5 Steps to using your creative intelligence to get unstuck

Whether youre trying to solve ongoing day-to-day problems or the most complicated?? design issues on a whiteboard, many times its unavoidable to simply hit a brick wall.

Whether you are a community activist, a designer, a creative professional, or a non-for-profit do-it-all, we always find ourselves striving to move forward. Yet, many times we confront complex systems with unexpected situations.

So how do we get unstuck?

One of my students at Columbia College Chicago approached me a few days ago with concerns about her midterm project. She didnt know what direction to take when she first began developing a strategic plan for her clients online social communications.

She collected all the required information her clients industry, history, products, staff, pitfalls, and potential helpful tools.

With so much information in her hands, she felt lost.

I took a second to think about her situation and asked her, When was the last time you felt proud of yourself for accomplishing something?

Her eyebrows dropped while she tried to figure out how that question was related to the problem in front of her.

But after a few beats she answered, Yes, I do actually. Well, in high school I entered a contest to win a scholarship, where I had to write an essay.?? And I won! I got it!

Her emotional state changed.

Then I asked, Before you began your essay, did you see yourself winning, accepting the scholarship and getting excited about going to college?

Yes, she replied.

We both agreed that what she accomplished wasnt easy. I explained to her that visualizing the moment of success helps us accomplish our goals.

But to get there we must move from complexity to manageability then, reach the desired goal.

At LimeRed Studio we often confront many complex situations and systems.

Whether its finding the right design for our clients product, creating innovative websites, moving databases from server to server or coming up with the ultimate design and brand solution for our clients we must always move from complexity to manageability, because in the end thats what our clients need.

In our search to reach simple yet creative solutions, we came up with a 5-step process when trying to solve a complex (or seemingly simple) problem:

Step 1: Visualize
Before taking on something daunting, take a moment to ask yourself, “what do I want to create?” Visualize it. ??Allow yourself the time to find inspiration. Identify your destination and imagine what that is like. Trick your brain into thinking that youve already solved your problem and let yourself experience the outcome. This allows you to see and recognize a destination. Then, you begin formulating and visualizing your goals.

For example, if you have a complex project, find a simple medium of navigation.?? That could be a website, a system, a new online tool, a report or something else entirely. When you know what youre aiming for, getting there becomes less nebulous.

Step 2: Recognize patterns and organize
After establishing goals through visualizing, take a good look at the problem in front of you. Start by recognizing patterns and organize them in a way that makes more sense to you. Think back to when your mom asked you to clean your messy room. At first, all you see is a big messy pile of stuff. Keeping in mind what a clean room looks like, you begin realizing that that pile of messy stuff isnt just random stuff its clothes, toys, books, pencils, drawing paper, and notebooks things you can categorize. You begin to see the pattern and start organizing the chaos by keeping the toys together, then the clothes and so on.
Though,?? cleaning a messy bedroom isnt the same as organizing an anti-violence campaign in our community, or developing a design for a website that consists of hundreds of details, our approach should be the same. By recognizing patterns and organizing elements of a complex system, you open a path towards our goals.

Step 3: Take smaller steps, solve smaller problems
Once youve been able to establish patterns and organize complexity into smaller manageable systems, you can solve incoming challenges one step at a time. That messy room with a pile of stuff is now smaller piles of books, toys and clothes gathered together. You can now make easier decisions about things and add action steps towards these smaller piles dirty clothes go in the laundry basket and clean clothes get folded and put away. Whereas recognizing patterns and organizing details of a complex problem clears a path towards our goals, solving smaller manageable problems allows us to take each step closer towards achieving our ultimate goals.

Step 4: Follow through a natural progression
Continue to visualize your destination and follow through the path you have created by taking small steps. By this time, that big complex problem hanging over your head shouldnt be keeping you frozen with frustration. If it is, its ok. Go back to step one or two and three. Do what feels right. Use your creative sense and intelligence to navigate through the pathits not always a straight line. In fact, there are no straight lines in nature, but just because you are not moving in a straight line does not mean you are making progress. Follow through each of your action steps and stay focused.

Step 5: Forward view
There comes a point in the process when you begin to see the destination just ahead of us. It becomes an emotional state, you get excited and thats normal. But dont loose focus or get side tracked. Keep your view forward even beyond your destination once you have reached your goals or solved your most complex problem, there is a new realm of possibilities for you to conquer.

If you are still looking for help in solving something complex, especially if it pertains to your brand, website or design strategy, contact us at LimeRed Studio and request a quote on a project or idea you have.

Make sure you subscribe to our RSS or Newsletter. Ill be talking about some tools to help you through the 5 steps in an upcoming post.

Have you found yourself solving a complex problem? Do you want to share your story? Tell us what your experience is by commenting below!

Sign up for UX Newsletter


More Insights

Scroll to Top