October  2010     Edition 66
Prowling for ideas

Most problem solving involves combining

existing ideas and knowledge and using them in different ways.  Take a look around you.  Almost everything you see has evolved from something else, and that has evolved from something else, and so on.  We invent by combining pre-existing knowledge and ideas and occasionally, and often by accident, adding something newly discovered to the mix and Shazam ... a possible solution emerges.

No one really knows how

, at that instant in time, we go from the accumulation of ideas and thoughts, to a solution.    The term we use at HeadScratchers is Association, or being able to connect the dots.   When the connections are made, and we understand the relationship, the cause and effect and the tie-in, solution candidates appear.  Then additional Critical Thinking can be used to evaluate the merits of those candidates that will ultimately result in the best solution.

In order to expand your ability to create solutions

, you have to expand the universe of ideas and knowledge.   One way to do this is what we call "


".  We use the term Prowling on purpose, because you actively hunt, with the intent to find and then use ideas and information that you find.

Here are two examples

; Making repairs and buying gifts: One reason why superstores like Home Depot or Bed Bath and Beyond are so popular is that people can go idea Prowling when they don't have a set idea on how to fix something  or what gift to buy.  You walk around looking at all kinds of items, many you have seen before but never gave them any thought.  You load up with new knowledge about what's available, what's new, how they work, and then very often will get an idea about how to repair that broken item, or what to buy as a gift.

Think about how you might do this at work.

  How can you go prowling for ideas?   What new tools are out there in "business land" that you might be able to use.  Tap into the knowledge of others.  Bring in subject matter experts.  Look at case studies.  Search on the internet.  You do this, NOT to find a solution, but to provide you with knowledge and ideas so YOU can combine them and come up with a solution that will fit your particular situation.  (BTW, if you find a good solution, use it !)

The Takeaway:
  When a solution is not readily available, and nothing is "popping up", then go prowling for knowledge and ideas.   Adding new knowledge to the mix will greatly increase your ability to create possible solutions.   Don't wait for a crisis to increase your knowledge base, but do this occasionally so you have a broader base to tap into when the need occurs.

If you like this edition,

click here to get a Free Subscription to The Headscratcher Post.

  A monthly post with tips and techniques about problem solving, creativity, innovation and critical thinking.

Think Smarter Book Image

Check out our Workshops

• Critical Thinking for Problem Solving and Decision Making (Core, Core+Advanced)
• Advanced Critical Thinking and Innovation
• Advanced Critical Thinking and Decision Making
• Critical Thinking for Supervisors, Managers and Leaders

Visit us at www.headscratchers.com

If you're not already a subscriber to The HeadScratcher Post,
Signup Here

Previous versions of The HeadScratcher Post

Critical Thinking Techniques for Problem Solving, Decision Making, Innovation and Leadership.
Our Mission;

To help people become better HeadScratchers! We teach critical thinking techniques to managers, leaders and individuals resulting in the improved performance of an individual and organization.