As I promised in Part 1 of this blog, here are five psychological techniques scientists have discovered that increase our ability to solve problems creativity.

  • Embrace paradox: Don’t shy away from controversy, irony, or absurdity. Researchers found in one study that after reading an absurd short story, participants showed an enhanced ability to recognize hidden patterns. Rather than looking for neat and tidy “and/or” solutions, look for “both/and” options.
  • Move forward in time: Don’t stay locked in the present time frame. Expand your perspective and imagine your life one year or more in the future. People using this approach were more insightful and better at solving problems creatively, compared to a control group only projecting one day ahead.
  • Create psychological space: Don’t let problems stay stuck in front of your face. Do take a mental journey and view the problem as if it were located in a different part of the world.
  • Rethink and deconstruct: Don’t immediately focus too strongly on solutions, if possible. Do look at the problem or challenge from as many angles as possible. Research participants created higher quality solutions when forced to look at the problem itself in different ways.
  • Profit from bad moods: Don’t think you have to be in a great mood to do your best work. A recent study showed that bad moods could sometimes be productive of novel solutions. Find ways of putting your bad moods to good use.

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