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Seven SBI staff members attended the 2017 Washington Society of Association Executives’ (WSAE) Annual Convention in Semiahmoo. We always jump at the opportunity to spend time with talented association professionals and had a great time at all of the sessions and receptions. There were a few sessions that resonated with us. One of these sessions was, “How to Accelerate Your Problem Solving”, led by Kevin May from Sticks, LLC.

Kevin started off by defining the difference between problems and challenges: a challenge is something anticipated by your organization; you can approach a challenge with tools and strategies you already have. A problem is something you’ve never encountered before, and forces you to come up with a totally new solution to solve it. You deal with problems by using creativity.

Kevin outlined 5 principles behind creative problem solving:

  1. No Pre-Determined Destination
    Your outcome should never be clear when you’re starting the problem-solving process. Don’t decide on where you’re going to end up before you’ve even begun.
  2. Distanced Objectivity
    Ignore all precedent or seemingly relevant case histories and interrogate every assumption. Approach your problem like you’ve never seen anything like it before. Because in many cases, you won’t have.
  3. Fresh Points of Inspiration
    Don’t use the same inspiration from previous problems your organization has faced. Draw from the unusual, and deviate from the norm. This is the best way to ensure that your problem is solved in a lasting and meaningful way, and that the problem won’t repeat itself later.
  4. Diversity of Perspective
    Bring more people into the conversation. A range of viewpoints beats individual brilliance.
  5. Consideration Time
    First thoughts are rarely the best thoughts. Give yourself time to think critically about the problem before jumping into a solution. While there is enormous pressure to solve problems quickly, if you try to force the process, you’ll come up with a somewhat empty solution.

The biggest factor to problem solving is creativity, and Kevin emphasized that creativity is a perpetual state and not a momentary action. You need to gear your entire organization around nurturing creativity in order for this process to be most effective. Encourage your employees to experiment, take risks, and resist the obvious.

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