very valuable. It creates respect, collaboration and getting different perspectives. There is still so much to discover about how sharing can be part of creativity. I feel like the possibilities are endless.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Rachel. It is a very interesting reply
  • May 12 2013: I agree that making the problem more interesting is a viable way to foster creativity in problem solving. I also think that group problem solving is also a way to foster creativity.
    As an Outdoor Educator, I spent a class in a semester of college playing team building and initiative games. When my class was most successful our problem solving activities were initiated by a natural leader in the group, who may or may not have had the idea to solve the problem. The leader provided a forum where ideas from group members were considered with equal weight by the entire group.
    Only about 50% of our group took turns leading and everyone had a different leadership style.
    Because of this technique, one marginally effective idea could be turned into a 'winner' by another member of the group. We could use each others' creativity to feed our own and effectively solve the problem.
    Also during the semester, we took turns facilitating other groups that were not as functional. There was a breakdown in communications. Some shy members of the group would implement effective strategies without being noticed by the rest of the group. This meant that they weren't being acknowledged, but also that the rest of the group wasn't implementing good ideas.
    From this experience, I learned that leadership fosters group creativity and that leadership could be taught and fostered in people and in groups, but it was most effective when it was practiced regularly.
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    May 12 2013: It looks like you may not have checked out our 100-plus TED talks on this subject!

    One of my favorites is the one about creativity and play, but there are many good ones. I hope others share some of their favorites!
    • May 12 2013: Thank you for reminding me.

      Do you see yourself using what you learned from these videos?

      And can you share some important lessons you experienced from those experiences?
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        May 12 2013: As this is my professional field and has been for thirty years, I am going to watch from the sidelines.
  • May 20 2013: After thinking more about this, I came to another reflection on how to use the bad for the good looking from design perspectives.

    You can find the short blog post here :

    Ps: Do you guys mind I link my blog posts, or would you prefer me copying it in here?
  • May 13 2013: In many cases, a solution becomes obvious once the problem is completely understood. (Some say that the problem contains the solution, you just have to look closely enough.)

    Examine the problem from different points of view. Sometimes what appears to be a problem is not.

    Consider the bigger context of the problem. The problem might be just one in a whole class of similar problems, some of which have already been solved.

    Analyse the problem, determine its most detailed components.

    Consider the scale of the problem, consider it at a larger and smaller scale.

    Consider the extremes of the problem, the worse case and best case scenarios. Sometimes the best way to fix something is to eliminate the need for it.
    • May 15 2013: That sounds a lot like my current vision about problem solving.

      I see a problem as a a construction. By understanding the building blocks and the connections that make the construction, you can have a much clear view on the problem itself. And that is already a huge part of the solution.

      By looking from different perspectives at this construction you iterate on what you already know to make it more solid.

      So by looking at the construction of the problem you can see the big picture. By having this transparency, you can gain more control and try out different solutions. By trying these out, you can experience yourself what works best because your own experience can be the most valuable.

      The way I work now is : FInd problem - simplify to several building blocks - define a base - create connections inspired by building blocks, constrained by design constraints and experienced by experiments by asking the right questions, use our association skills to create a new building block continue till you see your construction
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    May 12 2013: ask a lot of questions and be aware of detail
    • May 15 2013: I am not so sure about detail because you can easily get lost.

      Could you give an example please? Maybe I see this different.
  • May 12 2013: Good Robert There are many sources of assistance Edward DeBono, Tony Buzan, Value Analysis, General Semantics, Nirenberg, etc. The only person we each can control is ourself - be creative.
    • May 15 2013: I like your last sentence. I see too many people put their energy in trying to control others while they do not have control about themselves.
      • May 15 2013: Thank you - since no one else is interested in your creativity - you need to enhance it yourself witth a reading list like the one from two days ago., but most people don't seem to really want more creativity in their lives.