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Steps In Problem Solving: An Exercise In Creative Thinking
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Steps In Problem Solving: An Exercise In Creative Thinking

How often have you found yourself with a problem for which there appears no solution? Probably quite a few times. It can feel like you’ve hit a brick wall with no idea how to go round it, through it or over it. There’s nothing worse than feeling completely stumped with no ideas, no options and seemingly no solutions. That type of pressure can make trying to solve such a problem appear overwhelming. However, running through these steps in problem solving can make a difference and help you to look at a problem differently and find a creative solution.

However, in order to be successful in using creative problem solving, it’s important that you push away any negative thoughts in your head that it can’t be done and there is no solution. As Henry Ford once said ‘whether you think that you can or you can’t you’re right’. So it’s important that you remain open to the idea that there are solutions for problems that you’d thought were unsolvable. With that in mind you’re then ready to start being a little more creative in trying to solve a problem.

Identify the problem

Okay that might be rather obvious, but quite often people try and solve a problem that isn’t the real problem. For example: Someone who has a cosmetic procedure to boost their confidence, but remains dissatisfied afterwards. The problem wasn’t necessarily their outward appearance, but their self-esteem . So before you can find a solution, make sure that you really understand what the problem is. Break the issue down into parts and think about the impact of one part on another. Understanding the component parts of a problem is integral to solving it.

Examine your assumptions

It’s easy when you’re trying to find a solution to a problem that you start out with all sorts of assumptions about what is and isn’t possible. It’s important that you challenge any assumptions that you’re making in order to see if they’re really valid, or identify issues that need to be addressed.

Solve a problem by parts

Using a top down approach look at the problem from a general view point before examining the more detailed parts. Look at each part and come up with a one-sentence solution. This will just be a general statement of what you want to do and then you will develop the solutions further, developing the complexity a bit at a time.

Use creative and critical thinking

When you want to solve a problem it helps to use a combination of creative and critical thinking. The creative thinking is where you allow your imagination free rein, think outside the box and perhaps make what seemed impossible possible. Critical thinking should be used to challenge your solutions and see if there are gaps or inconsistencies in your ideas.

Two heads are better than one

If you’re trying to solve a problem remember to keep your mind open to any new ideas and different solutions. Brainstorming solutions with other people can be really useful. Someone else may have experienced something similar, or they may just be able to bring a more objective view to a problem and come up with some creative solutions.

Track all solutions

If you’ve allowed yourself to be creative and brainstormed multiple solutions make sure that you keep track of solutions and developments. It’s important to remember that there may be more than one solution to a problem.

Be patient

Although it’s great when ideas come pouring forth, that doesn’t always happen – so be patient. As any inventor knows, find a solution to a problem can sometimes take longer than they want.


Next time you have a problem to solve for which there seems no solution change your mindset and work on turning what seems impossible to possible. This means being prepared to think both creatively and critically, challenging your own assumptions and thinking out of the box. Work methodically through the steps suggested above and you may find that that finding a solution to a problem is easier than you think.

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