Monday, August 13, 2012

Problem Solving – Choosing the Best Strategy by Using Creative Thinking



You have a problem! You are not alone. Everybody has problems. Life is a continuous series of problems. The good thing is that every problem has a solution, though it may not be very obvious from the start, or easy to achieve. This is why problem solving can turn out to be such a puzzling and frustrating process. I will share with you two creative thinking techniques that should help you tackle your situation and open the roads towards reaching your desired goals.

Photo by woodleywonderworks. Please visit woodleywonderworks' photostream. Thank you.
 
Today we are going to write scenarios of futures.

According to the dictionary, ’a scenario is an imagined or projected sequence of events, especially any of several detailed plans or possibilities’. Scenarios are very useful creative tool because they can offer an insight into potential situations and environments that you may encounter while solving a particular problem. They can also indicate which environmental factors to monitor over time, so should the environment change, you can recognize where it may be heading. You do not need to be a skilled script writer to be able to write future scenarios. You just need to gather as much information possible about the problem and its potential solutions and then use your experience and imagination to create your own versions of future events. Good thing about writing scenarios is that they are less risky than standard action plans and more flexible because they do not rely on standard business forecasts and trend analyses. The best thing about this problem solving technique is that you can use scenarios in business - when deciding upon future strategies, but also in your personal life - to help you define your life goals and the paths towards their realisation.

Alternative Scenarios

To be able to write alternative scenarios you will need to identify major environmental factors that might influence the future, and consequently, the choice which problem solving idea to implement. These factors can be different forces, drivers, trends, limits... that could influence the conditions for the implementation of a particular idea or strategy. Then, you should develop four scenarios based on the principal factors, including the most important and most uncertain factors (those completely outside of your control). These four scenarios are:

Status Quo Scenario – a future in which current key conditions persist (e.g. legislation, social trends, cultural complexity, economic conditions...);
Sustainable Scenario – a resource-based or values-based scenario, the one that takes into consideration most preferable cultural trends and values;
Disaster Scenario – the one in which at least some conditions change for the worse, or some critical system fails;
Evolutionary Scenario – as opposition to Status Quo Scenario – the one comprising new values, new thinking, new social and cultural conditions (i.e. breaking away with the tradition, current patterns...)

Life is unpredictable and no matter how clever and creative we might be, it is likely to surprise us with unsuspected circumstances. It is possible that several, even all four scenarios occur in some form in the future. Also, certain issues and predictions from different scenarios might combine and become a part of our reality. With these four scenarios in hand, we will have a rich set of alternative futures and possible actions that we can execute according to a chosen scenario, or we can combine them depending on the current environmental conditions.

Alternative scenarios can also be developed as personal life scripts exploring different futures that might happen to you:

Status Quo Scenario – I live my life as it is; I am happy with where I am right now; my lifestyle, values, interests will not change significantly;
Sustainable Scenario – I am ready to change and accept the values, conditions, trends... that the modern society will impose on me;
Disaster Scenario – my life might turn ugly due to some personal, economic... problems that I might encounter;
Evolutionary Scenario – I am the master of my own future. I create my reality. I will live a new life and break all the ties that connect me to the Old Me.

Choose your future, voilà!

Photo by woodleywonderworks. Please visit woodleywonderworks' photostream. Thank you.

Perfect Scenario

This time you are required to think of the situation where all your problems are solved and you have reached your desired goal. Write down a detailed description of the perfect situation for your business, project or your personal life. Use as many details as you can think of - make your vision as vivid as if it would appear before you the very next time you blinked your eyes.

By visualising the perfect future you will block negative thinking and motivate your mind to think creatively about the possible problem solutions. Besides, by thinking about the (distant) future you will be less burdened with the immediate obstacles that normally tend to block your creative thinking. The process of writing the perfect script will reveal to you numerous important factors that constitute your idea. By modifying the constituent parts of the idea you will later be able to make it more feasible so that even if it turns out to be less perfect, the end result will still be very satisfying.

In the following days return frequently to your Perfect Scenario and write down all the actions you need to undertake in order to achieve the desired future. Allow yourself several days to come up with the most comprehensive list of actions and ideas for their execution. List all the actions and ideas chronologically, from the present day to the desired future. If it is a complex project with the overlapping steps, or if there are certain actions that require more time and resources to execute, draw a table chart to help you distribute the actions chronologically. Start executing those actions. What are the things that you can do this month to get closer to your goal? What are the things that you can do this week? Today? Right now?

Problem solving requires lots of courage and energy, but if you make a good strategy and divide your final goal into many small tasks that are easy to accomplish, with every new task finished, you will be one step closer to your goal.  


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If you wish to further explore this topic, you can check out the selection of my favourite books about creative thinking.

Key words for this blog post:
creative thinking, problem solving, creative thinking technique, scenario writing, script writing, life scripts...

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