When faced with a difficult business challenge, realize that you have multiple ways to approach a solution:
1) Ask Compelling Questions
Use “what if?” questions to project different scenarios into the future.
In A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative, Roger Von Oech, says,
“In the imaginative phase, you ask questions such as: What if? Why not? What rules can we break? What assumptions can we drop? How about if we looked at this backwards? Can we borrow a metaphor from another discipline? The motto of the imaginative phase is: Thinking something different.”
2) Find Your Center
Most problems arise because of internal confusion. Different parts of us hijack our mind and give us conflicting wants and desires. These parts keep us from thinking clearly.
When you’re stuck, it’s important that you find your center. Centering will help momentarily quiet your mind. You can also try grounding yourself to the earth for a few minutes and then return to the problem at hand.
3) Explore Context
Many problems arise because we neglect to zoom out from the content of the issue and examine the overall context of the situation.
If sales are down, instead of revisiting your sales strategy, review the context of your overall industry. Has your industry changed? Are you disconnected with your customer’s needs? Is your product becoming obsolete?
Take an expansive viewpoint before narrowing in on the specific problem.
4) Access a Beginner’s Mind
A beginner’s mind is empty. It holds no preconceived ideas or rules about what is. It is open, eager, and receptive.
Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki writes in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind:
“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”
5) Seek Wisdom
In The Seven Decisions: Understanding the Keys to Personal Success, author Andy Andrews recommends putting together a personal Board of Directors—“advisors” for various areas of your life.
Asking an experienced advisor from outside your industry for their thoughts on your problem can yield insightful perspectives.
Even better: Instead of asking them what they would do in your situation, ask them what question they would ask.
6) Walk Away
Sometimes the best way to solve the problem is to stop trying to solve it.
Walking away from the problem brings forth the Wanderer archetype. The Wanderer is essential to the creative process because it allows you to hear your Muse.
The key is knowing when to let go of trying to solve the problem.
7) Switch Roles
Our minds tend to get locked into old patterns, leading to what’s called “paradigm blindness.” If you have a marketing-related problem, try putting on an engineer’s hat—or even a gardener’s hat. The idea is to shift your perspective so you can approach the problem from a new angle.
If you have a marketing-related problem, try putting on an engineer’s hat—or even a gardener’s hat.
The idea is to shift your perspective so you can approach the problem from a new angle.
8) Use the Six Thinking Hats
Speaking of hats, de Bono’s Six Hats method provides you and your team with six different perspectives to utilize when tackling a problem.
It’s an ideal tool for group brainstorming and problem-solving.
9 ) Generate a Plethora of Ideas
Research suggests that the most effective way to uncover the best solution is to brainstorm as many ideas as you can in a nonjudgmental environment before evaluating them.
There are numerous pathways to get to the answer you seek.
Some pathways, however, are more effective than others. The key is to experiment with various methods to uncover which ones work best for you.
Different methods will be more useful in different contexts. Here, wisdom and intuition come into play. Over time, your connection with your inner guide improves.
Originally published on scottjeffrey.com.