Like many of you I have a daily routine when I get to work every morning. After putting my laptop in the dock, turning it on and getting caught up on any urgent e-mails or voice mail messages that might have come in overnight, I usually like to accomplish one or two things before heading to the kitchen to make some tea. They don’t have to be large things (although they sometimes are), but can just be tasks like making revisions to an e-mail campaign and sending a new test or updating a website. But once I feel some level of accomplishment, it’s tea time, my friends.
It was on one of these tea trips that I recently had an epiphany. The hot water dispenser is on the right side of a large coffee maker. When making tea, I would hold my mug in my right hand and then reach over the coffee machine with my left to activate the spigot. This always felt a bit awkward but, worse yet, often resulted in me smashing or knocking over the folded cardboard sign on top of the coffee machine that provided instructions on how to properly brew a pot. While certainly not a big deal, I admit that I often grunted silently to myself at the frustration of, once again, knocking over or mutilating this poor, innocent sign whose only existence is to help people. Then, one magical morning, I approached the coffee machine from a different position. I can’t explain why or how, but I held my mug in my left hand, adjusted my angle and activated the spigot with my right. This put me completely to the right of the coffee machine and left the sign in peace. It was then that it hit me; sometimes, the solution to a problem, no matter how big or how small, might just require a different perspective or approach.
The next time you face an obstacle that you are having difficulty overcoming or, if there is a small, annoying, but persistent issue you are experiencing, try one of the following techniques to approach the situation from a different angle.
- Take a step back and move on to something else for a while. Sometimes, we can immerse ourselves so completely in coming up with a solution that our brain is overloaded and can’t process all the information. Moving on to something else can give your brain time to think and can often provide that “A-ha!” moment you’re looking for.
- Redefine the language of the problem. When facing an obstacle, it’s easy to restrict our creative thinking by viewing the problem in a limited context. If we so strictly define the problem, we might essentially be setting up roadblocks on the path to the best solution. You might find that the problem wasn’t actually about what you thought it was.
- Get an outside perspective. Ask a friend, coworker or family member their opinion. It’s easy to get stuck thinking in a certain way based on your experience. Bringing in an outside and unrelated perspective can often provide worthy insights.
Hopefully, the next time you encounter a problem that needs a creative solution, you’ll remember a few of these ideas to approach it from a new perspective. Who knows? You might find that creative problem-solving is just your cup of tea.