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To practice creative problem solving you're going to need three things, purpose, restriction, and motivation. To illustrate this I'm going to take you through a creativity test called Duncker's Candle Problem. You have a candle, a box of tacks, and a book of matches. Your goal is to fix the candle to the wall in such a manner that when you light the candle, wax won't drip on the floor. How would you solve this? This is a test in functional fixedness, which is your ability to see objects for purposes beyond their intended use.
The proper solution to Duncker's candle problem is to see the box of tacks as a box And tacks. Dumping out the tacks, putting the candle in the box, and tacking it to the wall. The creative problem solving involved in this exercise is to see the box for a use beyond it's original purpose. Purpose equals problem. Without a problem to be solved, you cannot be creative. This is the fundamental difference between creativity and artistry. If a painter paints a beautiful painting she's creating art, but she's not being creative unless she's solving some form of problem.
Let's illustrate this with an exercise. You're going to need a couple of pieces of paper and writing utensil for this exercise. So get those now. Now take 15 seconds and draw something on your first piece of paper. It can be anything. I'll do this one with you. Here we go. I am going to prove to you that I am no artistic genius. With my awesome artistic skills. Okay.
Let me ask you a question. Was your drawing creative? The answer is most likely no. It it artistic? Certainly. But until there's a problem to solve, it's not creative. Now, try this. Poke a hole in the other piece of paper with your writing utensil. Once you've done that, take 15 seconds to use that hole as part of a drawing of a face. I'll do this one with you again. Okay? Okay? Hole.
Now, draw a face. Alright. Now, what you just did was absolutely creative, because you had purpose. You had a problem to solve. You had to find a way to use the hole in the paper as part of the drawing of a face. There are many ways to solve it that most people would instantly see, like using the hole as a mouth, like I did. Others may have found solutions that were less obvious like using the hole as a mole on a chin.
Regardless of the manner in which you solved the problem, the common trait is the problem itself. It provided purpose. The purpose of problem to solve plays a significant role in your ability to find creative solutions. A well designed problem can be the difference between creative solutions or expected solutions, but learning to broaden or sharpen the scope of a problem can add or subtract purpose and consequently, create a possibility. Think of how much harder the face exercise would have been if I'd have asked you to punch seven holes in the paper instead of just one.
The problem would have been more difficult, but the opportunity for creative solutions would have been greater. By altering the purpose, we alter the potential for creativity.
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