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Innovative Problem Solving
By Barton Goldsmith

Los Angeles Business Journal, 28/08/01

"Imagination is more important than knowledge!" Albert Einstein

The most important function of Innovation is to foster the initiative to think beyond the boundaries of what is. The purpose is to promote the kind of thinking that is required to meet the needs of a rapidly changing corporate technology and an even more rapidly changing marketplace. With innovative thinking you make use of those particular states of mind that provide access to the power of creativity.

As we leave the Industrial Age and move into the Information Age there is a need to develop different skills. In this new age, the two most important skills become creativity and problem solving. In the past, many people did much the same jobs, as in the factories on the assembly line. In the future, specialization is becoming more and more prevalent; and, in the office, everyone is doing something different. We can no longer depend on the same old answers, because we are creating brand new problems. The key to the future involves creativity and problem solving.

The Experience of Problems
How we experience problems is a more significant factor in success than are the specific problems that we experience. It can be said that life is not about becoming free of problems, rather it is about becoming a better problem solver. Instead of complaining and worrying, we must learn to see problems as creative opportunities that give us the chance to grow and improve. We can take on our problems as puzzles to be solved or as challenges to be overcome. As Henry Ford said, "Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently."

When we get into stressful states, the filter or reticular activating system closes down, denying us access to memory and creativity. By utilizing the innovative brain one can get in touch with their problem solving capabilities. With the filter open, we can use the imagination to go beyond what we know into all that could be. This is best done when relaxed, great ideas hit you when you’re not trying.

Often it is difficult to solve our problems because we can’t clearly see the problem for what it truly is. This is the "You can’t see the forest for the trees" syndrome. We get caught up in the emotions and sometimes seem to blow the problem all out of proportion. Sometimes it serves to take an alternate perception and see the problem in a different way. Step outside of the problem, change perception, and the problem seems to change.

Creative Problem Solving Techniques
Imagine that the problem belongs to someone else. If this were true, what kind of advice would you give them? What would you say their first step should be? How would you help to motivate them and get them going? What resources would you suggest that they utilize? How can you help them become more confident of their process and their ultimate success?

Pretend that the problem is already solved. Think backwards for the solution-- back to the first step. Remember how you did it. Where were you when you figured it out and what were you doing? Realize how good it feels to have it solved. Be proud of yourself. Sometimes we can solve a problem, simply by realizing that it is not really a problem at all.

Many problems can be seen in a positive light, as creative opportunities to exercise our minds and our talents to create some positive change. For every problem there are solutions, some are better than others. One of the most limiting forms of thinking is to assume that there is only one right answer to your problem. This rigid and restrictive thinking process comes from the rigid and restrictive experience called school. In school we are taught that there is one right answer and anything else is wrong. In order to become truly effective problem solvers, that mold needs to be broken. If you relax your mind and use your imagination and creativity, you will find unlimited resources at your disposal.

Using a Different Intelligence
Almost all of the great problems that have been solved had their solutions begin in someone’s daydream. It is the daydream state, the Alpha brainwave state, where most great ideas are born. One little clue or creative idea is all that it takes to begin solving the most perplexing problems. This type of innovative thinking is a great tool to help get in touch with the imagination. It is a wonderful technique to improve your capacity for problem solving and to enhance creativity. It is a little like creating new software for the mind. The mind can be programmed to help solve problems, to enhance insight, intuition, and inspiration. All you have to do to access this part of your brain is to relax. Don’t force creativity - coax it. Mindless activities like exercise, driving, and even watching television are great idea generators. Many people get their best ideas in the shower or just as they fall asleep. The key is to get into the right state of mind - the state of relaxation.

For many people relaxation is not easy. Here are a couple of techniques that work well for most individuals.

Tense/Release: Tighten all the muscles in your body for several seconds and then release the tension. Do this three times and after the third let your body and mind relax. Allow your mind to flow freely, to seek its own answers.

Mini Vacation: Imagine that you are in Hawaii for a minute or two. Feel the sun on your face, your toes in the sand and the wind in your hair. Let the tension leave your mind and body. Ideas will flow to you like gentle waves.

Positive Results
Solving even the most difficult problems does not require tension and stress; in fact intensity will prevent you from resolution. Getting in touch with the intuition, with new ideas is easy. Once we believe that, and allow ourselves to access our imagination we can find the answers we need.

Imagination primes the pump.


Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., has started, grown and sold 3 companies. He is a highly sought after keynote speaker, business consultant, and author, who presents to numerous companies, associations and leaders worldwide. He works regularly with The Young President’s Organization (YPO), The Executive Committee (TEC) and The Council of Growing Companies. Dr. Goldsmith writes for the Los Angeles Business Journal, and is a contributing author to over 70 business publications and trade journals. He can be contacted through his web site at: www.BartonGoldsmith.com or at (818) 879-9996



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