I relish the challenge of an interesting problem and get a great sense of satisfaction from finding a practical and simple solution. However, problem solving is a fickle thing, and although there are many techniques that can be applied, inspiration just can’t be forced, so I use different ways to sneak-up and beat it. Here are a few of them, if you have ones that work for you please let me know:
- Understand what it really is that you are trying to solve. This sounds obvious but it is all too easy to fix the symptoms rather than taking time to find the actual problem.
- Make sure that your client/boss/customer understands why you might wish to fix something other than what they have asked for.
- Talk to people. Our team regularly exchange ideas and solutions: how regularly? Sometimes not for hours, sometimes minute-by-minute. The discipline of design needs reality checks to avoid the “I’ve been doing this for years so I must be right” syndrome.
- Talk to more people. Everyone currently facing the problem that you’ve been tasked to solve will have a view, so get them on your side by carefully listening to them.
- Sleep on it.
- Don’t try doing a processing task (such as writing a blog) and then switch to innovation and ideas: your brain will need a reboot. Sleep is best.
- Never accept your first idea unless you are moments away from disaster and even then, a calm second though might be better.
- Look at how things around you are made: man has been engineering his environment for hundreds of thousands or even millions of years. Some skills, like how to build a pyramid might not be relevant today but I bet that you’d love to know how they did it?
- Use a wipe board to sketch and share ideas: quick, easy and simple. Photo the steps, you might find that you can recycle some ideas.
- Talk to even more people. Great, you’ve got a brilliant solution. Can it be made? Locally? Efficiently? Cost effectively? In time? Talking to people can flush out hidden pitfalls and get them to buy into your vision.
Good luck and enjoy the warm glow and deep satisfaction of seeing your ideas turned into reality.
Written by John Bennett