By Marjorie Sarnat Posted 6/16/12 | Updated 3/1/23
Creative people have an ability to identify and solve problems in their personal lives and careers. When first attempts fall short, they formulate Plans B, C, D, or Q as needed. They find ways around roadblocks, come up with quick fixes for little emergencies, and design strategies for tackling serious problems. Creative thinkers are beautifully equipped for navigating the challenges of life. Who are these Creative Heroes? One of them may be you.
So many of us display creativity time and again in our everyday lives, yet we don't recognize the signposts of our giftedness. The process for idea generation is the same for the mom who uses a twist tie to instantly replace a child's broken shoelace as for the engineer who invents sophisticated high tech solutions. The guy with a quick wit at a dinner party uses creative thought that flows the same as it would for an acclaimed author, artist, or scientist.
Here are my favorite anecdotes featuring creative problem solving. These are lighthearted examples from everyday life, but their "outside the box" thinking can apply to any problem.
In my college days I took "Psychology of Personality" at Boston University. I had read all but two chapters among the required books. Our final exam consisted of just one essay question: Apply the principles of analysis to Mr. X, a specified character in a chapter I had not read!
Realizing I could flunk the class, I tried to salvage what I could. I wrote a note to the professor at the top of my page, admitting the truth and asking if I could get credit for the bit of knowledge I could demonstrate. And I expressed hope that he'd enjoy my writings regardless.
Since I knew the principles of analysis I applied them to someone familiar: Benjamin Franklin. With little to lose and an hour to kill, I wrote a humorous essay using Ben Franklin's proverbs to prove my points. While my classmates struggled and sweated, I giggled my way through the final. "A penny saved is a penny earned" shows an anal retentive personality and "Fish and visitors stink after three days" describes an OCD personality with a possible fish phobia. I explained how it all works.
A few days later I was astounded to see an A+ on my exam, along with a note from the professor: "The highest goal of psychology studies is to help people cope with life. You earned an A+."
I read this anecdote (wish I could recall where) about a child taking the Minnesota Test for Creative Thinking developed by Dr. E. Paul Torrance.
The child was working on the Circles and Squares Task. She had 42 circles to fill in with sketches of things and was making slow progress. When the teacher announced that there was only one minute left the child quickly drew a man at the bottom of her page of circles and added lines from his hand to each of the circles to show a balloon man.
How would you evaluate this imaginative solution compared to the solutions of other kids who sketched 42 different things? What she may have lacked in fluency (numbers of ideas) she made up in originality (unusual and unexpected solutions.) Creativity can manifest in more than one way.
My friend Carol, a salesperson for a luxury auto dealer, made a big mistake on an order number for a customer. The client wanted a pale blue body with a cream color roof. The car arrived at the showroom in pale blue with a mint green roof. Carol's boss gave her an ultimatum: sell the car or be out of a job.
Being both attractive and creative, Carol wore a pale blue skirt, a mint green sweater, and color-coordinated accessories to work every day. She transformed her problem into a new fashion statement. It wasn't long before she sold the car.
I would not reference my elegant mother this way, but in this case it refers to her creative problem solving. In the days when mom didn't have much time or money, she did have a creative mind and a love of clothing. I remember her buying blouses on sale regardless of size, cutting off the collars and cuffs, and sewing them onto older garments. Mom used ingenuity to make new, finely tailored clothing quickly, easily, and inexpensively.
The tradition of ingenuity rubbed off on my daughter, Nicole, who solves the problem of limited funds for jewelry-making by searching thrift stores and swap meets for broken jewelry, decrepit strands of beads, and single earrings available for pennies. She takes apart the components, which are more unique than those sold in craft stores, and reworks them into fresh new pieces. Professional artisans have used this technique, but Nicole is a special needs person. It only goes to show: creativity knows no bounds.
While at the beach, one of my friends lost his flip-flops in the sand. No big loss, but on the way home we wanted to stop at a roadside diner that wouldn't let him in without foot coverings. He found some newspaper pages and folded himself a pair of scuffs, Origami style. Two hair bands from his girlfriend secured the footwear, and with classifieds on one foot and headlines on the other, a good meal was had by all.
My friend's neighbor, Carla, found herself stranded one day without a car and without enough money for a taxi home. But she did have an idea, thanks to "flexible thinking." Carla noticed a nearby pizza place, walked in, and ordered a pizza for delivery to her home. She waited for the delivery guy to get into his car with her pizza and hitched a ride. She was home in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed, while the pizza was still hot.
There are many unsung Creative Heroes among us. Pay attention to how you solve problems in your everyday life; you'll probably be amazed by your innovative talents. An important aspect of living a creative life is in knowing and believing that you're a highly creative person.
©2012 by Marjorie Sarnat. All rights reserved.