Have you ever experienced the urgent need to come up with a new idea or alternate solution?
I am sure you have. The truth is that we all have, regardless of profession or walk of life. Sometimes we even have to face this challenge with the added bonus of an impending deadline, which if missed can result in a result that would be perceived as “the world coming to an end”.
Working for Navy Admirals and Marine Corps and Army Generals, I frequently had to prepare point papers (white papers) that succinctly:
⇒ Explained the challenge faced
⇒ Gave background information
⇒ Presented 3 courses of action
⇒ Provided my expert recommendation as to how we should proceed
The difficulty of finding multiple solutions (good, better & great) was further compounded by the need to capture all the pertinent information in a one-page paper that following a 5-minute briefing, which allowed them to make a decision. All of this required a great deal of… you guessed it… creativity!
But what if you don’t see yourself as a creative person? Don’t worry! Even if imagination and creativity are not your most prevalent attributes, you do use them quite often in your work and life. So let’s get started strengthening them!
To feed your imagination and enhance your creativity, the first and often easiest-to-do recommendation is to get out of your office – or better yet, the building! Assuming that you have done a brainstorming session or two, you could gain great benefit by just stepping away and taking a break. Odds are in your favor that while on that walk even if you are consciously disengaged from the challenge, your subconscious is still working to find the solution you seek. This technique has served me well in the past, allowing me to step back for a moment and come back to reassess the situation with “fresh eyes.”
Second, talk to people of different professions or specialties. Reaching out to other professionals can be a great way to find answers or solutions to difficult challenges. One reason is that they may possess expert knowledge in that discipline. It is also possible that they have encountered a similar challenge and can provide a new perspective or approach to your situation. This is one of the greatest advantages of working with cross-functional groups or teams. Everyone brings a unique perspective, knowledge, skills and talents, which makes the team more capable than any one individual working alone.
Third, do something that you have never done before. Experiencing new situations allows our minds to expand by creating new neural connections. Our thought patterns change As a result of these new connections, opening our brains to new levels of understanding. We begin to connect dots we did not even see before. We develop skills or apply knowledge in different ways that perhaps we never even considered. I believe this is probably why Einstein said, “…imagination is more important than knowledge”.
A new experience can lead you to discover the missing piece that solves the puzzle that is your challenge. It may seem unorthodox initially, but consider how it is that we first gain knowledge. Our brains analyze the stimuli received by our senses, which then is cataloged and recorded as our knowledge baseline. Every subsequent experience updates, augments and increases our knowledge baseline allowing us to tackle bigger challenges. One of my favorite ways to do this is visiting new places and meeting new people with whom to share experiences and knowledge.
I hope 2015 was a year in which you celebrated many achievements. However, if it was not as you had expected do not lose hope. Use the lessons of 2015 to fuel your achievements of 2016. God willing, I will be here sharing, mentoring and cheering for you to make the New Year your most prosperous to date!