Problem-solving has been a widely discussed topic for ages. Albert Einstein famously noted, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Edward de Bono came up with the lateral thinking concept approach towards problem-solving in his book “Six Thinking Hats”. Dozens of bestsellers have been written about the topic and yet people continue to seek answers.
Seek they may, the answer is actually within us. Yes. According to Design Thinking, we are all born problem solvers. We just need to tap into that part of our brain and activate our creative problem-solving muscle. Design Thinking has all these tools that help us unlock a specific area of our brain that helps us become more creatively tuned to tackle issues.
One such tool is visualization also referred to as “the mother of all design tools” because it is used across the stages of the Design Thinking process. Visualization is a technique that allows us to go beyond the verbal way of thinking.
That OMG Moment When What You Think, Manifests
Many great athletes, actors and talk show hosts have raved about visualization. Apart from umpteen testimonials by epically successful personas, there’s also a whole lot of science behind how powerful visualization is.
Visualization activates a part of your brain called ‘Reticular Activating System’ that helps you scan your environment to spot new opportunities. Try it yourself – start thinking about what you want and maybe you will get it. If you think about a new project, someone might reach out to you; if you want to learn a new skill, you might see an advertisement about new courses.
So we have seen that visualization actually does work wonders, igniting the imagination and making us motivated. Once the imagination gets triggered it sets us off on a path where we can explore things that are not in our current surrounding. With that imagination, we set out to do something that is meaningful, practical and well thought out, we become – creative.
The Continuous Exercise Called Creative Problem Solving
Solving problems creatively is actually simple. It is like learning the ABC. Literally. The ABC approach towards creative problem solving is highly effective – no matter what your predicament is. All you need to remember is to Abstract, Borrow and Challenge. Let’s look at the ABC approach in detail.
Abstract involves three steps – concept, idea and action. Take a problem – traffic congestion in cities. The concept is to reduce the number of people driving. An idea would be to encourage carpools and the action would be to provide share-a-vehicle facilities or petrol discounts for carpools.
Borrow. Essentially, this means using features and ideas we know in places they don’t exist. Earlier, cars were rudimentary and did not come with the features they have today. Then, automobile designers imagined the car as a miniature room and designed features for comfort and even luxury – like air conditioning systems, entertainment systems and control settings on the steering wheel.
Challenge means to question the status quo. Take the case of the Kansai International Airport – the world’s first ocean airport. It was built on a landfill island. Should airports be situated in densely populated suburbs? This was the question engineers asked themselves when residents near an older airport began to file complaints of noise pollution. By questioning the status quo, they were able to find a solution looking beyond convention.
So, Abstract, Borrow, Challenge. Then?
With the ABC approach, you can also look at the Design Thinking way of solving problems.
- What is – referring to the present
- What if – building upon the present to envision a new future
- What wows – focusing on solutions that stand out
- What works – testing possible solutions with real-world users
Now that we have broken down things to the basics, problem-solving isn’t really overwhelming is it? Gather your problems, elaborate each of them, figure out which ones to solve, frame challenges, identify solutions and actionable steps to take.
Next time you are confronted with a problem, know that the solution is within your reach. All it needs is a new perspective and a different approach and you will surely go beyond what you are stuck with. Just think of what Einstein said, fresh thinking will work wonders.
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