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How to improve your creativity and problem-solving skills

Find out how you can harness your creativity and how it can help boost your productivity in the workplace, as well as enhance your problem-solving skills.

Improve Creativity Problem Solving

Even if your career doesn’t seem to be a particularly creative one, you’ll often find that hiring managers look for examples of creativity and innovation in their employees. Curiosity and creativity often go hand-in-hand and can lead you to flourish in your role – from solving problems, to innovation in your approach. But how do you harness this essential soft skill?

Mindfulness is one of the top tips for creativity, and it can help improve the quality of thought and mental flexibility as well, but there are other methods you can use to improve your creativity in the workplace and help your critical thinking and problem-solving. Let’s take a look at why creativity is one of the most important soft skills you can have.

Why are soft skills important?

Soft skills often refer to both character traits and to interpersonal skills – effectively meaning the ways that you can communicate and work with others in a constructive way. Effective communication and teamwork skills are essential skills to have in nearly every workplace, and employers will be on the lookout for proven examples of these.

In fact, the World Economic Forum predicted that by 2025, critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity would rank among the most important soft skills to have in the workplace. Soft skills are used every day in the workplace, and developing your skillset will make you stand out to employers. Here are some of the ways that soft skills can help in the workplace:

  • Increase in productivity – tasks will be completed more efficiently.
  • Improved teamwork skills – employees will work better together.
  • Better workplace communication – smoother operation of the business as a result of effective communication and teamwork.
  • Better employee satisfaction – employees that communicate and work collaboratively will often have increased job satisfaction.

It’s not just in the office or classroom that soft skills are important though. Outside of the workplace, soft skills are essential for creating lasting bonds with other people and communicating your needs and desires. Problem-solving and decision-making techniques can also be applied professionally and personally.

What is creativity? 

We’ve talked about creativity being an essential soft skill – but what is creativity? Essentially, creativity is the ability to consider a task or a problem in a different way. Similarly, it’s the process of using your intuition to try and formulate new ideas. It can help you solve complex problems and find different, more interesting ways to approach various tasks.

Having this openness to innovation and mental flexibility can take some time and effort. You can find out more about how you can adopt a creative mindset and overcome resistance to innovation with our Creativity and Innovation course.

Understanding creativity is about knowing how and when you can express and use this skill in the workplace. In addition, employers will take notice of candidates who can and have used it for different ways of problem-solving.

Why is creativity important? 

Being creative is often essential to problem-solving, both in and out of the workplace. Creative problem-solving will prove you have the ability to approach an issue from every angle, rather than a simple linear, logical approach. 

With such a large number of new technologies and new ways of working appearing at a rapid pace, companies have to tap into the creative energy of their employees in order to grow. Creative problem-solving will help teams to generate innovation – from uncovering new approaches to problems, developing new products, or improving existing processes.

Examples of creativity in the workplace

So how do you go about expressing your creative energy in the workplace? And how would you demonstrate your creativity in an interview or on a job application? Let’s take a look at some examples of creativity in the workplace.

Creativity in leadership

Creativity that is inspired from the top down often leads to a much more innovative mindset. In turn, this can increase employee loyalty and workplace value. A creative team leader will inspire others to be more creative in their work processes. This, in turn, will lead to members of the team feeling more comfortable with sharing their ideas. 

Within team dynamics

Everyone expresses their creativity in different ways. Knowing, understanding, and nurturing these different strengths and weaknesses of each individual team member will lead to a more creative workflow. For some people, it creates a safe space for creative expression.

Encouraging creativity 

Many employees might feel daunted by the prospect of total creative freedom. If a psychological ‘safety net’ of sorts is implemented, such as having another team ready to ‘catch’ them if they ‘fall’, then employees will feel more comfortable with expressing their creativity. After all, one of the biggest risks of creativity is failure. With this framework in place, employees will be more open to taking risks.

Asking Questions

Diversity of viewpoint is one of the most effective ways to not only tap into your creative energy, but also encourage others to think creatively and ponder solutions. Brainstorming and getting opinions from people who might not have felt like they had a voice is a really important way of inspiring creativity and solving problems.

Creativity and innovation

Creativity and innovation are the pathways to obtain better productivity, improved processes, and internal harmony within a business. Harnessing these two soft skills can lead to higher levels of success, and one complements the other – innovation requires implementation, so put your creative energies into practice and consider the results.

As with creativity, innovation can be tricky to spot in your team. Creative and innovative ideas can come from just about anywhere – it’s all about nurturing these as they come up and managing innovation when you can. But while they both can work off each other, it’s important to give them both space to grow independently from each other.

You can learn more about how you can Build a Leading Innovation Strategy with our free online course. Here, you can find out about trends in innovation, how to lead innovation projects, and how you can implement them in your workplace. It can even help you prove your innovation skills for things like job applications and interviews.

How to improve your creativity skills 

As we’ve learned, creativity skills are really desirable for employers and can be incredibly useful in the workplace. So how do you go about improving your creative skills? Let’s go through some of the different ways that you can improve your creativity.

It’s worth remembering that many of us may express and develop our creativity in different ways. While some of these points may be useful for certain individuals, others may have different (and no less valid) ways of thinking. 

Work on your self-awareness

Becoming self-aware and acknowledging the limitations of our own thought processes when it comes to creativity is the first step to becoming more creative and innovative. Know what you’re capable of and act upon it once you have this understanding.

Practise empathy

Empathy is a key element in emotional intelligence and will allow you to understand the viewpoints of customers, clients, and co-workers. Practising creative empathy will result in more valuable, creative solutions to problems that might arise.

Expand your knowledge

Become an expert in your field and you’ll understand every angle of a problem. The more you know, the more you’ll be able to consider different ways of exploring solutions to problems. You can even end up with the skill to identify issues before they arise.

Draw on your previous experiences

Look to experiences you have had in the past, and harness your personal history to give you perspective on the situation at hand. What was the outcome of that past issue? How can you achieve similar or better results? Learn from the past and apply those lessons.

Collaborate with others

This is one of the best ways of conjuring creative solutions, as well as identifying potentially obvious solutions that may not have been tried before. Learn how to Improve your Creative Collaboration, and work out your role in your team.   

What are problem-solving skills?  

We’ve touched on using creativity to help with problem-solving, but what about out and out problem-solving skills? Problem-solving and decision-making techniques can help you to come to a swift resolution for any issue that might arise, and are key skills that employers look for when hiring.

The most effective problem-solving often happens when you work as a team. With our course on Problem-Solving Techniques, you’ll explore the tools you need to work as a team to find appropriate solutions, as well as giving you the chance to experiment with design thinking. 

Problem-solving skills involve the employee quickly identifying any issues, coming up with suitable solutions for them, implementing those solutions, and reviewing how effective they were. Businesses need people who can accurately assess potential problems, and come up with solutions.   

Why is problem-solving important?

Employers will often look for good problem-solving skills in a candidate because it shows you have a variety of different attributes. These include logic, resilience, determination, imagination, and, of course, creativity. 

People with good problem-solving skills are often the ones who come up with new ideas, and consider different or better ways of completing a task. Good problem-solving skills can also help you to explain complex issues to other employees as you end up with a better, more rounded consideration of the matter at hand.

As the world of work embraces new technologies, it’s never been more important to understand how to solve problems in a creative way. There’s more scope for more moving parts to go wrong, so if you want to get more of a handle on Problem Solving in the Digital Age, join our ExpertTrack and develop your decision-making skills. 

Examples of problem-solving in the workplace

Problem-solving is seen as a soft skill rather than a hard skill, although a lot of how you approach problem-solving can be learned. What’s more, you’ve probably already gathered these essential soft skills through previous roles and experiences. 

If you’re in need of a refresher, or want to learn more about problem-solving, check out how you can use Creative Problem-Solving in your current role, from solving everyday problems all the way through to enhancing your creativity for problem-solving. Let’s take a look at some problem-solving examples, as taken from our open step on problem-solving and employability.

Define the problem

This is the first step in problem-solving. Figuring out the issue at hand will help you to understand the steps you need to take to solve the problem. If you have spent enough time teaching yourself about the intricacies of your role, you may even be able to predict the problem before it becomes a reality too.

Generate solutions

Using any relevant previous experiences, as well as communicating with other team members, you’ll be able to come up with a suitable solution to the problem at hand. Working with others in a seamless and constructive way is essential in problem-solving.

Evaluate the solutions

Evaluating what you and your team have come up with is another important step, and will require you to make the final decision about the next steps in solving this problem. Which one is the most effective and most efficient solution to the issue? Thinking creatively here can help you come up with something you may not have considered.

Implement the solution

The next step involves putting the best solution into action. Working as a team will mean that you can perform this in a timely manner, and if you focus on the individual skills that each team member brings to the table, you’ll hopefully end up solving the problem quickly and easily. 

Assess the solution

How effective was the solution you decided upon? Did it solve the problem in an efficient and timely manner? Consider the choices you made, and learn from both successes and failures, so you might be able to apply your knowledge in the future.

How to improve your problem-solving skills

So how do you go about improving your problem-solving skills? Honing these particular skills is a really great way to make yourself stand out from the pack when applying for jobs and attending interviews, as it will show how you can generate creative and efficient solutions to any problems that might arise, as well as recognising what needs to be done before taking action.

Improving your problem-solving skills doesn’t have to be a lengthy and difficult process, and can actually start with something as simple as rephrasing the problem. If your problem is ‘this project can’t work without having any money’, try rephrasing it into something like ‘how can this project work without any money’. Here are some other tips on improving your problem-solving skills.

Focus on the solution, not the problem

This is easier said than done. All too often, we focus on the problem at hand, and this generates negativity, which is a stumbling block to solving problems. By merely acknowledging the problem, and instead turning your focus to the solution, you’ll be able to formulate a game plan.

Define the problem as simply as possible

Often we end up overcomplicating things that are actually very simple. Consider what caused the problem, then take every detail apart and go right back to basics. By doing this, you could end up generating a really easy solution.

Brainstorms and teamwork

Once you have defined the problem, gather your team and work out as many different solutions as you can come up with. There are no wrong answers at this stage, so be sure to keep an open mind and encourage your team to tap into their creative side. There are various techniques you can try, such as the Delphi technique and the Stepladder technique.

Learn from the past

When you’re approaching a problem, consider any similarities it might have with a problem you managed to solve in a previous role. What did you do to solve this problem? Did it work? How could you improve on it? Learn from your successes and mistakes.

Final thoughts

Creativity and problem-solving skills are more important now than they’ve ever been before. Employers will be on the lookout for any potential employee who can demonstrate their creativity and innovation skills, as well as those who also have proven critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills.

Improving your knowledge and understanding in these two areas can make a huge difference to how you work, and how you collaborate with others as well. Now more than ever, teamwork is incredibly important in the modern workplace. 

With LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trend Report stating that 92% of managers believe soft skills are just as important as hard skills, there’s never been a better time to improve your creativity and problem-solving skills.

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