Whether you’re a filmmaker or a financial advisor, some part of your job likely requires creative thinking and problem solving. Maybe you’re not trying to produce the next great action comedy, but managing a team, wooing new clients or finding fresh resources within a dwindling budget often calls for an inspired idea.
The trouble is, a lot can get in the way of thinking creatively. Social convention, established best practices, a pressure to perform. Even past success.
“Sometimes the barriers we face are from our past solutions,” says Gaylen Paulson, associate dean of Texas Executive Education and co-teacher of the class “Maximizing Mental Agility to Improve Creativity” (part of Texas Executive Education’s new Innovation Certificate).
In other words, when we experience success with a particular approach, it’s in our nature to return to that well with each new challenge. But that is a stagnant strategy that overlooks how the problem may be different, and it might prevent a new, better idea from developing.
He adds that sometimes—in an attempt at efficiency—our brains actually get in the way of more advanced thinking.
“Our brain is really good at seeing patterns and organizing things into manageable chunks,” Paulson explained during a McCombs Knowledge To Go webinar on the subject last year. “It does it automatically. But sometimes that restricts our solutions.”
So how can we guide our brains toward more imaginative problem solving?