Got problems? Want to learn to love them? Solving problems can be fun and very rewarding. Creative problem solving is the skill most needed through the next years. Use this skill in your private life, your career, your business and your community.

Follow the five steps that point to that direction yet encourage the juices of creativity to flow.

1. Fact Finding
"Just the facts - nothing but the facts." Make no judgement at this point. You may think you know the problem. The urge to jump to a quick solution is overwhelming - but don't be fooled by a quick and easy solution just to make it go away. Ask questions to collect facts without prejudging. Remember Lieutenant Colombo in the old TV series. He could ask the dumbest questions with perfect innocence. That's how you need to ask questions. Ask, What? Who? When? Where? Why? and How?

2. Problem Definition
How many times have you seen someone rush in to attack a problem only to discover that they did not understand it and hence wasted time and energy - and caused bad feelings? Einstein said if he had one hour to solve the problems of the world he would spend 50 minutes defining the problem and 10 minutes solving it. To define the problem ask yourself, 'Why does this problem exist? What are the barriers? What's stopping me?' Once you discover the true problem restate the problem into, ' In what ways might I…?' Notice that you are looking for many ways.

3. Idea Generating
Have fun, generate lots of crazy ideas that might solve the problem. The more humour you use at this phase the more radical your ideas will be. Suspend the 'rules' - maybe they can be changed. If you are an expert forget what you 'know'. Too often experts cannot solve the problems in their field because the rules are ingrained. The Wright brothers were not experts in aviation - they were bicycle mechanics. The most innovative people are those who did not know 'that it couldn't be done.'

4. Solution Finding
Describe the criteria of the best solution. These might include aspects like cost, time needed, and risk. Pick the best ideas and rate them using your criteria for best fit. Find three best ideas; re-examine your assumptions about each then pick the one you will go with this time. Keep the others as back-up. Turn your expertise back on to evaluate the potential solutions.

5. Acceptance and Action
How do you get others to buy into your solution? The best way is to involve them in the process from the beginning - give them ownership. Sometimes that means accepting a second best solution. If you did not involve the people that are needed to make you succeed it is time to demonstrate the needs that your solution will help them meet.

After Art Fry invented the Post-it note for 3M he could not convince research or marketing to buy into the product. He asked himself, "Who will this product help?" His answer was: secretaries. So he sent free samples to secretaries across North America with the phone number of the head of marketing to call to order more. Guess what happened when the calls started coming in? Art finally convinced his people of the value of this product and 3M's most successful product was born.

In the information age we might be tempted to believe that knowledge is power. But remember the words of Einstein who said; "Imagination is more important than knowledge."

Author's Bio: 

George Torok specializes in helping organizations grow by developing their thinking and communication skills. He is coauthor of the national bestseller, Secrets of Power Marketing. He is host of the weekly radio show, Business in Motion. You can contact him at or 800-304-1861