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Problem Solving - Podcast episode

Creativity and Problem Solving

Problem Solving is an essential skill for being successful as a student, in your career and in your personal life. You will often be faced with problems or situations requiring a solution and your skills in creatively thinking of options and quickly ruling out options that won't work are important. Equally important is your mindset when faced with a problematic situation. 

In the interview with Professor Ian Turner we discussed different ways of thinking when faced with a problem under pressure, how you can develop your creative mindset and how you can improve your problem solving skills through experience. Below is a summary of some of the key points raised in the podcast.

The first thing to highlight is that creativity means more than just being good at Art. Both Ian and I did not classify ourselves as creatives, as we did not create things by hand. We both only started thinking of ourselves as somewhat creative after being told by others that we were creative. We advised to avoiding box yourself as creative, or not creative and instead to try your best to think creatively when faced with a problem. 

In the podcast, Ian and I discussed problem solving in pressured situations and gave advice about a mindset that will help you when doing this. One part of this mindset is being solution focused. Rather than focusing on working out why something has happened in a crisis, focus on what you can do to fix it. It sometimes will be useful to find the cause of the problem, but in other situations this may be a distraction from finding the solution. An example of this could be in an assignment when you realise that you have read the question incorrectly and have therefore researched the wrong answer. Rather than focusing on finding out why this happened and being frustrated that you made a mistake, instead focus on what you can do in the time that you have to solve the issue. If you look at the situation with a growth mindset you can focus on the opportunity that you have to fix the issue before the assignment is submitted. After the problem is solved it is worth considering reflecting on why the problem happened and what caused it and thinking of ways that you can avoid it happening again in the future.

The final thing to highlight from the interview is that one of the best ways to develop your problem solving skills is through experience. This could be done by putting yourself in a position to solve problems, such as through volunteering, or being part of a society committee or by undertaking part/full time work. However this experience can also be developed whilst you are having fun. When you play games, including board games, video games and sports you are inherently put in situations where there is a problem to be solved. Games can be really good for putting yourself in a pressured situation where the pressure feels real but there is actually no consequence to failing. 

With any experience that you undertake your development is supported through reflecting on those experiences. So when you do solve a problem, consider how you did that and how successful your solution was. What process did you use for finding solutions, why did you have to rule out some solutions? If there was a barrier to some solutions such as your skills and abilities, is it a good decision to gain skills in those areas so that next time you can have more options available?

There are some resources that can help you with problem solving and some links to guidance on reflection that can be found in the resources column.