Girl solving a problem

Is our creativity solving the right problem?

Does the problem need to be important for the creativity to be valuable?

I think the problem needs to be important to us.

Creativity starts with a problem

“Creativity is a process of original ideas that add value.” (Sir Ken Robinson)

If the creativity is to add value, it needs to solve problem.

This is where creativity starts – with a need to solve a problem.

We are seeing lots of amazing and fun examples of creativity at the moment.

All of this creativity is solving a problem for the individual. It could be alleviating boredom, a desire to entertain, a need to be noticed, a craving for connection.

This prolific creativity comes as no surprise though.

Focus forces creativity

Creativity comes into its own when resources are limited.

COVID has removed many resources that we previously may have taken for granted like work, friends, family, freedom! When our resources are limited we tend to get really creative at solving problems.

But is all this creativity we are seeing at the moment wasted energy because it isn’t solving the “right” problem.

I don’t think so and here is why.

What is a problem?

Firstly it is useful to define what a problem is.

There is a problem when

Is it important to define a problem well, so we are not wasting our creative energy?

How many times have you gone down one road only to realise in hindsight that you should have gone down another?

Let’s assume, that we want to make the most of our creative efforts and therefore it is important to define the problem well because this is where creativity starts.

How do we get to the right problem?

Establish the root cause of the problem before embarking on creatively solving it.

The 5 Whys Problem Solving Technique developed by Toyota and formulated in Six Sigma helps us get to the root cause of a problem.

Each question “Why” must lead to the next question.

State Situation

1. Why did this occur / Why do I want to do this?

2. Why did this occur / Why do I want to do this?

3. Why did this occur / Why do I want to do this?

4. Why did this occur / Why do I want to do this?

5. Why did this occur / Why do I want to do this?

Root cause

5 Whys of problem solving

Does the problem need to be important?

It needs to be important to us.

I think if we guess or worry whether it is important to others, we can get stuck and we don’t end up creating anything.

Chances are if I have a particular problem, others will also.

The below framework clarifies how important the issue is to us.

 

“We are looking for X in order to achieve Z as measured by W

X = basic need

Z = desired outcome

W = who benefits and why

 

Example 1

I really need my kids to stop fighting

We are looking for an online workshop/course (X) in order alleviate the boredom (Z) as measured by the hours our kids get on with each other (W).

 

Example 2

I really need a laugh

We are looking to be entertained and connected (X) in order to remove the fear of being isolated (Z) as measured by how much I laugh (W).

50 minutes solving the problem - Albert Einstein

The context of the problem is important

As I mentioned earlier, it needs to be important to us.

Therefore the context for the problem is relevant.

For example

A fear of public speaking only becomes a problem when your job is dependent on public speaking.

A lack of creative and critical thinking skills only becomes a problem when your job is dependent on coming up with original ideas that add value.

 

In my 5 Day Creative Challenge I have kids draw in abstract with limited resources. Now you might say drawing an abstract piece of art in a challenge isn’t solving an important problem.

Right now, for some, having our kids occupied while we are all at home, homeschooling and during the holidays could make our Actual situation = Desired situation.

This Challenge could be just what we need.

In a different time, our kids would be at school and we are at work so we do not need to find ways to keep their minds active and interested. Therefore the opportunity of my challenge isn’t useful. It isn’t solving a problem for us right now.

A different context again – we might be searching for something that is about thriving in the future rather than just surviving the now. We are wanting something that challenges our kids to think differently because it will give them a life skill much sought after.

In this different context have the bandwidth to be thinking about our children’s future and the Creative Challenge could be what we are looking for.

In Summary

Does the problem need to be important for the creativity to be valuable?

Yes it needs to be important to us.

What makes it important to us, is the context we place the problem in.

How we ultimately address the root cause is where the creative process starts. When we have our root cause we can then set about creatively solving it and our values, strengths, motivations will all shape the uniqueness of the outcome.

Creativity comes into its own when resources are limited. When we have limited time or money or people or freedom 🙂 we tend to get really creative at solving problems.

And we have a few of these resources limited at the moment.

So next time we want people to be creative don’t throw everything at it.

In fact, do the opposite.

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