On the neurological level, problem-solving is a creative task: we assess our range of information, looking for links and junctions. We analyse what we find, assess the relative strengths and weaknesses and develop a solution.
This is the kind of everyday creativity that every human being on this plant engages within their every waking day. This is the skill that people deny when they say, ‘But I am not creative!’ They are, their definition is just faulty.
However, being better at problem-solving is only the tip of the iceberg of benefits that you will get when you activate your creativity.
Creativity allows you to harness your imagination and contemplate future, currently unknown or unrealised problems and work out solutions, or avoidance procedures for those too. This is the proactive power of Creativity and is really what most businesses and inventive people focus on.
The truth is, data, observation and common sense will tell you a lot about how to solve existing problems. They will also tell you how to keep up with the competition and stay up to date.
But what they cannot do is put you into a league of your own. They cannot turn you into a Black Swan: the unexpected game changer that annihilates business models and dominates attention.
Proactive, imagination fuelled creativity can. And this I the full power of the skill… using the same approaches as standard problem solving, but with different inputs. Great big what if’s and plenty of courage to ask the questions others shy from or find silly.
Author and business maverick Tom Peters said it best, ‘It’s not the competition you know about that kills you.’ It’s not. Its that kid in their basement who, without referencing the competition, current developments or anything else, just takes the next step down the road and creates something no-one else has.
This kind of competition is unfindable, un-trackable and cannot be defended against. In fact, the only defence against such competition is to strive to become that person or that business. And how do you do that? Not by only solving the problems you currently have. But by asking yourself, what problems are coming down the road? How can we change what we do know to avoid that, or turn it to use, or resolve it? How can we be ahead of the pack by thinking in a more clear way about our future?
We used to call this day-dreaming as there was such a long lag between such fantasies and reality. Now it’s so real, if it’s not a percentage of your daily work time, you will not be innovative enough. Think sci-fi great Arthur C Clarke with his ideas of handheld communications devices, satellite networks etc. Now the distance from idea to reality is short and getting shorter. If you’re not thinking about it, you’re already being crushed
So sure, activate your creativity to get better at solving the everyday challenges that are inevitable and well know. But spare some time to think about what’s coming down your road… you may save yourself a lot of hassle in the future.