Ever get stuck in a small-group setting by not being able to get beyond a problem or challenge? Would you like to try a more creative approach

Here are 12 tips to “Solve It NOW!” and get you started on the road to innovation.

  1. Be Optimistic

    The more you believe that you can solve your problem, the more you will keep at it. It may take some time, but eventually you will find one or more solutions — maybe even some extraordinary ones.

  2. Be Clear

    Never try to solve a problem before you know exactly what it is: Write down your problem in the form of a clear, precise question, and you are halfway to the answer.

  3. Ask, “What's the ‘Opposite’ of My Question?”

    Tom Sawyer had a fence that needed painting. Instead of asking, “How can I do this work?” he asked: “How can someone else do all this fun?”

  4. Question Assumptions

    List everything about your situation that you know to be true — no matter how small or insignificant. Now question each assumption. “Is that really so? Does it have to be that way? How could it be done some other way?”

  5. Pie-in-the-Sky Thinking

    Allow yourself to look for wild, outlandish ideas — even if they seem impossible. As Einstein put it: “If at first an idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”

    Most of us would say, “That's a crazy idea — forget about it.” To which Einstein would counter: “Got a crazy idea? Let's take a look at it!”

  6. Think of Your Worst Idea

    Why worry about coming up with a great idea when it's so much easier to come up with a rotten one! You might discover a terrible idea that can be “tweaked” into greatness.

  7. Never Take “Yes” for an Answer

    Instead of saying, “Yes, that's it!” learn to say, “Well, that could be it.” Then go find some more ideas. As H.L. Mencken put it: “For every human problem there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.” Remember: The best way to get a great idea is to get lots of ideas!

  8. Refuse to Accept “Either/Or” Thinking

    “Either/or” thinking limits your options too severely. Always look for a third, fourth, and even fifth alternative. Then keep looking for more. And think of ways to combine those solutions. For example, instead of a gasoline-powered car or an electric car, there's the hybrid car, in which two solutions — gas and electric — work together.

  9. Ask, “What Would _____ Do?”

    Fill in the blank with the name of a famous person. Or think of someone whom you personally know and admire. Try their way of thinking, and see where it gets you.

  10. Ask Someone Else

    Want some fresh, new ideas? Ask other people what they would do! No one said that you had to go it alone.

  11. Walk Away

    Take a break. “You go back to it,” says novelist John Irving (The Cider House Rules), “and you suddenly see something that if you'd been rushing and pushing, you wouldn't have seen.”

  12. Have Fun With It

    Problem solving demands a sense of fun. Fun loosens us up and gets our creative juices flowing. Remember: Most of all, problem solving … is a game!

Joel Saltzman is a speaker, facilitator, and consultant. His latest book, Shake That Brain!, will be published by Wiley in December. Contact him at (877) 742-5348, by e-mail at joel@shakethatbrain.com, or on the Web at www.shakethatbrain.com/wow.