Tackling tough problems at work is something everyone can relate to. They can be as simple as having friction with a coworker, or as complex as trying to come up with the Big Idea that’s going to take your company to the next level. No matter how big or small the challenge is, creative problem solving can help you find the solution and enjoy the process along the way.
Creative problem solving is about more than just brainstorming, and there are a ton of different theories about how it should work. Here at The Design Gym, (and in the world of design thinking) we think of it as a five-step process:
1. Examine: Dig into the problem.
2. Understand: Go deeper and find patterns.
3. Ideate: Come up with lots of ideas.
4. Experiment: Try some things out.
5. Distill: Strip your solution down to the essentials.
The biggest advantage of creative problem solving is that we spend more time defining the problem, which ultimately makes it easier to solve. Imagine that the problem is that your company is in danger of falling short on your sales goals for the quarter. There are two ways of attempting to solve it:
Old way: Get all of the stakeholders in a room together and brainstorm ways to increase sales, like coupons, promotions, and targeted media.
Creative way: Think about why your sales are lower than anticipated. Are your products meeting your customers’ needs? Can they get something better or cheaper elsewhere? Is the sales process too cumbersome? Is your marketing lacking? Ask your customers for feedback to help you answer those questions. Identify short-term solutions for meeting your immediate problem—revenue for this quarter—and actionable long-term solutions that put your customers’ wants and needs front and center, which will ultimately sustain and grow your business.
As we’ve talked about before, when we were starting out as a new company, we had our share of communication challenges. We needed to get creative about working better together as a team. After some work sessions where we followed the design thinking process, we realized we needed structured, regular meetings where we could address those challenges. And it worked!
We Want to Hear Your Stories!
We love being inspired by others who have overcome obstacles at work. When we share our stories of difficulties and triumph, we get to learn from one another. We would love to hear from you and learn from your experiences.
What’s your process for tackling tough problems at work? Let us know about a recent challenge you faced, and how you used creative problem solving to work it out. We’ll compile the top stories and themes and send them out to the community.