Simple ways to use creative problem-solving techniques

Simple ways to use creative problem-solving techniques

Many of us believe that we are not very creative. This is not true. With some simple techniques and a little focus, anyone can start to think creatively. The starting point is taking our mind set that we are not creative and change it to one of we can be creative.

Creative thinking is not only about the big ideas that change the world as we know it, more commonly it is about doing the simple things differently and better. The process of creative thinking takes time. Ideas are generated, assessed, discarded, adapted, slept on for a while, and then discussed all over again.

The key here is not to get too tied up with analysing everything to the last detail; in some respects accepting and idea and moving forward is more productive. It is in the accepting and trialling of new concepts that you may learn more than getting caught up in endless analysis. So there is a balance between acting too quickly and acting too slowly.

Time management and creativity

  • Make an appointment to daydream: You may need to convince yourself that this is not ‘time wasting’ but rather investing time wisely. The ideas generated during such sessions could end up saving a lot more time elsewhere in the business.
  • Occupy your conscious mind to let your creative sub-conscious work: A run before work or walking the dog – they all occupy your conscious mind with a repetitive task that needs some focus, but maybe not your total focus. This frees up your sub- conscious mind to explore ideas and concepts in a different light. Your sub-conscious tends to be more creative than your practical conscious mind – you will find some of your best ideas happen when you are doing something else!
  • Take ideas from others and adapt them to work for you: Research other businesses on line, they don’t have to be a retail business for you to be able to transfer a great idea that could work for you.
  • Learning from new staff: A new employee is a set of fresh eyes in your business, why not set them a task of explaining how they would do something. Explain the issue, what you want to achieve and leave them to it. This approach can work in anything from how to do the banking to creating more meaningful business reports, to improving customer satisfaction.

Creative Problem Solving

Define the Problem: In stating your problem, don’t jump to conclusions by including a suggestion of the solution in your statement of the problem. For example, do not say, ‘The problem is we need to cut costs – this is a solution, not a problem. Also, try restating the problem in terms of the OUTCOME, which will increase your range of solutions. State the outcome in the present tense to reinforce your belief in the achievement of your solutions. For example, don’t say, ‘Our customer service is below standard and the customer experience is not very exciting‘, Use the outcome thinking statement ,‘We need to significantly differentiate our customer service from our competitors.’

Gather the facts: In gathering the facts, consider using some or all of the following questions:

  • What symptoms can be seen as a result of the problem?
  • When was the problem first observed or identified?
  • What events, systems or procedures were introduced or changed prior to or at the time the problem was identified?
  • Who or what is being impacted by the problem?
  • How are they being impacted?
  • What is the cost of the problem to the business, financial or otherwise?
  • What are the possible consequences of not addressing this problem?

Based on the data gathered above, do we really have a problem to address?

Identifying the key causes and symptoms leads to quick fixes. Finding the underlying cause results in a fundamental solution. For example, low morale is a symptom. If you were to treat low morale, you might put on a team dinner to boost people’s spirits. This might help in the short-term but the reason for the low morale (unless it was not enough team dinners) will continue to fester.

One way to check if you’ve identified a symptom or a true cause is to continue to ask “Why” until you’ve moved deeper to the real cause. Once you have gone through this process as a team is is time to start focusing on coming up with solutions.


It is probably the best-known creative thinking tool. It can thus be used in most groups, although you will probably have to remind your team of the rules. Brainstorming works when people use each other’s ideas to trigger their own thinking. Our minds are highly associative, and one thought easily triggers another. If we use the thoughts of others, then these will stop us getting trapped by our own thinking structures.

To learn how to steer your success as a team leader, the ARA Retail Institute runs multiple workshops on leadership and team culture. Join the ARA Retail Institute in their latest workshop which looks into how a team’s attitude and behaviours influence the outcome of challenging customer moments.


About ARA Retail Institute

ARA Retail Institute is Australia’s leading retail training provider for both accredited and non-accredited learning programs. For more information, please visit:



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