Creative Problem-Solving – A Simple, Four Step Process

Problems are an inevitable part of life – no matter who you are, problems will come up, big and small. Often some of these problems don’t have an obvious solution, and that’s where creative problem solving comes in.

Creative problem solving is all about thinking out of the box to come up with ideas (and solutions) for dealing with your problems. When a problem does not have an obvious solution, this is the way to go. It’s not complication – it simply involves thinking creatively, working through the details of a problem, coming up with the best solution(s), and then implementing it. 

Creative problem solving sounds great right, but how can you get started?

That’s where my simple four-step C.A.I.T creative problem-solving process can help. It will help guide you and simplify the process of coming up with creative, out-of-the-box solutions to your problems through a step by step process.

Ready to get started?

Great, read on.

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Step # 1: Clarity

Creative problem solving - CAIT method step 1
Get clear on the problem

Solving any problem, whether you are doing it creatively or not, always starts by getting clear on the issue at hand.

Here are some questions to help you get clarity:

  1. What exactly is the problem?
  2. What’s its source?
  3. What’s causing it? 

Understand the problem, and clearly define it. If you are vague about the problem, the solution will be that much harder to find. 

Step # 2: Assumptions

Creative problem solving - CAIT method step 2
Test your assumptions

Once you are clear on the problem, you can move on to the second step, which is about identifying your assumptions about the problem.

This is important – often the assumptions we have about a problem are the very things that keep us stuck. Remember, what we believe to be true and what actually is true aren’t always one and the same. So it is important to challenge your assumptions. 

So think, what are your assumptions about the problem?  What do you believe to be true about the problem, and what can and cannot be done to solve it? 

Only when you have identified the assumptions you have about a particular problem can you work on testing whether or not they really are facts.

If they are not, finding a creative solution will get easier!

Step # 3: Ideas

Creative problem solving - CAIT method step 3
Think out of the box

Now that you have clearly defined your problem, and identified and validated your assumptions, you are ready for the third and final step. This step is where you will come up with potential solutions, and it is all about thinking up potential solutions, i.e. brainstorming.

Brainstorming is all about coming up with ideas, so what you will do at this stage is come up with as many potential solutions as you can for the problem.

It is important to focus on quantity at this stage – just come up with as many ideas as you can.

Keep in mind that no idea is stupid. So keep your logical voice at the back – rational and logic will come into play later.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  1. What are all the different ways you can solve this problem?
  2. What are some fun ways you can solve this problem?
  3. What are some ridiculous ways you can solve this problem?
  4. If this was a movie, how would your favorite actor solve this problem?

You can even involve other people at this stage, as two heads can be better than one, especially if the person has dealt with similar issues or problems. Their experience can give you valuable insights. 

By the way, if you are new to brainstorming, check out this Wikipedia article – it will be a good primer. 

Step # 4: Test

Creative problem solving - CAIT method
Testing is the only way to know if something really works

Once you have a list of potential solutions, the next step is to test them out. If there is one solution that you have the most faith in, one that you really think will work, try that first. If it works, great. If not, try the others. 

You will never know for a fact what actually will work until you test them out.

Every problem has a solution

Next steps

Every problem has a solution – and often that solution is something you never would have even thought of! So if you are struggling with a problem, don’t lose hope. In the same way that there is more than one method for having your ice cream (slush floats anyone?), there are different ways to solve a problem.

All it sometimes takes is thinking out-of-the-box, and the C.A.I.T creative problem-solving process will get you well on your way with that.

What’s your take on this four-step creative problem-solving process? Do you have any tips to share on creative problem-solving?

Share your thoughts and comments below.

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