Creative Problem-Solving

From the time you get up in the morning until the time you go to bed at night, you are continually taking in information, analyzing the information, solving problems based on that information, and making decisions that lead to action from yourself and others. It’s safe to say that the quality of your decision making and problem solving determines the quality of your life. If you want your future to be better than your present, you must simply improve your quality of thinking and make better choices. You must become a creative problem-solver.

Building creative brain power is a lot like building muscle power in that the more strain you place on your brain, the stronger it becomes. And you can pump “mental iron” by using two powerful methods for increasing your creative problem solving ability.

The first method is called “mindstorming.” To engage in mindstorming, also called “The 20-Idea Method,” all you need is a pen and a piece of paper. Begin by writing a particular goal or problem at the top of the page. For example, if you want to increase your income, you would write something like, “What can I do to increase my income by 50 percent over the next 12 months?” Or, you can be even more specific by writing the exact amount. Be specific, detailed, and focused in your questions and you will find more practical, effective answers.

Once you have written the question, jot down twenty answers. Let your mind flow freely. Write down every answer that comes to you. Don’t worry about whether it is right or wrong, intelligent or foolish, possible or impossible. Just come up with at least 20 answers. Don’t be afraid to be ridiculous. Very often, a ridiculous answer triggers a breakthrough thought that might save you years of hard work.

Next, go back over the answers and select the one that seems to be the most appropriate for you at this moment. You will often have an instinct or feeling about a particular answer that appeals to you. This is an unconscious suggestion that you are on the right track.

To double the creative impact of this exercise, transfer your answer to the top of a new page and then write 20 ideas for implementing it in your life.

The second method of creative problem solving is called “brainstorming.” This is a form of mindstorming done with a group. In brainstorming you again start off with one, clearly stated problem or question, but this time, you have a variety of individuals contributing to the solution.

The aim of the brainstorming session should be to generate the most ideas possible within a specific period of time. An effective session will last anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, and the best number of participants is between four to seven people.

Each brainstorming session requires a group leader to keep ideas as free-flowing as possible. The group leader is a stimulator of ideas, encouraging each person to speak up. The most important rule of brainstorming is to avoid evaluating ideas during the process. The focus is on quantity, not quality. Evaluation and discussion of the ideas will take place at a separate session, away from the original brainstorming. There should also be a recorder at each session to write down every idea as it is generated so that the list can be typed up and circulated at a later time.

The final keys to successful brainstorming are positive emotions, laughter, ridiculous ideas, and absolutely no criticism of any kind. When I conduct brainstorming sessions, I find that the best way to get going is to first agree on the question or problem, and second, to go around the table one by one.

When it comes to evaluating the ideas in a later session, it can be helpful to bring together an entirely different group of people. This group will consider the ideas without the ego involvement and emotional attachment of the original group. As a result, they will be able to assess the ideas far more objectively.

The amazing thing about mindstorming and brainstorming is that virtually anyone can come up with an incredible number of ideas when stimulated by one or both of these methods. And you can never tell which ideas are going to provide the breakthrough solution. The more ideas you generate, the greater the likelihood that you will have exactly the idea that you need at exactly the right time.

By practicing mindstorming and brainstorming on a regular basis, you can unleash a torrent of ideas that will enable you to accomplish your goals faster than you ever believed possible. Today, in the information age, ideas are the most valuable tools of production. And since your ability to generate innovative, effective, usable ideas is virtually unlimited, your future is unlimited as well.

Brian Tracy is the author of “Million Dollar Habits” and “Getting Rich Your Own Way.” He can be contacted at 858.481.2977, or visit

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