Creative Problem Solving: What’s the Point?

“Barriers” 1st day warm up activity Photo credit: Anna Bartosik, 2015

The new year brings resolutions, or at least the intent to make them. In January, gyms are full, people are chewing gum furiously at their desks, a proliferation of kale salads permeates the formerly brassica-free work place, and everyone is still on target.

What we never achieve, however, is changing how we approach our resolutions.

How many of us were at this very same place this time last year, resolving to quit the various habits we wished to break? And how many of us were successful?

Sorry to be a downer.

That attitude is what limits us. The “what is the point” approach to our work situations. “What can you do? Nothing.” is the question/answer I grew up hearing. Accepting limits because we’ve never been able to move past them is the most paralyzing attitude anyone can have. It is often not the real barriers, but the perceived ones, which prevent us from progressing.

At this time last year, I was in the process of conducting information interviews to help me focus on a direction. I approached many individuals, but I made sure to only ask for 10 minutes and limit the meeting to 5 questions. These answers stayed with me:

  1. Assume you can do it until someone tells you that you can’t. At least then you’ll know where the real barriers are.
  2. Look for passive opportunities. They are everywhere, but no one is taking advantage of them.
  3. I only accepted this meeting because I have been waiting for a faculty member to approach me with this type of request, and you’re the first one who’s done it.

These pieces of advice helped shape 2015 for me. To begin 2016, I enrolled in a creative problem solving workshop. It was 3 days out of my down time before classes begin this week. Precious time wasted, someone observed. Why would you go back to work before you have to?


  • It was the first time this workshop was open to part-time faculty
  • I needed to ease myself back into work without actually “working”
  • I like networking with individuals from other disciplines at the college; we don’t have these opportunities often
  • The school slogan is “Get Creative”
  • I thought this workshop would provide a different perspective
  • It will look good on my CV

All honest reasons, but the last one is the most honest. I wasn’t prepared for the results, however. This is what I got out of it:

  • New connections at the college
  • A better understanding of how I approach problems and where my strengths lie
  • I don’t like being pigeon-holed so I work extra hard to demonstrate different abilities
  • I don’t agree with how others perceive me, and this was a common theme amongst many at the workshop
  • My problems are the same as everyone else’s
  • Perceived barriers are just that
  • Vulnerability is not a bad thing; it’s real
  • The language we use creates barriers as well

And the unexpected benefits:

  • A possible opportunity to make use of my skills
  • A “real” chance to work a client through the creative problem solving process less than 48 hours after I completed the workshop
  • The generation of ideas for one of my own problems
  • A determination to plan for 2016 on paper, so I can see it and refer to it

Creative problem solving. There is no point to it. There are many.




  1. Sounds like a great workshop! I participated in a workshop for four days last week in Instructional Skills. I got the same reaction from a lot of people – why would you give up that time “off”? But, I got so much more out of it than I expected and I feel like it has set me up with so much more confidence about my skills and abilities and what I need to do to really utilize them fully. Your post really solidified for me how valuable this experience was for me. Thanks for sharing and I hope that you will share more about using your creative problem solving skills!


    • Thank you. It’s good to hear that others “give up” their free time. I’m sure your workshop’s effects will
      last long into the new year and beyond.

      Hope to use my skills again soon


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