Creativity is all about finding new ways to look at things. When we step outside of what we already know, we need to draw on abstract associations to make sense of our new environment.
Often, this leads to new insights, new ideas and new solutions to problems that we couldn’t have seen before. That’s the foundation of creative problem solving.
Teams Are Better Than Individuals at Solving Problems
A study by Stamford University suggests that a problem-solving goal is worked at for 64% longer as a team activity than when tackled alone.
The innumerable benefits of solving problems as a team can be condensed into five key points:
1. Collaboration makes it easier for a group to be open to other viewpoints.
– Teamwork incorporates a wide variety of perspectives. Combining experiences, training and education is an excellent way to help the team solve problems more effectively.
2. Teamwork promotes peer-to-peer growth
– Team collaboration enables colleagues to learn from each other and grow as a team. Support and encouragement to learn new skills whilst offering new perspectives promotes further innovation and development.
3. Team members take each other's ideas and build on them
– An ideal team should consist of members who all have something different to offer. The smallest idea can lead to something immense when it’s shared amongst a group of dedicated individuals
4. A team can separate larger problems into smaller, more manageable chunks
– Working as a team is a fantastic way to divide the load of problem solving by making it a collaborative endeavour.
5. A team encourages and supports
– Working alone can often mean becoming frustrated and getting lost in the creative process. Having a team to rely on means a constant flow of external encouragement from your peers.
And even if your team is working remotely, you can still reap all of these benefits using tools and apps such as Slack, GoToMeeting, Idea Drop and ClickUp, which easily facilitate remote collaboration.
What is creative problem solving?
Simply put, creative problem solving is the mental process of finding a brand-new solution to a specific problem. Unlike other forms of creativity, which mostly include abstract reasoning or generalised brainstorming, creative problem solving works with clearly defined, finite problems to generate novel solutions. It can be an extremely productive process whilst also being a lot of fun.
In practice, creative problem solving often uses creative elements to represent problems and help users step outside their normal ways of working. For example, practitioners might use images, sculptures, music or other creative materials to build a picture of a problem they’re trying to solve. As they work, the elements they use take on new meanings and give abstract insight into potential real-world solutions.
To make creative problem solving work, your problem needs to be specific and tangible. General questions like ‘how do we innovate effectively’ are too nebulous to inspire practical solutions.
With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at some fascinating innovation approaches, specifically those that can be applied to remote teams.
Creative problem solving with LEGO® bricks
LEGO is the perfect medium for creative problem solving. It’s both physical and mimetic, activating both visual and kinesthetics parts of the brain as you build representations of your challenges. The Serious Play toolkit also offers a questions framework for businesses to probe the challenges they face as a team, providing a catalyst for discussion and solutions-focussed thinking.
The quirky LEGO pieces and sets don’t always provide a perfect visual representation of a problem, so you’ll be relying on abstract thinking and creative reasoning to bring your business challenges to life. It’s these new ways of seeing that will help you to think of novel solutions that can drive real change in your businesses.
If you’re looking for new ways to solve problems in your business, contact our team of innovation experts – we are here to help!
How this approach is applicable for remote teams
With the new work challenges thrown up in the era of COVID-19, it’s essential to find techniques that can be applied to remote teams working from home.
Using the LEGO bricks exercise is entirely doable remotely as long as a facilitator and participants can all join a video conference call. Many of the team involved are likely to have children at home and have LEGO bricks to hand; if not, people can use other prompts they have at home to build out and represent challenges.
Running an Innovation Challenge to Help Find Solutions
We’re all motivated by challenges. An innovation challenge is the perfect way to energise your team and gather their best ideas. You can send challenge briefs to your company remotely using email or your in-house intranet, or you might prefer to use dedicated innovation-management software, like Idea Drop’s.
Innovation challenges differ from continuous innovation strategies; they have a narrower scope, focus on specific topics and are usually time-restricted or tied to specific resources. You can challenge your team to generate ideas to make improvements for processes, customer experience, products or services.
Running an innovation challenge via email or intranet is an excellent way to utilise your remote teams to find solutions. Team members can work on initial ideas alone and use online video conference calls to facilitate the collaborative process. When using idea-management software, colleagues can collaborate directly on the platform by commenting on ideas, mentioning colleagues, as well as rating and favouriting ideas. That makes the process streamlined, effective and easily scalable, so it’s especially suitable for large organisations. The end goal is to come up with winning ideas.
Design Thinking is an Effective Way to Solve Complex Problems
Design thinking is growing in popularity and is now practised by a number of large organisations including GE, Samsung and Google. Even top universities, such as MIT and Harvard, include design thinking as part of their syllabus.
Design thinking is no longer just for the exclusive use of designers; innovative thinkers everywhere are using it. The processes that designers use can help to find creative solutions in various ways, including in business, solving countrywide problems and in our lives in general. Simply stated, design thinking is a humanistic approach to solving complicated problems.
You can implement design thinking by focusing on the needs of the end user, tweaking and testing to create a solution. The process is simple: discover, define, develop and deliver.
You can learn more about the design-thinking process by reading the article here.
Various tools can be used for creative problem solving using design thinking. These include Google Jamboards, Mindmeister, SpiderScribe, Evernote and Draftsend, all of which are compatible with remote working as they enable groups of people to work together anywhere in the world and to collaborate in real time.
Brainstorming is a team effort at spontaneous ideation whereby groups aim to come up with a solution to a complex problem. It’s an effective way to find solutions to problems in a remote-team setting; if your team is spread throughout the country, or even worldwide, various techniques can make the process straightforward.
For example, you can plan an agenda before you hold an online meeting to focus everyone’s minds on the objectives of the brainstorming session. Tools such as Slack and MeetingRoom.io are also effective ways to keep the meeting fresh and exciting.
Brainstorming is a positive experience and can get a remote team from all over the world, with their vastly different backgrounds, working in a collaborative process to solve issues by gathering a wide variety of different perspectives. Capturing and recording the ideas on an idea-management platform such as Idea Drop makes the process of actioning those ideas easier and more efficient.
Find Different Methods to Boost Creativity
Reading can be an effective way to gain new perspectives, vocabulary and ideas. Encouraging team members to conduct outside research within their field by reading, studying or even engaging in creative tasks that are unrelated to their job will help to bolster their creativity and enhance their value as an employee.
Exercising your mind through physical activity and hobbies that boost your creativity is always worthwhile. Sketching, doodling and writing are all excellent ways to get the cogs inside the brains of your workforce whirring. Setting creative tasks like these will provide teams with fun and beneficial ways of improving their ability to come up with ideas.
These techniques are particularly suitable for getting remote workers to shake things up and spark their imaginations. The aim is to come up with new, creative ideas inspired by a new atmosphere or any positive changes, promoting innovation, inventiveness and originality.
For more ideas on how to inspire your colleagues’ imagination, this article includes a collection of our top 10 ways to boost your innovative and creative thinking.
Final Thoughts About Creative Problem-Solving Techniques for Remote Teams
Above all, collaboration is the key to finding innovative solutions to problems that we face in the workplace. Methods such as running an innovation challenge or using a design-thinking framework are great techniques to encourage your team to find solutions to problems – and both methods work really well remotely.
Engaged employees are one of the best problem-solving solutions your company has. We hope that some of the methods we’ve outlined in this article will help you to maximise the innovative output of your team, drive forward your business and achieve your vision of success.