By Alexandra Weber
Most people believe creativity is something only artists, children, and people working in
creative fields need to use on a daily basis. However, creativity is also functional and problem
solving. Creative thinkers understand when there is a problem and use the skills necessary to
come up with the best solution to solve their problem. Creative thinking is necessary in all
careers and in everyday life. I use creative thinking at my job in student housing as well as at
home when coming up with solutions. There are many different approaches to solving problems but the steps are always the same. You first must define the problem, then look for solutions, then evaluate solutions and implement the solution. If you fail to accurately define the problem it is hard to come up with the right solutions to the problem. It is important that everyone understands the problem first before moving onto the next step. Once you have defined the problem then it is time to look for solutions.
According to Harvard Business Review “most companies aren’t sufficiently rigorous in defining the problems they’re attempting to solve and articulating why those issues are important” (Dwayne Spradlin). An easy solution to this problem is using the 5 Whys. This technique requires creative thinkers to first ask what is the problem, why is is
happening, who is in charge of parts of the problem, where is the problem located, etc. This helps everyone understand the problem and look deeper to understand the issues. Like many other businesses, the student housing business requires its employees to use a lot of problem solving techniques to help solve problems. I have personally worked in student housing for nearly two years and have come across numerous problems that need to be solve. Just as the Harvard Business Review stated, I often immediately jump into solutions rather than taking the time to accurately define the problem. Accurately defining the problem ensures that you think of the best solutions to solve that particular problem and makes the solution process easier.
Once a problem is defined, it is best to come up with a large quantity of solutions first and go back later and find the best solution. It is best to come up solutions with a diverse group. A diverse group will have different beliefs, backgrounds and understandings about the world. This is important, because it helps create a large variety of different perspectives and ideas. Flip charts, sticky notes, alphabet brainstorming and SCAMPER are all great techniques that can be used to help brainstorm and solve the problem. SCAMPER stands for substitute, combine, adapt, magnify/modify, put to other users, eliminate, and reverse/rearrange. SCAMPER is a great technique that allows a large group of diverse thinkers to take possible solutions and further evaluate them. This technique also helps eliminate some of the bad ideas. In the student housing business we often use sticky notes to help solve problems. As a group we come up with solutions and stick them onto the wall. Once we are done we evaluate all the sticky notes and remove the ones that would not effectively solve the problem. Although we are going through the problem solving steps properly, I believe we are lacking a large diverse group. Many of us have the same beliefs and backgrounds. If we found a more diverse group that matched our residents it could help us solve problems better. Since we do not have a diverse group, I think an external member should participate during our brainstorming sessions to give new perspectives to the problem we are attempting to solve.
In my experience during class, when we are given a problem it is extremely helpful to hear the opinions of everyone in the class and as a group we form better solutions that cover the entire problem. In addition to coming up with a large variety of solutions in a diverse
group, many people forget that it is okay to leave the problem for a little and come back to it
later. When trying to solve a problem it is important to understand flow. Each person solves
problems in their own unique way. Many people sit and try solving a problem all in one time but sometimes it is best to stop and come back. For example, sometimes when I am sleeping I come up with best solutions to problems I have been struggling with for days to solve. By stepping back you can allow yourself to come up with new solutions when you are least expecting it. Once you come up with the solution you must implement your solution and see if it is working.
Many creative thinkers fail and try again so it is important to understand that it is okay for your first solution to fail and come back again and go back through the steps to find another solution. In student housing not every solution we come up with works right away. If it fails, we go back to find new approaches and new solutions to effectively solve the issue.