Being able to solve problems is one of the greatest skills that an entrepreneur can have. But what if your brainstorming sessions lack that certain spark? Or what if your problems are piling up with no viable solutions in sight?
If you’re wondering how to improve your problem solving skills, here are just six techniques that should do the trick:
1. Listen to music
Studies have been mixed on whether or not music can help you with complex cognitive processing. If you need to pull yourself out of an unproductive funk, however, music is even better than a grappling hook. It will lower your blood pressure, regulate your heartbeat and release feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine.
In short, it’ll have such a positive impact on your psychological state that it’ll act as a cleanser for stress and anxiety. Once you’ve pushed aside these negative emotions, your brain is free to focus on your problems without distraction.
2. Encourage shower thoughts
Have you ever wondered why your best thoughts always come in the shower? It’s because you aren’t thinking so hard. Your mind is free to wander down distant and unconventional paths that you’d normally reject, so you’re able to come up with out-of-the-box solutions to difficult problems because you aren’t burdened with the constraints of your rational mind.
The good news is that you don’t have to be in the shower to unlock this potential. You can exercise, meditate, go for a walk, listen to music or just sit on a park bench and let your thoughts drift. What you’re physically doing is less important than the fact that you’re mentally free.
3. Pretend it’s opposite day
Lateral thinking is a much-touted process in the business world, but if you’re a more deliberate, strategic sort, it can be difficult to train yourself to think in lateral ways. One solution is to approach your problem from the complete opposite point of view. Here are a few examples:
- If you’re trying to figure out the cheapest way to do something, figure out the most expensive way to do it instead.
- If you want to make something smaller, think about how to make it bigger.
- If you want to retain customers, brainstorm methods that would actually drive them away.
By focusing on the negative mirror of a problem, you can force yourself to consider new perspectives and break out of your cognitive rut. Try it! It costs nothing, and it might just fix your troubles.
4. Play complex puzzle games
Multiple studies have shown that games are good for you. From improving your memory to increasing your attention span; games of all types have been associated with positive cognitive benefits. But did you know that puzzle games in particular are helpful to your problem-solving skills?
In a study by Nanyang Technological University, different groups of participants were given different types of games to play for an hour each day. The “complex puzzle” games were shown to improve executive function more than any other kind. If you’re looking to stimulate your brain with the maximum amount of results, try something like a crossword or serpent cube puzzle.
“A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.” – C.S. Lewis
5. Use props
Consider your last brainstorming session. Did it involve lots of pens, notepads and binders? Was there anything more creative on the table than a traditional paper product? If you keep using the same tools, you can’t be surprised that you always come to the same solutions. Try something a little different with your next group strategy session.
Use photos, toys, trinkets and other knick-knacks to inspire your imagination and get some new ideas flowing. It’s an unconventional solution for the problem of how to improve problem solving skills, but it’s a highly effective one.
6. Track your epiphanies
If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve probably had your fair share of “eureka” moments. Don’t let yourself be talked out of them by skeptical investors or colleagues. According to research by Scientific American, sudden epiphanies have a better track record for accuracy and relevance than ideas that come through deliberate analysis.
This is because of the “all or nothing” way that the brain produces ideas and solutions, and it’s supported by research done with EEG and MRI scans. If you’re trying to figure out a difficult problem, it’s worth your while to write down all of your “aha” moments. They might just contain the key to cracking the entire code.
These are just a few ways to improve problem solving skills. There are many more, of course, but these should be enough to kick-start your creativity and invigorate your cognitive processes. Don’t be afraid to use these ideas as a springboard for further greatness, either. If your imagination wants to take you on a journey, your best bet is to buckle up and enjoy the ride.