Problem Solving


Creativity is a trainable skill

Research shows that with practise, we can all learn to become more creative.

When we hear of people known for their remarkable creativity, it's quick to assume that they are born different from the rest of us. We forget that these creative geniuses often spent years working on projects that did not turn out that well. Many hours of sharpening their thinking or skills finally created something unique.

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Problem Solving

Puccio's Thinking Skills Model is one of the best-tested attempts to teach workplace creativity. Research showed that participants in creativity training generated four times as many original ideas as those who didn't.

The programme highlights the need to balance convergent and divergent thinking. Both are essential.

  • Divergent thinking is creative solutions that may be impractical.
  • Convergent thinking selects and develops the best ideas.

How to apply convergent and divergent thinking in seven steps:

  1. Assess the situation
  2. Explore the vision
  3. Frame the challenges
  4. Explore ideas
  5. Create solutions
  6. Explore acceptance
  7. Create a plan

It takes time to develop creativity skills. But with a bit of work, you can make significant progress.

The right mindset is needed to develop your creativity.

  • Some people see their talents as fixed, so they prefer to stay with the tasks that will result in success. For them, failure would be deeply discouraging.
  • Others are learning-oriented. They are more focused on finding opportunities to increase their skills. They see failure as an opportunity for growth.

Research shows that learning-oriented people showed greater improvement in the number and quality of ideas than people who see their abilities as fixed.

  • Businesses could invest in more training for their teams instead of assuming that creativity will happen naturally. They should also create the right working environment where failure is treated as part of the process.
  • If a leader is not aligned to creative-thinking skills, the impact is lessened.
  • Even some guidance can be beneficial. Training employees to separate idea generation from idea selection can produce more creative thought.
Maximisers vs Satisficers

There are two main types of decision-makers:

  • Maximisers: They want to ensure they get the most out of their choices.
  • Satisficers: They tend to adopt a 'good enough' approach.

Each one has its benefits and drawbacks. Understanding which one you are can help improve your choices.

A maximiser will weigh choices carefully to find the best one. On paper, their decisions look well-informed, logical and efficient.

But there are drawbacks. They have trouble making the perfect decision and take a very long time finding the best solution. Once they do find a solution, they may experience regret about their choice.

Satisficers are people who prefer to make decisions quickly by weighing fewer choices and then go with their gut. They opt for what's acceptable, not for the 'best' option.

A drawback is that they may not get the 'best' outcome that will give them the maximum return.

Most people fall somewhere between maximiser and satisficer. The perfect mix would be to satisfice most of the time and only maximise a decision when the stakes are high, such as buying a house or choosing a job.

However, after the choice, you have to return to thinking like a satisfice to prevent feeling dissatisfied with your decision.

  • Satisficers: People who are too impulsive should avoid hasty decisions. They should spend more time thinking about the decision and the pros and cons of each possible outcome.
  • Maximisers: If you find yourself maximising too much, try to limit some of your options.
Steps to becoming a critical reader

It is important to understand the basic structure and content of the text you are reading.

  • Consider the purpose for reading, like gathering information.
  • Think about the title. What does it tell you about what the book or essay is about?
  • Reflect on what you already know about the topic. Do you have a preconceived idea of what to expect?
  • Skim the opening sentence of each paragraph under the headings.
  • Read carefully, marking the places you find confusing or significant.
  • Identify key arguments the author makes, along with important terms and interesting ideas.
  • Make notes in the margin or on a separate sheet of paper.
  • Question the sources cited by the author.
  • What is the one question you would like to ask the author?
  • What did you like best about the work as a whole? What bothered you?
  • Reading critically can aid you when studying for a test, preparing for a discussion, and more.
  • If you have unanswered questions about the text, ask your professor or discuss the text with others.
  • Consider keeping a reading log to help you track your perceptions about reading.
All people read much in the same way

People everywhere read words in a very similar way regardless if it is made from pictures, such as pictographs (Chinese characters), or words made from letters.

This knowledge gives us insight into how writing developed and how we read as well as how we can delve deeper into creativity and communication.

Some of the earliest writing is from 3000B.C. Mesopotamia. They recorded entries on tablets about the quantities of goods in some kind of bookkeeping.

They wrote down in order to keep account of who delivered what when. But this system was still far away from expressing ideas and writing great works of literature.

  • Ancient writing took the leap from drawing a picture as a picture (a logogram) to using it to depict a sound (or phonogram). A "bee" can be used for the sound "be", and when used together with a drawing of a "leaf", they produce the meaning "be-lief."
  • But ambiguity arises when we don't know when a bee is a bee, and when is it a sound. Classifiers were added to clear up the confusion. Chinese still uses this system, with pictures, classifier elements, plus phonetics.
  • Around 4,000 ago, the alphabet was invented, where symbols only depicted a sound.

Japanese children learn two writing systems: The kanji system is based on Chinese characters, and the kana system is purely phonetic.

  • Research shows that the same areas in the brain are activated when reading both types of script.
  • There are dyslexic readers in both areas, whether they are reading pictographic Chinese or the phonetic alphabet, suggesting that dyslexia has nothing to do with script.

Different areas of the brain are active when we read. We extract visual information that is correlated with sound to get meaning.

Reading does not just involve learning the letters. You have to understand and recognize the words, too. Skilled readers learn to recognize the whole word as a unit and connect it directly to meaning.

The 'Eureka' moment

Eureka moments may seem unpredictable and unreplicable. But there are ways to coax these inspired ideas from their hiding places. One of the best is to take a break from thinking about a problem or dilemma.

They are linked to the story of Archimedes and the gold crown ( when he realized while taking a bath that he can use displaced water to assess the density of the king's crown and, therefore, its gold content).

When you’re completely stuck on a problem, setting it aside can lead to new ideas or even flashes of insight.” 
Mental Break
A 2019 study titled “When the Muses Strike” found that many physicists and writers had creative insights while they exercised, showered, gardened, or engaged in other predominantly physical activities which gave them a mental break.
The mind needs space

...not distractions. Activities like checking email and watching TV stop our background thinking and do not let the mind wander in places that make for creative insight.

Creativity and relaxation
  • Creativity is closely related to play, not work, so do not have an agenda.
  • Lighten up and let yourself loose, free to roam and explore.
  • The mind left to itself starts to work creatively in the background at a subconscious level.

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