Most people regularly face a range of demanding situations at work – and at home – even more so when cash is in short supply. But when everyday, conventional solutions prove ineffective, the answer is to think creatively. That's because creative thinking lets you look at challenges with a fresh perspective.

Some people find creative thinking comes easily. But if you're new to the idea – or you've struggled with it in the past – here are a few ways to start getting your creative problem solving juices flowing:

1. Brainstorm new ideas

Brainstorming usually involves a group of people – a team or department that works together – in a relaxed, informal environment to solve a complex problem. It allows ideas from each participant to be explored and developed by others in the group, which can then lead to new ideas and solutions.

The beauty of group brainstorming is that it takes advantage of the experience of each participant in the group. You simply present the problem that you want to solve, then encourage the group to come up with as many ideas as possible – the quirkier the better. It can be a lot of fun too, and may also help with team building.

You can also brainstorm on your own. Just find a quiet place where you can sit and think, then write down as many ideas as you can think of. Some of your ideas will be wide of the mark, but you may just hit upon a novel solution.

2. Take more risks

To develop your creative thinking skills you should be willing to step outside your comfort zone. After all, ideas that initially seem far-fetched and even impossible can often turn out to be the best. But it can be tempting – especially in this economic climate – to stick to safe solutions and do things the way they've always been done. If that sounds like you, you may find risk taking difficult.

But it can reap rewards, especially if you can accept the fact that nobody ever achieves a 100 percent success rate when it comes to solving problems. Just keep reminding yourself that you can learn just as much from a solution that didn't work as one that's proved successful. In other words, learning from your mistakes can be valuable – so if you don't take risks, you may be missing out.

3. Fight fear of failure

You won't become an expert in creative thinking if you're afraid to fail. Just think of the many successful business people who failed numerous times before they succeeded. Instead of falling at the first hurdle, they simply carried on until they reached their goals.

Fear of failure is a major obstacle where creative thinking is concerned. But if you realise that failure is part of the process – and, like making mistakes, you can learn a lot from it – you can stop worrying about it and get on with solving problems more creatively.

4. Look for multiple solutions

When you're trying to find a way to tackle a problem, don't just stop at one solution. There can be many ways to approach a tricky situation, so try to come up with alternatives, even when you think you've found a good way to deal with it. And always keep a record of your solutions by writing them down – even if some of them turn out to be ineffective when you initially think of them, you never know when you may need inspiration for tackling something else.

5. Take a step back

Have you ever wondered why some of your best ideas come to you while you're washing the dishes or in the shower? Sometimes you have to take a step back from a challenge to let your subconscious get to work on it. So if you're finding it difficult to think of ideas or solutions, go for a walk or do anything that takes your mind off it. When you come back to your problem, you may well find that new ideas will start to flow more easily.

For lots more helpful tips and advice on work-related challenges, visit our work information area.

© CABA 2013

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