Amy Rees Anderson

The things you can think up if only you try

“Think left and think right, think low and think high, oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.” – Dr. Seuss

Idea generation and problem solving go hand in hand. They both require us to think and tap into our creativity to identify new and better ways and new and better solutions.

When I am trying to come up with a new idea or a solution for a problem I have learned that it’s important not to focus on whether a solution is possible or whether it can easily be done – I have learned to focus on thinking of a bunch of ideas that could possibly solve the problem, then I write them all down on a post-it note (or napkin as I tend to do) and then I put them all out where I can see them together on a wall or whiteboard and I look to see which ones make the most sense. It’s important to write down every crazy idea in this process and not to limit yourself to just ideas that seem doable.  Sometimes the best ideas are born out of the craziest solutions.

Another way to help you generate solutions is to use what is known as Reverse Thinking. This is where you ask the opposite question of the problem you want to solve, for example if your goal is to have a better relationship with your spouse your question you would pose is “what is the best way to destroy my relationship with my spouse?” and make a list of answers such as “never spend quality time together” and “never share my thoughts or feelings” etc and then you reverse each of those to figure out what you would do to improve your relationship so you would end up with a list like “spend quality time together on a regular basis” and “always share what I am thinking and feeling openly and honestly” etc.

And one more way to spur creative thinking is to use the SCAMPER method. This method was developed by Bob Eberie and it can be used to create new products and ideas or to improve existing ones.  In this method you use the key words below to help you ask questions that will spur your thinking. I have placed examples of how one might use those words to help them come up with a new idea or solve a problem:

S – Substitute (what can I substitute to solve the problem or to improve something)

C – Combine (are their two existing things I can combine to make a new better one)

A – Adapt (can I adapt something that exists to turn it into a better solution)

M – Magnify (can I magnify something existing in a way that expands its reach)

P – Put to another use (can I take something existing and use it in a different way)

E – Eliminate (can I take away features of something existing to make it more user friendly and effective)

R – Rearrange or Reverse (can I rearrange the order of things or reverse the problem to identify a solution).

I think the very best way to spur creative thinking is to DO because as we begin doing we start learning and coming up with better ideas along the way.

“Studies have shown that when we fully immerse ourselves in joyous doing—as opposed to anxious mulling—we can become more creative.” – Peter Himmelman

Have a fabulously creative day!
~Amy Rees Anderson

2 Comments

  • Jane says:

    I needed this today. I have to create training to replace what was done poorly. I don’t want to produce another round of courses that are different but not significantly better. I’m hopeful.

  • Julie Lewis says:

    I love every article you write!! I learn so much and always share the info with my kids! Thank you!

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