Saturday Essay: Creative Problem-solving For Business Leaders
Image by Fathromi Ramdlon from Pixabay
You've probably never heard of prolific inventor and designer Doug Patton,
but you know his work: From the Personal Action Device (PAD) that later became the iPAD to Luminara Candles and LASIK eye surgery tech, Doug Patton has 40 years of invention—and 150 patents—under his belt. Today he reveals the key to his success: a unique take on problem-solving.
As a business leader, you have an unprecedented opportunity to make something imaginative, functional, and sophisticated with your efforts. You have the chance to imagine and innovate more than you ever have before.
You are responsible for creating the seeds of imagination necessary for innovation to blossom within your company. This requires embracing imagination and prioritizing it above all else—an effort within which problem-solving is, surprisingly or not, essential.
An effective creative problem-solving process connects your ideas for the next business opportunity to the potential that you and your company are capable of. While it will take many attempts and experiments for your goals to be realized, you can generate the capability to accomplish your vision with a foundational understanding of creative problem-solving that I will delineate.
Below are some of the most important processes business leaders can use in the daily problem-solving that must take place to evolve a company. Regardless of the stage you are in, I encourage you to embrace an open mind and the belief that you are inherently creative, as I feel there is no other message more essential for your ongoing success as a leader.
The Foundations of Creativity
Sometimes problem-solving is a very analytical and intellectual process requiring a methodical approach. However, it is often a gut-wrenching instance of emotional chaos or one of obvious intuitive epiphany. Regardless, creativity and the problem-solving process must involve an intuitive unfurling of your imagination to inspire the discovery of solutions for the issues you are trying to resolve.
In the process of problem-solving, there is an internal and external process. The external process involves how you apply an idea you’ve generated within the specifications of your business structure. That said, discovering solutions involves the internal factors of psychology, inspiration, and spiritual & philosophical creativity, for example. The goal is to create organization in chaos when you have information from the marketing, sales, and technical facets of your company that present many great ideas but are not fully capable of elevating the company.
The below image depicts what I call the creativity system, in which there are six foundations of creativity.
Analytical creativity involves techniques needed to solve the most complex and intricate problems, constituting a unique syntax of problem-solving that will always reveal the path to success.
Invention creativity involves harnessing the diverse fields within your business to implement your vision of success.
Psychological creativity involves a process that raises your awareness and facilitates self-discovery with techniques that optimize how your mind works. This can be one of the most important aspects of enabling your mind to be more powerful and aware.
Inspirational creativity contains techniques that charge your mind, harnessing the power of individuals and groups at your company in a process that lets them explore and create.
Spiritual & philosophical creativity contains paths that, when you are at your maximum stress level and experiencing failure, show you how to persevere to arrive at your solution.
Imagination creativity combines the techniques of creative problem-solving into one creative construct, which is the goal of all problem-solving; generating your own unique process that is distinctly and uniquely yours is of paramount importance. This process will resonate with you intuitively, enabling you to find the best process for your situation.
Before discussing each of these foundations at length, I want to explain an essential concept in problem-solving that gives each of these foundations meaning: the idea that each problem you encounter contains the solution. Embrace this concept fully and success will be inevitable.
Creative Problem-Solving: The Solution is Inherent in the Problem
It may surprise you to read that defining the problem is the same as creating the solution. Without a strong foundational problem statement, which is a sentence that encapsulates the most essential elements of your problem, you will never be able to build your solution. With ill-defined and weak problem definition, whatever solution you will attempt to build will simply crumble and collapse every time you try to construct it.
An exceptional, well-envisioned foundation is the platform for problem-solving, capable of erecting the greatest of solution structures that will pierce the sky of your imaginative dreams. There are multitudes of techniques needed for this problem statement to be constructed, only some of which will be discussed here.
One technique you can begin to use is surrounding the problem cloud of knowledge. This is a method of questioning that exposes important issues otherwise hidden, disconnected, or disregarded. Creativity must be distinguished not by the solutions it creates, but by the imaginative questions it generates.
Empowered, curious creativity must compel you to have the inquisitiveness to not only ask the right questions, but to also ask enough questions. While you can never ask too many questions, there must be a process through which to understand the ideal relationships of the problem statement. One example of this, as you can see below, is my unique process of surrounding the problem statement with questions. The goal is to create a problem statement that is so complete, every detail is contained within it.
As you can see in the following graphic, one can connect every word hierarchically with the problem statement.
The next graph depicts a technique called brainstorm mapping. You can easily see how connections between questions have communication paths that build the total holistic structure of problem-solving.
Asking the right questions can make your problem-solving process rather instinctive and automatic after some practice.
These ideas having been explored, a thorough understanding of the six foundations of creativity will elevate your sense of problem-solving as a leader, also pushing you in the right direction creatively.
Analytical Creativity: In Search of the Analytical Solution
Once a coherent problem statement is formed for your company that embraces your goals and inquiries in detail, a process that I call explore and refine can begin. As you can see in the image below, you get closer to the solution by making minor decisions and refining your thinking until there is a narrow band of focus used to arrive at the solution.
This is a rather simple process that is necessary for you to get started. However, when you are a visionary business leader, the explore and refine path becomes more complex, containing many simultaneous processes. In the graphic below, you can see how three paths combine into one. This is because in creating the best solution as a leader, you often must understand multiple disciplines—such as business, marketing, and technology—to implement a truly visionary decision.
Invention Creativity: The Ability to Guide Others
As the visionary leader of your company, you must ultimately master all relevant disciplines to understand how they combine, as this will enable you to evolve to the next state of your company’s success with invention creativity. A concept that I call pinnacle vision is a multidisciplinary convergence process that fuses all aspects of your company into a crystallized idea that eventually becomes a reality. It creates a certain force I call creativity inertia that everyone in your company is guided by.
A composer or conductor must understand all the instruments available to create a symphony as well as to lead and inspire, orchestrating the magnificent piece that has been envisioned. This principle is apt for a business leader. I assure you that you are capable of this visionary leadership.
There is a skill I call pinnacle vision, which you attain through years of experience in your profession using all necessary disciplines. These create clarity necessary for a visionary leader. Believe in your vision by holding fast to the skills of creative problem-solving evolution—and invention creativity in particular.
Psychological Creativity: Eradicating Imaginative Constraints
The process of using psychological creativity involves sparking your passion to break through barriers in problem-solving, creating your own unique ability to attain the necessary solution.
In a large company, there needs to be an experienced guide. Any group dynamic is incredibly complex, representing great diversity as far as people, talents, and skills are concerned. The techniques needed to empower your creativity and break the cultural boundaries that hold you back are possibly the most important part of this process.
The textual graphic below illustrates ways for you to harness psychological creativity in this essential process of awakening.
Inspirational Creativity: Wake Up Your Mind
We are all at different levels of awareness, and we all need to be energized and propelled forward. Waking up and energizing your creativity is the process of empowering the totality of your mind, body, and spirit. You need to awaken your unique talents in favor of progress no matter what stage of accomplishment you have achieved. You need to wake up your mind and energize your sense of purpose in order to create revolutionary change in your company. Using the inspirational creativity principle allows you to, above all else, act courageously.
Imagine for just a moment that all barriers to your business success have been eliminated and you have inspired not only yourself, but also everyone in your company. Everyone has become energized, motivated, and awakened. This is not only possible for you, but probable.
Inspirational creativity is a beautiful creative force that breaks barriers in your pursuit of achieving gains for your business. It involves the fundamental process of embracing your problem as a positive force, enabling you to try with all your heart to solve the challenge before you. By being inspired, you can set what I call the alarm clock of creativity—an imaginative, motivational force—and assemble the tools and techniques needed to change the status quo, attaining your business vision.
Spiritual & Philosophical Creativity: Practice Never Giving Up
Creating a revolutionary business concept is rarely a straightforward undertaking. When pursuing an important goal, there will always be obstacles, difficulties, and discouragement. In the development of new business objectives, failure is often encountered. It can emotionally exhaust not only you, the leader, but also everyone in the company. It may seem that it is impossible to move forward, but doing so can in fact be easy.
Persevering in the creative problem-solving process is often the only way to pull you and your company through. The key message for your business must become one of having so much passion for what you are trying to accomplish that exhaustion, pain, depression, and difficulty become quite trivial. My key message is that you must care and believe.
Failure and success are part of the natural cycle of creative problem-solving. The powerful company leader in you must be strong to dwell in these extremes. Awareness of your inherent and developing creative dynamic energy is a rich source of power for goal attainment. Each small step is an important advancement of an artform that leads to success. By focusing on and appreciating the traversing of creativity and imagination, you ascend with dynamic energy regardless of how daunting your climb to success is. Believe in your success, learn from your failures, and be courageous.
Imagination Creativity: Your Personal Creative Journey
The last foundation, imagination creativity, is essential for you to gain and maintain the necessary passion for using all the foundations in concert. Imagination creativity is the foundation of creativity that enables you to see further and further in your efforts to conquer the chaos of whatever problem-solving you are met with.
The ultimate goal is for these fundamental categories to be connected in a system of well-honed tools that I call imagination creation. Harnessing these creativity categories into one system supplies you with a toolbox of revolutionary change that can empower your search not only for visionary, creative ideas, but also the essence of your creative self.
I have worked with the top CEOs of our society, and in the process of doing so, building my unique problem-solving methodology, one point has become clear: there must be a visionary leader who creates a path for the company to follow.
Your creative idea and self are inexorably connected; they symbiotically influence a wondrous awakening of imagination just like a flower delicately unfurling its petals, stimulated by the sun. The true nature of creativity is personal evolution, and by passionately pursuing your visionary idealism, you experience a profound transformation that not only elevates your creative perspective, but also awakens the very core of your innate potential. It is up to you to draw upon your courage, freedom, and imagination to achieve this revolutionary change as a leader.