Solving Problems Creatively

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the value of creative thinking in education

Creative Thinking Fiction and Facts

As you continue to develop your creative thinking skills, be alert to perceptions about creative thinking that could slow down progress. Remember that creative thinking and problem-solving are ways to transcend the limitations of a problem and see past barriers. It’s a way to think “outside of the box.”

1 Every problem has only one solution (or one right answer) The goal of problem-solving is to solve the problem, and most problems can be solved in any number of ways. If you discover a solution that works, it’s a good solution. Other people may think up solutions that differ from yours, but that doesn’t make your solution wrong or unimportant. What is the solution to “putting words on paper”? Fountain pen, ballpoint, pencil, marker, typewriter, printer, printing press, word-processing . . .?
2 The best answer or solution or method has already been discovered Look at the history of any solution and you’ll see that improvements, new solutions, and new right answers are always being found. What is the solution to human transportation? The ox or horse, the cart, the wagon, the train, the car, the airplane, the jet, the space shuttle? What is the best and last?
3 Creative answers are technologically complex Only a few problems require complex technological solutions. Most problems you’ll encounter need only a thoughtful solution involving personal action and perhaps a few simple tools. Even many problems that seem to require technology can be addressed in other ways.
4 Ideas either come or they don’t. Nothing will help— certainly not structure. There are many successful techniques for generating ideas. One important technique is to include structure. Create guidelines, limiting parameters, and concrete goals for yourself that stimulate and shape your creativity. This strategy can help you get past the intimidation of “the blank page.” For example, if you want to write a story about a person who gained insight through experience, you can stoke your creativity by limiting or narrowing your theme to “a young girl in Cambodia escaped the Khmer Rouge to find a new life as a nurse in France.” Apply this specificity and structure to any creative endeavor.

Problem-Solving with Creative Thinking

Creative problem-solving is a type of problem-solving. It involves searching for new and novel solutions to problems. Unlike critical thinking, which scrutinizes assumptions and uses reasoning, creative thinking is about generating alternative ideas— practices and solutions that are unique and effective. It’s about facing sometimes muddy and unclear problems and seeing how “things” can be done differently—how new solutions can be imagined.[2]

Resources for Creative Thinking


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  1. Harris, Robert. "Introduction to Creative Thinking." Virtual Salt. 2 Apr 2012. Web. 16 Feb 2016.
  2. "Critical and Creative Thinking, MA." University of Massachusetts Boston. 2016. Web. 16 Feb 2016.