The Adventure of Creative Problem-Solving

Here is an article from Michael Merrick Crooks, a veteran advertising copywriter, creative problem-solver and promotional marketer in the US.

He’s also a faithful writer of our blog, and we’re most grateful he takes time to share his experience with us…

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I racked a fresh shell of 00 Buck into the chamber of my 12-gauge shotgun and drew the weapon to my shoulder. As I took careful aim at the dead tree branch about 30 feet above and 10 feet down range of me, my friend asked, ” What are you doing?”

“Creative problem-solving,” I answered.

The smooth squeeze of the trigger was followed by a bellowing thunder, followed by the thud of the branch hitting the ground.

“Problem solved,” I said.

The problem I just solved wasn’t a saw problem. No, I had chainsaws and regular saws. What I didn’t have was a ladder tall enough to reach the branch. If I couldn’t get up there, what could I send up there instead? I thought of creating a bolo where I’d duct tape a couple of rocks to either end of a short rope, tie a longer line in the middle and throw it up there, hoping the line would wrap itself around the branch and I could pull like crazy and break the branch off.

I remembered reading that back in the pirate days they used to shoot bolos out of canons to tear down the enemy’s sails and rigging and disable the ship. That’s when it hit me … using buckshot and my shotgun as a cutting tool.

Sometimes, creative problem-solving involves looking at an item differently than you normally do.

For instance, using plastic flying disks (upside down) as paper plate holders or snack trays. Why spend the money on expensive traffic cones for your bike rally when less expensive, imprinted 7″ orange megaphones will do the trick?

How about using coffee mugs as handled flower pots? Some of our clients keep a supply of their imprinted coffee mugs at the local florist’s. When they need to send a get-well, sympathy or celebratory flower arrangement, they ask the florist to create and deliver the arrangement in my client’s mug. The mug remains long after the flowers have withered, reminding the recipient of my client’s thoughtfulness. And because there is sentiment involved, the mug is more highly regarded.

You’ve employed creative problem-solving if you’ve ever cut three holes in a 33 gallon trash bag to use as an emergency poncho, or used a piece of cardboard as a dustpan or rolled a piece of paper into a makeshift funnel. I’ve used my pocket comb as an ice scraper, a kazoo (wrap a piece of tissue paper around it), a letter opener and to hold a small nail to keep from whacking my fingers.

Another approach to creative problem-solving is to question why something is done the way it is. I once met with a new client about her annual membership directory. The book had always been saddle stitched, meaning two staples in the middle held the thing together. But this new lady-in-charge didn’t like the fact that the book wouldn’t lay flat when you opened it. She wanted to bind it using comb binding. But that would cost more and they didn’t have the budget.

I asked one simple question that made all the difference. “Does the directory have to be the size that it is?” She thought for a moment and said no. I resized the book to use less pages, which meant less paper, less signatures, less plates, less plate changes, less gathering and collating. The savings went into the more expensive comb binding and we were able to deliver a membership directory that lay flat when it was open … at the same price as the year before.

My final example of creative problem-solving was used by the criminal element when they went on a wheel-stealing rampage in the parking lot of my father’s auto repair facility. They had a wrench but no jack. So they loosened the lug nuts, took rocks from around the building and blocked up the undercarriage of the cars. Then they simply let the air out of the tires.

Children are some of the best creative problem-solvers in the world, because they don’t know “how things are supposed to be.” They question … they ask why and they ponder. For most people, that ability is taught out of them by the end of grade school through such statements as, “Do as you’re told,” “Follow the rules” and “Color inside the lines”.

The adventure of creative problem-solving is still within you. You just need to let your mind think like a kid again. If you have trouble … go find a little kid to play with.

The adventure of creative problem-solving is still within you. You just need to let your mind think like a kid again. If you have trouble … go find a little kid to play with.

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